Application Process

Five stages of placing a service dog

1st Stage: Application and interview
2nd Stage:
3rd Stage: Fundraising
4th Stage: Class placement and service dog training
Final Stage: Uniting the client and service dog
1st Stage: Application and interview

Applications for service dogs are currently received and reviewed by the Executive Director. The Executive Director makes a determination regarding the need of the applicant; the ability of to meet the applicant’s needs, and interviews the applicant to determine what the dog would be trained to do. Based on this need the training tasks are determined and the contracts are sent to the recipient.

2nd Stage:

After the interview is complete, fundraising and contracts are reviewed with the applicant. Upon receipt of the signed contracts from the applicant, the applicant formally becomes a for Ability Family. The family then begins to fundraise, as a volunteer, for for Ability.

3rd Stage: Fundraising


The family begins fundraising. Funds raised are sent to Headquarters in Xenia, Ohio, where money raised is deposited into the for Ability, Inc. bank account and credited to the families fundraising requirement.

The family is responsible to raise the total amount stated in the contract to move to the 4th Stage.

4th Stage: Class placement and service dog training


After the family has finished their fundraising, will place the family into a class. The class is that period of time the family come to to train with their new service dog. Dogs are selected for the class based on the children in them and their needs. More dogs are worked for each class than needed and several dogs are worked which may be a good match for each child in the class. Formal child-specific training is done during the last 2-5 months of training before the family comes to their class.

Final Stage: Uniting the client and service dog

4 & Client

Training is provided by the Training Director, Trainers, and Interns under the direct supervision of the Training Director.

The Client, Service Dog, and Training Director will be united to finish and polish contracted training services in an 12-day extensive training session.

Upon completion of training, 4 service dogs are required to be re-certified annually.

How does 4 Paws for Ability meet the needs of children with seizures?

4 Paws trains seizure assistance dogs that are unique for each child. Most agencies will not work with children, especially very young children. At 4 Paws, we have no minimum age requirement and believe fully in early intervention.

There are two types of dogs trained to help with seizure disorders; Seizure Response Dogs and Seizure Alert Dogs. Our training falls into the second category and we refer to them as Seizure Assistance Dogs.

Most of the calls 4 Paws receives on a daily basis are in regard to Seizure Assistance Dogs are from the parents of children who have seizures. This led us to develop a program geared toward the placement of service dogs trained to provide a level of emotional support above and beyond what could be achieved with the addition of a family pet as well as training the dog to alert parents to seizures when they occur, if not even beforehand. We have an 80% success rate in our placements.

While children are not mature enough to participate in the intensive training process needed for the successful placement of a Seizure Response Dog (agencies that place service dogs with adults typically train Seizure Response Dogs), parents of children with seizures can use a Seizure Assistance Dog as a tool in helping keep their child safe and the benefits of having a dog as a companion and friend are priceless.

The Seizure Service Dog can do the following:

Provide a measure of comfort for the child

Provide a distraction during unpleasant medical procedures, such as blood tests

Be used during a therapy session to enlist the child’s participation

In addition, children with seizures may be afraid of being alone, sleeping in their own beds, and engaging in activities because they might have a seizure. In these instances, dogs can give the children a little courage while helping them maintain their independence.

In addition to providing emotional support in various medical environments, Seizure Assistance Dogs can bring with them miracles that arise when service dogs are provided to children with disabilities.

Sometimes the child who has extensive seizures must wear a helmet to protect from falls when playing on the playground, or while playing with the neighborhood kids, or during school recess. These circumstances can, and often do, lead to isolation. The children who lack understanding of the child’s “difference” from them often avoid the child who experiences seizures. Even young children that have friends may find themselves left behind by their peers as they get older if the seizures limit their activities or result in cognitive delays.

However, there are few children who don’t like dogs, and the miracles that occur when children with disabilities enter the playgrounds with their service dogs is amazing. The service dog breaks the ice. Children will come to pet the dog, and in doing so there is an opportunity to get to know the child and understand the associated disability rather than avoiding the unknown.

Seizure Assistance Dogs are true service dogs and are allowed to go everywhere the recipient child goes as long as an adult team member is with them (someone trained to handle the dog for the child). These dogs are task trained.

All Seizure Assistance Dogs at 4 Paws are trained in behavior disruption, which is a skill started in our Autism Program. With behavior disruption, the parents have commands to send the dog in to interact with the child. Seizure medications often cause behavioral issues, and this skill is a great means of helping your child work though them.

In addition, some seizure medications cause issues with balance and the dogs are trained, if needed, to help the child during these times by walking beside them with a harness they can hold to help stabilize themselves. During the interview and acceptance phase other tasks that may benefit the child may also be identified and planned into the training process.

Some of our parents have reported that their children have fewer seizures since their dogs entered their homes. This is believed to be the result of a reduction in the stress level the children have through the comfort they find in their new companions.

Seizure alerting behavior is a naturally occurring behavior in some dogs. It is thought that perhaps 20% of dogs placed with a person who has seizures may naturally alert.

One way to explain how this works is to discuss housebreaking. When you bring a new puppy home, you can’t say to the puppy, “When you have to go outside, run in a circle three times so I will know you need to go.” What we do is to watch the puppy closely, after a period of time the person will learn to “read” the dog’s nonverbal behavior, indicating the need to go outside. For instance, the owner begins to notice that every time the puppy runs in circles, they then proceed to “Go potty.”

Eventually, the owner will let the puppy outside immediately after observing this behavior and no further accidents occur in the home. This is the same principle as understanding how dogs alert to seizures. If the dog is able to make the connection between the chemical changes he senses and the occurrence of seizures, he may begin to act in a certain way when these changes begin.

For example, they may come and stare at the owner, or they may begin barking and/or even nipping at their owners. Eventually people who seize realize that every time their dog barks madly and nips at them they will have a seizure and they will begin to prepare themselves for the seizure before it actually starts.

The one thing scientists have been able to come to an agreement on is that the dog smells a chemical body change on the person just prior to and during a seizure. While many believe it is not possible to train seizure alert here at 4 Paws we can and do! We have developed a program at 4 Paws to work with children who have very frequent, obvious seizures. We have seen some great success with this training and have noticed that more dogs begin to alert the seizures with the training than without.

Without going into training details, we are able to do the training if the child has frequent seizures. For us frequent means three to four a month on a regular basis. We work with the dog here to facilitate a natural response after the dog is placed. While it still does not guaranteed that our trained seizure assistance dogs will pre-alert, the ability greatly increases it if used in conjunction with a skill trained as a part of the behavior disruption training, in which the dog is trained to interact with the child in a specific manner on parent command.

Fill out the application to apply for a service dog!