The Service Dog industry uses purebred dogs because many uneducated trainers believe that pure breeds offer consistent traits and criteria that are easy to work with. These animals are born into the life of becoming a service dog, but we do things differently at Operation Overwatch…There are millions of dogs euthanized each year in the United States, many of which are the victims of over crowded rescue facilities and are otherwise perfectly suitable as Service Dogs once they are given the training, the direction and the chance!

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Picking a Rescue Dog

Our training process starts with finding the right candidate from shelters and adoption agencies across the country. We work with local county shelters and pet orphanages to find dogs that are in need of a home, and that have certain skills and criteria that are present in a skilled Service Dog. Many of the animals we find are badly injured or have a negative past. We are able to offer these dogs help, and set up the structure in their lives.

Service Dog Selection Criteria


Where did the dog come from? Some people insist on a purebred dog, others find strength, comfort and parallels in their own life with a rescued dog.


First, we need to know that the dog is healthy enough to do the job that is required. Second, known or pre-existing conditions can carry a financial burden to the handler

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Drive is easiest explained as work ethic, or desire to do or have something. The three primary drives are food, prey (toys and the like fall within this category) and affection (pack belonging).


How comfortable is the potential Service Dog with other animals, children, people, etc? The candidate should not be concerned, aggressively or too playfully, with other animals as it has a job to do and paying attention to the handler is key.


Intelligence is often quantified by acquisition and retention of behavior, i.e. how quickly does the dog learn and how readily does the dog retain what is learned.


Trainability is a combination of drive and intelligence. Does the dog have a desire to learn, and does the dog learn/retain? If yes, it is relatively easy to train this animal, but if either the drive or intelligence is lacking, training can be difficult.


While often this criteria is irrelevant, sometimes there is an existing dog in the household that we need to work on pairing with the Service Dog. This can make a difference!

Rescue Dog Training

The path to becoming a service dog is longer for some dogs than it is for others. Some animals catch on quickly to the training process and take as little time as 6 weeks to train, and other dogs take more care and take up to eight months. We offer two training options in our program, one where we do the full training of a service dog, and another where we have the veteran or first responder included in the training. To learn more about the training process visit our training pages.