Assistance Dog FAQ's

I live outside your area of service. How can I get a service or facility dog?

If you are interested in a service or facility dog but live outside the greater St. Louis, Missouri area or Columbia, MO, we recommend you visit the Assistance Dogs International (ADI) website to locate an ADI member agency that serves your needs. CHAMP is proud to be a member of ADI, a coalition of assistance dog providers dedicated to excellence!

Are applicants and graduates required to participate in fundraising or public relations activities?

Participation is never required, but we always enjoy having our students, graduates, family and friends attend fundraising events, volunteer appreciation parties, and other CHAMP gatherings. We are a mostly volunteer organization and our volunteer Board of Directors, puppy raisers, therapy and education teams as well as staff really enjoy meeting our assistance dog students and graduates.

Graduates are also encouraged to visit our prison training program so they can meet the people who trained their dog. Our offender-trainers sincerely appreciate the chance to meet our clients (and to see the dogs again, of course!)

How much does it cost to partner with a CHAMP Service or Facility Dog?

CHAMP applicants pay a $50 nonrefundable fee. After that, all of our services, including our dogs and any specialized equipment that may be required, are provided free-of-charge. Graduates are expected to take full responsibility for the dog, including care and feeding of their canine partner after placement, veterinary care, as well as purchase items like dog dishes, leashes, toys, a kennel, etc.

Maintaining a healthy, happy service dog is often more costly than maintaining a normal household pet. Your assistance dog will need a very high quality food and will likely visit the veterinarian more frequently, as its ability to work depends on continued good health. In addition, you will need to consider the potential costs of professional grooming, if needed. Service dogs must be clean and well-groomed at all times. contact CHAMP for an estimate of the cost of having a service dog.

What if my dog needs surgery, or other extraordinary health care?

CHAMP strongly recommends that partners obtain health insurance for the service or facility dog in their care. CHAMP also has a Client Angel Fund (CAF) available to assist with a portion of extraordinary expenses such as surgeries or special food or medications if the client is unable to afford the expense. Although CAF funds are limited, the well-being of our dogs is very important to us and we will assist if we can.

Can I get a CHAMP Assistance Dog if I have other dogs or pets?

Possibly. Your other animal(s) must allow the assistance dog to work without interference. No aggression, no resource guarding (including attempting to get between other dogs and you.) Having another animal in the household may lengthen the amount of time it will take to find the right service or facility dog for your household, and, quite honestly, each additional animal in your household lessens the likelihood of a successful placement. CHAMP will consider these situations on an individual basis.

My home does not have a fenced in yard. May I still apply?

Yes, but know in advance that in most cases we require our applicants to have a fenced-in yard. Our dogs need playtime, outdoor exercise, and time to just kick back and be a dog. A fenced-in yard provides a safe option. If you do not have a fenced-in yard, we might consider a placement if you show that you can safely and adequately provide daily exercise and playtime for your dog. Few homes have sufficient indoor space for adequate exercise.

What breeds do you use?

CHAMP mainly uses Labrador and Golden Retrievers (as do most service dog providers.) We’ve also used crosses, and a few dogs of undefined heritage which came to us from the rescue community. We prefer that the parents of the puppies entering our program have full health clearances, including genetic screenings where appropriate.

The most important qualities we look for in a dog, regardless of breed, are health (including orthopedics), a friendly, intelligent personality, a strong work ethic and a desire to please.

All of the dogs entering our training program are screened for temperament and must pass a general good-health evaluation. CHAMP uses the PennHIP evaluation process to screen all of our dogs for hip abnormalities. Our dogs are also screened for eye and elbow abnormalities. Health screenings are expensive, but necessary to ensure each dog we place is mentally and physically able to perform the tasks required.

All CHAMP Service Dogs and Facility Dogs are spayed or neutered.

How long can an assistance dog work?

Service and facility dogs in good health often work until 10 to 12 years of age. A very high quality food, excellent veterinary care, exercise, grooming, keeping the dog at a healthy weight, and plenty of love and attention all help to increase the working life of a service dog.

Who owns the assistance dog?

CHAMP maintains ownership of the assistance dog throughout the partnership of the team. The graduate is responsible for the dog’s care and maintenance including food, toys, veterinary services and so on.

What happens to a service or facility dog when he or she retires, or the partner is no longer able to care for the dog?

Retirement is an emotional time for both the human partner and the dog, after having worked so closely together for so many years. Retired assistance dogs are welcome to live out their retirement with their partner, and our Client Angel Fund can assist with the added expense of keeping the retired service dog in your home. If the partner is unable to keep the retired dog, a mutually-agreed-upon family member or close friend may adopt the retiree, or, the dog will be welcomed back to CHAMP and we will find a great retirement home for their friend's golden years. In selecting an appropriate retirement home, the dog’s well-being is always our first consideration.

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

No. We find it more successful to work with dogs already in our training program. Our dogs have already passed our temperament requirements and our stringent health requirements, and we are able to match each particular dog's strengths to best fit each clients' needs.

Can CHAMP help me with issues I am having with a service dog from another organization (or one I trained myself?)

No. We suggest you contact the organization through which you received your dog, as they would be most familiar with its training and should be able to assist you. You might also wish to work with a qualified private dog trainer.

What happens to dogs that don't make it all the way through the training program?

Dogs may be released from our training program for a number of reasons. Oftentimes, the reasons are health-related; for instance, the puppy or older dog does not pass health screenings. Dogs might also be released due to behavior and/or general temperament issues, like low confidence, excessive barking, or an energy level that is too high or too low for our needs.

We occasionally have released dogs available for placement as Companion Animals. Find out more about adopting a released dog.