FAQs: Applying for a Service Dog

Equal Opportunity Statement:

Freedom Service Dogs does not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, color, creed, national origin, sex, age, religion, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, veteran status, physical or mental disability, or any other legally protected status.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about applying for a service dog from Freedom Service Dogs. We encourage you to read through this list before filling out an application.

We train dogs for persons with physical disabilities, veterans with PTS or traumatic brain injury, and children (5 years and older) and adults on the autism spectrum or with other neurocognitive disabilities.

  1. Complete the FSD service dog application.
  2. Interview with FSD after you submit a completed application.
  3. FSD determines your eligibility. If accepted, you enter a wait period of approximately 3 to 4 years, depending on your needs.
  4. Travel to FSD to meet your dog (this is required no matter where you live) and determine your compatibility with the dog.
  5. Return to FSD for a two-week placement class that teaches you how to work with your dog. On the third week, your trainer will work with you in your home and community, regardless of where you live.

We do not charge a fee for our dogs. If you live out of state, all travel and lodging expenses will be your responsibility.

No, but you must be financially stable enough to provide for your dog’s needs. This includes daily needs like food and treats, as well as regular veterinary visits and emergency medical care.

Once we have interviewed and accepted you, the wait time is currently 3 – 4 years.

Unfortunately, no. Traveling to our facility to meet a dog and attending the two-week placement class at our facility are both requirements of our program. We are happy to discuss your options with you and recommend service dog agencies that may be closer to where you live.

We typically work with Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, standard poodles, and mixes of these breeds.

FSD dogs are selected for temperament, health, and personality traits best suited for service dog work in order to meet the needs of the 80-plus clients on our waiting list who deserve the assistance that only a service dog can provide. FSD is in the process of implementing a small scale breeding program and works with select breeders to obtain puppies and adult dogs. In addition, FSD receives service dog candidates from guide dog organizations that have career-change dogs, as well as organizations that donate purpose-bred puppies to nonprofits such as FSD.

You can give us input on the type of dog you would prefer, but there is no way for us to guarantee you a specific breed of dog. If you are very particular about what type of dog you want, the wait time could increase dramatically.

No, we cannot train dogs that are currently owned by individuals. It is a liability issue for the organization to have your personal dog at our facility for four to seven months.

No, we cannot accept dogs to train for specific individuals. Our selection process is extremely rigorous, and the likelihood of a dog you choose meeting our criteria is slim. Additionally, accepting a dog that is slated for you specifically would allow you to bypass the waiting list and receive a dog from us long before others who have been waiting for a dog.

Yes, but we have an age minimum of 5 years old. 

In most cases, no. For safety reasons (both for the dog and the child), we cannot allow a child to be in control of a dog in a public place without a parent or guardian present.

No, we do not allow tethering. Although our dogs are extremely well trained, there are always circumstances where a dog can bolt (from fear or distraction), presenting a very unsafe situation for the child.

No. The only mental health diagnosis we train for is veterans with PTSD. If depression or anxiety are a part of your physical disability, we will not disqualify you; however, if you have a significant or severe mental health disorder, it may disqualify you from getting a dog from us.

No. The only mental health diagnosis we train for is veterans with PTSD. If depression or anxiety are a part of your physical disability, we will not disqualify you; however, if you have a significant or severe mental health disorder, it may disqualify you from getting a dog from us.

No. Technically under the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support dogs do not have public access, as they have not been trained specifically for three physical tasks to mitigate a disability.

WE ARE NOT CURRENTLY ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR THERAPY DOGS. We do train therapy dogs; however, there are misconceptions about what a therapy dog actually is. Therapy dogs are trained to work with a professional therapist (psychiatrist, psychologist, occupational therapist, etc.) to act as a therapeutic partner in their practice. A therapy dog is not meant to provide “therapy” to one single individual. We train professional therapy dogs for working professionals, as well as students pursuing a degree in some type of therapeutic field. 

No, we do not train any type of medical alert dogs, dogs for the blind, or dogs for the deaf.

Unfortunately, we cannot make an exception. Training dogs for other types of service requires a different set of training skills that we are not set up to provide.

Not necessarily. We consider each applicant’s criminal history on a case-by-case basis. If you have a history of animal abuse or violent behavior toward people, it may disqualify you, as that is a safety concern for both our dogs and our staff.

Yes, you are still welcome to apply; however, we ask that applicants with a history of drug or alcohol abuse show at least one year of sobriety before we will place them on the waiting list.

No, you do not need to get rid of any pets you currently own. We will find a dog for you that fits the current makeup of your household. We do ask that you not add any new pets to your home after you have been accepted.

No. Getting a service dog is a long, arduous process filled with challenges. If someone is not 100% dedicated to the process, they will not make a successful client-dog team.

