Frequently Asked Questions

Learn More about Susquehanna Service Dogs and What Service Dogs Can Do

Frequently Asked Questions

What breeds of dogs do you use?

Susquehanna Service Dogs trains primarily Labrador Retrievers with a limited number of Golden Retrievers and Lab Golden crosses. We have our own breeding program, which allows us to take a very scientific approach to our dogs. We are also part of the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) North America Breeding Cooperative (ABC), a collective of assistance and guide dog organizations that are accredited by ADI. Participation in ABC allows us to create, strengthen, and diversify our genetic lines so we can train high quality assistance dogs.

What does it cost to receive an assistance dog?

We require a $5,000 fee for service for an assistance dog. People living in Pennsylvania may be eligible for a sponsorship based on total taxable household income and the federal poverty guidelines, which can cover up to $4,200 of the $5,000 fee. We do assess whether the person has the ability to provide for the lifelong care of the dog, including food, flea/tick/heartworm medications, and routine and emergency veterinary care. More information is included in the formal application.

Can SSD help me train my dog to become an assistance dog?

We do not have an owner-trained assistance dog program, and we are only able to provide training advice for dogs in our program.

How long does it take to train an assistance dog?

It takes approximately two and a half years to fully train one of our assistance dogs. We start preparing our puppies from the moment they’re born by providing a rich environment with many opportunities for them to explore and learn. At nine weeks old, they join their puppy raisers, and they spend the next 15 to 18 months learning good house manners and basic cues and experiencing a variety of public settings. Once they enter advanced training, the dogs spend the next eight months with our professional trainers refining their skills and learning the specialized tasks they will need to assist their partner.

How long is the waiting list for an assistance dog?

Our waiting list for an assistance 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.

What happens when a dog is released from the program?

We carefully evaluate each of our dogs throughout their training. If we decide that a dog cannot become an assistance dog because of a health or temperament reason, we find a suitable place for them. We have three options:

  1. We can find a new career for that dog. Some of our dogs have become explosives detection K9s.
  2. The dog’s puppy raiser has the opportunity to adopt the dog.
  3. The dog can be adopted by a family who has applied to adopt a released dog.

How do I adopt a released dog?

A dog that has been released from our program may make a wonderful addition to your family. We occasionally have dogs that are not well-suited for assistance dog work but will thrive as pets.

The adoption fee is $1,590.

Please note that the waiting time may be 4 years or longer. We will contact you only if a dog becomes available that fits into your lifestyle.

Apply to Adopt a Released Dog

What happens when a dog retires as an assistance dog?

All of our partners make a plan for what will happen with their assistance dog when the dog retires. Once an assistance dog is no longer working, they become a pet. Some partners are able to keep their dog. Others make arrangements with family or the dog’s puppy raisers to adopt the dog. We are always available to help partners find a loving home for their dog. We follow up with all assistance dogs placed through our program for the life of the dog.

May I interact with an assistance dog

Assistance dogs are working, even if it may not be immediately apparent. They need to stay focused on their partner, so they can respond to cues and provide assistance. Please do not distract assistance dogs by talking to them, petting them, feeding them, or otherwise interacting with them.

What are the rules for assistance dogs in public places?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives partners or handlers public access with their assistance dog, meaning the dog can accompany them anywhere that’s open to the public. We encourage you to review the ADA for more information.

ADA Requirements for Service Animals
Frequently Asked Questions about Service Animals and the ADA

Request a Demo or Meet and Greet

SSD volunteers and dogs are available to visit your community group, business, civic club, school, youth group, etc. to talk about what service dogs can do and how they change lives. Our volunteers can tailor the demonstration to fit the needs of your group. We are also available for meet and greets at your event, where we will either walk around with assistance dogs in training or staff a booth or table to educate the public about Susquehanna Service Dogs.


  • Locations must be within an hour’s drive of Harrisburg, PA.
  • The majority of audience members must be at least 5 years old. We are unable to accommodate groups of children younger than 5.
  • Please allow 15 business days to schedule a demonstration. We try to accommodate as many requests as possible, but it’s occasionally not possible.
  • Fees may be required for some demonstrations. Additionally, donations are always appreciated.

If you have questions, please contact us at [email protected]

Request a Demo
Request a Meet and Greet