Not All Dogs Become Service Dogs

Feb 24, 2016 2:00 PM ET

Not All Dogs Become Service Dogs

Not all the dogs in Susquehanna Service Dogs' program become service dogs. Although every dog starts on the same path, only 50-60% of them become working service dogs. Being a service dog is challenging. A dog must be able to “turn on” and perform tasks, but then “turn off” and relax when they’re not needed. They must be able to handle the stress of working in public. And most of all, they must enjoy service dog work.

What happens to our dogs who don’t become service dogs?

Sometimes our dogs show us that service dog work is not for them. This can happen at any point in a dog’s training. What happens to the dogs who don’t make it through our program?

Just because a dog doesn’t become a service dog doesn’t mean the dog failed. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the puppy raiser failed. Quite the opposite, actually. Many of the dogs that “don’t make it” simply change careers and continue changing lives. That was the case for Autumn, Delilah, Diesel, and Dory. These four dogs were recently accepted into the CIA’s training program. And just this past December, former SSD dogs Aunt Nancy and Thor graduated as CIA dogs! We’ve also placed dogs with the United Nations; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF); and the state police.

Other dogs may become therapy dogs and work in schools. We have placed several dogs with Hill Top Academy, and the difference they have made in students’ lives is incredible. This video from Hill Top Academy says it better than we ever could. (The part about Hill Top Academy starts around 0:35.)

The dogs at Hill Top Academy are changing students’ lives, and in at least one instance, saved a student’s life. These dogs are doing the work that best suits them and it’s making a difference.

Even if one of our dogs simply becomes a family pet, that doesn’t mean the dog or raiser failed. It just means that the dog found the right path for them, and their raiser helped them get there.


While each dog’s journey may start out the same, where they end up varies, and it’s thanks to our puppy raisers that these dogs grow up to change lives.