Frequently Asked Questions

What's the best way to contact Paws Up For Veterans?

Because of the limited number of staff and volunteers our toll-free phone number connects to a voicemail system only. For the quickest response, the best way to contact Paws Up For Veterans. is through email. Please review our website thoroughly to see if the answer to your question is already provided. All inquiries are very important to us and will be answered as soon as possible in order of priority. Thank you for your understanding.

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How is Paws Up For Veterans different from other service dog providers?

Paws Up For Veterans has chosen to serve veterans exclusively. We will train dogs to meet multiple disabilities - mobility, hearing, and/or psychiatric disorders. Other assistance dog organizations traditionally train a dog for a single purpose only (e.g., leading the blind, aiding the hearing impaired). In addition, the Sacramento. area is home to a very large group of veterans with special service needs. T hese heroes must compete with other disabled individuals applying for a service dog via a few national-level service programs.

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Is the federal government supporting service dogs for veterans?

Yes. The Department of Defense is sponsoring a 12-month study to find out exactly how service dogs help wounded warriors. The study entails comparing soldiers with PTSD who have dogs with a similar group of soldiers without dogs. Changes in the soldiers' symptoms and medication use will be measured. A recent survey showed that 82 percent of patients with PTSD who were assigned a dog experienced a decrease in symptoms and the medications they had to take (Health Day News September 3, 2009). In addition, recent legislation establishes a Department of Veterans Affairs' pilot project that should provide 200 service dogs to deserving veterans.

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How can I support Paws Up For Veterans?

Paws Up For Veterans is currently looking for volunteers who share our passion of serving those who served. We are seeking a board of directors possessing skills and experience in not-for-profit management, law (e.g., tax law, Americans with Disabilities Act), accounting/finance, fundraising, marketing/communications, veteran's affairs, psychology/psychiatry, rehabilitation and occupational therapy. We seek board members who are familiar with the unique needs of today's veteran, and dedicate part of our staff training to understanding those needs. We are also accepting in-kind donations to cover various start-up needs (e.g., computers, software, office equipment, etc.), dog supplies (food, crates, veterinary care), and marketing (website development, printing). For inquiries or to donate or volunteer, please contact us at: Thank you!

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What does a service dog do?

A service dog helps a person with a disability achieve independence. The dog reduces that person's reliance on other people by doing tasks that the person either cannot do for him/herself or needs to ask for another person's assistance to do. A service dog can give a person with a disability the support and confidence to travel outside the home independently, (re)join the workforce, or even just accomplish the everyday tasks of living. For example, a service dog can be trained to do tasks such as:

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Who qualifies for a Paws Up For Veterans?

Paws Up For Veterans. raises, trains, and places service dogs with injured or disabled military veterans who have served honorably in the United States Armed Forces.

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What kinds of service dogs does Paws Up For Veterans train?

We train dogs to assist people with physical disabilities, hearing loss or deafness, mental health impairment, and combinations of these. We do not train guide dogs for the visually impaired.

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How much does it cost to train a service dog?

It costs approximately $30,000 to raise, train, and place a Paws Up For Veterans with one of America’s wounded warriors. Paws Up For Veterans depends on donations, gifts, and fundraising events to support its efforts to provide these dogs, at no charge, to our deserving veterans.

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What are the characteristics of a good service dog?

It's not easy to be a service dog. W e ask a service dog to do many things that are diametrically opposed to one another. For example, we ask him to be impeccably friendly with people, yet to ignore people when working and not solicit attention from them in public. We ask him to be sociable with other dogs and animals but not to try to greet them when he encounters them while working. We ask him to wait calmly and quietly with his partner about 90% of the time when working, yet be ready to be active in an instant to assist his partner when needed. We ask him to do a number of things which are decidedly "undoggy," like not sniffing things and ignoring food on the ground -- unless asked to retrieve it. And then he must deliver it to his partner without eating it! A service dog needs to be:

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How many dogs do you know who have all of these qualities?

This is why it takes a long time, a lot of training, and a very special dog to begin with to become a Paws Up For Veterans Dog.

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What breeds of dogs does Paws Up For Veterans use?

Primarily retrievers and retriever mixes. They are in general the right size, interested in putting things in their mouths, gregarious, and easy to motivate and train. Of course, many other breeds and breed mixes can be these things too, so we never really know what the next remarkable dog we find may be. However, we do not use dogs with coats which require extensive or professional grooming (for example, poodles or poodle mixes), dogs with extremely heavy or thick coats (like a Samoyed or Akita), or brachycephalic (i.e., short face) dogs (such as a boxer).

