Frequently Asked Questions
Finding a service dog can be challenging. There are considerations about cost, training philosophy, standards of training, guarantees, the experience of the trainers, follow up, etc. To make your decision easier, here are answers to some of the questions that you might have.
Do I need to live in a certain region to get a dog?
Medical Mutts is centrally located in Indianapolis, IN. Because we strive to give you all the tools for a successful partnership, we have designed our program for you to access much of the information online wherever you are. We will not ship the dog but will ask you to come to us to pick the dog up and receive our specialized training. We like for our dogs to get used to their new person in the environment that they are familiar with for optimal results. After a week of working and bonding with your new companion, you'll be all set to go home.
How long does it take to get a dog?
Once the dogs are accepted into our program, they undergo a comprehensive training program. We only partner the dogs once they've reached full maturity and have passed all of our assessments. Their availability and training time varies from dog to dog and depends on how long our wait list is, but also on how specific your dog needs might be. We strive to keep the waiting time for our clients as short as possible (18-24 months on average), but this process will require time and patience.
What types of dogs are available?
We select dogs based on temperament, sociability, trainability, scent ability, and friendly appearance. Because we take dogs out of shelters, they can come in various breeds, sizes or mixes. For more information about which breeds of dogs can be service dogs, please visit our blog: 'When it Comes to Service Dogs does Breed Matter?'
How old are the dogs when they are placed?
Dogs can be successfully trained at many ages, even as young puppies. However, as the dogs go through adolescence, their behavior might go through different changes. Anxieties and fear may develop during that period, even in the most confident and well-bred puppies. Reputable service dog organizations with solid breeding programs still have an average of 50% of dogs that do not make it through their training program. Newer organizations with a much smaller percentage of dogs released could be placing dogs below the industry standards. For those reasons, we recommend against getting a puppy as a service dog. We only place dogs that have reached a certain level of maturity and yet still have many years ahead of them to work. Our dogs are placed between 1 1/2 and 2 1/2 years old.
What is your training philosophy?
Different trainers have different philosophies and backgrounds. Because anyone can claim to be a trainer, it's important to do some research about the people you will be working with. There are three main camps in dog training:
Traditional trainers, who do not believe in giving dogs treats, expect the dog to work for you because you are the leader of the pack and use mainly coercion methods to train the dog;
Balanced trainers, who believe in a combination of traditional methods with more modern techniques and will use treats for certain behaviors, but also believe that some coercion is necessary; and
Positive based trainers, who choose to apply science-based methods and positive reinforcement. These trainers will avoid training aids such as choke chains, prong collars and shock collars that are typically used by traditional and balanced trainers.
At Medical Mutts, we fall in the third category. Our founder Jennifer Cattet, Ph.D. has been training dogs for over 30 years and has tried every training method. She strongly believes that aversives are to be avoided as much as possible. There are no choke chains, prong collars or shock collars at our facility. We believe that dogs work best when they are confident and excited to work. Punishment might get the job done but will have consequences on the dog's stress levels and feelings of safety. Under stress, the dogs are more likely to develop problem behaviors due to fear and anxiety. Punishment also affects the relationship and bond between the dog and his/her person. We are not into forcing dogs to work but like to see happy, confident and motivated dogs.
Can my dog ever just be a dog?
Service dogs are very well trained dogs, but they are still dogs. They need care, affection, and playtime just like any other dog. We encourage you to develop a loving relationship with your service dog. They are not robots and need good old doggie times to stay in healthy mental health.
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Can I have my own dog trained?
Yes. We offer different programs to get your own dog trained. We would first need to assess your dog and make sure that he/she has the necessary qualities to be a service dog. Depending on your needs, your time, your budget and how far away you live, we can take your dog in to fully train it or teach you how to train your own dog. For more information click here.
Where can I take my service dog?
Under the American Disabilities Act (ADA), people with disabilities are allowed to take their service dog into businesses and organizations that serve the public and wherever the public can go - into grocery stores, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, etc. For more information on this subject, please visit the ADA webpage. There can be differences regarding public access laws from one state to the other. Please make sure to check with your home state or with any state you might be visiting. For Indiana laws click here
We recommend, however, that you refrain from taking your dog to rock concerts, zoos or dog parks.
Is the cost for a service dog covered by medical insurance?
Unfortunately, insurance companies do not cover the cost of a service dog. However, all costs related to your service dog, such as the cost of purchase, training, feeding, veterinary care, and grooming are tax deductible. For more information, please visit the IRS page on the subject. Many people who are struggling financially decide to borrow the funds or fundraise to cover the cost of the dog. There are several online organizations that can help with fundraising so that the initial cost doesn't have to come out of your pocket. For more information about the costs involved in a service dog, please read our blog: 'Why are Service Dogs so Expensive?
Should I get insurance for my service dog?
Yes, we recommend that you get three types of insurance:
Liability insurance - we recommend a minimum of $1,000,000 in liability insurance. This can be done simply by calling your homeowner's insurance company.
Health insurance - There are several companies that will help you cover medical expenses such as 24PetWatch.
Is financing available?
Yes, if approved your bank or other financial institutions such as Springleaf Financials can provide you with the financing that you need.
What kind of guarantees do you provide?
We have been training service dogs for many years and know how important it is for the dogs to perform well and for a long time. We guarantee that at the time of placement, our dogs have received the most comprehensive training and that they are in optimum health. If for whatever reason the dog does not work out in the first couple of weeks, we will replace the dog at no additional charge. Our dogs' hips have been screened for any sign of dysplasia and they come with a health certificate from a veterinarian.