Join Susquehanna Service Dogs as a Partner or a Volunteer

Your journey within Susquehanna Service Dogs starts here. Whether you’re looking to get an assistance dog or facility dog or become a volunteer, you’ll find a way to connect.

Assistance Dogs Application Request

To begin the process of applying for an assistance, facility, or companion dog, complete the application request form. Please allow 15 business days for us to review your request.

Apply for an Assistance, Facility, or Companion Dog

Apply for an Assistance, Facility, In-Home Service, or Companion Dog

To begin the process of applying for an assistance, facility, in-home, or companion dog, complete the application request form. Please allow 15 business days for us to review your request.

Types of Dogs Placed

Susquehanna Service Dogs trains and places mobility assistance dogs, autism service dogs for adults and children, psychiatric service dogs for veterans and non-veterans, hearing dogs, seizure response dogs, facility dogs, in-home service dogs, and companion dogs.

Our program breeds primarily Labrador Retrievers with a very limited number of Golden Retrievers and Lab Golden crosses. Dogs are approximately two years old at the time of placement. We carefully select our dogs to have a calm temperament and a solid health history.

Eligibility

To apply for an assistance dog through our program, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Live within a 4-hour driving radius of Grantville, PA and have the ability to travel to our facility a minimum of 3 times.
  • Obtain documentation from a medical and/or mental health professional confirming a disability.
  • Attend a two and a half week Team Training session in Grantville, PA prior to placement at their own expense and provide their own transportation, lodging, meals, and attendant care, if needed.
  • Participate in a home visit that includes all household members.
  • Have realistic expectations of tasks an assistance dog can perform to mitigate a disability. Our program does not train medical alert or guide dogs.
  • Possess sufficient cognitive and physical functioning to actively participate in the lifelong training and care of the assistance dog.
  • Provide a safe, stable home environment to ensure the health and welfare of the assistance dog.
  • Ensure that the assistance dog has adequate daily exercise.
  • Provide annual dog supplies and veterinary services averaging $150-$200 per month.
  • Continue the training program that SSD begins for the team throughout the working life of the dog.
  • Have back-up care arranged for the assistance dog in case of a personal emergency.
  • Ensure household pets are able to socialize well with dogs and are spayed or neutered and over the age of 12 months prior to placement of an assistance dog in your home.
  • Keep SSD informed of any changes that affect any of the above after the application is accepted.

All applicants are considered regardless of race, sex, religion, creed, sexual orientation, or ethnic origin. Children must be at least 5 years old at the time of application and parents/guardians must support having an assistance, in-home service, or companion dog for the child.

Cost

It costs Susquehanna Service Dogs over $30,000 to breed, train, place, and provide lifetime support for each dog placed. However, our assistance and facility dogs are available to partners for a $5,000 fee for service. In-home service dogs are $3,000, and a companion dog costs $2,000. A limited number of partial need-based scholarships are available for residents of Pennsylvania based on federal poverty guidelines and total taxable household income.

Request an Application

To begin the process of applying for an assistance, facility, in-home service, or companion dog, complete the application request form. Please allow 15 business days for us to review your request.

You will then be notified by email about the status of your request. If you meet the minimum eligibility requirements, you will receive a formal application along with additional details regarding the application process.

Our waiting list for an assistance dog or hearing dog is currently 3 to 4 years. Waiting time for a facility, in-home service, or companion dog may be shorter, depending on the number of applicants. We will work closely with you to find a dog that best matches your needs and lifestyle.

Please review our eligibility requirements before submitting an application request. Please note that we do not train or place dogs to do guide work for the blind; to do seizure or diabetic alert; to anticipate or detect medical symptoms; to primarily provide emotional comfort or social support; to provide supervision, navigation, or safety from environmental hazards; or to provide personal protection. Our program does not permit tethering an individual and dog to prevent elopement.

Request an Application

Become a Volunteer

Our volunteers make it possible for us to breed, raise, train, and place life-changing assistance dogs. We currently have over 400 volunteers who collectively give over 40,000 hours each month to our program. Whether they’re raising puppies or painting a fence, volunteers are making a difference and helping to change lives.

Puppy Raisers

Make a difference and change lives by raising a puppy! Puppy raisers welcome a 9-week-old puppy into their home to socialize and train for 15-18 months. No experience is necessary. We will teach you everything you need to know about raising an assistance dog.

We ask that you live within an hour’s drive of Grantville, PA; Center City, Philadelphia, PA; or State College, PA.

Raiser Responsibilities

  • Attend regular puppy classes every week for the first 9 weeks and then 2-3 times per month until the dog is approximately 18 months old
  • Participate in mandatory outings throughout the year
  • Teach the puppy good house manners and basic cues and skills as instructed by our trainers
  • Take the puppy to new and interesting places, such as stores, parks, restaurants, and more
  • Purchase food, treats, and appropriate toys

Susquehanna Service Dogs covers all veterinary costs and provides monthly heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives.

Application Process

  • Complete the online application. You will receive a welcome email with information about upcoming class times after we process your application. (Please allow 15 business days for processing.)
  • Attend our orientation and clicker training classes and observe a puppy class.
  • Complete a home visit conducted by one of our volunteers and a demonstration dog or dog in training.

Please be patient throughout the process of becoming a puppy raiser. Our goal is to set both our raisers and puppies up for success, and we work hard to match a puppy’s temperament with a raiser’s lifestyle. It may take some time before you receive a puppy to raise, but the wait will be worth it!

Apply to Raise a Puppy

College Campus Puppy Raisers

Our Campus Puppy Raising Programs give college students a unique opportunity to raise assistance dogs and change the lives of others. Both students and dogs benefit. Students gain responsibility and enhance their time management and leadership skills, while dogs in training become well-socialized and enriched by their surroundings.

