Can My Dog Be A Service Dog?

How To Bring Your Pet Dog Into Our Service Dog Program

bring your own pet dog to service dog

People often ask if we can train a pet dog they already own for service work. The answer is that yes, we can – but there are a few things to bear in mind.

There are several ways to get a service dog, and bringing your own dog into our program is one of them. When looking at having your family dog trained for service work, or when you are looking to purchase a puppy or dog specifically for service dog training, factors to think about include:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Breed
  • Temperament
  • Separation

Additionally, when you purchase a dog as a candidate for service dog training, you run the risk of the dog being unsuitable for the work, and either having to re-home the dog or maintain them as a pet.

Health and age are important to consider, as you want your dog to live a long and happy life, and provide many years of service. A dog is never too old to train – but the older the dog, the less time you will be able to keep them in service. 

These factors are all important considerations before choosing to bring your own dog into our service dog program. However, we are happy to discuss your needs and the suitability for your pet dog to be brought into our service dog training program.

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Service Dog Breed Selection

A service dog will play a vital role in your life for years to come. Selecting the right candidate is an important task – and there are several factors to consider to ensure the dog is suitable for service dog work.

Breed selection, temperament and task suitability are all vital components of a well-trained service dog.

Breed selection is very important when it comes to service dog work. Two important factors to consider are size and temperament.

When looking at size, it is important to select a breed that will be suitable for the tasks to be performed. For example, some of the larger breeds (Great Danes, Mastiffs, etc.) can be difficult to maneuver in stores, malls and restaurants. Larger breeds also tend to have more health problems and shorter life expectancies, which means a shorter working life. Convesely, some smaller breeds will not be suited for mobility work, as they will never offer the stability to act as a brace for their handler.

service dogs in training

Temperament is also a vital component of a successful service dog. Your service dog must be able to work and perform tasks at any time and in any type of environment. They must be able to handle being in a crowd, but at the same time be comfortable with a lone stranger coming up to say hello. They must be comfortable around walkers, wheelchairs, strollers, crutches, etc., and be able to handle loud or strange sounds, such as a car horn, the sound of traffic, sirens, falling objects, objects flapping in the wind, yelling and screaming, etc. They must be comfortable entering and riding in an elevator, in addition to using an escalator or staircase. 

Separation is also important to consider, because you will have to leave your dog with us for service dog training, which can last up to a year. Are you and your family comfortable to part with your dog for that amount of time?

How To Get Started

Learn the steps you need to take to bring your pet dog into our service dog program.

The first step is to go through our application process; this will help us determine if we can help you.

If we feel that you are a good candidate for a service dog and approve your application, we will evaluate your current dog at our dog training facility in Harmony, NC to determine whether it would be a good candidate for service dog training.

When testing a dog, we look for trainability, a good solid temperament, and proper drive for service work. If we feel that your dog has the proper temperament and drive for service dog training, we will ask you to leave the dog with us for training.  Remember, this could take up to a year. 

There is a small discount if we are able to use your current dog. If we feel that your dog is not a good candidate, but you would still like to obtain a service dog for your situation, we will select and train a dog for you.

service dogs in training at the grocery store

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

We understand that you may have questions about our process! We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions below.

Yes, but any pet dog will need to meet very specific criteria before being accepted into Highland Canine Training’s Service Dog Program.

For a pet dog to be accepted into the program, the preliminary application and the full application packet must be submitted by the owner and reviewed by Highland Canine Training. Once the full packet has been reviewed, the dog will then need to be tested by a Highland Canine Training Service Dog Trainer to see if it has the appropriate skills, temperament, trainability, and environmental stability to be successful as a Service Dog. If the dog does not pass any part of this criteria, it will not be accepted into the program.

  • Yes, there are several differences between the two programs.

    1) There is no health guarantee for congenital health defects for a pet dog brought into the program. Dogs provided by Highland Canine Training have a one-year health guarantee.

    2) All vet bills for the pet dog (Spay, Neuter, vaccinations, etc.) will be at the expense of the pet owner.

    3) Once a pet dog is accepted into the program, every effort will be made to ensure that the pet dog completes the Service Dog Program. However, Highland Canine Training has the sole discretion to remove the pet dog from the program at any time if the dog is deemed unsuitable for Service Dog work. Pet dogs who do not complete their Service Dog training will be returned to the pet dog owner.  Any training expenses collected prior to removing the pet dog (deposit, other payments for training, etc.) is non-refundable.

It depends on the age of the dog and the tasks that will be required to be trained.  Typically, dogs must be over 12 months old to be delivered to the family.  

Pet dogs brought into the program will be trained in Harmony, NC at Highland Canine Training’s Dog Training Center. The owner will be required to bring the pet dog to the facility. The pet dog will stay at the facility for the entirety of its training.

Yes, all required vaccinations (for the appropriate age) must be administered to the dog prior to dropping them off at Highland Canine Training. All health records will also need to be brought and left at Highland Canine Training.

Yes, we welcome families to visit their dogs, but in order to ensure that the dog will be present during the visit (i.e. not on a socialization outing, or with a trainer), prior communications must be made to schedule a time/date for that visit.  We recommend that no visits be made with the pet dog for at least 90 days, that will make the transition for the pet dog into the program easier.

No, the pet dog needs to stay at the center throughout the training of the dog.

Yes, a family can request that a specific food be fed to their dog, but the food must be purchased and delivered by the pet dog owner throughout the training for the dog. The food must not be perishable, require refrigeration, or take significant time to prepare.  If no special request is made, Highland Canine Training will provide high quality pet food for the dog.

Yes. Each case will be decided individually, but typically, there will be a discount of around $1,000 if a pet dog is provided for service dog training.

Yes, all criteria will be the same as bringing a pet dog into the Service dog program (dog testing, administrative process, etc.).

No, Highland Canine does not train any ESAs.

doodle service dog in training out in public

Contact us today!

Questions about bringing your pet dog into our service dog program? We’d love to speak with you and see if we can help!

There are a number of ways to get in touch. Whether it’s telephone, email, social media or our contact form below, we’d love to hear how we can help you.