It costs us $30,000 to $50,000 to train and place a service dog.

All of our funding comes from donations. Most of this funding comes from private donations, and some comes from non-government grants.

Our application is now exclusively online. If you do not have access to a computer, or if using a computer is challenging for you, we recommend working with a family member, friend, neighbor, caseworker, or medical provider to assist you in completing the application.

Apply for a Service Dog

Please read through the following information to determine if applying for a service dog from Freedom Service Dogs is right for you. In order to start the service dog application, you must first complete the pre-application questionnaire below. Note: the waiting time to receive a service dog is currently 3 – 4 years.

Travel to Englewood, Colorado is required as part of the Freedom Service Dog training program.

A completed background check for all adults in the household 18 years of age and older is required in order for us to schedule an interview. Once you complete the application, each individual who needs to complete a background check will receive the link via email. A conviction will not necessarily prevent you from receiving a dog.  

FSD will keep your entire application confidential. Your video/photo and written application will become the property of Freedom Service Dogs, Inc.

Freedom Service Dogs provides full public access service dogs for the following

  • Individuals with mobility challenges from muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, stroke, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries and other issues
  • Veterans and active-duty military to mitigate service-related physical injuries, as well as post-traumatic stress (PTS) and/or traumatic brain injury
  • Children and teens between the ages of 5 and 18 on the autism spectrum or with other neurocognitive disabilities

We do not provide service dogs for the following

  • Seizure detection
  • Allergy detection
  • Blood sugar detection
  • Hearing impairment
  • Vision impairment
  • Emotional support
  • Psychiatric support
  • Non-military civilians diagnosed with post-traumatic stress (PTS)

The application process

To start the process, clients must submit a completed application. Interviews will be scheduled only when all portions of the application have been received by FSD:

  • Client portion
  • Medical form (to be completed by your doctor)
  • Video/photo outline
  • Two letters of reference

FSD will keep your entire application confidential. Your video/photo and written application will become the property of Freedom Service Dogs, Inc. A completed background check (Part B of the application) is required in order for us to schedule an interview. A conviction will not necessarily prevent you from receiving a dog.  

Is a Service Dog Right for You?

Based on the experience we have gained over FSD’s 32-year history, as well as feedback from hundreds of FSD graduates, we believe it is critical that potential FSD clients understand that having a custom-trained service dog is a serious, long-term responsibility that is not appropriate for every person with a disability.

For this reason, we have established some basic prerequisites for individuals (or parents applying for their child) who may be interested in applying for an FSD service dog. Please review the following statements designed to help you determine whether or not you should apply for a Freedom Service Dog. If you agree to all of the following statements, please click on the “I Understand and Agree” button at the bottom of this section to continue. 

We appreciate your honest consideration of, and response to, these statements so that FSD can focus our resources on those individuals who qualify for a service dog and are willing to commit to the long-term care and responsibility of having a service dog for many years to come.

Training Programs for Client-Dog Teams

Traditional

Traditional training is for any type of client 12 years of age and older. It requires clients to attend two weeks of on-site training at the FSD facility in Englewood, Colorado, and one week of in-home training at your home.

Disco's Dogs

Disco’s Dogs is for individuals on the autism spectrum or with other neurocognitive disabilities 5 years of age and older. Participants are required to attend one class per week for 12 consecutive weeks at the FSD facility in Englewood, Colorado.

Operation Full Circle

Operation Full Circle (OFC) is for veterans with post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and/or a physical disability. Participants are required to attend one class per week for 16 consecutive weeks at the FSD facility in Englewood, Colorado.

DISCO’S DOGS

The Disco’s Dogs program at Freedom Service Dogs provides specially trained service dogs for families with children on the autism spectrum and children with other developmental disabilities. This innovative program—which serves children age 5 and older—employs a unique model in which the dogs are primarily adopted from shelters or rescue groups and then trained individually alongside their family for six months.

Ways a service dog can help children with autism

Dogs in this program are trained to help those on the autism spectrum with a variety of important tasks. A service dog or skilled companion dog from Disco’s Dogs can assist children with autism-related differences in many ways, including:

  • Provide a sense of security through a consistent physical presence
  • Reduce emotional outbursts by redirecting children’s attention
  • Nudge children during repetitive or stimming behaviors to interrupt the behavior
  • Improve social skills by creating a link between children and the community
  • Boost communication skills and improve behavior
  • Encourage children to try everyday activities they might otherwise avoid
  • Increase focus on homework, projects, and social tasks
  • Enhance speech production, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills.

