Service Dog FAQs


These are the steps you can expect when working with us:

  • It all starts with filling out this contact form our the website.
  • After submitting it, you can schedule a free phone consultation. You will see our calendar with available times and can pick a day/time convenient for you.
  • During our phone call, we will get to know each other a bit and determine if we are a good fit for each other. Assuming we are, it continues with the next step. Please also read our FAQ for “Who qualifies for a service dog from us.
  • If we move forward, we will schedule a Zoom call to discuss your task needs in detail. These detailed discussions are usually around 1-hour long.
  • After our Zoom meeting, we may have more follow-ups on each side, especially if we need to evaluate a dog for suitability first or find the right puppy.
  • Next, we develop a proposal for the agreed service tasks with full pricing. The most common payment structure is a $10,000 down payment, with monthly payments over 12-18 months afterward. The monthly payments will be set up as auto-pay with a credit card. We have also provided alternative payment plans in individual cases. Further, additional costs could be incurred for finding and buying a puppy. This last part varies with each client.
  • After the contract is signed and the down payment is received, procuring (if applicable) and training your service dog begins. Training duration varies from 1 to 2 years, depending on the number and complexity of tasks. During this time, you will get to spend time with your dog in your home on a regular basis.
  • After the service dog is fully trained and living with you full-time, we will be in touch every six months for the dog’s entire working life. We want you to be a successful service dog team and stand behind our work.

The Total K9 Focus Puppy Guarantee

The service dog industry has an average wash-out rate of over 50%; ours is much lower. If you purchased the puppy from us directly, and the dog was to wash out during training, we have to start over. In that case, you are only responsible for the price of a new dog. We will repeat the training free of charge and find the other pup a great pet home. The timeline for delivery will extend, but there will be no additional training fees. You pay for a new dog and continue making your monthly payments as originally agreed upon, and we will prepare a replacement dog. We are not aware of any other service dog company offering this guarantee. If you purchase or provide the dog, this guarantee does not apply.


“Do I qualify for a service dog from your company?” is one of the common questions potential clients ask us. There are many dog training companies out there that will take money from anyone who walks through the door and is willing to pay. That is different with us. We have a reputation for highly reliable service dogs, long working years (for the dog), and a wash-out rate far under the 50% industry standard.

We are happy to help anyone who qualifies but we care about the longevity of our service dog teams and only accept clients who will actually benefit from a fully-trained, custom service dog.

Our Criteria

  • The person the dog is for must have at least one medical condition, formally diagnosed by a doctor, that qualifies as a disability under the law to qualify for a service dog from us. For example, if you sometimes feel down and a dog cheers you up, you don’t have a disability. However, if you have been diagnosed with depression that prevents you from going about your life normally, you have a disability that qualifies. This is just one example.
  • We regularly train service dogs for cardiac (e.g. POTS, EDS, MCAS, etc.), psychiatric (e.g. PTSD, anxiety, etc), auditory (i.e. deafness, etc.), and mobility (e.g. wheelchairs, walking aids, etc.). We have trained other, more unusual tasks. Please always ask if you need something unique. We don’t train guide dogs for blind people.
  • The person with the disabilities must be in a stable medical condition to qualify for a service dog from us. If you have not started medical treatment and reached a stable baseline we will not be able to help you. A service dog must be able to know what your normal is, so it can recognize when you deviate from it and provide assistance.
  • A dog must be able to help with your disabilities in some way to qualify for a service dog from us. If a dog would not have specific tasks that are essential to helping you get through the day, we won’t take you on as a client. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) a service dog is a dog that is trained for at least one task that directly mitigates your disability. If you are just looking to get your dog on an airplane or in stores and restaurants, please don’t contact us.
  • You must either be able to take care of a dog’s basic needs (i.e. food, water, exercise, grooming, veterinary checkups) yourself or have a support person who will be responsible to look after the dog’s well-being to qualify for a service dog from us.

Dog Suitability

The dogs we train must be suitable to be service dogs in our assessment. As mentioned above, our service dogs work longer and are less likely to wash out for a reason. This is the case for all dogs we select and train from puppyhood. If you already have a dog, we are happy to schedule it for an evaluation week to test and determine suitability. We have different standards for what constitutes a good service dog than other companies. Many dogs from so-called service dog breeders are not necessarily suitable from our perspective. Please read our article “What Dog Breeds Make Good Service Dogs?” to understand what we are looking for.

Dog Evaluation

During a test week, we generally evaluate focus, commitment, recovery rate (after being startled), scent processing, visual processing, auditory processing, dog focus, people focus, environmental focus, search pattern, intelligence, and drive. If you want to use a dog you have, expect to start with an evaluation week, regardless of the dog’s age. Evaluation weeks currently cost $750 and last from Monday through Friday.


You will find a wide range of opinions on what dog breeds make good service dogs online, but unfortunately, the dog training industry is the wild west, and people who have plenty of time to use social media tend to not know too much about dogs and dog training.

Here are our thoughts. We are professional dog trainers, with dozens of service dogs personally trained and deployed for over 140 different tasks. In other words, we have the background and experience to back our opinions up.

High Drive Preferred

Most service dog trainers hate high drive dogs for service work because they can’t channel said drive. We love high-drive dogs. They make some of the best service dogs if you have the experience to shape them. We prefer high-drive hunting breeds like retriever and herding breeds most.

