Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Starfleet Service Dogs, Inc. (SSDI)?

    • ​SSDI is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that aims to professionally task train, match, and sustain service dogs to mitigate an individual’s mental or physical disability. We rescue dogs from local shelters, rehabilitate them, and train them for an average of 18 months as they learn the skills they need to be task-trained service dogs. We have three programs for service dog training: Academy, Owner-Assisted, and Owner Trained. Our Academy dogs are rescue dogs that SSDI owns, rehabilitates, trains, matches,  and donates free of charge to our clients. Our Owner-Assisted dogs are dogs that we find and evaluate with our clients who then rehabilitate and train them with our guidance. Owner Trained dogs are dogs that our clients own prior to applying to us which are separately evaluated and trained with our guidance. ​

  2. What types of service dogs does SSDI train?

    • SSDI specializes in multi-discipline service animals, because we understand that each individual’s needs are different.

    • It is important to note: SSDI does not limit their services to specific disabilities or diagnoses because each individual experiences their diagnosis differently, we train our dogs to mitigate the symptoms of disabilities which can generally be broken down into the following categories. 

    • We currently can combine the tasks within:

      • Wheelchair assistance

      • Mobility work

      • Counter-balance work

      • Cognitive Support

      • Medical alert(A) and response(R) (seizure R, cardiac A/R, respiratory A/R, and diabetic A/R, allergen A/R)

      • Autism support

      • Hearing/signal

      • Combat and non-combat PTSD

    • SSDI does NOT train Guide Dogs for the Blind or Visually impaired.

    • SSDI DOES train dogs for children with disabilities if they can communicate they want a service dog These service dogs work as a part of a facilitated team with a responsible adult.​

  3. How is SSDI different than other service dog organizations?

    • Training Philosophy

    • Dog Selection

    • We will evaluate a client’s current dog for service work with our Owner Training option.

    • We donate Academy Trained dogs free of charge.

    • We do not limit our services to specific disabilities or diagnoses.

    • As stewards to our dogs any dog in our program that needs assistance to meet welfare and ethical considerations will be taken back by SSDI and have their needs met.

    • We require all dogs to have health insurance.

  4. What does it cost to receive an SSDI Academy Trained dog?

    • ​We donate our fully trained Academy service dogs free of charge to individuals needing service dogs with disabilities that make them unable to participate in a majority of the training process.

    • All clients must submit an application fee of $50 with their application.

    • All clients must complete Phase 0, which is $250, which mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs.

  5. What does it cost to train an Owner-Assisted Trained service dog?

    • All clients must submit an application fee of $50 with their application.

    • All clients must also complete Phase 0, which is $250, and mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs. 

    • SSDI finds as suitable canine candidate to complete our program with for a $250 dog finder fee.

    • All of our service dogs progress through a training program consisting of phases. The cost of training the dog is explained on our Pricing Page. Dogs in our Owner Assisted Service Dog Training Program  progress through prospect phases (1 & 2), service dog in training phases (3a, 3b, 4 & 5), and service dog graduation at the end of phase 6. Training sessions occur in private lesson, group lesson, or digital lesson settings. The in person training program costs $300 per month and it includes weekly individual trainings in person, plus exclusive access to SSDI’s non-working dog training packages including but not limited to agility, nose work, obedience, puppy preschool, trick dog, and house training as well as unlimited online communication for questions and additional help. There is a minimum of a 6-month contract for this service. The digital training program costs $200 per month and it includes weekly individual trainings and unlimited online communication for questions and additional help. Clients that choose the digital training program are also required to meet in person with one of our SSDI representatives within our nationwide network of trainers. There is a minimum of a 6-month contract for this service and the in person meetups must occur at least once in each 6-month period.

    •  Adding to individual task training is ALWAYS 100% FREE of charge as we often work with clients who have several disabilities; it is not morally just to charge people more money the more disabled they are.

    • In addition to training costs, Owner-Assisted trainers must provide for the basic care, equipment, health insurance, and any other associated costs of owning a dog as explained in our monthly budget. 

  6. What does it cost to train an Owner Trained service dog?

    • All clients must submit an application fee of $50 with their application.

    • Owner trainers must have their dogs evaluated with SSDI. All dog evaluation fees total $50.

    • All clients must complete Phase 0, which is $250, and mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs. 

    • ​All of our service dogs progress through a training program consisting of phases. Dogs in our Owner Trainer Service Dog Training Program progress through prospect phases (1 & 2), service dog in training phases (3a, 3b, 4 & 5), and service dog graduation at the end of phase 6. Training sessions occur in private lesson, group lesson, or digital lesson settings. The in person training program costs $300 per month and it includes weekly individual trainings in person, plus exclusive access to SSDI’s non-working dog training packages including but not limited to agility, nose work, obedience, puppy preschool, trick dog, and house training as well as unlimited online communication for questions and additional help. There is a minimum of a 6-month contract for this service. The digital training program costs $200 per month and it includes weekly individual trainings and unlimited online communication for questions and additional help. Clients that choose the digital training program are also required to meet in person with one of our SSDI representatives within our nationwide network of trainers. There is a minimum of a 6-month contract for this service and the in person meetups must occur at least once in each 6-month period.

