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Susquehanna Service Dogs
Who We Are
Susquehanna Service Dogs trains and provides service dogs and hearing dogs to assist children and adults to become more independent.
Susquehanna Service Dogs raises and trains services dogs to assist children and adults with disabilities to become more independent. We were founded in 1993 by a group of dedicated volunteers with a vision of training dogs to assist people to live full, independent lives in the community. Today, with the support of over 300 volunteers throughout the state, we have placed over 300 service dogs with individuals with disabilities throughout Pennsylvania and the surrounding states.
We typically have approximately 100 puppies at various stages in their training within our program, and we place 20–25 service dogs each year. It takes about 2 years to fully train a service dog. SSD is a program of Keystone Human Services, and we are an accredited member of Assistance Dogs International.
Susquehanna Service Dogs makes sure that each of our dogs is healthy and has the right temperament to be a service dog. We use specially bred dogs that come from our breeding program and other assistance dog organizations. Each dog receives an in-depth health screening, is neutered or spayed, and undergoes a rigorous training program. Before being placed with a partner, the dog must display excellent manners at home and in public and perform a variety of specific behaviors and tasks on cue. Each dog is specially trained in specific tasks according to their partner’s needs. A service dog can open and close doors, retrieve various items, pull a manual wheelchair, find the phone, do balance work, turn light switches on and off, and much more. Hearing dogs respond to different sounds, which include a knock, the doorbell, oven timer, alarm clock, telephone and the person’s name. We also provide service dogs for individuals with autism and psychiatric disabilities, including PTSD. The dogs may learn tasks such as alerting to symptoms of anxiety, interrupting a repetitive behavior, and providing pressure for someone with autism.
Service dogs can be trained to support men, women and children with a variety of disabilities. They can assist individuals with spinal cord injuries, polio, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, arthritis, stroke, and similar disabilities. Some dogs can be trained to support individuals with psychiatric disorders and children and adults with autism, as well as PTSD. Hearing dogs assist people with hearing impairments. Each dog is specially trained depending on the needs of the person receiving the dog.
To apply for a service dog, please begin by reviewing our application process. Once you are accepted into our program, you will be added to our waiting list. After you have been matched with a dog, you and your trained service dog complete a two and a half week training program together where you will learn to work as a team with your dog. We provide follow-up sessions on a regular and as-needed basis, and all of our working service dog teams must pass an annual recertification evaluation. We make every effort to ensure that our dogs continue to do the job they were trained to do.
The actual cost of training and placing each service dog or hearing dog is over $30,000. However, we only require individuals to pay a $5,000 fee for service. A limited number of need-based scholarships are available for residents of Pennsylvania, based on federal poverty guidelines. The additional funding comes from fundraising and donations by individuals, groups, and corporations. We do receive some funding from the Capital Area United Way. We hold annual special events to raise money, and we participate in the Highmark Walk for a Healthy Community. All contributions stay in Pennsylvania and assist people in the community.
Raise an SSD Puppy
Puppy snuggles, traveling everywhere with your puppy, making new friends, and most importantly, changing people’s lives—these are just a few of the reasons why our volunteer puppy raisers choose to raise a service dog puppy. And they’re some of the reasons why you should raise a puppy, too!
Susquehanna Service Dogs needs puppy raisers to welcome a puppy into their lives and train them for 15-18 months to become future service dogs. We hope you’ll join our wonderful group of volunteers!