Just like any other puppy raiser, students raise a puppy for 15-18 months. They attend puppy classes, teach the puppies good house manners and basic skills and cues, and take the dogs on outings to new and interesting places.

We will work students and college administrators to develop puppy raising programs that best fit students and the structure of the college. For more information about starting a program on your campus, email [email protected].

Availability: Within a 2-hour radius of Grantville, PA

Current Campus Puppy Raising Programs

  • Dickinson College, Dickinson Dog House
  • Millersville University, Paws on Deck
  • Penn State University, Roar for More

Raiser Responsibilities

  • Attend regular puppy classes every week for the first 9 weeks and then 2-3 times per month until the dog is approximately 18 months old. During college breaks, dogs must continue their training by attending class. If necessary, the dog may need to go to a puppy sitter during these times.
  • Participate in mandatory outings throughout the year
  • Teach the puppy good house manners and basic cues and skills as instructed by our trainers
  • Take the puppy to new and interesting places, such as stores, parks, restaurants, and more
  • Purchase food, treats, and appropriate toys Susquehanna Service Dogs covers all veterinary costs and provides monthly heartworm, flea, and tick preventatives. Application Process
  • Complete the online application. You will receive a welcome email with information about upcoming class times after we process your application. (Please allow 15 business days for processing.)
  • Attend our orientation and clicker training classes and observe a puppy class.
  • Complete a home visit conducted by one of our volunteers and a demonstration dog or dog in training.

Please be patient throughout the process of becoming a puppy raiser. Our goal is to set both our raisers and puppies up for success, and we work hard to match a puppy’s temperament with a raiser’s lifestyle. It may take some time before you receive a puppy to raise, but the wait will be worth it!

Apply to Become a College Campus Puppy Raiser

Puppy Sitters

Puppy sitting is a great way to get involved with our assistance dogs in training without the full-time commitment of raising a puppy.

Sitters play an important role in our dogs’ training. By watching one of our dogs for a short amount of time, you’ll give the dog valuable experiences in a new home and routine, which help make the dog’s transition to advanced training and their partners much smoother.

At-home Sitters
At-home sitters care for a dog in their home only, helping the dog practice good house manners and learn a new routine.

Full Access Sitters
In addition to helping our dogs practice good house manners and learn a new routine, full access sitters may take the dogs in public to continue practicing their skills in new places. Additional training is required.

Application Process

  • Complete the online application. You will receive a welcome email with information about upcoming class times after we process your application. (Please allow 15 business days for processing.)
  • Attend our orientation and clicker training class. Additional training is required for full access sitters.
  • Complete a home visit conducted by one of our volunteers and a demonstration dog or dog in training.

Once you’ve completed all of the requirements and are approved, you will be added to our email list. Whenever we have dogs in need of sitters, you will receive an email, and you can choose the sitting opportunities that work for you.

Apply to be a Puppy Sitter

Puppy Building Blocks (formerly Puppy Hugging)

*The Puppy Building Blocks program is currently closed.

The time before the puppies join their raisers is vital to their development. You can be part of jumpstarting their training by assisting with specific activities to help boost their confidence and start their journey to assisting someone with a disability.

Instead of simply hugging the puppies, you will need to do specific tasks with them to provide enrichment and a good start to their service dog training. Under the supervision of an experienced volunteer, you will guide the puppies through the following activities:

  • Loose leash walking
  • Free recalls
  • Trips to the exercise field
  • Crate time
  • Wearing their harness
  • Exposing them to a head halter
  • Controlled treat taking
  • Other fun activities

Of course, you will still be able to take some time to snuggle with the puppies.

Guidelines

  • Visits are 45 minutes.
  • Pets or service dogs in training are not permitted.
  • Help us clean up after the puppies. We provide cleaning supplies and hand sanitizer.
  • Children under age 16 are not permitted to pick up the puppies. Children should sit on the floor while an adult places the puppy in their arms. Children under age 16 must be supervised by a parent or guardian at all times.
  • We ask for a $10 minimum donation at the time of your visit.

Sign Up
After you sign up online, you will be added to our puppy socialization email list. When we have puppies available, you will receive an email with instructions to reserve your spot. Please note that this is a very popular volunteer opportunity and spots fill up quickly.

 You will be able to sign up once the program opens again.

Other Volunteer Opportunities

SSD has many more ways for you to get involved. Some involve working with our dogs, while others don’t. Every opportunity plays an important role in moving our mission forward.

For more information about our other volunteer opportunities, contact Tricia Lingenfield at [email protected].

Property Maintenance
Volunteers help with everything from weeding the flower gardens to power washing the buildings.

Kennel Assistance
There are a variety of ways a volunteer can help keep our kennel in great shape – providing early morning cleaning help, giving the dogs a late evening potty break, filling Kong’s and bones with peanut butter, picking up poop in the play yard, dusting the kennel, vacuuming and washing vehicles, filling treat cups and treat dispensers, and more.

Canine Enrichment Program
Our Canine Enrichment Program ensures the dogs in advanced training spend a minimum of three hours per day experiencing mental, physical, or social stimulation in addition to their daily time working with a trainer. This program includes public training excursions, group dog play, decompression time with volunteers, and a variety of food puzzles and novel sounds and smells to activate various parts of the brain. This is a great opportunity for volunteers who are seeking hands-on work with the dogs but cannot keep a dog in their home. Additional training is required for this position. Apply Now!

Public Training
Public volunteers work with our dogs in advanced training during public outings to help the dogs practice their skills and tasks in real-life settings. Additional training is necessary for this position.