Service dogs in the military


New member
Aug 19, 2020
In the case of President Georges HW Bush’s Service Dog, Sully is retired from service work likely due to his age. He will go on as a Therapy Dog to visit hospitals or convalescent centers.

In many cases, the dog will remain with the family, especially if the dog is older. In other cases, the dog may be returned to the facility that provided the dog, as in the case with the Seeing Eye dogs. They are then allowed full retirement and possible rehoming to families who are on a waiting list to get one of these wonderful dogs.

Upon occasion, a Service Dog will end up in a shelter—though they could be a professionally trained Service Dog or simply a dog with Service Dog Certification, which can be purchased online for any dog with a Dr.’s script. These dogs, when this occurs, are in stiff competition with all other dogs for a home.

If the dog is young and has performed well, it is possible to retrain the dog for a new disabled client. Sometimes this will happen even if the original disabled client does not die, but rather does not do well with the dog or the dog does not do well with the client. We, at Top Tier Dog Training, have had this happen a few times.

I often will take one of the Service Dogs in Training into my home for a stay while the client is unable to have the dog—hospital stay, cruise ship travel, or other such situations. I maintain training while they are here. But should the client fail to return? I would do my best to place the dog with the family or, failing that, would do my best to find another client. This is how I ended up with Shelly, my Service Dog. She was moved around three times before I took her. Looking for a client for her, I discovered my own waning health issues and she is now training as my Service Dog.

We are not an adoption program. Our resources are focused on providing guidance in the client obtaining a candidate dog. We do not charge for this service—we do not charge for the training either, keeping the nominal monthly materials fee very low to make having one of these dogs affordable for the client. However, if an adoption takes place and the dog—or the client—fails to perform adequately, we do not attempt to “find a home” for their dog.

We caution due diligence in choosing a dog. So often, we have a family with a member who would benefit from a Service Dog who has a “shopping list” of what they want. They will try to choose a dog like many people choose their cars: for appearance, status, ideals that may not serve well for the function necessary.

One client wanted a Golden Doodle puppy for their disabled child. Golden Doodles are wonderful, but tend to be silly and playful, socially engaging and mouthy; not always suitable for a small child to handle. Additionally, since these dogs need to be at least 18 months for task training, they would be facing the uphill climb in raising a disabled baby and a rambunctious, teething floofy Doodle.

In another case, we were able to find a gorgeous, statuesque Greyhound off the track as a Stability/Mobility dog for a diminutive disabled woman. This was her greatest need at the time and the dog is a natural at matching her gait, pulling her up stairs, steadying stoutly when she begins to wobble. But after getting the dog, she wanted him to also bring her things. Uuhh…while it would be possible to train a Greyhound to retrieve, we would have suggested a Labrador (or a Doodle!) to perform dual duties. As it is, he will come to her and bring her to whatever she needs to get and maintain her balance . She is satisfied having this elegant dog doing this as the primary need.

The dog, though temperamentally tested to do well, may not end up being suitable for the job. In a few cases, family interference plays a part here. Regardless the relational issues that come into family dynamics, there is sometimes a bit of passive-aggressive undermining the bond necessary for the dog’s service to the one client.

I had one client who was getting frustrated and using more correction and force than we allow with the dogs. The dog was simply ambivalent about attending to her human. Later this client produced pictures of his dog, at home while he was hospitalized. The dog was dressed up in various costumes, shown chowing down on a leftover plate of food and in the embrace of what could only be a wrestling match with the adolescent son of the client.
He is now getting another dog, one provided by the Veteran’s Administration free of charge to him. We encouraged him to accept this help. This dog will be more shut down to outside influences, being trained prior to going into his home. I’m skeptical to the success here only because of the family dynamic. And his former Service Dog? She will still be his buddy, but will now be a family pet.