Frequently Asked Questions

I am a Veteran - How do I apply for an assistance dog?

You should complete a “Register of Interest” form - we ask for some basic information and is NOT a full application at this stage.

Once eligibility is confirmed, we then invite you to visit us and meet some of the team to learn more about the programme, set realistic expectations, and discuss how an Assistance Dog can help with your specific disabilities.

You are then provided a FULL APPLICATION to complete and return.

VETERANS WITH DOGS reserves the right at any point in the process and at our sole discretion to decline an application.

I have a physical disability - can I still apply?

It is acknowledged and well known that Veterans suffer from many ailments and injuries as a result of military service. However, our dogs are trained specifically for the mitigation of mental health difficulties and we do not train our dogs for the purpose of aiding physical disabilities.

If you require the use of a walking aid, such as a stick, scooter, or handrails, then we will not consider accepting an application as our PALS programme is not appropriate for people with these limitations.

You have to be able to fully engage with one of our dogs independently of any further assistance or outside help. This includes meeting the needs of a dog with appropriate exercise, play, and engagement activities.

If you have a physical disability that you would like help with then we recommend you approach one of the other member organisations of Assistance Dogs UK who provide specific services for physical health.

How much does an assistance dog cost?


We make no charge to a recipient for the placement of any dog, or for any training services that we provide. However, there are ongoing costs for normal daily care that must be considered as part of owning any dog. Responsibility for the costs of keeping the dog transfer to the Veteran once placed.

How long is the application process?

Once a Register of Interest is submitted the process can be as short as 6 months or as long as 24 months. If a Veteran is accepted onto the programme he/she then goes into the pool of all clients waiting to be paired with a Dog.

For all clients on the waiting list, the search to find an appropriate dog begins right away. However, this all depends on the individual needs of the client, and the individual qualities of the dogs in training.

Can I register my dog as an assistance dog?

Unfortunately this is not possible. We do not provide any kind of registration process for dogs.

All dogs must go through a rigorous selection assessment and Veterans must fully complete the PALS programme to become qualified as a partnership with a dog.

Can I train with my own dog to qualify as an assistance dog?

Potentially yes. However, there are standards and temperament criteria that your dog has to meet to qualify as a working dog, in the same way that any other assistance dogs do.

You must accept that there is no guarantee that your dog would be suitable, and that he/she would need to pass an initial assessment and health screening first.

To be considered for this your dog must be under the age of 3 years before training starts, and you MUST have been the only owner of the dog.

The application criteria for the PALS programme remains the same for all potential clients and you should check the eligibility requirements first.

We would advise that you attend training classes if possible, and work through their certification.

Please be aware that we do not guarantee that a dog will be accepted onto the programme as there are many considerations to be taken into account. A dog for emotional support is also not reason enough to be accepted.

Can any dog become an assistance dog?

Unfortunately no.

We carefully source and select potential assistance dogs specifically based on proven background, temperament, structural soundness, healthy genetics and breeding. Even our extensive screening and assessment process does not necessarily mean that every dog will make the grade.

What types of dogs does VWD use?

We use breeds with an established history and proven background of assistance dog work in the UK.

The most popular - and generally most successful breeds - come from the Retriever group. Those breeds include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and first-generation crosses of the two. We also have some Spaniels in our programme.

What exactly do VWD's assistance dogs do?

Our assistance dogs are trained for certain baseline behaviours such as initiating daily routine, medication reminders, grounding and other activities personal to the Veteran.

They are trained to respond to anxieties displayed by the Veteran in everyday life, and potentially challenging environments (including hyper-vigilance). They also recognise, indicate and interrupt signs of anxiety, panic attacks and nightmares by exhibiting escalation behaviours.

The building up of these behaviours allow the Veteran to break the cycle and regain emotional control by employing cognitive behavioural skills, engaging risk reduction behaviours and so reduce the debilitation of symptomology associated with PTSD.

(Our dogs DO NOT train for any type of security tasks or defensive behaviours).

How does the dog help with flashbacks and panic attacks?

A veteran will display certain behaviours just before and during a flashback. The dog is trained to recognise the early signals of these behaviours, interrupt them and redirect the veteran.

How long does it take to train an assistance dog?

The length of time training takes is determined by the Veteran’s needs and the tasks the dog is required to do.

