Many of today’s warriors have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI), and often physical injuries as well. A Next Step Service Dog can be trained to assist you and respond to your individual needs in unique ways such as:
- Create a strong peaceful barrier between the veteran and perceived threats
- Provide comfort and calming influence during times of stress
- Provide balance and support or assist you in sitting or standing
- Alert you to import sounds such as the doorbell, phone, your name being called, or your child crying
- Retrieve items, open and close doors and cabinets, operate light switches and automatic door openers.
- Seek help for you in emergencies
- If you become disoriented in a crowded room, the dog can be trained to lead you to an exit.
- If you have nightmares, the dog can be trained to wake you, or to turn on the lights or music in the room.
- Some dogs eventually learn to recognize early signs of anxiety in their partners and can be trained to give an alert and thereby re-focus their partners, who can then use strategies they have been taught to cope with the situation.
Service dog candidates need to be easily trainable and non-threatening in behavior and appearance to the public.
Preferred breeds are:
- Golden Retrievers
- Giant Schnauzer
- German Shepherd
- Mixes of above
- Other mixed breeds
We will not consider bully breeds, Pit Bulls, Rotweillers, or Mastiffs.
Dogs between the ages of 1.5 to 3 years old.
A Next Step Service Dog thrives and gives his or her all when a strong bond develops between the dog and his human partner. To earn the dog’s loyalty and respect, and to foster a healthy relationship, the veteran and the dog will need to work, play, and spend many hours training together.
If you choose to get a service dog, you must make the dog a major priority in your life. If you haven’t yet stabilized your injury, or if you are still in treatment that demands most of your time and energy, or if your work situation or home environment are in flux, this might not be the right time to consider applying for a NSSD service dog.
However, if you think that you are ready to make the commitment, you have the full support of everyone in your household and that of your caregivers, you are motivated to do the training, and you are excited about the prospect of gaining a devoted companion who can help you achieve greater independence and dramatically improve the quality of your life, you could be a candidate for our program.
The only cost for the Veteran or First Responder is a non-refundable $150.00 application fee. There is no cost for a NSSD dog or training.
After graduating from the NSSD program ownership of the dog will be transferred to you. At that point, you will then be responsible for all of the usual costs associated with owning a dog.
Depending on the availability of NSSD trainers, dogs and number of applicants applying at any given time, the length of the wait for a Next Step Service Dog will vary, but we will keep you informed of your status throughout the application process.
- After you submit the online pre-application Request for Service Dog Training (used to train a new service dog or to train your pet dog if it passes the required tests) , we will send you a complete set of application forms and requirements.
- After all forms and information is submitted with the non-refundable application fee of $150, the client application is put on the waiting list. There are no other fees.
- When training slots become available, the Training Director will meet with applicants for a more extensive interview to discuss the program in detail and determine how and when to proceed.
- If you are accepted into the Training Program, you will start training with your pet dog if it passes the temperament test, or it may take two to four months to find a dog that is a good match and ready for training with you. Once you begin training with a dog, the training program typically takes 6 months.
Exercise. All dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation for their health, but these requirements are especially important for a highly intelligent, working dog. If partnered with a Next Step Service Dog, you will need to provide, at the minimum, a one-hour brisk walk, 20-30 minutes of vigorous play, and 20-30 minutes of training for the dog each day. If you are physically incapable of exercising the dog, you will need to make arrangements for someone else to do so. Letting the dog out in a yard does not constitute adequate exercise.
Supervision. Next Step Service Dogs requires their clients to keep the dog leashed or supervised within a safely enclosed area at all times when outside. We do not permit electronic fencing and do not condone the use of dog parks for socialization or exercise.
Grooming. Keeping the dog well groomed is another requirement of partnership with a Next Step Service Dog. If you cannot bathe and groom the dog yourself, you will need to determine where you will take it to be groomed and also consider the expense of such services. Public consideration is important here.
Veterinary care. Regular veterinary care is also essential. You will be expected to adhere to our recommended checkup and vaccination schedule to maintain your dog’s health. You will also be required to keep your dog current on monthly parasite prevention medications.
Food and equipment. A good quality food will be essential in maintaining a healthy weight for the dog (we will provide recommendations). Your Next Step Service Dog will be sent home with essential equipment such as a crate, collar and leash, vest and training equipment. Over time this equipment may need to be replaced and that would be your responsibility after certification.
If you are training your pet dog, NSSD will supply the equipment your trainer recommends.
Annual cost. In all, you can expect to spend an average of $1,000 – $1,500 per year over a typical 10 to 12-year lifespan not including veterinary care.
Family Commitment. It is also important to consider the commitment other family members will have to make to your Next Step Service Dogs partnership. They may need to assist you in caring for your dog at times. They will always need to be supportive of your relationship with the dog, agree not to interfere with the dog’s training or the work it performs for you, adhere to rules and expectations regarding the dog’s behavior, and respect the bond between you and your Next Step Service Dog.
Yes, if the dog is between 1.5 years old and 3 years old, is an approved breed, passes our temperament tests, and you are approved to become an owner-trainer.
For dogs owned by Next Step: Until you and the dog have successfully met our training requirements, been certified by Next Step Service Dogs and have graduated from our program, the dog is the property of Next Step Service Dogs, Inc. After you and the dog have met these requirements, ownership of the dog will be transferred to you. At that point, you will be responsible for all of the usual costs associated with owning a dog.
For clients who own their dog while in the Next Step training program: You retain ownership and all liability for your dog.
Next Step Service Dogs, Inc. is committed to the success of its service dog partnerships. We provide support to each veteran-dog team for the life of the partnership, at no cost to you, through:
- Follow-up training
- Advice or consultations with trainers
- Annual recertification
- Other support services where necessary
To meet ADI standards, annual re-certification is required to keep your certified service dog status, to keep your Next Step Service Dogs vest and identification cards, and to have access to the support services provided by Next Step Service Dogs. You must submit an Annual Report and your latest medical/veterinary/vaccination records, and be available to retake and pass the certification examination annually. Even though the vest and ID tags or cards are not required by law, they give your dog a polished appearance when in public and ease the public access difficulties typically faced by people partnered with a service dog.
Yes, Next Step Service Dogs is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible. Our TAX EIN number is 45-5266435. Other credentials include: Registered Guidestar Exchange Member, nonprofit listed on the Fidelity Charitable Trust giving site, and Assistance Dog International (ADI) Candidate.
Our specialty is helping clients with PTSD and/or Traumatic Brain Injury; we additionally train to help with mobility assist and seizures whenever possible.
As a potential candidate, you should:
- Be a veteran, active military, or first responder.
- It is recommended that the team remain in the Next Step training area for at least 1 year following the acceptance in our program. This allows for additional training during this period of adjustment. (Escondido California primarily; limited training in Orange County California and in Boise Idaho).
- Be able to provide your own transportation to and from training sessions.
- Be able to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of a dog, or have an adequate support system in place.
- Be willing and able to commit to the training program.
- Agree to adhere to the Next Step Service Dogs rules and regulations concerning care and training of the dog.
- Have the full support of your family, including caregivers, in your quest to receive a service dog,
- If you are receiving a NSSD-owned dog, you must be able to provide financial support for the dog after ownership has been signed over to you.