Heeling House is proud to breed, raise, train, and place service dogs to children between the ages of 5 and 18, in the greater Washington D.C. metro area. We currently offer the following types of service dogs: Mobility, Psychiatric, and Autism.
A service dog is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service animals are allowed access to most places that are normally open to the public. For more specific guidelines, go to https://www.ada.gov/regs2010/service_animal_qa.pdf.
A service dog is trained to perform tasks specifically relating to an individual’s disability. A therapy dog or emotional support animal on the other hand, can provide companionship, relieve loneliness, and even help with challenges such as anxiety and depression, but do not have specific task work training and are NOT considered service dogs.
How our Program Works
Our Service Dog Training program begins with our breeding program. Breeding dogs are very carefully chosen for breeding not only for their physical appropriateness (certified hips, elbow, eyes, heart), but also their temperament (all breeding dogs must be either working therapy or service dogs). Puppies are raised using the Puppy Culture method, which was developed by a team of veterinarians, breeders and behaviorists to ensure that the puppies are well socialized and have the fundamental skills they will need to be successful service dogs. After temperament testing, appropriate puppies are placed into homes of experienced puppy raisers for 12 months. During these 12 months, the puppy raisers complete a checklist of socialization activities and basic obedience commands, and also attend PACK meetings, where the PACK members work with the puppies under supervision. **For information about becoming a puppy raiser, click HERE.
By the time the dogs reach 14 months of age, they have a strong foundation of obedience, passed their Canine Good Citizen, Community and Urban Canine tests, been socialized with children of all ages, and been exposed to a wide variety of environments, from schools, offices, sporting events, concerts, restaurants, malls, and all kinds of public transportation. This ensures that our dogs will be safe, appropriate and comfortable with whatever life has in store for them. At this point, the dogs are paired with their future owner, and go to our training center for their final stage of task work training. Each dog is specifically trained according to the needs of their future owner.
If you are interested in obtaining a service dog from Heeling House, Inc., the first step is to fill out an application. You will be contacted by one of our staff members, and a phone consultation will be scheduled to determine eligibility.
The next step for all eligible applicants is for all members in the household to come to our office for a conference to discuss the program in greater detail, including integrating a service dog into the household, and what tasks the dog would perform. It takes between four and six months between when the client is matched with a dog and graduation.
Autism Service Dogs
An autism service dog is a service dog trained to assist a person diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in order to help them gain more independence.
Autism service dogs can be trained to perform tasks such as:
Interrupting stereotypical or repetitive behaviors
tethering to prevent elopement
preventing/interrupting an escalation of behavior (‘tantrum’)
implementing deep pressure therapy
In addition, there are many other benefits of an autism service dog that are not considered part of their trained tasks, but can be life changing. These benefits include:
acting as a social bridge between the client and their surrounding world
assisting the client in smoother transitions in new environments/situations
facilitating better communication
encouraging better sleep
providing a source of unconditional love and friendship
Phychiatric Service Dogs
A psychiatric service dog is a service dog trained to assist a client with psychiatric conditions such as: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, Anorexia, Severe Depression, Panic Attacks and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders.
Psychiatric service dogs vary greatly in the specific tasks that they perform based on each individual’s needs, but some common examples of tasks that can be trained are:
interrupting or preventing panic attacks by providing tactile stimulation
interrupting stereotypic or self-injurious behaviors
reminding the client to take medications
providing calming pressure by lying across lap or chest of client, and a variety of other tasks tailored to the client
Mobility Service Dogs
A mobility service dog is a service dog trained to assist a physically disabled person who has mobility challenges, which may include being dependent on medical equipment such as a wheelchair, or having impaired balance and being unable to safely walk.
Mobility service dogs can be trained to perform a variety of tasks such as:
• Picking up dropped items
• Opening/closing doors
• Opening/Closing drawers and cabinets
• Turning on/off lights
• Bracing to support the weight of the individual to gain proper footing
• And much more
Where do your dogs come from?
Heeling House service dogs come from several different sources. We have our own in house breeding program, we accept donations from approved breeders, and we continuously evaluate dogs from local shelters and rescues for dogs that would be appropriate to accept into our training program.
Can you train my dog to be a service dog?
Heeling House does offer training and support for certain clients that are interested in training their own dog. Both the client and the dog need to first go through a phone interview, an in person evaluation, and must meet all Heeling House qualifications before being accepted into our training program.
Is there a fee for a service dog?
Yes. It costs between $35,000 and $40,000 to raise, train and place a service dog. Heeling House provides service dogs for $12,000. We are able to provide our dogs at this highly discounted rate because of the support of our donors. The client has a six month window in which to raise the funds for the dog. We can provide support and ideas for clients who are interested in fundraising to help raise money for their dog.
How old does my child need to be to receive a service dog?
Heeling House does not provide service dogs for children under the age of five.
Can my child handle their own service dog?
No child under the age of 12 will be approved to act as the dog’s primary handler. Children 12 and under will work as a team with a parent or guardian. The parent/guardian will act as the dogs primary handler – responsible for the control, care, commands and behavior of the dog. Children 12 and older will be evaluated for the appropriateness of being the primary handler. This will be determined on a case by case basis.
Do you provide service dogs for adults?
We primarily provide service dogs for children between the ages of 5 to 18 years. On occasion we do provide service dogs for adults over the age of 18.
Do we need to live in the Washington DC area to receive a dog?
Yes. At this time, we do require our clients to live within a reasonable driving distance to the Washington DC area.