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Building the Top-Grade Service Dogs that Improve Warriors’ Lives

 In National, Service Dog Training, Service Dogs

Helpful information on what we look for in our puppies and dogs

We are often asked how we choose our puppies and dogs: where do our puppies come from, and how do we determine if a puppy/dog is a good fit for service work?  We also occasionally receive offers of puppy donations.  Here is some helpful information about what we are looking for in our puppies and dogs and how we choose the right ones for our program.

Our Goals

Our mission is to provide the highest quality service dogs and canine assisted therapeutic programs to improve the lives of our nation’s Warriors.   Being a service dog is no small task and our dogs undergo years of rigorous training and evaluation to ensure they are fully prepared for this demanding role.

While they are training, our dogs work with Warriors in our Service Dog Training Canine Assisted Therapy (SDTCAT) program.  This means that even while they are training, our dogs must be calm and stable enough to make each session therapeutically beneficial to Warriors who may have experienced trauma and may be dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or a Traumatic Brain Injury.

In order to achieve our mission, we pursue two parallel approaches to obtain puppies with the best potential:  breeding and acquisition.  Breeding our own litters enables us to start our structured socialization and training process as early as possible.  To complement our nascent internal breeding program, we partner with non-profit organizations and private breeders that meet our rigorous health and temperament standards to acquire additional puppies so that as many dogs as possible go on to graduate as service dogs for Warriors, or as other types of assistance dogs such as facility dogs that support Warriors at institutions like hospitals, or as Specialist Therapy Dogs that help behavioral health professionals deliver therapy to Warriors at counseling sessions.

Service dog in training Judy, from our partner B.E.S.T. Service Dogs, works with a Veteran at PPH Fairbanks

What do we look for in our puppies and dogs?

We have two priorities for our dogs that enable them to be successful in their work:

1. Even temperament         2. Good health
Eight new service puppies in training joined our program in January 2018 from our partner Project2Heal
Eight new service puppies in training joined our program in January 2018 from our partner Project2Heal

We take the health of our dogs very seriously because once placed, our dogs should have a full working life with their Clients.  Dogs who must retire early due to health issues can unexpectedly leave a Client without the much-needed assistance upon which they rely, and, in the worse case, a dog’s premature passing can be a traumatic event.  As a result, we ensure proper testing occurs to prevent future health issues as much as possible.

The tests we require for our dogs are:

  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Vision
  • Cardiac (preferably done by a cardiologist)
  • Genetic testing for common diseases based on the breed (such as EIC)


So where do we get our puppies?

Our in-house breeding program is ramping up nicely and we expect to have a litter in mid-2018.

We also obtain dogs from partner non-profit organizations that meet or exceed our breeding standards for temperament and health.  We do extensive research on all of our breeders and review all of the dogs’ health clearances and paperwork before working with a breeder.

Currently, these partners include: Bergin College of Canine Studies, Project 2 Heal, and B.E.S.T Service Dogs.

One of our partners says it best:
“Since its inception Project2Heal has made it a corporate policy to provide our pups to organizations that undergo a thorough due diligence process to ensure that our pups work with only the very best in the service dog industry….We look forward to many years of providing beautiful, temperamentally and physically sound purpose Bred Labrador retrievers pups to this wonderful program as a way to assist  Paws for Purple Hearts in achieving our common goal of serving Veterans with service dogs.”

Charlie Petrizzo, CEO/Founder, Project2Heal

Do we take donations of puppies or dogs?

Donate Today and Help a Vet TomorrowWe appreciate everyone who is interested in supporting our work through a generous donation of a puppy.  We consider each puppy we bring into the program very carefully because we want to make sure each dog has the highest chance of graduating.

Our dogs undergo rigorous training and must be calm and confident in any number of unpredictable situations and locations.  In addition, we expect that they will live a full working life with their partners and will not have to retire early due to illness.  In order to do this, we start a structured socialization and training process very soon after the puppies are born.  This includes our popular Puppy Petter volunteer program.  As a result, we are only able to consider donations of puppies under four months whose parents have undergone our standard breeder health testing (please see above), and whose lineage we can trace to get a sense of their relatives’ temperament and health.

Additionally, we only train and place Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Golden/Labrador Retriever crosses.  At this time, we will not consider donations of any other breed.

If you are interested in donating a puppy to our program or are an organization that would like to partner with us, please contact [email protected] with more information on your dog(s), including the pedigree and documentation of health tests listed above.

Why do we use only Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers?

We know there are many successful working service dogs of a variety of breeds, and we support the use of other breeds for service work.  We choose to utilize Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, and Golden/Lab crosses in our program because we feel these dogs’ temperaments and qualities are suited for the type of work they will do with our Clients and these breeds have proven successful for our Clients.  A few of the qualities that we like in Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are that they:

  • Are people oriented and desire to please their person
  • Have relatively calm temperaments and are able to wait patiently for their handler
  • Have soft mouths for retrieving items (one of the core tasks our dogs do)
  • Are popular with the public and invite social interaction, something many of our clients desire
  • Are generally large enough to complete tasks requiring long reach and moderate weight-bearing

Dedicated to a bright future for Warriors

Schatzie, a service puppy in training in San Antonio, joined our program in 2017 from our partner Bergin College of Canine Studies

Schatzie, a service puppy in training in San Antonio, joined our program in 2017 from our partner Bergin College of Canine Studies

As we continue to build our therapy and assistance dog programs, and as we expand to new locations across the country to reach more Warriors, we remain focused on maintaining the highest level of quality in all we do.  The extensive and elaborate effort we make to ensure that Paws for Purple Hearts dogs lead the assistance dog pack is achieving real results and making a real difference.  Our dogs excel at their life-saving mission to help the Warriors who have given us all so very much.  With our dedicated and loyal puppies and dogs at their side, our Warriors are charting a course to recover and reclaim their rightful place in society as productive and fully empowered members of our community.  We remain “doggedly determined” to keep improving our ability to ensure a bright future for an increasing number of Warriors each day.

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