They don’t all want to be service dogs when they grow up

There are multiple characteristics that go into making a solid and effective service dog, however, the most important factors are the drive to work and the ability to work for one person. What’s great about service dog washouts, (a dog that trains to be a service dog but does not make service dog status) is that the reason for them washing out of the service dog program is often the very reason they will actually make excellent family and/or therapy dogs. Here are the top three reasons that “washout” dogs make great adoption candidates:

    1. Sociability. For the person who loves to socialize at the breweries, run community 5ks with their dog, get involved with therapy work, or simply loves having a dog that fits into their active lifestyle, the overly social service dog washout canine is a perfect fit!

      Service dogs need to be focused on the task at hand with their handler and if they are naturally driven to focus on other people, they are unable to effectively stay on task in focusing on just their owner. For a person whose safety and livelihood rely on their dog’s ability to perform specific tasks, it can be dangerous for their dog not to have that tunnel focus on their handler. Some dogs are simply too social in that they are driven by the reward of meeting everyone they come into contact with. These social butterflies often make great therapy dogs. Therapy dogs service multiple people rather than one person as a service dog would.


    1. Drive. There are dogs that just want to have fun and are driven by affection and stimulation but have no desire to work. Service dogs are a form of working dogs and working dogs find fun in their work but often dogs that are natural jesters, (goofy, silly, playful) find only the fun and games appealing, not the actual work. For families with kids, the characteristics of the jester dog can make for a great playmate and family member.

      Working dogs are the overachievers of the world and our fun-loving jesters are the normal happy-go-lucky family dogs. It’s about the right fit for the dog and developing a mutual relationship that suits their personality.

      Service dogs love their jobs and are naturally fulfilled serving their tasks and bonding with their handler; the foundational component to a good service dog. You cannot force a dog to work that doesn’t have the drive to work, just as you can’t force a trait such as prey drive out of a dog – some things are simply genetic.


  1. Training. Service dog puppies, when handled the right way, begin their interactions that will set them up for life success at day three of age. They receive more daily training, routine, leadership, and socialization than most non-service puppies ever will. They have well-rounded temperaments, are exposed to other species during their critical period, and know more than the average basic commands.

    By the time a dog washes out of service training, even if they are still a puppy, they already have at least a few thousand dollars on board in vested services and medical care. Though they typically come at a higher adoption fee than dogs who were not involved in a service dog program, the funds spent on an adoption fee pale in comparison to the investment already put into the dog prior to being acquired by a new owner. They are well worth it!


When considering adoption, applicants should always look to find the right fit for their family, their lifestyle, and their personality. In considering a service dog washout for adoption, there is an advantage with the skills and characteristics of these dogs that deserve thoughtful consideration, given that what makes them not-so-great service dogs, ends up contributing to their success as excellent family companions.