Program Eligibility



Veterans and civilians with a documented disability as defined under the ADA, “…a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” are qualified to apply for the assistance of a Service Dog in order to enhance their independence or their quality of life. Veterans suffering from PTS and other disabilities receive priority for training and financial assistance from Give Us Paws.

For Veterans seeking funding, a copy of your DD-214 and your letter of disability rating from the VA will be required in order to schedule an interview or evaluation.

For civilian applicants, we require a letter from a physician or licensed therapist recommeding the use of a Service Animal pertaining to your disablility prior to beginning Public Access training.

Give Us Paws accepts a limited number of applications per year. Give Us Paws determines and selects individuals that fit best into our program. Give Us Paws is committed to producing skilled handlers who can train reliable service dogs to create functional service dog teams. The selection process is focused on the potential client’s ability to make the lifestyle changes necessary to commit to training a dog and the thorough evaluation of each dog to ensure the success of every service dog team to the best of our ability.

Some considerations before applying:
Legal Requirements under the ADA:

  • The handler must have a disability as defined under the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • The dog must be trained to function in a safe and appropriate way in public as well as to perform tasks to help the disabled handler do things he or she is unable to do because of the disability.

Give Us Paws Requirements:

  • The handler must be financially able to take full responsibility for a dog, including, but not limited to routine veterinary care, food and living arrangements inside the home with the handler. The handler must also be financially prepared to provide any emergency veterinary care needed by the dog.
  • Many veterinarians offer discounts for Service Dogs trained in qualified programs. If the handler is unable to meet some of the physical and mental requirements of a dog on a daily basis, there must be someone else in the home designated to feed and exercise the dog or address other responsibilities related to having a dog in the home.
  • Give Us Paws handlers must should be willing to participate in follow-up training.
  • All disabled handlers must currently be under the care of a physician or licensed therapist.

Requirements for being able to train a dog:

  • The handler must be physically and cognitively capable of participating in the training process, up to one hour a day.
  • The handler must be able to independently handle his or her Service Dog. Give Us Paws teaches handlers to train using a variety of techniques, verbal cues and hand signals to meet a handler’s individual needs, though many behaviors are consistent between all service dogs.
  • Give Us Paws handlers must be willing to participate in follow-up training.


  • Handlers and graduates are not required to participate in fundraising or public relations activities in support of Give Us Paws, but we would appreciate it.
  • Generally, Give Us Paws offers training and support services limited to the greater Houston metropolitan area.

Your physicians, therapists, and counselors may have additional thoughts about how a service animal could help you and if you can manage the care and upkeep of a canine assistant. Having the support of one or more members of your medical team can also help in providing you with documentation regarding the recommendation. You are not required to provide documentation of disability to an accommodation under the ADA.

If you fit our qualifications, please apply now.


The candidate dog must:

  • If a potential client’s dog is to be considered for evaluation for training as a service dog, the dog should be at least 6 months old.
  • Service dogs are usually in service through the age of 10 – 12 years depending on the individual dog, so a dog over 3 years of age may not be the best choice because the return of time in service to a disabled handler may be minimal in comparison to the time, effort and money expended to train the dog.
  • Service dogs must be spayed or neutered, current on vaccinations, clean and well-groomed and free of internal and external parasites.  We recognize and respect the recent research suggesting the benefits of delaying alteration surgery until the dog is mature; however, we do not support allowing a service dog candidate to breed.
  • We require a veterinarian’s statement of a service dog candidate’s health to ensure no known congenital defects, communicable diseases, parasites, or long-term medically required treatments will interfere with the dog’s ability to perform.  We recommend orthopedic evaluation of dogs’ joints and ophthalmic evaluation of dogs’ eyes for further assurance a dog will be able to work for a long time.  In cases where a dog may be needed for any mobility support, we require orthopedic evaluation.
  • We will thoroughly evaluate every service dog candidate to ensure training can be efficient.  Dogs known to have shown aggression, resource guarding, substantial fear, or are known difficult to handle for routine grooming and veterinary care are not candidates for service dog work.
  • Only a limited number of client’s existing dogs pass our evaluation and qualify for our Service Dog training program, but we requier that you have your own dog already. We no longer evaluate shelter dogs to match with potential candidates.

Potential Service Dog candidates will be evaluated for temperament and aptitude for learning.

If you are serious about training a Service Dog, this is not the time to rescue or rehabilitate a problem dog.

Important temperament traits we look at:

  • Confident vs. Timid — Service dogs are confident, friendly, and curious.
  • Secure vs. Insecure — Service Dogs must be able to relax in new places and new situations, including those that are loud, busy, and crowded.
  • Calm vs. Frenetic — “over the top” energy is indicative of a dog’s inability to exhibit self-control and may be indicative of anxiety.
  • Gentle vs. Rough — hard mouths, taking treats roughly, playing roughly with other dogs and people may be indicative of stress and anxiety.
  • People-Centered vs. Environment-Centered — Service Dogs choose to interact with people over exploring the environment.
  • Attentive vs. Distracted — The dog should mostly be paying attention to you, not what is going on everywhere else.
  • Dependent vs. Independent — A Service Dog needs to look to its handler for direction but be independent enough to not need constant cues or attention.

Breed Characteristics

Dogs have been bred for hundreds of generations to have certain characteristics that help them perform certain tasks for humans, including herding, guarding, hunting, vermin killing, fighting with other dogs, sitting on people’s laps, and more.  In our society, we have many mixes of multiple breeds.  The most commonly seen service dogs and those bred for service dog work tend to be Labrador and Golden retrievers – sporting breeds developed to work closely with their handlers, responding to cues to find and pick up game.  Small breeds are well-represented in service dog work, jumping down from their handlers’ wheelchairs to retrieve dropped items, laundry from the washer or dryer, and more.  Mixed breeds can provide achievement of many of the qualities desired for a service dog:  ease of fitting under a table or airplane seat, the type of coat desired by a handler for ease of grooming or tactile stimulation, and often a desirable temperament for training.

We recommend a potential client look objectively at the dog he or she owns, considering what breed characteristics are represented as well as what temperament qualities the dog shows.  We will consider almost any breed or mix that will meet the requirements of a client; certain tasks like opening and closing doors may require a larger dog, or a handler’s disability may require a dog of a particular height for ease of handling.  We will thoroughly evaluate every dog and accept only those that meet the criteria shown to be necessary for success because we want our client handlers to succeed in achieving the status of a functional service dog team.

We will speak with you extensively about your needs, your dog’s suitability, and what might be the right dog for you during the interview process.