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What It’s Like to Raise a Service Dog

Service dogs are a huge benefactor to those who need them, such a veterans, the paralyzed, those with disabilities, and many more. Something that I have been able to do is witness the training of a service dog. My roommate Jenna has been training a service dog for almost a year, and agrees that it has been a definitely rewarding experience. I sat down with her and talked with her about the experience.

Tell us a bit about you and your service dog!
service dog in training posing for the camera
Original photo by Alexandra Neiderer

I’m a volunteer puppy raiser for Susquehanna Service Dogs. Basically what that means is that I raise and train a puppy for a period of about 18 months on all the skills needed to become a service dog. The dog would then go into advanced training where they learned more specific skills to fit their future partner’s needs. I am currently raising my first dog, SSD Quill. I got her on October 25th, 2019 and she is now about 14 months old. She was named along with her litter, the Brotherly Love litter, in honor of SSD expanding their program to Philadelphia. She is an extremely loving, gentle, and courageous girl and I am so lucky to be her raiser.

What has been the most rewarding part of raising a service dog?

The most rewarding part of raising a service dog has been the feeling of watching a little puppy transform into a very confident and intelligent working dog. In the beginning, they are just like any other pup; they need to learn the ropes of the world around them. As a puppy raiser, you are the person who that puppy looks up to for guidance. I truly feel so proud of SSD Quill every time I have been able to watch her improve on her cues and training or conquer a fear that she once had. It is an amazing feeling to be able to be there from the start with them, and in the end be able to know you held a big role in how that dog is now able to change someone else’s life.

What have been some of the tougher aspects of raising a service dog?

The toughest aspect of raising a service dog is being able to understand the dog’s struggles and that they will not be perfect at everything from the start. Many people hold the idea that all service dogs, even one’s in training, will always be well behaved and easily learn. In reality, there will be times that your dog will struggle to grasp a concept, and it is your responsibility to help them work through that.

How does raising a service dog fit in with your normal schedule, and how has your schedule changed?
service dog in training posing for the camera
Original photo by Alexandra Neiderer

Fitting raising SSD Quill into my schedule as a college student definitely took some adjustments at first, but now my routine has been able to become a lot more normal. When they are very young they cannot be left alone for long and need constant supervision and attention. Due to this, I had to arrange my schedule so I was home with her more often and able to give her the attention she needed. As she got older she became more successful at public outings so it was easier to fit her into my life because she could come most places with me.

Would you consider raising another service dog in the future?

I would definitely consider raising another service dog in the future. The experience is so heart warming and rewarding; the dog does not only change another’s life, they truly change yours as well. I would love to be able to guide more future service dogs along their journey to become the super pups they were destined to be!

I hope that you enjoyed this look into what the life of a service dog’s raiser is like. To keep up with SSD Quill, Jenna, and Susquehanna Service Dogs, be sure to check out their Instagrams below! 

  • SSD Quill Instagram: @ssd.quill
  • Jenna, SSD Quill’s Raiser: @jwarner1115
  • Susquehanna Service Dogs: @susquehannaservicedogs

HCXO, Alexandra

Hi I'm Alexandra! I'm an English major with a concentration in writing studies, along with a minor in film studies, at Millersville University. I love to write, take pictures of anything and everything, and spend time with my family and friends. <3
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