Client-dog teams consist of a person living with a disability and a highly trained dog. Our clients live with disabilities like autism, traumatic brain injury (TBI), multiple sclerosis (MS), muscular dystrophy (MD), Down syndrome, cerebral palsy (CP), spinal cord injuries, and more. We also serve veterans with post-traumatic stress (PTS); however, we do not provide service dogs for non-military civilians diagnosed with PTS.
Professionally trained service dogs can assist their human partners with a variety of tasks, such as retrieving and carrying objects, opening and closing doors, operating lights, pushing 911 and medical alert buttons, assisting with mobility, and other specialized tasks needed by the client.
Service dogs are legally guaranteed full public access and are able to accompany their partners to all public places, including stores, the airport, work, school, and restaurants. FSD provides ongoing lifetime support and hands-on assistance to all of our client-dog teams—at no charge
THE FSD DOG
DOG CAREER PATHS
There are four career paths that dogs may pursue through Freedom Service Dogs:
- Service dog
- Skilled companion
- Therapy dog
- Family pet (adoption/career change)
PRISON PUPPY RAISING PROJECT
Freedom Service Dogs has implemented a Puppy-Raising Pilot Project with the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program at the Trinidad Correctional Facility in Trinidad, Colo.
- Puppies are sourced from shelters, rescues, and private donations—often as a diversion from going to shelters/rescue groups.
- If approached by a reputable breeder, we thoroughly vet the breeder and evaluate the dogs’ health tests prior to accepting puppy donations.
- Puppies between the ages of 8 weeks and 10 months are accepted in the pilot project.
- At any one time, the maximum number of puppies in the project is 24.
- A PennHIP test is performed at 4 months of age (or upon donation) up to 10 months of age. A PennHIP test evaluates the dog’s probability of developing hip dysplasia. If the test indicates a 55% or higher chance of developing hip dysplasia, the puppy will become available for adoption.
- Volunteers take puppies on outings in the public to expose the dogs to a variety of stimuli.
- Inmates training FSD puppies follow a curriculum aimed at meeting a dog’s needs for positive growth through each stage of a dog’s development.
- Inmates provide written reports advising our professional training staff of a puppy’s development.
- Professional training staff evaluate a puppy’s progress in person on a monthly basis.
- An evaluation of the Puppy-Raising Pilot Project will be completed in August 2019. If successful, we will roll out a volunteer puppy-raising program to supplement the prison program.
- When dogs first arrive at FSD, they are housed in our intake area for two weeks so we can evaluate their health and make sure they don’t have illnesses or diseases.
- During this time, radiographs of their joints are taken, and they receive an ophthalmic exam to ensure they meet the medical evaluation standards of Assistance Dogs International (ADI).
- If anything concerning is present on the radiographs (e.g., hip dysplasia, arthritis, etc.) that would prohibit the dog from being a service dog candidate, the dog is released from the service dog training program.
- However, depending on the severity of the condition and prognosis, the dog may be considered as a professional therapy dog or skilled companion candidate. If either of these options is not viable, the dog is moved into the FSD adoption program.
- After the dogs move from intake to the training kennels, they go through additional behavioral evaluations to gauge their potential as service dogs.
- Our full-time animal health manager is devoted to ensuring the dogs’ medical and nutritional needs are met.
- We work with several veterinary partners:
- VCA Wingate: general veterinary care and radiographs
- VRCC: orthopedic surgeries and ophthalmology
- VCA Littleton: surgeries
- Our veterinary partners provide a 20% to 100% discount, depending on the service.
Interested in donating your dog to Freedom Service Dogs to see if they have potential to be a service dog? Below is the criteria for adult dogs and puppies. Please note that puppies and adult dogs must come from parentage with a history of good-to-excellent OFA ratings.
- Freedom Service Dogs accepts qualified Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, and standard poodles, and mixes of these breeds, as these breeds have the highest success rates to meet the needs of our clients.
- Puppies between 8 and 10 weeks
- Adults between 10 months and 2 years
- These age requirements help ensure that our service dogs have the longest working life possible after being placed with a client.
- Dogs that we accept into our program should weigh no more than 95 pounds at maturity.
- We do not have a minimum size requirement; however, we typically do not test dogs under 20 pounds at maturity.
- Breed-specific genetic testing
- OFAs for hips and elbows
- The following age-appropriate vaccinations and testing are required:
- Current rabies vaccination certificate
- Proof of DA2PPV (distemper/parvovirus) vaccination
- Bordetella vaccination
- Proof of a negative heartworm test completed in the past year
- Heartworm-preventive medication given monthly since the date of their last heartworm test
- If the dog is arriving on transport from out of state, Freedom Service Dogs requires a health certificate (completed no more than 30 days before transport) per the Colorado Department of Agriculture – Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) regulations.
- Confident with people, new environments, and other dogs
- Food motivated
- Attentive to handler and enjoys physical attention
- Seeks the attention of people more than focusing on exploring the environment or their surroundings
- Plays well with other dogs
- Remains calm in highly stimulating, loud, and busy environments
- Able to be left alone in a kennel or crate without causing them stress
- Freedom Service Dogs cannot accept dogs that have a bite history against a human or another dog.
- Behaviors that disqualify a dog from being a Freedom Service Dogs candidate include:
- Prey drive – Chasing, vocalizing, or lunging at smaller animals, such as cats, rabbits, squirrels, and birds.