    • Individual task training is ALWAYS 100% FREE of charge as we often work with clients who have several disabilities; it is not morally just to charge people more money the more disabled they are.

    • In addition to training costs, Owner trainers must provide for the basic care, equipment, health insurance, and any other associated costs of owning a dog as explained in our monthly budget.

  7. How is SSDI funded?

    • SSDI is funded by donations from individuals, fundraising events, and corporate matching funds.

    • We are able to do what we do mainly because of our amazing volunteers!

  8. What breeds of dogs does SSDI use?

    • ​SSDI will train any and all breed or breed mixes if they have the appropriate physical soundness, temperament, and working aptitude. SSDI mainly trains Academy dogs that are Shepherd mixes and Husky mixes as they are prevalent in shelters and often show elevated levels of work drive, but we do not overlook dogs solely due to their apparent breed makeup.

  9. How does SSDI obtain the dogs they train?

    • ​We work alongside local animal services centers to rescue dogs unsuitable for general adoption due to their work drive, we evaluate surrender cases, and we directly rescue others in need.​​​​ Clients who have chosen Owner Training and already own the dog they wish to train can be sourced from anywhere. Clients who have chosen Owner-Assisted Training have the option to seek our assistance to find and evaluate a dog from a shelter or evaluate a dog from a reputable and ethical breeder when when it is most logical (ex: A client needs a dog that will perform many mobility related tasks and also is allergic to dog dander. In this case the client may seek out a breeder of Giant Schnoodles for their particular characteristics. SSDI would then evaluate the breeder’s dogs for the suitability of the work and tasks needed by the client).

  10. Where are SSDI dogs trained?

    • ​SSDI academy dogs are each raised with one of our trainers. This one to one ratio allows the dogs to live in homes, not kennels, and allows for consistency and close monitoring on each of our dogs. The current locations for these trainers include Washington D.C., Maryland, Virginia, California, Colorado, New York, Tennessee, and Florida. Our Owner Trained and Owner-Assisted Trained dogs are being trained nationwide.

  11. How long does each SSDI service dog work?

    • ​Since SSDI dogs are rescued at all ages, the working time of a dog varies greatly. We make sure to be conscious of the indicators that one of our service dogs is wanting to scale back on their time working or want to retire their vest. The most effective service dog team is one where both the handler and dog are excited to do their job. When our service dogs no longer get excited when they see their working gear, it is a good indicator that they wish to retire.

  12. How many assistance dogs does SSDI place?

    • ​As of August 2018 SSDI has graduated 65 dogs and currently has 25 in training. We have career changed five additional dogs to other working positions that suited them better: one police dog, two SAR dogs, and two facility dogs.

  13. Why does SSDI not breed their own dogs and why do we use shelter dogs?

    • Many dogs do not possess the physical soundness, temperament, and working aptitude necessary to be a successful and happy service dog. Many dogs who do pass basic health screenings, often do not have the level of confidence to work in the environments that service dogs do. The temperamental traits that cause a service dog to be suitable (high confidence, low distraction, adaptable, intelligent, driven to have a job) are not found in all dogs. Because of this, SSDI does not believe that breeding dogs will ever result in a 100% graduating success rate and therefore do not believe it is ethical to add to the overpopulation of dogs in the U.S. Instead we take extra time and resources to be able to find dogs in shelters who would excel in our service dog training program and take the time to rehabilitate them first. For more information about our dogs and the rehabilitation process check out our About Us page.

  14. What is the application process?

    • You can find our application process laid out in our infographic.​

  15. What is the training process for SSDI service dogs?

    • You can find our training process laid out in our infographic

  16.  What are the requirements for an SSDI dog teams to graduate?

    • Teams undergo extensive team training which educates the client on training theory, dog body language, their individual dog's personality and cues, working their dog in public. All dogs are placed for a trial period to ensure the dog can effectively mitigate the handler's disability and can adapt to the client's daily routine. All clients go through our Service Dog Handler Training Program and teams must also pass SSDI's Public Access Test.

  17. How are the Academy Trained service dogs matched with clients?

    • SSDI feels that the dog-client matching process is vital to team success. We choose teams to facilitate bonding and allow for the team to help and learn from each other. The parameters taken into account when matching teams include:

      • Personalities

        • In any dyad a complement of personalities allows for the most effective team.

        • Our dogs and handlers work closely together; therefore, attention to idiosyncrasies allows for an individual match that maximizes the potential of both the handler and dog.

        • On top of our extensive application process, we also employ the use of NERIS-type explorerⓇ to further aid the matching process.

        • Personality testing also allows our program to project what challenges we will most likely encounter with each of our rescued dogs.

