Then look for one that's failed or retired. Some of the best family companions are retired guide dogs or search dogs, or puppies that flunked out of service-dog training.

  • According to Business Week magazine, retired or rejected service dogs make great pets. They're better bred and better trained than dogs available elsewhere. And many groups offer purebred dogs for less than a breeder might charge, such as Labrador retrievers or German shepherds. And you don't have to worry about bonding. Dogs form deep attachments, even if you get them long past puppy-hood.
  • So, why are these dogs available? Young dogs are often released because they don't have quite the right temperament for the job. For example, an animal that startles easily or barks at strangers won't make the best dog for the blind. And some service dogs simply lose the will to work. They go from being gung-ho workers, to deciding they don't want to do the job anymore.
  • Adopting a retired or rejected service dog usually means an extensive application, and an interview. And you should expect some serious scrutiny.These organizations are protective about their dogs, and want them to go to good homes. And you could even be disqualified if you have another dog in the family, especially an aggressive breed like a Rottweiler.
  • If you do qualify, it can take a year before a dog's available. Fees run about $600 dollars, and you normally have to pick up the dog yourself. For example, if you want a former military dog, you'll have to travel to San Antonio, Texas, to the Defense Department's Military Working Dog Center.

If you'd like to go further, you can find the nearest service-dog training organization by logging onto the "American Dog Trainers Network".