When was America's VetDogs founded?
Where is America's VetDogs located?
What breeds of dogs does the organization use?
Are assistance dogs allowed in restaurants?
What does it cost to get an assistance dog?
How are the dogs’ names selected?
What is an assistance dog training "apprentice?"
What exactly is an assistance dog trained to do?
What is the client taught during training?
Are there things I should or should not do when I am around an assistance dog?
What happens to dogs that don’t make it through the training program or are retired? Are they available for adoption?
Does VetDogs receive financial support from the government?

When was America's VetDogs founded?

VetDogs was founded in 2003. The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind (VetDogs parent organization) recognized the need for an assistance dog program for veterans that would incorporate guide dogs, service dogs, and innovative training techniques.  America’s VetDogs was created and incorporated to give veterans easy access to the best services possible to improve their lives.

Where is America's VetDogs located?

America's VetDogs is located at 371 East Jericho Turnpike, in Smithtown, NY (Long Island).  The campus is approximately 45 minutes outside Manhattan.  We serve veterans of all eras, and first responders, including fire, police and emergency medical personnel. 

The organization has regional field instructors based along the eastern coast of the United States.  They assist with in-home training, graduate follow-up training and aftercare if necessary, and they interview potential students to assist in the application process.  Once a dog is placed in a consumer’s home, a field representative will be their main contact if they have any questions or further training needs.  As with our on-campus training staff, our field reps are committed to providing quality follow-up services to our graduates for the entire working life of the guide or service dog team.

What breeds of dogs does the organization use?

America's VetDogs and the Guide Dog Foundation breed its own dogs.  Male and female Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Lab/Golden crosses, and Standard Poodles are used.  The dogs are specially bred for temperament, gentleness, and physical soundness.

Are assistance dogs allowed in restaurants?

Assistance dogs are allowed everywhere that the general public is allowed to go.  This includes restaurants, taxicabs, airplanes, hotels, etc.  This right is protected by a federal law called the Americans With Disabilities Act.

What does it cost to get an assistance dog?

Our dogs are provided free of charge.  This includes training, transportation to and from the school, room and board during the two-week training program, as well as aftercare services.  Home-based, combination home and residential and small group training is offered to qualified applicants.

How are the dogs’ names selected?

Dog sponsors who make a $6,000 donation to VetDogs, can select the name of a puppy.  Sponsors can choose a Labrador or a Golden Retriever, male or female. Click here to learn more.

What is an assistance dog training "apprentice?"

At the Guide Dog Foundation and America's VetDogs, an apprentice is a full-time, paid position.  To become an apprentice, one must apply just as one would apply for any job.  Team members who join the staff as apprentices work their way toward becoming a trainer, and then a certified instructor.  Apprentice's work not only with the dogs, but also with our consumers on class.

What exactly is an assistance dog trained to do?

Assistance dogs undergo a comprehensive training program, and only the best of the best complete the training and become working assistance dogs.  In short, dogs are taught the four foundations of service dog training tasks; push, tug, brace and retrieval.  There are over 200 tasks that can be trained based on these foundations.  Once a client is matched with a dog, our instructors customize their training with each dog in order to meet that specific client's needs. 

What is the client taught during training?

During the training program, clients will learn how to lead their dog; gain an understanding of pack theory; basic learning theory, which will address the commands the dog already knows; and advanced learning theory that will include the learning of advanced commands and tasks that each dog was trained to carry out to help mitigate each client's particular disability.  Opening and closing doors, retrieving a variety of items, turning on and off lights, and providing balance and stability are just some of the specific tasks dogs can be trained to do.  

Students will learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include walks; mass transit situations, including train platforms, subway, and bus travel; outings to malls and other stores; and other types of real-world situations.  In addition, they learn about proper care of the dog, which ranges from feeding to grooming to medical issues.   Access laws, public awareness and other issues also are covered during the two-week program.  Click here to learn more.

Are there things I should or should not do when I am around an assistance dog?

The general rule is that working dogs should be ignored.  Distractions take their concentration away from the work they have to do—which can put the dog and its teammate in jeopardy.  Do not pet or feed an assistance dog and do not encourage the dog to misbehave.

To learn more, click here for "Assistance Dog Do’s and Don’ts."

What happens to dogs that don’t make it through the training program or are retired? Are they available for adoption?

When a dog is released or retired from any of our programs due to health, age, or any other reason, the Guide Dog Foundation has a process to ensure they will spend the rest of their lives in a happy home.  

Graduates of the Foundation (or America’s VetDogs) are first given the option to adopt their retiring dog as a companion - they will live in the home of their former partner as a cherished pet.  Some may be placed with family or close friends of the graduate who have been associated with the dog throughout its life.  Sometimes these options are not possible, so the Guide Dog Foundation looks to find another suitable home.  

The retired dog would then return to the care of Guide Dog Foundation, and we first contact the dog’s original Puppy Raisers and ask if they wish to adopt the dog.  If they do not, the dog would then be offered to its sponsor, then to a prescreened individual from our adoption waiting list who has applied to adopt a dog released from our programs.  Currently there is a wait-list to adopt a “career change” dog or retired guide or service dog.

If a dog is released, and it is determined to not be suitable for one of our programs, we first consider placing it with a carefully selected partner organization where it might be better suited for work.  Examples of the other types of work our dogs may do include explosives detection, accelerant detection, or assistance work that is outside the scope of our currently offered services.

Some of our dogs will best thrive as family pets.  If this is the case, the dog may be placed in a loving home with the puppy raiser family that raised it or with one of the families who have applied to adopt a career change dog.

We are currently accepting applications for our Special Needs adoption program.  Dogs available through this program include retired dogs 9 years or older, and younger dogs that have a medical or behavioral condition that requires special attention (for example, a dog with allergies or a dog that is afraid of children).

Due to the length of the wait for a non-special-needs career change dog, we are unable to accept any applications for our general adoption list at this time.  If and when general adoption applications are being accepted, we will update this information in our Guideway newsletter and our web page.  Click here to subscribe to Guideway. 

Does VetDogs receive financial support from the government?

America's VetDogs receives no government funding.  We rely on the generous contributions of individuals, corporations, foundations, businesses, and service/fraternal clubs.