      • Physical Parameters

        • Clients must have the physical capacity to provide proper welfare for their service dog.

        • We take into account level of function, support system, and other treatment plans in use.

        • Dogs must be of suitable size for any mobility-related work.

      • Motivation

        • The dogs that enter our training program have the drive to work and have a job. The dogs rescued from shelters thrive in our program because their drive to work surpasses that of which a nonworking home could provide.

        • By giving our dogs a job that matches their own drive, they are motivated to progress through our training program and be successful after graduation.

        • We use the unique motivators of each dog to match training rewards.

        • We do not train using any aversive methods as this diminishes motivation and cuts off effective communication with other humans and dogs.

        • Our dogs are trained to directly mitigate an individual’s disability. By providing our clients with these service dogs, we motivate our clients to live the lives they would like to.

        • Our clients have demonstrated the drive to learn the new skills necessary to further the human-canine partnership. 

      • Communication

        • We train our dogs to understand concepts which allow the dogs to communicate with their world and make independent decisions.

        • We give our clients the tools to communicate with their dog and effectively understand the wants and needs of their dog.

        • Dogs and clients must have compatible communication styles in order to create an effective team.

  18. How do we find and evaluate prospect dogs for our Owner-Assisted and Owner Trained service dog teams?

    • We utilize our temperament and physical soundness tests as well as evaluate the dog’s working aptitude and personality in relation to the client’s specific needs and wants.

  19. How old are the dogs when they are matched with clients?

    • Teams graduate after an average of 18 months of training, these means that most of our dogs are 2-3 years old upon graduation. The age at graduation does not determine at what age a dog will be matched with a client. A dog can be matched during any part of the training process seeing that the client is willing and able to participate in the remainder of the training process and the dog has finished its rehabilitation. ​

  20. Once I become an SSDI client, how long does it take to get an SSDI Dog?​

    • ​Academy Trained Service Dogs:​​

      • Once you become an SSDI client you will begin Phase 0, a workbook which mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs. We concurrently review all of our current academy dogs for potential matches to you. Our academy dogs are all at different points in their training program. If one of our current dogs is a good match, we then evaluate ​if the client is willing and able to continue the dog's training. If the client is willing and able to continue training, the client and dog undergo a trial period and, if successful, will continue the dog's training with the help of SSDI trainers. If the client is not willing and able to continue the dog's training, SSDI will continue the dog's training with the client's needs in mind. SSDI's waitlist for academy dogs is not conducted on a first come, first served basis. Each client and dog is an individual with different desires, motivators, personalities, and physical parameters. Once you are accepted to our waitlist you can be matched to an SSDI dog at any time. Acceptance onto our waitlist means that we will review our current academy dogs and if there are no matches, then we will begin searching for a shelter dog that fits the client's needs and desires and start training from the beginning. Dogs take an average of 18 months to progress successfully through our training program. 

    • Owner-Assisted Trained Service Dogs:

      • Once you become an SSDI client you will begin Phase 0, a workbook which mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs. You then have the option to seek our assistance to find and evaluate a dog from a shelter or evaluate a dog from a reputable and ethical breeder when when it is most logical. *It is important to note that not all dogs are suited to be service dogs, if you do not currently have a dog, but still would like to do owner-assisted or owner training with us, DO NOT get a dog before filling out our application. We will help you choose a suitable service dog prospect once we have the proper details from your application. Dogs take an average of 18 months to progress successfully through our training program. 

    • Owner Trained Service Dogs:

      • Once you become an SSDI ​client we will evaluate your current dog for service work if applicable and you will begin Phase 0, a workbook which mentally, physically, and emotionally prepares you to work with one of our service dogs.. You also have the option to seek our assistance to find and evaluate a dog from a shelter or evaluate a dog from a reputable and ethical breeder when when it is most logical if you do not already have a dog. *It is important to note that not all dogs are suited to be service dogs, if you do not currently have a dog, but still would like to do owner-assisted or owner training with us, DO NOT get a dog before filling out our application. We will help you choose a suitable service dog prospect once we have the proper details from your application. Dogs take an average of 18 months to progress successfully through our training program.

  21. What support does SSDI offer its graduated teams?

    • Graduated teams may continue training with us virtually and in person for the entirety of the service dog’s life. Progress reports on both the dog and handler are required and analyzed so that we can help to address any concerns before they escalate to problems. Continued updates and questions are encouraged

  22. What happens if a client can no longer care for their SSDI service dog?

    • As stewards to our dogs any dog in our program that needs assistance to meet welfare and ethical considerations will be taken back by SSDI and have their needs met. We do not rescue any dog before we can ensure the proper resources needed to provide welfare for the entirety of their lives. Our number one concern in all situations is the physical and mental welfare of our dogs. 

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Starfleet Service Dogs, Inc. 501(c)(3)

EIN:  81-4216629

E-mail: info@starfleetservicedogs.org

Phone: 301-509-6742

Social Media: @starfleetservicedogs

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