How To Retire Your Service Dog the Right Way

The relationship between working service dogs and their handlers is one of the closes bonds anyone can have with an animal. These caring, thoughtful, hardworking dogs are literally their handler’s lifeline for years. Unfortunately, dogs don’t live nearly as long as humans and at a certain time, usually between 8 and 10 years old, these loyal friends need to be retired from. Around that time, most dogs simply lose the agility and stamina needed to keep helping out in the way they’re used to. This can be a sad situation for many people, but it doesn’t have to be. There are a lot of things that can be done to make this transition smooth for everyone. In fact, in many cases it doesn’t mean that you lose contact with your close friend at all. So how do you retire a service dog the right way?

Because that bond is so close, the ideal situation is to find a way to keep your retired service dog as close as possible. For some people, that means simply keeping them in the home as a true pet. Of course, this poses some challenges. For one, if you need the full time help of a service dog in the first place, it may be too difficult to bring in a new dog and care for a non-working pet at the same time. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but it’s something that should be seriously considered before making a decision about.

The best option is most likely having a friend or family member adopt the pet. Over the course of your old service dog’s life, it’s likely that he/she has also formed a close bond with a friend or relative of yours. This person might live nearby, or even in the same home as you. Having someone adopt your dog who is already close to you and already cares for you both means that you don’t ever really have to say goodbye. In fact, it can be a wonderful experience to see your hardworking service dog transition into a playful pet that you can enjoy in a way you might not have been able to before.

The final option is being adopted by a stranger. But this is actually not nearly as bad as you might imagine. While you may no longer see your friend anymore, you can solace in the fact that retired service dogs don’t go to kennels to sit for months on end waiting to be snatched up by just anyone. In fact, there’s a long waiting list for people who want to adopt retired service dogs and anyone who does must adhere to very strict criteria. You can rest easy knowing that, if you do have to give your dog up for adoption, he/she will be placed in a loving and competent home especially quickly. Retired service dogs that do end up going to new homes generally end up living very happy and fulfilling lives.

You want to choose the option that’s best not just for you, but for your furry friend as well. While keeping him/her may feel best, it might not actually be what is best for everyone. These decisions are never easy and should be considered carefully. We recommend that you not only take stock of your own situation, but also take the time to talk through the options with friends and loved ones.