What We Mean By “Properly Trained”:
As unbelievable as it sounds, there are no binding standards for what constitutes a Service Dog. Anyone can claim that their dog is a service dog and can buy a vest and patches on the Internet. As long as the dog has been trained to assist its owner with one or more of life’s functions, the law views that dog as a “service dog”. Such dogs are little more than pets masquerading as service dogs, and are of little or no help to Veterans.
Vets Helping Heroes scours the country to find trainers and facilities that train purpose-bred or specifically-selected dogs, of good health and proper temperament, to one or more Internationally-recognized voluntary standards. Whether the dog is bred from conception as a service dog, or a shelter rescue, the process of training a service dog properly takes over a year, and the process of training the Veteran to work as a team with the dog takes at least two weeks, depending upon the specific wounds or conditions each particular Veteran has suffered or is suffering from. All of the training facilities approved by Vets Helping Heroes also provide follow-up care to the Veteran for the working life of the dog.
This may well be the number one question we get asked at Vets Helping Heroes. We are a fund raising orgainization only and have nothing to do with the application process at the programs through which we sponsor dogs. Please download our fact sheet to learn more about what type of dog is best for you and how you can get started on your search. We've included a list of programs we can recommend but your search need not be limited to that list. There are countless training programs all over the country. Keep in mind, the right program for you does not have to be located close to you. This is a very important decision and location should not be the primary consideration.
To jump straight to a few of the programs we support please visit Southeastern Guide Dogs, K9 Navigators and Freedom Service Dogs or search for a program. There are more links available on our links page. MOST IMPORTANTLY: DO YOUR HOMEWORK TO FIND THE RIGHT PROGRAM FOR YOU AND MAKE SURE THEY ARE REPUTABLE!
At this time I'm afraid we can't take the very generous offers we often receive from those wishing to give us puppies and dogs to be used in the training programs we sponsor. These programs either specially breed their dogs or use rescued shelter dogs, of which there is no shortage. Additionally, the liklihood of one of our programs being located within a practical distance is remote.
We strongly recommend that you search for programs in your area. If it's important to you that your special gift be used to benefit active-duty or retired military, make sure you clarify that when speaking with any program you contact.
VHH only covers the cost of preparing the dogs to be placed with their new owners. However, recently the VA announced that all VA Certified service dogs qualify for unlimited health insurance. That means all vets bills for qualifying dogs will be covered. You can read more here and other places around the web.
Unfortunately, no. We don't do any of the dog training ourselves and aren't kept privy to the hiring needs of the programs we support.
We are a newly formed organization and, as such we are not currently in a position to support an extensive volunteer staff. If you are interested in helping out as we grow, please sign up for our mailing list to be notified when volunteer opportunities become available. We greatly appreciate your interest and willingness to help.
Our primary need at present is to raise funds for dogs. If you are able to do so, contributions are therefore the most significant manner in which you can be of immediate help. You can spread the word about our organization. We would be happy to send you brochures that you can hand out to anyone you think might be interested in learning more.
If you have an interest in becoming involved in the training or raising a future service dogs we recommend you contact Southeastern Guide Dogs, K9 Navigators or Canine Companions for Independence for puppy-raising opportunities all over the country. You could also try to search for other programs that might have the need for puppy raisers.
Service dogs work 24 hours, seven days per week. As a result, and in consideration of the hard and dedicated work that these dogs put in on behalf of their owners, they are usually retired by the age of 10 or 11 years. At that time, the disabled individual may receive a new service dog, but may chose to keep the original dog for the remainder of its life since the bond between the disabled person and the dog - and the entire family - is generally very strong.
Not at all. At this time most of the money provided by the government bill is being applied toward research. The funds allocated to provide for a very small percent of the current need has been put on hold. Private donations are very much needed in order for us to continue our mission of providing a professionally trained assistance dog prepared by a qualified instructor to all qualifying veterans and active-duty military personnel.
Rescue dogs often times have unknown backgrounds creating a wide variety of temperaments that aren't always conducive to being a Service Dog. Unfortunately, dogs pulled from shelters, do not come with genetic histories and do not have years of socialization and training like our dogs. Veterans lives are literally at stake. We do not place a dog without a health history, a proven temperament, and formal socialization and training with a blind or disabled Veteran who needs that Dog for basic life functions. Selecting dogs that have an unknown history can create variable behaviors and health issues which could create more emotional, and financial stress on a Veteran.
To provide extraordinary working dogs with the best health and temperament, we must, in some cases, rely on the science of good breeding, which includes a thorough review of each of our dog’s genetic history over a minimum of five generations and to ensure that every Guide Dog placed with a Veteran who is blind, or a veteran with a disability, receives world-class training.
Each of the dogs provided by Vets Helping Heroes, start socializing and training at two days old. That means, that every dog placed, has received two years and several thousand hours of socialization and training. This reduces the overall cost from veterinary expenses, and training costs due to no need to rehabilitate the animal prior to starting service dog training. Following this structure of a program, we have had a 95% success placement rate, and great feedback from our nearly 450 Veteran/Service Dog recipients since we started in 2007.
VETS HELPING HEROES proudly supports Pawsitive Action Foundation, a training facility in St. Cloud, Florida, which welcomes rescues to take part in their Owner-Trained Service Dog Program. Any Veteran can have their rescue dog tested for temperament, and upon passing, can then begin training at Pawsitive Action Foundation to become a Full Access Service Dog.