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Skilled Home Companion dogs are NOT service dogs, and do not have public access rights or any other special legal protections.
SHC dogs can assist with tasks such as retrieving, providing balance support, alerting to sounds or other environmental cues, or alerting a family member to the need for assistance. A SHC dog is a good choice for a person who needs assistance within the home only, but does not require or desire the responsibility of a service dog. Most SHC dogs will be between 16-26 months of age.
- have served in any branch of the uniformed services in any era, or have served as a first responder,
- have received an honorable or a general (under honorable conditions) discharge (or equivalent for first responders),
- live within 50 miles or approximately one hour’s travel time of Hero Dogs (zip code 20833 – click here to see our service area†) for at least six months following placement of a SHC dog,
- have a documented disability or medical condition (you or your qualified family member) – does not need to be service connected,
- be able to provide financial support for the dog, and
- be willing and able to commit to the training schedule (see below).
Dogs for family members of active duty or reserve members may be considered based on deployment status. If the dog is for a minor child, the dog will be placed with the qualified parent, and the parent and child will be expected to complete the training program together.
- One week of training (approximately 35 hours, M-F, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.), conducted on-site at Hero Dogs. Our cabin is available for overnight accommodations if needed for this initial training.
- All family members will be required to participate in one day of this initial training (although family members are encouraged to participate in as much of the training as possible).
- Monthly follow-up sessions (approximately 3-4 hours per session), conducted on-site at Hero Dogs or sometimes in the home or a pet-friendly public location, for the next 6 months.
- Successful completion by the handler of a written or oral examination covering knowledge of basic training principles, dog behavior, and dog care.
- Successful completion by the team of a practical test of skills and good manners in the home and at a pet-friendly location such as a park or pet store.