If you are a Veteran who is interested in applying for a service dog, please read the following information carefully to determine if you meet our eligibility requirements.
Hero Dogs, Inc. provides service dogs to Veterans who:
- have served in any branch of the uniformed services in any era; and
- have received an honorable or a general (under honorable conditions) discharge; and
- have a disabling medical condition (does not need to be service-connected); and
- have been released from all service and reserve obligations; and
- have met all Hero Dogs’ requirements for application into the program, applied, and been accepted into the program; and
- have successfully completed all required Hero Dogs training and certification requirements.
There is no cost to a Veteran for the service dogs we raise, train, and place, or for the training we provide.
Requirements for Application to the Hero Dogs Program
PLEASE NOTE: We currently only place service dogs in the greater Washington, DC and Baltimore metropolitan areas. CLICK HERE if you DO NOT live in our service area.
Applicants shall be considered for partnership with a Hero Dog regardless of race, color, religion (creed), gender, gender expression, age, national origin (ancestry), marital status, sexual orientation, or other categories protected by law. As a potential candidate for our training program, you must:
- 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 one year following matching with a dog;
- be able to provide your own transportation to and from training sessions;
- refrain from volunteering, donating, or otherwise participating in fund raising or public relations activities for Hero Dogs for at least six months prior to applying;
- be able to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a dog, and have an adequate support system in place to do so when you are unable to yourself;
- for applicants requesting assistance with any mental health condition, be current and remain in treatment with a mental health practitioner;
- have the full support of your family (including any caregivers), your employer, and your landlord (where applicable) in your quest to receive a service dog;
- be willing and able to commit to the training program and schedule;
- be able to provide financial support for the dog after ownership has been signed over.
†If you DO NOT live in our service area, please visit Assistance Dogs International, Inc. (ADI) to locate a service dog agency that places dogs in your area or nationally. ADI is a coalition of not-for-profit organizations that train and place service, guide, and hearing dogs.
Training and Certification Requirements
One of Hero Dogs’ most unique and important characteristics is the level of support and training we provide to Veterans matched with one of our service dogs. In turn, this means that Veterans accepted into our program and matched with a dog must commit to the requirements of the training program.
- Initial training prior to being matched with a dog lasts 3-4 weeks, 5 days/week (M-F), 4-6 hours/day at our training center near zip code 20833 (minimum of 60 hours of training required prior to matching).
- For six months after being matched, the Veteran/Hero Dog team must meet with a Hero Dogs trainer at least once per week (3-4 hours/week) for training in a variety of public and private settings (additional minimum of 60 hours of training required after matching).
- Veterans must agree to adhere to all Hero Dogs, Inc. rules and regulations concerning the health, care, and training of the dog, including daily exercise, training, and grooming requirements, as well as a smoke-free living environment.
- Following the minimum six month/120 hour training commitment, the Veteran/Hero Dog team must successfully pass a three-part certification examination, including:
- a written or oral examination which covers the Veteran’s knowledge of dog care, dog behavior, training principles, specific vocabulary, and public access,
- a practical test of basic obedience and public access behavior conducted in a public location, and
- a specialized skills test, which tests the team on performance of the specific skills the dog has been taught to perform for the Veteran.
- After certification, the team remains on probation for an additional six months before ownership of the dog is turned over to the Veteran. During this probationary period, the Veteran is required to continue to adhere to all Hero Dogs rules and regulations concerning the dog, and to check in with the training staff at least monthly.