Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
A puppy would probably be your best bet, searching for a breeder that has had dogs go on to be service dogs and can pick the pup for you. Getting a pup from a rescue though or even an adult dog is still an option. No matter what you do though, you may find out the dog isn't going to make it to be a service dog by the end. If that happens, are you prepared to keep the dog anyway and start up again searching for a service dog?
My dog Tessa is my mobility assistance dog. She was a rescue dog, I adopted her at 1 year. To start you just want to work on TONS of socialization and basic obedience. Take the dog EVERYWHERE you can. Sit outside stores and get people to pet the dog or give them a treat. Go to pet stores, feed stores, outside restaurants, etc. At these places work on obedience. Have the dog sit, down, heel, etc. Do as much of this as you can for the first year. When your dog can remain entirely focused on you in these places and respond to all basic obedience start working on public access training which is the term for places on service dogs and service dogs in training can go.
Do you know the rules for SDITs in your state? Federal law leaves the requirements up to the states. Some give SDITs the same access rights as SDs, some give them none, and some give them access rights if accompanied by a trainer. Then to go further, some states will or won't define trainer! I live in Indiana, state law gives SDITs the same rights as SDs but when accompanied by a trainer. They do not define trainer; and so owner trained dogs can fall under this. If your state does not give SDITs rights, you still have the option of calling stores and restaurants and asking if they allow SDITs.
Training usually takes about 2 years to complete. and unfortunately it may not be until the end of the 2 years to find out your dog just isn't going to make it. Most do not start teaching service tasks until after 1 year of training and obedience is down solid.
There is no certification for owner trained dogs. If you do a search and find places that offer certification this is just a scam to get money from you. Federal law does NOT require any certification. Dogs that have it, are certified through the individual organization that did the training and NOT anything by the state. Keep a log of all training hours to have a record in case its needed down the line.
As for the money, it really depends on the costs of the trainers you use to help you. If you go through an organization for a trained dog it could be anywhere from free to up to 25,000 I've seen. Some organizations place dogs for free but may have long waiting lists. Others can charge any range of money and may ask for you to pay or fundraise the money.
It can be hard to find organizations that use GSDs, some have phased them out due to how attached they become to their person. This makes it difficult for the dog to move from puppy raiser to trainer, and then to SD partner.
How much does your pdoc think you are going to recover? Getting a service dog is a lifetime commitment, lifetime change. There are negative sides to having a SD; especially with some psychiatric disorders. It can cause people to stare at you or approach you.