Training with a dog provided by the charity can take anything between 12 to 24 months depending on maturity of the dog and the Veteran's lifestyle, family and home environment, their range of physical, psychological and cognitive abilities and their individual personalities.

I already own a dog but would like to apply for one from VWD, is this possible?

Unfortunately this is not possible.

We insist that an assistance dog is the one and only dog in the household.

There are too many complications when other dogs are in the same home. It has been our experience that other dogs in the home interfere with the bonding and training process of the Assistance Dog partnership.

Why are some breeds and types of dogs not suitable for the PALS programme?

Experience of training and placing assistance dogs has taught us that some traits, temperaments, characteristics and instinctual drives make some breeds unsuitable for working as assistance dogs for mental health.

Some of these include: German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Akitas, Malamutes, Bull-breeds and Terriers. (Not all breeds are listed here and we fully accept that ALL breeds can provide perfectly good companionship for their owners).

VWD works extremely hard to make our partnerships a success, and this means we have to be realistic about selecting breeds that give us the greatest chance of successfully becoming qualified as an assistance dog.

It is not our intention to offend anybody by declining peoples' breed of choice as their own dog.

What are the responsibilities of the client who receives a PALS Assistance Dog?

Veterans must be willing and able to attend residential training with VWD, local 1-2-1 personal training with one of our professional trainers, then follow on with the in-home and public training process.

Veterans must be committed to maintaining the dog’s training throughout the lifetime of the partnership, and to providing for the well-being of the dog (veterinary care, proper grooming, exercise, etc.).

Please note that the welfare costs of keeping a dog are a factor to consider which must include insurance and fees for vet checks etc.

VWD provides ongoing support for the lifetime of our partnerships.

Veterans must also be willing to uphold the standards set by VWD for assistance dog partnerships.

My dog does what I need it to already, can I register for assistance dog status?

Unfortunately not. There is no shortcut to qualification.

Whilst we recognised that any dog can be of assistance, all dogs must go through a rigorous selection assessment and the PALS training programme before they can become an assistance dog under our name. This process can take up to 2 years.

Can I raise my own puppy to become an assistance dog?

Speak to us first please. We don't advise anyone gets a puppy without thorough research and a complete understanding of what is needed to raise a potential assistance dog.

Anyone can choose to raise their own puppy, but there are no guarantees of successfully raising a puppy for assistance dog work.

It is a huge undertaking to raise puppies specifically to work as assistance dogs.

There are critical periods of puppy development that need to be addressed - as with any dog - to ensure they are brought up appropriately and ready for life as a working dog.

Preparing a dog for life as an assistance dog is one of the most important elements of any training.

By effectively socialising and habituating dogs to every‚Äźday situations in a positive and effective way - during and beyond the socialisation and critical period - we can enhance their development into well socialised, confident dogs which is key for a successful assistance dog relationship.

As a Veteran with mental health difficulties, you must think very carefully and decide if you are able to do this for a puppy with future assistance dog training in mind.

We are not able to provide training for owners of puppies and we do not initially assess dogs until at least 9 months old.

What are the requirements for housing an assistance dog?

We require a dog to have direct ground floor access* to a private safe space for toileting and for welfare needs. This can either be a garden or yard but must be able to be made secure if not already*.

Communal areas and shared spaces are not accepted, nor can we place a dog into a home that does not have ground floor access to an outside space. (These limitations include flats and apartment blocks).

We always conduct homechecks before a dog is placed to confirm that the availability of an outside area is suitable.

*If you are unsure then you are welcome to send us photos

Do you receive any government funding to pay for the dogs and the training?

We receive no government funding and rely solely on the generosity of the public, voluntary donations, trusts and fundraising initiatives to continue transforming the lives of Veterans with a mental health disability.

I am not a Veteran - can you help me?

We receive many queries from people with mental health difficulties asking if we can help them.

Unfortunately we are unable to provide any services or support for those who have not served in the Armed Forces.

We recommend people seeking help should look at the organisations listed by Assistance Dogs UK.

Criminal convictions

Applications are accepted from Veterans with a criminal record and are treated in exactly the same way as any other application.

The following list are the exceptions to an application and would automatically be declined:

  • Any conviction of animal abuse
  • Any conviction of abuse towards humans
  • Any conviction resulting being listed on the sex offenders register


All applicants are subject to a DBS check prior to training or support services being provided by the charity.