Mutts with a Mission provides training for United States service members who served on active duty and have a service connected disability. This includes members of the Guard and Reserves that were called to active duty. We DO NOT provide training for the dogs of military spouses or their children. If you do not qualify for our program we recommend visiting the Assistance Dogs International website.
Help! I don't have a dog, don't want to be on a long waiting list, and would be willing to commit to training a dog. What can I do?
Request an application! If you meet our application requirements we will help you find an appropriate dog to train as a Service Dog. Actually, we request if you plan to get a dog to train through our program you let us help you select one, as not every dog is suitable for Service Dog work. We occasionally will select a dog that we think has great potential from a rescue or shelter and will place it with a veteran to train through us.
How long is the application process?
Once you submit a completed application decisions are made within 3 weeks. You will be notified by phone or email of the selection committee's decision. If you are in need of assistance to find a dog to train through our program we CANNOT assist you in your search until your application has gone before the selection committee and been approved.
How long will it take me to train my dog through your program?
A minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 24 months. The training time depends on the age of the dog and how quickly the team trains up. There are mandatory steps each team must complete. Additionally, each team must have a minimum amount of documented training hours. MWAM will not certify mobility dogs that are under the age of 2 years old.
What will my dog be trained to do?
Each dog will be trained to complete work or tasks that help mitigate the handler's documented disability. While dogs can provide emotional, social, and safety benefits for their handler these benefits are not tasks that qualify a dog as a service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Therefore a dog making someone feel better because of their presence is not a task and does not qualify a dog as a service animal. Dogs that show any type of aggression will not be considered for training and if occurs during training will be dismissed from further training.
Tasks our dogs are trained to do (this is not an all inclusive list)
Bring the phone in an emergency
Use a K9 Rescue Phone
Get help of a house member
Help a person get up
Steady a person
Carry medical equipment (not a task)
Provide tactile stimulation during a flashback or anxiety attack
Turn on lights
Wake up a person during night terrors
Wake up a person for work or school
Provide an excuse to leave a situation
Create space in crowds
Search a dark room and on return turn on a light
Helping handler decide if a situation is safe - handler hears voices gives dog command dog decides if a real person is there or not
Retrieve dropped items
Retrieve requested items
Brace/help handler up
Assist in taking off certain items of clothing
Open/shut drawers, cabinets, etc.
Turn on/off lights
Steady a person
How much will it cost for me to train my dog through your program?
There is an application fee of $50.00, and some equipment costs (specialized leashes, etc. if you so choose) other than that there is no charge for the training. This is our way of showing our gratitude and saying thank you for your service and sacrifice.
Are there dogs that MWAM will not train as Service Dogs?
Yes, there are dogs because of heat/cold tolerance issues, breathing issues, and some guardian breeds that will not be considered as Service Dog candidates as well as wolf-hybrids. MWAM reserves the right to make the decision on a dog's suitability on a case by case basis.
At what age can my dog start training?
We will start working with you and your dog as early as 8 weeks old in order to provide the puppy a sound background for Service Dog training. We will recommend literature and puppy classes for you and your puppy and maintain contact with you during this period (please, no box store puppy classes!). However, dogs must be spayed or neutered before they will be allowed to graduate.
I really don't want to spay/neuter my dog. Will this affect my ability to train with your program?
Yes, we will not graduate any dog that has not been spayed/neutered.
I want to train my dog with your program, but I live more than 2 hours away. I'm willing to make the commitment. What do I do?
If you are able to make bi-monthly training sessions and can pass the application process you are welcome. Currently, we have several teams in training who come for bi-monthly classes due to their distance from our location. It will take longer, but you can graduate from our program if you are committed.
I need a Service Dog and was in the military, but my disability was not related to my military service. Do I qualify to train my dog through your program?
No, because your disability was not service connected we cannot provide you with training for your dog to become a Service Dog. We suggest individuals that do not qualify for our program visit the Assistance Dogs International website.
What is the maximum age of a dog you will allow into your program?
The maximum age of a dog we will accept into our program is 3 years old, if they have had substantial obedience training. We like for our dogs to have a working life of 6-8 years before they need to be retired.
What kinds of breeds does MWAM allow?
We are not breed specific (with a few exceptions due to health problems in some breeds). We look more for temperament and physical soundness in our dogs. We also work with your veterinarian to weed out any physical problems that would prevent a dog from being a viable Service Dog. (Because of recent airline regulations refusing Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes on flights we will no longer be training this breed. We feel this is very unfortunate and hope that the airlines in the future will modify their policies.)
What happens when we graduate as a team? Am I finished with your program?
No, once you graduate you will be retested yearly. You are a member of the program for the working life of your dog. Before it is time to retire your Service Dog we will work with you on finding and training/matching you with a replacement.
Service Dogs & The VA
I have been told that the VA will cover the medical expenses for my dog if it is trained through an Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accredited program. Is this true?
Yes and no. If you are medically approved, meaning your paperwork has gone through the correct channels and has been accepted, AND your dog is a mobility or hearing Service Dog or a guide dog from an ADI accredited program the VA will pay the medical expenses for the WORKING LIFE of your Service Dog. (Note. Once your Service Dog is retired, the VA will no longer pay its medical treatment.) However, they WILL NOT pay similar expenses for psychiatric Service Dogs even if they are through an ADI accredited program.
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