Service Dog Washout – It Happens

What is a Service Dog Washout?


A washout is merely a dog that you realize is not suited for service dog work, even though he has been in training. This can be caused due to many reasons, such as the dog has anxiety, or aggression, or the dog does not learn the tasks. Some dogs will simply always be afraid of automatic doors, or elevators. Sometimes learning the tasks can stress out a dog.


Options for your Service Dog Washout


Remember that this isn’t the end of the world, and you do have options. It’s just the truth that not every dog will be the perfect candidate to become a service animal.


  • You could keep the dog as a pet and find another service dog for your needs.  This might lead to jealousy.


  • You could also try getting the dog into a slightly different line of work, such as working in an airport or becoming a sniffing dog.


  • You could also give the dog to someone else who would like to take care of him.


  • Lastly, you could give the dog up to a shelter for adoption.



white dog


How to Prevent Service Dog Washout


  • Whenever possible, get a professional dog trainer to help select your service dog candidate, if you are planning to train the dog yourself. Too often people will pick their own dog based on emotion, and not necessarily for the crucial traits needed for the dog to become successful.


  • Have a professional dog trainer help you along the way, if you are training the dog yourself. This will be very valuable as they can pick up on details you may not be aware of.


  • Pay close attention to warning signs that the dog may not be suitable. These are fairly obvious signs such as the dog being fearful or anxious, or the dog being aggressive by nature. Realize that these underlying temperament characteristics can not be ‘un-trained’


  • Have your dog checked for joint problems via X-ray, and other health problems, many dogs are prone to hip problems and would make them an unsuitable candidate.


  • Do not push your dog to do too much, too soon. Most dogs are not physically and mentally mature until they are 2 years old. You can burn out your dog if you push him too hard. So don’t feel like you need to rush.



Sam Amy Nelson

Sam Amy Nelson (she/her) is an advocate for people with disabilities and mental health.

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