Our Process

Making an Impact

As former Military Working Dog Handler/Trainers, the founders of Return to Heal, Jason Harvey and Thomas Hansen experienced the impact K9s have on humans.

At the end of the day, and with the time they were granted,  Jason and Tom learned the personal impact their K9s had on them until  after they were gone. Partnered with their K9s, Jason and Tom experienced stressful events with their K9s and were there for each other before, during and after.

When it was time to part with their K9s, both Jason and Tom realized the impact their K9s played in their life. Knowing the value of the bond and companionship of a K9, Jason and Tom want to share the life changing experience with our veterans to help better their quality of life after service.

We want to invite and encourage them to Return to Heal. 

Our Process

Our placement process is based on our trainers’ assessment of the service dog and the ability and needs of the veteran. Matching our service dog with the right veteran is paramount to having a successful service dog team. We keep a selection of service dogs on hand to have an assortment of service dogs to choose from at time of pairing service dog with veteran. 

Placing a service dog with a veteran is a lengthy process, but the extra care helps to ensure a successful bond.

01. Selecting the Dogs

The first step in our program is to source for quality dogs that demonstrate an aptitude for service dog placement. We accept all breeds, but the successful dogs will not be reactive. Each dog undergoes basic obedience training in preparation for their task training and placement.

02. Choosing the Right Dog for the Veteran

We give the veteran the opportunity to choose their service dog, while ensuring that the veteran is placed with a dog that will suit their needs. We have a comprehensive screening process to be certain that the prospective service dog is right for that veteran.

03. Task Training

Once the dog and veteran have been paired, we “task train” the dog to fit the veteran’s unique needs. The veteran is an active participant in the training. As the pair learn together, the trust and bonding necessary for a successful service animal placement is front and center. 

04. Maintenance Training

Once the service dog is placed with the veteran, we conduct weekly maintenance training during the introductory period. After the service dog and the veteran gain confidence and are demonstrating a strong bond, the maintenance training occurs with less frequency, but is still a cornerstone of our program.

Accreditation

Return to Heal intends to be accredited by Assistance Dogs International (ADI). We are in the process of completing this endeavor currently. With that goal in mind, Return to heal follows ADI’s guidelines and standards regarding the training and placement of our service dogs.

FAQs

I am a veteran in need of a service dog. What do I need to do to apply for your program?

To qualify for a service dog through Return to Heal, we first need a letter of referral from your counselor or medical practitioner. We’ll also need approval to place the dog from your spouse if applicable. For more information on our application and selection process, please contact us directly.

How much does it cost to get a service dog?

All of our service dogs are placed at no cost to the veteran once they have been approved for the program.

How do you find the dogs?

We have a network of local rescues and reputable breeders who donate dogs for the program. When we have a dog to be donated, we screen the dog for aptitude for success in the program. No dogs are taken into our care until they are old enough to be away from their mother.

I already have a dog, can he/she be my service animal?

It is possible to train some current pets to be service dogs. However, the dogs must be tested for aptitude and a non-reactive nature due to access rights for service animals. If the dog does not meet these standards, he/she cannot be trained as your service dog through our program. 

What breeds do you use for service dogs?

We consider most breeds for the program, and success depends based on the individual animal. However, there are certain breeds that lend themselves well to service dog lifestyle and training.