- Leash reactivity – Lunging at, vocalizing at, or becoming overly distracted by other dogs while on-leash.
- Resource guarding – Behaviors such as growling, snapping, freezing, and snarling when humans or other dogs approach a valued item, such as a toy or food.
- Separation anxiety – Extreme distress upon being left alone, characterized by excessive whining, barking, destructive behavior, and/or attempts to escape.
- Confinement anxiety – Extreme distress upon being put in a crate, kennel, or small room, characterized by excessive whining, barking, destructive behavior, and/or attempts to escape.
- Escape behavior – The ability to escape from crates, kennels, houses, or fences over 6’ tall.
- Fear – Startling, cowering, shaking, hiding, or attempting to flee in the presence of certain triggers. This can include thunder or other loud sounds, children, men, vehicles, new environments, or other dogs.
- Submissive urination – Urinating in response to a trigger that the dog perceives as threatening.
- Barrier reactivity – Vocalizing, lunging at, snarling, or growling at other dogs that are on the other side of a fence, crate, gate, or door.
- Overly energetic – Dogs that are unable to calm down after long periods in a quiet environment or are constantly busy and in need of interaction.
If your dog meets the criteria above and you are interested in learning more about donating your dog to Freedom Service Dogs, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- We believe in using positive reinforcement and clicker training to shape play behaviors (retrieve, tug, paw, touch, etc.) into helpful tasks. Freedom Service Dogs wag their tails while they work.
- The training for service dogs is approximately four to seven months, depending on the needs of each client and the specific skills the dog is learning. For example, if a dog is providing assistance with walking or balance (these dogs are referred to as brace-and-balance service dogs), the training takes a little longer.
- The training for therapy dogs is approximately five to seven months.
- Many dogs go through basic training with inmate dog trainers through our partnership with the Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program.
- Time dogs spend in Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program:
- 8 weeks for service dogs
- 4 weeks for professional therapy dogs
- Time dogs spend in Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program:
- Once dogs have their basic commands down and are officially on the path to become service dogs or professional therapy dogs, we start matching them with individuals on our waiting list.
- From there, the custom training begins so we can ensure each dog meets the unique needs of their human partner.
- For service dogs, the learning and training never stop. Even after they graduate with their human partners, we provide a lifetime of support and follow-up training to ensure the dogs are being the best service dogs they can be.
- Clients are required to re-certify their assistance dogs on an annual basis to ensure the dog continues to serve as a service dog or professional therapy dog and behaves appropriately in public.
Adopt a Career-change Dog
Who are our adoptable dogs?
Not every dog or puppy in our program will become a fully trained service dog. Those that prefer a different career path enter our adoption program so that we can find them loving homes. Dogs may be released from our training program because they:
- may not have the qualifications to become a service dog
- may be timid, easily distracted, or unable to resist chasing the occasional squirrel
- have X-rays or eye exams indicating they cannot complete service dog certification
- may require advanced behavior modification.
All dogs that come through our doors receive a second chance at finding their calling in life, whether it’s as a service dog, a family pet, a hiking companion, or a lap warmer. Consider making a difference by adopting one of our wonderful career-change dogs!
Please note that most of our adoptable dogs have not gone through service dog training. They are NOT service dogs. The amount of training they have had varies. To make them successful family pets, behavior modification may be required, and guidance from a professional trainer may be recommended.
How to adopt a career-change dog
Our goal is to place dogs in permanent, loving homes. Please complete our Dog Adoption Application so we can assist you in finding a special, compatible companion to join your family. With this information, we can minimize the risk of a failed adoption. We do not adopt our dogs on a “first-come, first-served” basis, but rather try to match families to available dogs.
Please note that we have a few ground rules:
- You must be at least 21 years of age to adopt.
- Dogs are placed in permanent homes at our sole discretion.
- We may refuse to adopt to anyone without providing a specific reason.
- All dogs are the legal property of Freedom Service Dogs until the requisite Adoption Contract is signed, all requirements of the contract are met, and the adoption fee is received.
Our dog adoption fees start at $1,000. These fees help to defray the costs of spaying/neutering, testing, and vaccinating our dogs, treatment of heartworm and other parasites, and any necessary surgeries, but these fees do not cover all our expenses.
Our dogs are tested for parasites and heartworm, placed on heartworm preventive medication, and spayed or neutered before being adopted.
This is a lengthy application, but the information you provide helps us make a well-informed decision, as well as the most ideal match. Please be as thorough as possible in your responses.
TUNE IN: PUP-O-VISION
Need a break? A smile? An awww-inspiring moment in your day? Pup-O-Vision is here for you! FSD’s Pup-O-Vision features our tiniest service dog hopefuls doing what they do best: being precocious, precious puppies. But these particular pups are doing much more than acting cute and taking naps. Every day, they’re learning and developing, both physically and mentally, in ways specially designed to help them grow up into life-changing service dogs. So go ahead: Binge watch our babies, and check back regularly for more cuteness—we promise you’ll feel better!
During this difficult time, it’s been a breath of fresh air to greet the next generation of Freedom Service Dogs. Your generous support for these sweet puppies—and others on the way—will ensure that we can continue providing custom-trained service dogs to veterans, children, and other adults with disabilities, far into the future.