Skilled Home Companion (SHC) dogs are well-trained pet dogs for people with a wide range of physical or psychological challenges. Hero Dogs provides SHC dogs to veterans or first-responders, or to family members of these heroes in the greater Washington, DC area. For a variety of reasons related to physical or behavioral health, these dogs did not ultimately qualify to become service dogs. However, SHC dogs have had extensive socialization and training and can utilize their special skills to provide support within the home only. These dogs can perform many of the tasks they were taught to assist with physical or psychological challenges, as well as providing comfort and love to their new families.
Skilled Home Companion dogs are NOT service dogs. They 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. Please note that these dogs are accustomed to being with people all of the time and are rarely a good match for a household where everyone has a full-time job and is gone for long hours every day.
Who qualifies for a Skilled Home Companion dog?
Hero Dogs places SHC dogs with veterans and first-responders or their immediate dependent family members (spouse/partner, parent, or child) residing at the same address. To qualify you must:
- have served in any branch of the uniformed services in any era, or have served as a first-responder,
- have received an honorable discharge (or equivalent for first-responders) – other types of discharge may be considered on a case-by-case basis,
- 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.
Is there a training requirement to receive a Skilled Home Companion Dog?
Yes. If you apply for and are selected to receive a SHC dog, you will be required to complete the following training requirements:
- 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 household/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.
How do I apply for a Skilled Home Companion Dog?
Please click here to fill out an application for a SHC dog. There is no fee to qualified applicants for the placement or training of a SHC dog; however, recipients are responsible for all expenses after the dog has been taken home (food, supplies, veterinary care). Dogs will be sent home with an initial set of supplies at a cost of approximately $750.
Are there any dogs available for adoption now?
We continually evaluate all of the dogs in our program with the goal of placing each dog in the most suitable job and home. Applications may be submitted at any time and will be kept on file. If a dog becomes available and we feel that you may be a potential match, we will contact you for an interview. Click here to fill out an application for a Skilled Home Companion dog.