Apply For a Service Dog

Retrieving Independence works hard to select and breed dogs that will be suitable for service work. We work just as hard to qualify and match clients with a service dog.


Retrieving Independence (RI) is invested in the success of our service dog teams.  The application process helps us determine if our programs can meet your needs and gives each applicant a chance to determine if RI is a good fit for them.  We have found the following qualities create successful service dog partnerships:

  • The RI trained dog is likely to provide skills the applicant needs. Currently our dogs are trained for mobility assistance, diabetic alert, seizure alert, and mental/emotional needs such as PTSD and anxiety.
  • The applicant possesses the personal qualities necessary to ensure success at the RI training sessions.
  • The applicant has adequate emotional and cognitive skills, and appropriate judgment, to provide for a service dog’s safety and well-being.
  • The applicant has access to adequate resources for housing, exercising, feeding, and providing medical care for a service dog.
  • The applicant is age 14-70 (with cognitive ability of 14+ years).
  • Please note, RI does not train individually owned dogs and we do not offer services for hearing and/or vision support.


RI’s process begins with a shorter, initial application. The information provided helps our team better understand your situation and needs and determine if we should move to the full application phase.

A full application includes:

  • Application Form
  • Medical History Forms (1 completed by you; 1 completed by your doctor)
  • Personal Letter of Reference (from a friend, teacher, or someone other than a family member)
  • Professional Letter of Reference (from a therapist, social worker, teacher, employer or any other professional with whom you have contact)
  • Signed Agreement
  • $200 Application Fee

Once we have received your completed application, we will review it and follow up with any questions that may arise. A staff member will contact qualifying applicants for an in-person interview.

During the in-person interview, applicants will have a chance to meet our staff and learn more about our process. Following the interview, all applications will be reviewed by the entire RI team and decisions will be communicated within four weeks.

Applicants who are selected and wish to become a member of the RI family will be placed on our waiting list.

A matching process is used to find the potential dog(s) that would be a good fit for each individual recipient’s needs and lifestyle. When a proposed match has been made, the recipient will be notified and invited to the matching session at our facility in Nashville, TN.

Currently new recipients joining the waiting list can expect to wait six months, and up to two years, before they are partnered with their service dog. This is a very general estimate and in any given case the wait may be longer or shorter.

Recipient Experience

When it is time to place you with your new service dog, each recipient attends a mandatory 7 day training session at RI’s facility in Nashville,TN.

At this training, we will teach you the skills you need to maximize the benefits of a service dog partnership, give you a chance to bond with your new partner, and allow you to become comfortable with being in public with your partner. We move from initial classroom training sessions to supervised outings to a final solo outing at the end of the training.

Upon graduation from RI’s service dog training camp, you will receive free lifetime follow up and assistance from our staff to ensure your team is working well and maintaining suitability for ADA compliant public access work. Upon graduating with your service dog, the following check-ins and training follow up will be required:

  1. Virtual check-in following the first 2 weeks of placement with your dog.
  2. Virtual monthly check-ins for the first 12 months following placement with your dog.
  3. Monthly written reports submitted within 1 week of virtual monthly check-ins for the first 12 months following placement with your service dog.
  4. Annual written reports submitted each year for the duration of the dog’s working life following the first 12 months after placement with your service dog.
  5. Annual virtual check ins or in-person. Public
 Access Tests to be completed every 12 months for the duration of the dog’s working life following the first 12 months of check ins and written reports. Public Access Tests will be completed in place of virtual check ins every 1-2 years, at the discretion of training staff.

Additionally, you will be required to attend a one-day session at approximately six months post placement, and again at approximately 12 months. These sessions allow us to observe how your partnership is progressing and offer any additional support needed to ensure you are a great success together.

After the initial year, we offer annual refresher courses to make sure that as life changes, we are there to support you!


At RI we invest over $50,000 in the breeding, training, and placement of each service dog, as well as the continued support of the team through the life of the placement.

RI does not pass along the full cost of a placement to our recipients, but we do ask them to share in the investment required for the time, energy, and financial commitment that RI makes in each successful partnership:

  • In 2022, each recipient is asked to contribute $15,000 of the total cost

Although we do not charge for the mandatory training sessions, recipients are responsible for travel, accommodation, and food costs during that training.

Equal Opportunity Statement

  1. At Retrieving Independence, we strive to live like our service dogs – we accept and value all people. To this do this, we follow these guiding principles:
    • We commit to the equitable treatment of every staff member, volunteer, inmate trainer, potential and current recipients, and of the broader community we serve.
    • We commit to show respect and acceptance, with a focus on celebrating the unique perspectives we all bring to the organization.
    • We acknowledge and honor the fundamental value and dignity of all individuals.
    • We strive to eliminate discrimination in all its forms.
    • We vow to use our voice to speak out against injustice and protect those who are under resourced, under-represented, and marginalized.
  2. Clients may leave the process at any time for any reason.
  3. Clients are not required to undertake any public relations activities or fundraising work.
Leo -Retrieving Independence

If you are ready to apply for a Retrieving Independence Service Dog, please fill out a request for an application.