- September
Posted By : PawBoost
Your Guide to Adopting a Service Dog

This guest article is contributed by Curtis Lawson (Editor at ProjectGunner.com)

Your Guide to Service Dog Adoption

Have you ever wondered what happens when service dogs and military dogs reach the end of their careers but still have many years of life ahead of them?

Well, many of these dutiful dogs are adopted into new forever homes as pets. But would a former service dog suit a gun owner for life as a companion in the hunting field, or perhaps someone who is looking for a retired service dog to be their furry friend?

To learn more, read this guide for some top tips on adopting retired service dogs.

Photo Credit: Ralph Kayden via Unsplash

What Kind Of Dog Do You Want?

First of all, decide what kind of dog you want to adopt.

For example, if you’re an outdoorsy person who likes to spend much of their time hiking, you want a fit, athletic dog that loves to go for long walks.

However, if you prefer to spend your time pottering in your backyard and relaxing in your home, you want an older, quieter pup that’s accustomed to doing the same.

Adopting Retired and Failed Service Dogs

Start your search for a retired service dog with a simple online search for “service dog training programs.”

You’ll find a list of facilities that offer training for service dogs in your area, together with contact information. Take a look at the websites, and you’ll find some will offer their “failed” or “career change” service dogs for adoption.

The sites will also tell you what dogs are available, and they may have online application forms that you can fill out. You can also reach out to these organizations to ask any questions you have about the dog’s training, the adoption process, and whether the dog would be a good fit for you and your family.

Photo Credit: Dzmitry Dudov via Unsplash

Adoption Process

The process to adopt a former service dog varies, depending on the organization.

Generally, these dogs are highly trained and family-friendly, so demand for them is very high. That means you might have a long wait for a dog to become available. Also, adoption fees vary widely, ranging from free to a good home to thousands of dollars, reflecting the dogs’ training and the demand for them.

So, what kind of service dogs are there to choose from?

Photo Credit: Jusdevoyage via Unsplash

Police Dogs

Retired police dogs are often adopted by their handlers, while others go to forever homes once they come to the end of their service career, generally at around nine or ten years old.

The adoption process for these animals is somewhat lengthy and arduous. You and your family might need to be interviewed, and your home will probably be inspected for suitability. The police might also require a reference from your veterinarian, giving details of your pet-keeping history.

Often, you’ll need to have a fenced yard and give assurances that you won’t move home within six months and that you’ll provide the dog with sufficient exercise, training, and veterinary care.

There are several breeds that work in K9 units, including:

All of these breeds are loyal and highly intelligent, making them wonderful pets and companions. Not all police dogs are used to chase and tackle dangerous criminals. Many are trained to sniff out drugs, cash, and even human remains.

It might also be possible to adopt a dog that’s failed its training. But always find out exactly why the dog is unsuitable for police work before you take your application any further.

Photo Credit: Jason Jarrach via Unsplash

What About Military Dogs?

The adoption process for military dogs is much the same as it is for police dogs.

Often, military dogs retire with their handlers; however, those that don’t are usually put up for adoption. Every dog is assessed to ensure that they’re suitable for adoption. However, if you have a family, it’s important to note that most former military dogs are unsuitable for life in a home that has kids under five or other pets.

Finally, all military dogs that are available for adoption are located on a base in San Antonio, Texas, so you must be prepared to travel to meet your potential new pet.

Other Service Dogs

Of course, there are many other kinds of service dogs, including:

  • Guide dogs
  • Hearing dogs
  • Allergy detection dogs
  • Diabetic alert dogs
  • Seizure alert and response dogs

Not every dog that’s trained for these roles makes it. Some dogs simply aren’t suited to life as service animals, and some have health conditions that mean they’re not suitable for that kind of work.

Many of these dogs are put up for adoption into forever homes as pets or companions.

Photo Credit: Artem Labunsky via Unsplash

What Are The Downsides Of Adopting A Retired Service Dog?

There are a few downsides to adopting a former service dog:

Lengthy Adoption Process

Adopting a retired service dog can take many months or even years while you wait for suitable animals to become available.


Although some organizations don’t charge for adoption, many do, and you can be required to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a retired service dog.

Limited Choice Of Breeds

There’s quite a limited choice of breeds when it comes to service dogs. In addition to those breeds mentioned above, you might find Golden retrievers and a few mixed breeds, such as Labradoodles or Goldendoodles.

Interviews And Home Visits

All service organizations require potential adopters to undergo an interview and a home visit to check their suitability.

You might also need to provide references from your vet.

In Conclusion

The process of adopting a retired service dog can be a long, arduous one.

However, offering a loving, forever home to one of these dutiful pups is the best way of rewarding these remarkable dogs for their dedication and devotion to helping humans.


  • I have a son with Down’s syndrome and cerebral palsy. He has always wanted a big dog but my fears have kept me getting him one I know a trained service dog could be perfect for him.we have only taken in small quiet dogs for rehoming. I have a 6 year old perfect Havanese that I would also like a friend for. Thank you

  • I’m interested.

Leave a Reply