What is a Service Dog and why does it have protected rights?

Service dogs are specially trained to support those with disabilities. Our service dogs are custom trained specifically for those living with invisible disabilities like autism, diabetes, seizure disorders, and PTSD. They are allowed special access to public places by The American with Disabilities Act to ensure their disabled handlers have the support they need.

Who is the veterinarian you use for your service dogs?

SDWR has been a client of Dr. Rushing, our trusted veterinarian, for over 5 years. They begin seeing our puppies at about 6 weeks of age and at that time the clinic does general first exams and first shots. We strive for the best overall condition of our puppies to raise them into lifesaving service dogs.

Why don’t your dogs have an ADI Certificate?

ADI is a membership fee based organization.  In order to be a member to ADI, service dog organizations must pay an annual fee as well as follow ADI’s guidelines for breeding, training, and placing services dogs.

Though we have respect for all organizations who seek to ensure well-bred, trained and healthy service dogs, there is one fundamental guideline to membership to ADI that is contrary to our training structure.

ADI requires that only “fully-trained” dogs be placed with families at the time of delivery. Our program has been specifically designed to place a dog that has been trained for its service needs (i.e. diabetic alert, autism, PTSD, seizures) and then continue specialized training once the dog has been placed with its person. Our program is unique in that we have trainers visiting with families every 90 to 120 days up to 18 months after placement. We believe it’s important to finish the dogs’ training in the environment in which they live. And we believe it is key to have the owners’ participation in the training to ensure success.

For over a decade, we have been completing training with several hundred families with whom we have placed our service dogs.  We have tracked a 93% success rate with this training model.

How Do You Make A Dog A “Service Dog”?

From the time a puppy is approximately 4 months old, our puppy raisers take them into their home and begin conditioning it to family environments. This is after we have begun working with basic foundation and have our puppies fully vetted. During this time, our volunteers work with our trainers and report into the organization, our volunteers keep our pups for 14 – 18 months. Then, we train hand in hand with our prospective families to shape one of our labradors, golden retrievers, or doodles into the right kind of service dog for your needs. The training continues after the dog is placed with a family over 18 months to 2 years, even after it’s placed with it’s disabled handler in their home environment. After our comprehensive custom tailored program, we come back to each of our clients every 2 years for follow up. It’s time and training intensive but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

What kind of feedback do you normally receive?

Generally speaking, our feedback is overwhelmingly positive. Though our training is extensive and rigorous, our clients find increased independence from their service dogs. You can read our testimonials here: https://www.sdwr.org/testimonials/

You can also see Diabetic videos here: www.sdwr.org/diabetic-alert-dog-video-testimony

You can see Autism videos here: www.sdwr.org/autism-service-dogs-videos

You can see PTSD videos here: www.sdwr.org/ptsd-service-dog-videos

You can see Seizure Response videos here: www.sdwr.org/seizure-response-dog-videos

Check out some #SDWRStrong families currently placed with our service dogs: www.sdwr.org/sdwr-strong

Where do the dogs come from?

In addition to our own breeding stock, we work with qualified breeders through Virginia. All of our service dogs are purpose bred. This means, we specifically work with breeds that have proven success with our training method. This allows us to ensure better health, temperament, and the longevity of your service dog. We work with dogs that show talent in scent work and other service dog traits to help boost the success of training. SDWR places full bred labrador and golden retrievers as service dogs. We also use doodles on a required medical necessity which will be validated by our organization with the recipients doctor.

Diabetic Alert Dog FAQ

What is a Diabetic Alert Dog?

Diabetic Alert Dogs are trained to alert diabetic owners in advance of low (hypoglycemia) or high (hyperglycemia) blood sugar events before it becomes an emergency. This allows their handlers to better track their blood sugar changes and prepare for insulin. The Alert Dog reacts to scent changes produced by a diabetic’s body. Diabetic Alert Dogs can lead to better management of Diabetes (Type 1 and Type 2) and a significant increase in independence and confidence.

How do your diabetic alert dogs sense glucose level changes? And how do they alert their handler?

Our dogs are trained to alert to the scent produced by diabetic lows and highs. The dog is taught the difference between those two scents and other scents around them so that their alerts are accurate and on time. The dogs are able to alert in whatever way we train them meaning they can be taught to paw, jump, nose or many other motions when they sense a high or low.

Autism Service Dog FAQ

What purpose do Autism Service Dogs serve?