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Where does Paws Up For Veterans get its dogs?

We seek donated puppies from breeders whose primary breeding goals are the temperament, physical health, working ability, and longevity of their dogs. We also look for exceptional puppies from rescue organizations and shelters, and we may occasionally accept donated dogs from the public.

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What is the process to train a Paws Up For Veterans Dog?

Our training program has three phases:

Phase I is the puppy training phase. The puppy lives with a foster "puppy raiser" and learns basic house manners and obedience. He is socialized to all manner of people, animals, places, and things. Phase I lasts until the pup is approximately 15 months old. Throughout and at the end of Phase I, the pup is evaluated for suitability as a service dog on the basis of his temperament and health.

Puppies who successfully complete Phase I will be paired with a staff trainer for Phase II of the training program in which the dogs are trained for their specific tasks as service dogs. This phase usually lasts from four to six months.

When a dog has completed Phase II of the training program and an applicant has been selected to receive a dog, together they will enter Phase III of the training program. In this phase, the dog, veteran, and a staff trainer train together in a variety of group, private, and public settings to prepare the team for certification. Together the dog and veteran must train for a minimum of 120 hours before certification. Phase III also generally takes between four and six months.

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Why don't some dogs "make it" through the training program?

The most common reason that dogs are released from the program is physical health. If a dog has a medical condition that requires complex, expensive, or life-long treatment, he will be released from the program. Service dog work is physically demanding. I t would be inhumane to ask a dog with a skeletal or structural problem to perform the tasks required of a service dog. Therefore dogs with conditions such as hip dysplasia are also released, even though the dog may have no symptoms.

The next most common reason dogs do not complete the training is confidence. Service dogs must work in very challenging environments involving close contact with strangers, large crowds, traffic, travel on public transportation, machinery, noises, and all manner of novel objects. Most dogs justifiably find these things frightening, and despite extensive socialization and training, some dogs will simply find it too stressful to deal with these types of environments on a daily basis.

The third most likely reason for a dog to be released is that he is too active, energetic, or reactive to new things. Despite the fact that a service dog is trained to do many tasks, a good portion of his job involves simply waiting quietly at his partner's side. Additionally, the dog may be paired with someone who has no ability to physically control the dog in any way, so the dog must be calm and attentive enough to be under verbal or hand signal control only.

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What happens to dogs that don't complete the program?

It depends on the dog and why. If a dog is released for a serious medical issue, he is offered for adoption first to his puppy raiser.

If a dog lacks the confidence or demeanor to fulfill the public access role of a service dog, we may try to match him with an applicant whose needs can be met within the home or who largely needs a social support dog. This dog will not be a "service dog" in the full sense, but can certainly be of tremendous value to a veteran.

We may also look for other placements that suit the dog's temperament and abilities, such as a detection dog or search and rescue dog.

If none of the above options is viable, then the dog would again be offered for adoption, first to his puppy raiser. If the puppy raiser does not wish to adopt the dog, then we will find the most suitable adoptive home in which to place the dog as a pet.

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What happens to the dogs when they retire?

In many cases, the veteran and his/her family will choose to keep the retired dog as a pet. If that is not possible due to family circumstances, our contract requires that the dog be returned to us. We will then find the dog an adoptive home. The puppy raiser family who first fostered the dog is usually happy to have him back when he retires or can no longer work.

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Do you have any dogs available for adoption?

Not at this time. Because we try hard to find a working placement for our dogs, and because dogs that don't find a "job" are usually adopted by their foster family anyway, we rarely have dogs available.

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Can I donate my dog to Paws Up For Veterans?

Not usually. We may accept some donated dogs from the public into our program, but very few dogs will meet the rigorous criteria to be accepted into the program. First of all the dog must:

Finally, the dog will be given a behavioral evaluation in which s/he will be exposed to a variety of different people (including children), other dogs and animals, handling, noises, traffic, novel objects, and retrieving and training aptitude. For starters, the dog needs to:

If you think you have a dog that would qualify, then please do contact us.

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I have a dog already. Can you train him to be my service dog?

No. We raise and train only pre-screened 8-12 week old puppies who have been donated to Paws Up For Veterans.

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