Choosing a Service Dog Agency – Tips and What to Consider

Tips on Choosing a Service Dog AgencyIn my previous posts, I have talked about the role that service dogs can provide in a differently-abled individual’s life as well as personal considerations before moving forward with a service dog commitment. Stories of desperate individuals raising money for a service dog agency who then skips town with the money or provides a poorly trained service dog unfortunately aren’t uncommon.  In today’s post, I am going to discuss a few considerations for choosing an agency with which to work.

To begin the process, research about the agency and their practices is key.  Things to look for in your initial internet search:


  • How long has the agency been in business?
  • How many successful service dog placements has the agency had?
  • Does the agency have nonprofit status?
  • What is the agency’s rating on Charity Watch as well as the Better Business Bureau?
  • While online review sites aren’t always reliable, it is a good idea to see what kinds of things people are saying about the agency.  You can follow up on these concerns in your research process or with the agency itself.
  • What do other families who have received dogs from the agency have to say about their experience?
  • What types of service dogs does the agency provide?
  • If applicable, will the agency consider applicants with multiple disabilities?
  • Does the agency provide service dogs free of charge, for a fee, do the fundraising for you, or require you to do your own fundraising?  None of these agencies are inherently bad, it is just a matter of what you are personally comfortable with.
  • What is the cost or required donation amount for the service dog?  Service dogs aren’t cheap to train and the average agency fees may be upward to $25,000.
  • What is the agency’s average wait list time?
  • What type of training does the agency provide for their dogs?
  • What type of training does the agency provide for the individuals receiving the dogs?
  • Is the training at a facility or in your own home?
  • What type of follow-up support does the agency provide?
  • Are the dogs trained similarly or are they trained to individual needs?
  • What is the agency’s application process?
  • With what age groups does the agency place service dogs?
  • If you have pets at home, does the agency allow you to have indoor pets while owning one of their service dogs?
  • What are the yard or fence requirements of the agency?
  • Does the agency require that the new service dog team undergo public access certification?
  • What breeds of dogs does the agency train?
  • Who owns the dog after placement?  After the dog’s retirement?

Other options depending on your state’s requirements, include hiring a dog trainer to train a dog you currently own or obtain either from a breeder or a shelter, or training a service dog yourself.  Each option has unique benefits and challenges and ultimately you will have to simply choose the service dog path that is right for you.


Jennifer Butler
Jennifer is the mother of 2 children and more 4 legged furry babies than she (or her husband) cares to count. Both of her children have primary immune deficiencies and her son is also on the autism spectrum. Jennifer is a full time Organizational Communication professor whose research focuses on work family balancing. Jennifer spends her spare time rescuing animals and advocating for her special needs children. She does this by focusing much of her energy on service dogs for children and being a school board member at her children’s school. You may contact her on Facebook, on Twitter, or at her blog, Caden's Tale.
Jennifer Butler
Jennifer Butler

3 Responses to Choosing a Service Dog Agency – Tips and What to Consider

  1. Note that every organization works differently, but with the vast majority, the organization selects the dog. Training with your own dog may seem like a good idea, but very few dogs are appropriate candidates, so the vast majority of organizations select the dog themselves – the process just works much better that way.

  2. Thank you for this list. My daughter has been approved for a service dog and we almost went with a company who is currently being sued by several families (which we didn’t know when we started this). Now we are looking for a new organization. I will be sure to keep this list of questions handy!

    • Amanda–I’m glad you found out about the company before you committed. There are some great agencies placing dogs but unfortunately there are some terrible ones as well and it definitely pays to do your homework ahead of time. I’m glad you found my post to be useful!

Leave a Reply