For full information about our autism service dogs you can visit their page on our site (www.sdwr.org/service-dogs/medical-service-dog-for-autism/). Mainly, they act as a stabilizing and calming force for children on the spectrum. Frequently, dogs assist in calming down a meltdown or interrupting self-destruction, they act as a distraction in over stimulation, and they provide a constant source of attention. We find that autism service dogs really improve family dynamics, reduce family stress, offer independence, and help make therapy more effective. Our dogs can also be trained to retrieve medication or food, conduct search-and-rescue, and prevent elopement. There are a number of tasks the dogs are taught including, but not limited to, finding the child if lost, serving as a stationary ballast in cases of elopement, and providing redirection away from repetitive behaviors, better reading skill sets using pronouns and full sentences. When paired with an Autism Service Dog, children on the spectrum often experience better sleep patterns, less anger and frustration and increased social interaction. Furthermore, because we know every case is different, the SDWR program is specifically tailored for each client’s unique needs.

How do Autism Assistance Dogs help?

Studies indicate that spending time with a service animal can help children on the spectrum make great strides in their communication barriers. Autism Service Dogs act as a social connection and a stability object for children to keep them functioning in situations that would generally be over stimulating.

Does an Autism Assistance Dog have the same rights as a service dog?

Absolutely. ADA mandates that a service dog is a specially trained animal that assists an individual. With our training program, your Autism Service Dog is given all the same rights as any other Service Animal.

The SDWR Program FAQ

How do I inquire about a service dog?

Please fill out our application at www.sdwr.org/service-dog-application/. If you meet the criteria you will be contacted to setup a preliminary phone call.

Do you have any age restrictions?

No. We will work with all ages. We strive to be similar to “Doctors without Boarders.” We have no restrictions based on age, geographical, severity, or financial situations.

Does SDWR have any policies regarding pets?

Yes. Any home with more than 2 dogs or ANY home with ANY bully breed will either disqualify the applicant or require rehoming of that dog prior to placement of an SDWR service dog. Any homes with dog(s) currently placed will be considered strictly on a case by case basis.

Why SDWR over other providers?

We feel firmly that our program is the most comprehensive and tailored program available. We develop each dog’s skills to match the needs of unique children and adults depending on their autism, diabetes, seizure disorder, or PTSD. Every single individual is vastly different. Human factors are more than half our battle and that is where proper training and structure comes in.  Each dog is custom trained to fit each individual family’s needs. We travel directly to each client and never require any travel to us. We place a dog and do a customized 18-24 month follow-up training program in the environment of the individual.


Our SDWR Service Dogs are placed all over the world! We travel to you!

Does location matter?

No. Every single dog is transported to the home by our staff and then each training session is completed in your home at your location. This allows us to work with your whole family in the environment we want the dog to perform best.

What is the family’s role in training?

In our training program we feel strongly that we should include the whole family in the process. We place our dogs between a year and 18 months of age. We come directly to you, no family travel required. This will yield family consistency to help train.

What is your training method?

Routine, Consistency, Environment.

    1. Environment: We come directly to you so that the dog is trained in your environment.
    1. Consistency: We include the family in the training process.
  1. Routine: When a dog is placed, the foundations have been trained into it with obedience, public access, and general training. Then when we start working with the family we begin to train in the customization around your lifestyle.

How does custom tailored training work?

Training staff is with you for 4-5 consecutive 8 hour days. Then the trainer returns every 3-4 months for another 2-4 days during the 1-2 year training program. They do a “check up from the neck up” and work to refine behavior in both the person and the dog. This allows us to build on our training and offer new complexity.

How do we stay connected when the trainer leaves?

Because we want each dog to succeed, we require each recipient family to provide clear concise communication, check in to the organization on a weekly basis, follow the placed training schedule, and ultimately follow through with training to completion. 

Getting Started

How do I sign up?

When you feel ready, please complete our formal application to be considered for a service dog. All of our applications are reviewed by our review board to ensure the need and qualifications are met to receive a service dog from SDWR. If your application stands out and all qualifications are met, we will invite you to give us a call for an interview. If you are ready to start the discussion apply today at www.sdwr.org/service-dog-application/

What is the financial aspect?

Raising and training service dogs is quite an expense to our organization, it costs SDWR a lot of money. In return we ask our clients to enroll as volunteer ambassadors to help further our mission by promoting awareness, advocacy and education and raising funds for the organization. One team, one voice, one mission, one heart, one goal!

While it’s financially daunting to do our work, our motto is that families enroll as volunteer ambassadors. Their role is to raise awareness, donations, and advocacy for our community at large. To do good work to families like yours at no costs, we need all our ambassadors to raise funds, awareness, and education.  

How do I raise donations?

We will provide you the direction, guidance, and support that is necessary through working with our client services department and resource center. There is no time limit to raise funds and most of our recipient families raise their complete goal within 6-12 month average. You can feel confident to count on our SDWR staff to help navigate you through this journey.