Apply for a Dog or Become a Volunteer

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

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

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

Am I Eligible?

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 new dogs and are spayed or neutered. Prior to placement of an SSD dog in the home, all pet dogs must be over the age of 12 months and have been residing in the home for a minimum of 6 months.
  • 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.

What Is the Cost?

Assistance dogs and facility dogs: $5,000
In-home service dogs: $3,000
Companion dogs: $2,000

A limited number of partial need-based scholarships for assistance dogs are available for residents of Pennsylvania based on federal poverty guidelines and total taxable household income.

Types of Dogs We Train

Mobility Assistance Dogs

Mobility assistance dogs assist people who have a disability that interferes with their ability to walk, allowing them to more freely interact with their environment and other people. Mobility dogs include balance dogs and wheelchair assistance dogs. Specific tasks may include:

  • Retrieving dropped items
  • Opening doors
  • Helping to remove clothing or shoes
  • Acting as a counterbalance
  • Providing forward momentum or side to side stability
  • Bracing to go up and down stairs
  • Providing assistance to rise from a chair or get up from the floor
  • Turning on and off lights
  • Taking clothes out of the dryer and pulling a laundry basket
  • Finding and retrieving a cordless phone
  • Assisting with shopping

Request an Application for a Mobility Dog

Autism Service Dogs

Autism service dogs are trained to assist a person with autism to improve their social interactions and relationships and expand their verbal and/or nonverbal communication. The dog can also intervene when their handler becomes over-stimulated, helping to alleviate stress. An autism dog can help a person deal with transitions from place to place or activity to activity, increase responsibility, and add consistency to each day. Examples of how a service dog may assist a person with autism include:

  • Providing various levels of deep pressure to prevent or respond to over-stimulation or dysregulation
  • Interrupting repetitive behaviors
  • Resting their head in the person’s lap to ease anxiety or agitation and provide opportunity for tactile interaction
  • Sitting between the person’s feet for tactile interaction which may increase focus and alleviate anxiety

If a child or adult is unable to safely handle a dog independently, at least one adult must be trained to handle the dog in conjunction with the applicant and/or provide handling supervision depending on the placement requirements.

Please note: Susquehanna Service Dogs does not permit tethering of an individual to a dog to prevent elopement.

Request an Application for an Autism Service Dog

Psychiatric Service Dogs

Psychiatric service dogs are trained to minimize the symptoms of post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and other psychiatric disabilities. In addition to performing specific tasks, the dogs give the person something to focus on rather than negative or fearful thoughts. Susquehanna Service Dogs trains psychiatric services dogs for veterans and non-veterans.

Dogs may be trained to:

  • Interrupt early signs of anxiety, panic attacks, and nightmares
  • Provide varying degrees of deep pressure for calming
  • Create space in front and behind the person in public settings (initiated by the handler, not the dog)
  • Find a family member during a time of crisis in the home
  • Rest their head in the person’s lap or sit between their feet for calming or refocusing
  • Turn on the lights before waking the person from nightmares
  • Retrieve items

Request an Application for a Psychiatric Service Dog

Seizure Response Dogs

Seizure response dogs respond to their partner during and after a seizure. They may provide some intervention to prevent injury during the seizure, get help within the home, or remain with their partner to assist them in recovering from the event. We do not train dogs to alert to oncoming seizures.

Dogs may be trained to:

  • Lay close to their partner, nudging or licking
  • Provide varying forms of deep pressure
  • Retrieve a phone, medication, or other items
  • Activate an emergency button or pull cord
  • Get help by alerting another person within the home

Request an Application for a Seizure Response Dog

Hearing Dogs

With the assistance of hearing dogs, people who are deaf or hard of hearing do not need to rely solely on visual signals. Hearing dogs alert to specific sounds by touching the person with their nose and taking them to the source of the sound, with the exception of the smoke alarm. To alert to a smoke alarm, the dog touches the person with their nose and lies down.

Sounds may include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Person’s name
  • Door knock and doorbell
  • Smoke alarm
  • Alarm clock
  • Oven timer
  • Phone ringing

Request an Application for a Hearing Dog

Facility Dogs

Facility dogs work with professionals in a variety of settings, such as courthouses, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, mental health facilities, and oncology clinics. They are trained specific skills to motivate and inspire, improve social behavior, encourage communication, and help people feel more comfortable and positive.

Facility dogs may be trained to:

  • Provide light or deep pressure
  • Engage people by offering tactile stimulation to alleviate stress and encourage participation
  • Interrupt unwanted or disruptive behaviors
  • Help someone stay with a group by walking on a double leash
  • Act as a motivator during therapeutic activities
  • Perform a brace for standing, sitting, or walking
  • Push or pull objects with a person receiving therapy to encourage muscle activity
  • Perform directed or automatic retrieves
  • Take part in supervised handling by a student or person receiving therapy

Request an Application for a Facility Dog

 

In-Home Service Dogs

In-home service dogs provide assistance and perform tasks but do not have public access. These dogs are beneficial to children and adults who need a specially trained dog in their home but do not need their assistance in public settings.

In-home service dogs may be trained to

  • Provide deep pressure
  • Offer support to go up and down stairs
  • Provide assistance to rise from a chair or get up from the floor
  • Open or close interior doors
  • Turn lights on and off
  • Help to remove clothing
  • Remove clothes from the dryer and pulling a laundry basket
  • Interrupt self-stimulating or repetitive behavior
  • Find and retrieving a phone
  • Retrieve dropped items

Request an Application for an In-Home Service Dog

Companion Dogs

Companion dogs are specially trained dogs that provide comfort, companionship and motivation within the home for one or more family members. Companion dogs do not have public access and must follow local dog laws and access rules for housing and public accommodations.

Families must live within two hours of Grantville, PA.

Request an Application for a Companion Dog

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.