Training with a Service Dog

Making the decision to work with a service dog is a transformational event that extends into every area of a handler's life.  Because of this momentous change, it’s crucial that each of our students is teamed with a dog that best suits that person’s mobility, personality, lifestyle, and physical needs.  As each applicant is accepted to our program, we carefully match them with a dog that’s right for them, and the power of their bond makes ordinary moments extraordinary.
As you work through our application process, you’ll be providing us with the key information that will assist our instructors in matching the best suited dog for you that will determine your ultimate success.  With a clear understanding of your goals and objectives, we’ve been able to craft a program that you’ll be excited to participate in since it relates to your personal needs. Once the VetDogs service dog training team understands the needs of an applicant, they will build upon the foundation tasks and work on advanced tasks that will specifically help mitigate each applicants 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 advanced tasks each dog can be trained to do.

On-class Training

During our 2 week, in-residence training program, students experience the following: 

  • Students are introduced to basic obedience and commands, ways to motivate and reward their dogs and service dog handling techniques in preparation for receiving their new service dog.  
  • There are typically 10-15 applicants participating at each training course and participants and staff are mix-gendered.   
  • Each participant gets their own room in our residence hall, all meals are provided in our dining hall and we cover the cost of travel expenses.  
  • Throughout class, our instructors provide hands-on training with one-on-one interaction, as well as full access to our extensive video reference library.  
  • Students will learn how to work with their dogs in various settings that include residential and country environments; outings to malls, stores, transportation venues including overland rail, train platforms, airports and other types of real-world situations. 
  • Training includes personalized task training, basic and advanced obedience, primary and secondary motivators, discussions on dog care, etiquette, canine communication, learning theory and more.  
  • Prior to the completion of class, each new handler and dog team are required to pass the Assistance Dog International (ADI) Public Access Test. The test is to determine if the dog is safe to be in public and that the handler demonstrates that he/she has control of the dog at all times. This mandatory ADI Public Access Tests will be repeated annually to bi-annually throughout the working career of the dog team. 

By the time the team graduates from our program, students will have a clear understanding of how to read their dog and anticipate their dog’s reaction to environmental changes, use of appropriate equipment to become the most effective handler and understand how to motivate and reward their dog throughout the working day.  

Post Graduation 

Following graduation, each handler will be contacted regularly by FSRs, to ensure standards reached at graduation are maintained.  Should a team encounter difficulty, America's VetDogs will provide training support  through the use of technology, telephone calls and personal visits when appropriate, in a prompt and professional manner. In order to maintain active status, each graduating team will be required to pass the ADI Public Access test one year after program completion, then every two years.  

Eligibility: How to Determine if You Qualify for a Service Dog 

If you are a veteran, active duty servicemember, or first responder who is interested in applying for a service dog, please review the following information to determine if you meet our eligibility requirements.

  • You have served in any of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces from any era, and have received an honorable discharge or you are an active duty military member who plans to remain state-side and is able to provide command approval. 
  • You are a first responder who has a work related disability. 
  • You are visually or hearing impaired or physically disabled.  
  • You can participate in our two-week training program and will be committed to our training program and schedule.  
  • You live in the USA or Canada and have stable living arrangements. 
  • Applicants must be dedicated to meet all the physical, emotional, and training needs of the service dog, including:
    - Daily feeding, grooming, play, exercise, and relieving (bathroom) breaks.  Food, toys, and grooming supplies cost $600-$700 per year.
    - Annual veterinary examinations and vet care as needed for unexpected health issues.  It is best to plan an average of $600 per year for veterinary costs, although this will vary from year to year.
    - Identifying a local support network that can provide care for the dog in the event that you are unable to
  • Our PTSD service dog program is limited to veterans with combat-related PTSD and first-responders with work-related PTSD. 
  • America’s VetDogs has begun to trial a pilot program, accepting veterans with MST, which has a limited enrollment. 
  • Applicant’s with a PTSD diagnosis or MST are required to be in current ongoing therapy and have been under the consistent care of a Mental Health Professional for a minimum of 6 months, prior to applying. 
  • We require applicant’s with a history of substance abuse to be completely sober and abstinent from substance use for a minimum of 1 year to be eligible for our programs. 

How much does a service dog cost?

All services are provided at free of charge to accepted applicants— this includes your dog, transportation to and from our campus in Smithtown, New York, instruction, and more.    
Each handler is responsible for the care of their dog after placement, which is estimated to cost about $100 a month. Some veterans may qualify for the VA Veterinary Health Insurance Benefit, but this benefit is not a guarantee and can be a lengthy process to get approval.   Reliance upon this benefit should not be anticipated, all applicants are expected to be able to financially support their service dog. 

If you have any questions about our programs, please reach out to the America's VetDogs Admissions Department at 866-282-8047 or