Service dogs undergo rigorous training to ensure they have the right temperament and skills to help people with disabilities. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog must be trained to take a specific action rather than provide general support. For example, some service dogs are trained to detect seizures or remind their handlers to take prescription medications. These are important traits that retired service dogs for seniors have.

When these well-trained dogs retire from their duties, they’re often adopted by new families. This gives the retired service dog a chance to relax and its former owner the opportunity to work with a younger service dog. Although they’re retired, former service dogs have a lot of life left in them, making them well-suited to living with older adults. Keep reading to learn more about how to adopt a retired service dog and benefit from its companionship.

Adult woman searching for the best part time jobs for retirees.

Benefits of Adopting Retired Service Dogs for Seniors

Adopting a retired service dog has many advantages for any senior looking for a four-legged companion.

  • Socialization: Service dogs must go through months of training before they can start working with disabled individuals. Part of their training focuses on socialization, the process of learning how to have positive interactions with humans and other animals. If you adopt a retired service dog from a reputable organization, the dog will be well-socialized and able to interact safely with adults, children, and other pets.
  • Behavior: Service dogs must be well-behaved, so you won’t have to deal with excessive barking, nipping, and other behavioral issues.
  • Training: Service dog owners have a wide range of needs, so their service animals must be trained appropriately. If you adopt a retired service dog, you may end up with a pet that can perform specific tasks to help you maintain your health or independence. For example, former guide dogs are great companions for older adults who’ve lost some of their visual acuity.
  • Temperament: Service dog training also includes teaching working dogs how to tolerate loud noises, crowds, and other distractions. If you reside in assisted living or another community setting, this training ensures your new pet won’t have any trouble accompanying you to public places.

Common Service Dog Breeds

Some breeds are better-suited to the life of a working dog than others. If you’re looking for a particular breed, adopting a retired service animal may be a good way to find just the right dog for your circumstances. These breeds are commonly trained as service animals:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Golden retrievers
  • Border collies
  • German shepherds
  • Bernese mountain dogs
  • Poodles

Working With Therapy Dogs

A therapy dog isn’t the same thing as a service dog, so it’s important to understand the differences. Therapy animals accompany their owners to schools, airports, and other locations to provide emotional support and companionship to children, older adults, and adults with post-traumatic stress disorder and other types of mental illness. Therapy animals may also provide comfort to people with chronic health problems that make it difficult for them to perform certain tasks.

It’s possible for a former service dog to become a therapy dog, but don’t assume that every therapy dog has gone through the extensive training dogs need to become service animals.

Connecting With a Service Dog Organization

The best way to find an appropriate dog to adopt is to contact one of the service dog organizations in your area. If you have a specific service animal in mind, try contacting their former trainer to learn more about the dog’s history and training. The trainer may be able to recommend reputable adoption programs or point you to other helpful resources.

Once you connect with an organization, be sure to let them know if you have any health issues that would affect your ability to adopt certain breeds. If you have allergies, for example, you may want to adopt a dog that doesn’t shed much. You should also disclose any hearing impairments or vision problems that would make it difficult for you to care for an active dog.

If you can’t get in touch with someone from a service dog organization, look for other nonprofit organizations dedicated to matching pets with new owners. Some rescues specialize in service animals or other types of working dogs, so do an online search to see if you can find one of these organizations in your area.

Senior man in wheelchair playing with his pet dog.

The Adoption Process

The rules for potential adopters vary from one organization to another. Depending on where you go, you may have to prove you have a fenced yard or have the financial means to pay for high-quality food and veterinary care. Some organizations will even ask for a reference from a current or previous veterinarian before adding you to a waiting list.

Once you’re on the waiting list, be patient. Due to their ability to assist people with daily tasks and provide unconditional love to their owners, retired service dogs for seniors are in high demand. It’s important to wait patiently for just the right companion instead of adopting the first dog that becomes available.

Adoption Fees

If you decide to adopt from a shelter, be prepared to pay an adoption fee that includes a full veterinary exam, vaccinations, and other forms of veterinary care. Depending on where the shelter is located, its adoption fees may also include transporting the animal to your home.

Enjoy Life With Your New Pet

Riddle Village is a pet-friendly senior living community that offers independent living, personal care, rehabilitation, and skilled nursing care all in one place. Whether you’re completely independent or need a little help with daily activities, we provide the services and amenities you need to stay healthy and happy.

To schedule a visit to our senior living community in Media, Pennsylvania, call (610) 891-3700 or fill out the online scheduling form. We’re standing by to learn more about you and your four-legged friend.