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From Puppy To Service Dog

On average, it takes approximately two years to raise a dog from puppyhood through graduation as a service dog. We rely on a network of volunteers, incarcerated trainers, and our expert staff to prepare each dog that comes through our program to be ready for placement with a client and their individual needs.

Birth to 8 Weeks

Puppies are Born

Our puppies are sourced through our partnership with ADI-accredited members in an international breeding cooperative.


Puppies are born in breeder caretaker homes and spend the first eight weeks of their lives with their siblings and mom. Our caretakers assist in whelping puppies and play a large role in raising and socializing puppies using industry best-practices for neonatal puppies until they are old enough to transition into their raiser homes. When breeder dogs are ready to retire, they are spayed, or neutered, and most are adopted by their breeder caretaker family.

Newborn litter of labrador retriever puppies
Labrador retriever puppies

2 Months to Approximately 8 Months

Puppies Live With Puppy Raisers

Brigadoon puppies live with volunteer puppy raisers, who receive training and support from our staff. We focus on positive relationships and socialization experiences that prepare the puppies for a future as service dogs. We aim to take advantage of the critical socialization period of development (from 3 weeks to 14 weeks) that has a lifelong impact on the puppy’s temperament and trainability. Puppies also start to learn cued behaviors through positive reinforcement and clicker training.

Approximately 8 Months to 18 Months

Prison Training Program 

At this age, dogs enter our Prison Training Program and rotate between our four participating prisons and volunteer fosters. Each dog is assigned to a team of 2 incarcerated trainers to live with full-time and to serve as the primary provider of training and care. Additional prison training program participants assist with dog walking, training, and respite care. Incarcerated trainers work with our dogs on loose-leash walking, cued behaviors, manners, and continued socialization experiences.

Service dog in training with incarcerated trainer in our prison program
Service dog in training with Brigadoon trainer

Approximately 18 Months to 24 Months

Dogs Return For Professional Training

After completing their rotations in our prison training programs, the dogs return to the Brigadoon campus to work with our professional trainers on complex tasks and continued public access work that benefit our clients. During this stage, the dogs are introduced to one or more clients from our waitlist pool. Once a preliminary match has been made, the dog’s training is customized to focus on the needs and priorities of their future partner.

Approximately 2 Years

Team Training

Once a client is matched with their future service dog, they are asked to come onto Brigadoon's campus for a 2-week long intensive Team Training course. This course is integral to our clients learning to navigate the world with their new canine partners.  Over the course of two weeks, they work together to learn each other's "language", the first week in a controlled setting (e.g., a conference room), and the second week out in public where they undergo a Public Access Test in order to graduate.

Service dog graduating class
Service dog with adult partner

2 Years and Beyond

Continued Support

After completing Team Training, our client and their dog begin their partnership as a service dog team.  Brigadoon continues to work with both the client and dog for the lifetime of their partnership.

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