Program qualifications

  • Child must be 5 years of age or older
  • Child must be on the autism spectrum or be diagnosed with another developmental disability
  • A caregiver must be willing to be the service dog’s third-party handler
  • Third-party handler must be willing to attend 10 – 26 weeks of classes (generally Saturdays or Sundays for two hours) to train the service dog
  • Applicant must supply documentation from the child’s doctor/therapist/etc. that identifies the need for a service dog.

OPERATION FREEDOM

FSD  helps veterans and active-duty military find a new level of confidence and independence with the help of specially trained service dogs. 

Operation Freedom was developed to help returning war veterans and military personnel transition from active duty and combat to civilian life. Many military personnel and veterans face challenges like PTS, depression, immobility, and inactivity, sometimes resulting in destructive consequences, including homelessness, crime, drugs, alcohol, and even suicide.

Operation Freedom works alongside the services of local VA medical centers, community groups, and on-base transition programs to combat these challenges using highly specialized service dogs that give veterans independence and confidence. Our service dogs can help veterans with a multitude of everyday tasks, like picking up dropped items and mobility assistance, as well as mental and emotional support. 

Operation Full Circle

FSD empowers veterans to train service dogs.

In February 2017, Freedom Service Dogs of America initiated Operation Full Circle (OFC), a program focused on increasing the benefits that service dogs provide to veterans. This innovative program uses a new model to train and place service dogs. The veterans in OFC work alongside FSD trainers for four months to help train the dogs provided to them by FSD. The veterans bond over shared experiences as they learn how to train service dogs, and following graduation, they are invited to use these new skills to help fellow veterans train their dogs.

The seed money for this pilot project was created from legislation sponsored by Colorado State Rep. Lois Landgraf. FSD has partnered with the Colorado Department of Human Services, Socrates Foundation, Prison Trained K-9 Companion Program, University of Denver Animal Assisted Social Work program, and others to offer this unique program.

Professional Therapy Dogs

FSD partners with the University of Denver Institute for Human-Animal Connection to provide professional therapy dogs.

The Professional Therapy Dog program is an opportunity for Freedom Service Dogs to pair dogs with professionals providing therapeutic support in places like assisted-living communities, residential treatment centers, AIDS counseling programs, and FSD’s Pawsitive Connections program.

It is a common misconception that a therapy dog does “therapy” for their client. Rather, the therapy dog is a therapeutic partner in a professional setting. FSD places professional therapy dogs with students seeking a graduate degree from the University of Denver in the Animal-Assisted Social Work program, as well as professionals in the community who are already practicing therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, or social workers.

To qualify for a therapy dog, you must live within a 300-mile radius of our facility and be a professional therapist, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, occupational therapist, or social worker, or be seeking a graduate degree in one of those fields.

Please note: We cannot train or certify your pet dog as a therapy dog. We are not currently accepting applications for professional therapy dogs. Please check back at a later date. 

Pawsitive Connections

We are proud to offer our therapeutic Pawsitive Connections (PC) program to support communities on the autism spectrum and with developmental disabilities.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to the COVID-19 crisis—and in keeping with FSD’s focus on ensuring the health, safety, and well-being of our staff, interns, and members of our community—we will not be offering our Pawsitive Connections program for the 2020/2021 school year. Thank you for your interest in Pawsitive Connections, and please check back early next year for updates on the 2021/2022 school year.

As part of FSD’s mission to provide highly skilled assistance dogs to individuals with disabilities, we believe in supporting not only the dogs’ development, but also the development of specialized populations in our local community. In that spirit, FSD offers Pawsitive Connections (PC), a therapeutic program designed to support children and youth on the autism spectrum and with other developmental or intellectual disabilities.

Studies have demonstrated the many benefits of human-animal interaction, and FSD shares that benefit through our Pawsitive Connections program. This innovative program combines therapeutic group discussions with the opportunity for participants to work with our service dogs in training, utilizing specially designed animal-assisted activities meant to stimulate learning and growth. During the program, participants explore a variety of topics, including empathy, social interactions, communication skills, empowerment, confidence, emotional recognition and regulation, and more.

Participants meet with FSD staff, assisted by interns from the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work, once a week for six to 10 weeks, depending on the group’s needs. Sessions take place in participating schools’ special-education classrooms or on location at our community partner agencies. PC participants range in age from elementary school to young adult, and we provide customized curriculums to meet the needs of different ages and settings.

In the spring of 2019, the Kathy and Jerry Wood Foundation made a $20,000 grant to FSD to help our PC program bring the benefits of animal-human interaction to children and young adults our community. This generous grant will assist with the costs of program staff, equipment, educational supplies, transportation, school outreach, printing costs, professional development, and evaluation.

If your organization is interested in participating, please contact 303-922-6231 or info@freedomservicedogs.org