Detailed Application & Training Process

Before applying for an assistance dog, please read through our website, particularly the pages under Who We Are and Apply for a Service Dog. Also, download and read our Pre-Application Booklet (link above). If you feel you are a good candidate for a service dog after reading this material, then please send our Client Services Manager ( the following information:

  • The type of disability you have

  • The tasks you need a dog to help with

  • Where you live

  • Any questions you may have

Our Client Services Manager will contact you by phone or e-mail for a pre-screening interview to make sure you understand the requirements, responsibilities and realities of life with a service dog and to answer any questions you may have.

An application packet will be sent to you if it appears you are an appropriate candidate for our program.  You will need to fill it out and return it to us. 

The packet must include:

  • The completed application form

  • Completed Professional Assessment Form(s) from primary health care and mental care providers

  • An essay (written or video)

  • Two letters of reference

  • $100 processing fee

Eligibility for our program will be determined by the Client Services Manager based on the following criteria:

  • Does the type of dog requested fall into our scope of practice/limitations?

  • Based on the client’s needs, is it likely that we can locate and train a dog within a reasonable amount of time?

  • Does the client seem realistic and accept our application, training, placement and follow-up practices?

  • Is the client close enough to our facility to allow for follow-up services, or can other arrangements be made?

  • Does the client (or family) appear able to adequately care for an assistance dog?

  • Does the client live in an environment that would be safe, comfortable and spacious enough for a dog?

  • Does the client demonstrate a desire to communicate with and become a partner with Summit?

After receiving and approving your application a home visit and interview will be scheduled.

We may require you to video your home environment if a home visit is not possible.  The interview would then take place immediately before your first assessment at our facility. A background check may be conducted.

The next phase in the application process is a first assessment which involves working with dogs at our facility. 

Our trainers will introduce you to a variety of dogs to give you different experiences and to gather information.  We take photos and videos, if you agree, to help us in our later deliberations when we work to match you with an appropriate dog.  You will be responsible for their own travel, lodging and meal expenses while attending this assessment.

After this first assessment, the Summit team will approve or deny your request to be placed on our waiting list, based on whether we think we can make an appropriate match with a dog. 

While waiting, approved applicants learn about dog handling, care and training.  They will be encouraged to read books from Summit’s recommended list and attend training classes if they can.  Two or more additional assessments at our facility are usually required to further evaluate the applicant’s needs to ensure the best match.

A matching assessment will occur at such time as we believe we have a potential service dog for you. 

Dogs may be assessed with several applicants to determine the best fit. 

Once an appropriate match is made and accepted by you, specialized team training begins.

Team training is generally held twice a year at our facility.  It is a two-week period of intensive training for applicants to learn to work with and care for their Summit dogs.  Except for necessary caretakers or parents of minors, applicants attend team training alone to minimize distractions and maximize the opportunity for bonding with their dogs.  Applicants are responsible for their own travel, lodging and meal expenses while attending team training.

Once partnered, you will be required to attend Summit’s annual graduation ceremony and participate in our follow-up procedures to ensure a continued successful working relationship with your dog.

Follow-up lasts for the working lifetime of your dog.  To ensure that our dogs and clients are set up for success, we require participation in follow-up visits at our facility in Anacortes at 3, 6, 9 and 12 months and annually thereafter (more frequently if needed).  Written progress reports must be submitted to Summit monthly for the first six months after placement. 

For Public Service Dogs, a public access test is required annually and is held in Anacortes.  For dogs not going into public, follow-up with a trainer occurs annually.  Graduates are responsible for contacting Summit to schedule these tests and follow-ups. 

Summit maintains a “pay it forward” approach and we hope that our graduates will be active partners with Summit throughout the life of their dog, investing as they are able to assist the organization with fundraising and outreach activities. Our accreditation with Assistance Dogs International requires that we keep certain records current, so we also expect clients to maintain good communication with us and help us in fulfilling these requirements.

Note:  We do not train people’s own dogs.