Frequently Asked Questions
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about PTSD service dogs we receive from veterans and their families.
- Will you train my dog?
No. We select service dogs based on outstanding temperament, structural soundness and a proven lineage of healthy genetics. Only then do we even consider a dog a good fit for our training program, and not every dog that begins, finishes. Many dogs that are great for other tasks or are wonderful companions are not a good fit for this program.
- I have had a litter of puppies I would like to donate to the program, how can I do that?
We appreciate the desire to help, but there are very specific requirements we look for in our service dogs including temperament, genetic testing and a history of service dogs in their lineage. The most successful dogs are those that are actually bred for service work and possess low reactivity to stimuli (not too much prey drive), have no sound sensitivity or resource guarding tendencies in their line, are naturally cooperative with humans, are started early in puppyhood learning how to learn and do not spend their formative months rehearsing bad behaviors or ignoring humans, are of sound structure and temperament, come from healthy stock and are free of problematic allergies or other health conditions. Please see our puppy breeder page for more information about basic qualifications.
- Can the veteran’s own personal dog be trained to become their PTSD service dog?
PTSD service dogs require very special traits, temperaments and exceptional intuition to be molded into the working dogs they need to become. While we have had successes with some personal dogs, and rescues previously, we have made the decision to focus only on purpose bred dogs which we select for the program. This decision has been made because it is the most financially responsible choice on our part for the donors who support our program as well as for the veterans who are on the wait list.For veterans who do wish to train their own dogs, or to work with a professional trainer in their geographic area, we suggest researching trainers on Service Dog Providers for Military Veterans, Assistance Dogs International or the International Association of Canine Professionals.
- What are the requirements for a veteran to enter This Able Veteran’s (TAV) service dog program?
The veteran must submit an application, provide a copy of their DD214. and be under the care of their therapist. Their injuries must be a result of their military service.
- Do veterans pay for their service dog?
No. Veterans pay nothing for the service dog or Trauma Resiliency program.
- Do you offer classes for veterans to train their own service dogs?
No. Knowing how to train a service dog is not the same as putting basic obedience on a pet. Not only does the dog’s temperament need to be appropriate for this work, there are many skills which must be trained into the dog. Our professional trainers do this by working daily over 12-18 months with our service dogs.
- Do I have to attend the three week trauma resiliency program to obtain a service dog?
- Do you train service dogs for people who are not veterans?
No. We train service dogs for veterans only. Their injuries must have been sustained as a result of their service and they must be able to provide a DD214. Civilians who are in search of a PTSD service dog may wish to research non-military service dog providers on these sites: Assistance Dogs International or the International Association of Canine Professionals.
- Will you help with funding so I can have my dog trained as a service dog?
No, we do not assist with funding service dog training through other organizations. Our service dogs, the three week trauma resiliency program, travel lodging and and expenses are covered by us fundraising for the veterans who apply and are selected as candidates in our program. We cannot make donations to other service dog organizations.
- What do TAV-trained PTSD service dogs actually do?
Our PTSD service dogs are highly trained to detect anxiety responses displayed by the veteran in potentially challenging environments and situations. Our dogs are trained to recognize, indicate and interrupt early signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares, allowing the veteran to break the cycle and regain emotional control. Our service dogs are one of three essential components in advancing the veteran’s recovery. The trained service dog and our staff at TAV work directly with the veteran during the 3-week long Trauma Resiliency portion of our program. This training process, combined with the insight and oversight of the veteran’s own therapist, helps to ensure long-term health and recovery.
- How does the dog help with flashbacks and panic attacks?
A veteran will display certain behaviors just before and during a flashback. The dog is trained to recognize the early signals of these behaviors, interrupt them and redirect the veteran.
- Do your service dogs perform tasks like watch my back, blocking (keeping people at a distance), and clearing the room (entering the room first to give the ‘all-clear’)?
No. Although these tasks might at first seem desirable, we must keep in mind that the goal of the PTSD service dog is to aid and assist in the veteran’s recovery. We often say that “the PTSD service dog is not here to convince the veteran that the world is safe. The veteran is here to convince the dog that the world is safe.” The 3-week long Trauma Resiliency program makes extensive use of the service dog’s training in dealing with the common feelings of hypervigilance, isolation, re-experiencing and emotional numbness. The skills built during the Trauma Resiliency program set the stage for extraordinary recovery opportunities with the dog thereafter.
- How is TAV different from other PTSD service dog organizations?
We are the only service dog organization utilizing our veteran-centric model of care, wherein This Able Veteran’s highly trained staff integrates the skills of the service dog with newly developed resilience and life management skills taught during the Trauma Resiliency sessions. With this three-way dynamic of care, the veteran’s rate of recovery is dramatically enhanced and the veteran’s family is also directly benefitted.
- How long is the waiting period for a veteran to receive a dog?
Once an application is approved, the wait time is approximately 1 year – 1.5 years
- Can the veteran select their own dog?
No. The appropriate matching of the dog and veteran is an art and a skill. We learn a great deal about each veteran who qualifies for our program including lifestyle, family and home environment, their range of physical, psychological and cognitive abilities and their individual personalities. Through this process, we are able to match the dog for the veteran’s unique needs.
- How long does it take to train a service dog?
The length of training is determined by the veteran’s needs and the tasks the dog is required to do. Training ranges from 8 to 18 months.
- Does a veteran have to live in Illinois to apply for the program?
- Do you train service dogs for active duty military members?
No. ADA does not apply to military bases. We serve veterans only.
- Do you train dogs for veterans from other countries?
No. We serve U.S. military veterans only.
- Can any dog become a service dog?
No. We select service dogs based on a rigorous examination of temperament, structural soundness, healthy genetics and breeding. Even dogs that pass our evaluation don’t necessarily make it to the end of training. Dogs have skills in different areas. We aren’t saying our dogs are better dogs, but we are saying, the dogs we select are suitable for the lifelong commitment we are giving them. Please see our puppy breeder page for more information about basic qualifications.
- What are the difference between companion dogs, therapy dogs and service dogs?
Companion dogs are pets. They enrich our lives in wonderful, unique, fun-filling ways. Their main job is to be your pal. Certified therapy dogs are required to pass a test that evaluates obedience and temperament. Therapy dogs are typically used to visit long-term care facilities, hospitals and children’s programs to bring joy and comfort to the people they visit.Service dogs are trained for a specific person with specific tasks, including tasks their humans are physically unable to do.Certified Service Dogs are allowed access to public buildings and transportation. Their role is integral in providing independence by assisting with physical and psychological needs for their individual human partner.See the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) requirements for service animals.
- Why do you use puppies purchased from a breeder? Why not use shelter dogs in your program?
This Able Veteran has successfully selected, trained and placed several shelter dogs with veterans. However, in our long experience of training service dogs, reliability is crucial. Sometimes shelter dogs come with their own trauma issues, and that can make them less able to perform the difficult tasks we set them. However, the success rate of dogs specifically bred for the demanding work of being a PTSD service dog encourages us to continue selectively breeding for the traits we – and our veterans – need.
- What breeds of dogs do you use?
Temperament is key. Our dogs must be steady in every situation, must never display aggression, must have a high level of self-control, and be physically able to perform the duties we ask of them. And, each of our PTSD service dogs must be seen as approachable to the general public. We have focused our efforts on developing relationships with Labrador Retriever breeders.
- How old are dogs when they come into your program?
Puppies are a clean slate. We like a clean slate. Unlike many other programs, we don’t send our puppies to foster homes for their first year. We want to be involved with them right away, from their earliest days. We prefer to take carefully selected puppies into the program at 8 weeks old.
If you have other questions, please contact us.