Service dogs have stressful jobs. Helping a person with disabilities puts a lot of stress on anyone, including dogs. One of the biggest challenges with selecting the right service dog is reducing the risk of wash-out (meaning the dog can’t handle said stress). What good is a trained task if a dog can’t execute it when its handler has a seizure? Service dogs must be able to power through, which comes down to their genetics (i.e., the breeding). Dog breeds, which pet dog breeders predominantly breed, tend to have far poorer physical and mental health than dogs bred by sport dog and working dog breeders. The latter breeder group breeds for health and breed attributes and not for looks.

For this reason, a well-bred working-dog usually has a more sound and stable mind than a dog from a pet dog breeder. That directly increases the odds for long, successful service work over its working life and reduces wash-out rates. Even the so-called runts from a great working dog litter still beat most pet dog breeding hands down. Genetics matter!

Further, herding and hunting breeds have above-level intelligence, which also makes a big difference.

But, these are generalities. What ultimately the right dog is, depends very much on the person and is very individual. So, selecting the right genetics is a crucial first step, but it’s just the beginning. Here are some other important considerations.

Individual Preferences

Personal Preference: You must like the dog breed for you to become a successful team. If you don’t like your service dog’s breed, it will come through in your interactions, and it will affect your relationship.

Size/Height/Weight: Your dog must have the right size for the tasks as well as your living circumstances. These may be mutually exclusive, and then it gets tricky. For example, if you need a large dog for mobility reasons but live in a smaller apartment for the same reason.

Color: People are afraid of black dogs. Even black Labradors scare people. If you want your dog to help make new friends, a black dog can be a problem no matter how sweet he is.

Breed-Bias: Certain breeds will cause complications for you regardless of what the law says. For example, you can have a pit bull for a service dog, and no breed restrictions in apartments or stores will apply to you. But it will make your life more complicated, and certain places, like airlines, may still prevent you from flying until someone sues them for it and wins a large settlement.

Hair/Fur: Dogs with thick coats that shed a lot are more work to groom and will leave their fur all over your home. You must be okay with and be able to deal with it if you choose such a dog. Allergies from dog fur can also be an issue.

Health: Getting a healthy dog goes back to genetics. However, some breeds are prone to certain conditions even if DNA tests show no risk factors. Health impacts the dog’s working life and potential care needs in older age. It is essential to understand all possible ramifications.

Biological Life Expectancy and Working Life Expectancy: Understand how long your dog will most likely be of service, when you need a new one, and how you can save up for it. Long-term planning is viral. Also, old dogs will have care needs of their own. Have a plan to manage that and possibly a family member that can help and give him/her a good pet life in retirement.

Based on the individual circumstances, the criteria can be even further complicated. Picking the right dog is essential for long-term success.

In Conclusion

We prefer being involved in the dog selection process for all the stated reasons. However, we do work with other dogs after we outline the risks and challenges and an owner wants to move forward regardless. We would not accept an existing dog when the work would negatively impact the dog’s health.


The service dogs we train have come from all over. Some have come from shelters, but most come from breeders because we need to produce a working dog and the right genetics can be difficult to find. The dog must be suitable for the tasking. If you are interested in exploring more details, you can start here.


Yes. This is another more unique service we offer. We can test any dog for service dog aptitude. If your dog is right for the job, we can train him/her for you. More here: Service Dog Testing.


Yes, but it can make the transfer of the service dog into your home a bit slower.


We help pick the dog. That could be a puppy from a breeder, a rescue, or a dog already in your home. We test the dog’s aptitude for the work and we proceed from there. If you are interested in exploring more details, you can start here.


Yes, quite often actually. Many dogs come in from out-of-state. We work with service dog owners in all parts of the country. We haven’t had an international service dog yet, but we could do that too. Many of our programs can be delivered worldwide. Non-local dogs are usually in our Board and Train Puppy Service Dog program. If you are interested in exploring more details, you can start here.


Professionally, custom-trained service dogs take 1-3 years to train and costs vary anywhere from $20,000 to $60,000. We offer several financing options and payment plans. We are also in the process of teaming up with several support organizations who can help with financing your service dog. Review our financing options.


There really is no typical service dog program duration. It all depends on the tasking you are looking for. Program duration can be anywhere between 1-3 years. The more tasks you need, the longer it takes. If you are interested in exploring more details, you can start here.


This page contains all Service Dog FAQs on one page for easy search. For a more formatted view, visit the page 'Service Dog Questions and Answers' instead. Further, for questions on the law, please review the ADA Regulations for Service Dogs by the DOJ.

Services and Area

We are located in Southern California and train service dogs nationwide. Hence, Total K9 Focus currently offers local service dog training in several areas. Riverside County, Orange County, San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. In addition, we offer our service dog board and train program and all virtual training services nationwide.

Are you looking to get your own service dog? You came to the right place! We are experienced service dog trainers. Consequently, we can help you with any service dog request. For many of our clients, we train a service dog from puppyhood. However, we also evaluate the service dog potential of existing pets or rescue dogs. Our flagship product is our board and train program. In addition, we offer owner-trained service dog support. Further, provide virtual service dog training worldwide.

Further, we can add tasks to an existing service dog you already have. Or help you solve a tasking, training, or behavioral challenge you may face with your current service dog. We offer several service dog financing options to make it possible for you. We recommend you start by reading our article on what makes a good service dog. Next, review the Service Dog Consultation page to understand the high-level process. Finally, once you're ready to move forward, please use our service dog contact form to schedule your free consultation.