NEW PHONE NUMBER! Call (719) 258-0474 for more information!

Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What training methods do you use?
2.  How are detection dogs different from most dogs?
3.  How are dogs chosen?
4.  How accurate are detection dogs?
5.  Can a child be the primary handler for an Allergy Detection Service Dog?
6.  What is the hardest part about owning an Allergen Detection Service Dog?
7.  Where are service dogs allowed to go?
8.  What is the value of certification?
9.  What does an allergen detection dog NOT do?
10.  Why are dogs and families not pre-matched?
11.  Can a dog be trained on other allergens (additional odors)?
12.  How much does it cost to get an Allergen Detection Service Dog?
13.  Is the cost of the course covered in the cost of the dog?
14. What if I need my dog to perform advanced detection tasks?
15.  Will you work with our non-profit fund-raising organization?
16.  Is financing available?
17.  Do you take credit cards?
18.  Is the cost of an Allergen Detection Service Dog covered by insurance?
19.  Is the cost of a Service Dog tax deductible?
20.  Is there any assistance to help cover other costs associated with my Service Dog?

1. What training methods do you use?Back to Top

Our dogs are taught to hunt for allergens using reward-based training techniques.  This process harnesses the dogs’ natural abilities and drives to produce spectacular results.  When trained properly, the life of a detection service dog becomes a fun and ongoing game of hide-and-go-seek.  The results of this positive training are dogs who truly enjoy what they are doing and look forward to doing their job every day!

Dogs can smell allergens

2. How are detection dogs different from most dogs?Back to Top

It takes a unique combination of characteristics to produce a good detection dog.  Although all dogs’ noses are more sensitive than people’s noses, a dog must be able and willing to focus on searching through the extraordinary number of smells that enter the dog’s nose to find the one (or more) smell he is looking for.  There is no cookie cutter model for finding just the right dog; each dog’s characteristics will work together differently to produce the unique individual dog.

3. How are dogs chosen?Back to Top

When searching for a service dog candidate, we evaluate several factors.  Through a series of physical, intellectual and environmental tests, we analyze the dogs’ motivations (called drives) by carefully assessing their behavior.  We look for a highly motivated, intelligent dog with an independent spirit that still has a willingness to please.

Allergen Detection Service Dog

4. How accurate are detection dogs?Back to Top

Detection dogs are the most accurate and practical form of scent detection readily available.  Scientists at Auburn University have measured dog’s ability to sniff odor in parts per billion, and it is estimated that approximately 1/3 of a dog’s brain is devoted entirely to scent and scent recognition.  Although we require 100% accuracy during the initial certification, this does not mean they will alert to every single trace of an allergen.  No dog is ever 100% accurate all of the time.  Even the best detection dogs in the world still miss traces of odor occasionally.  We like to say dogs are human, too.  What we mean is that they are not infallible.  They can have off days, get sick or be distracted just like people.  Even though they are not perfect, they are the best resource available.

Only children over the age of 13 can handle allergen detection dogs.

5. Can a child be the primary handler for an Allergy Detection Service Dog?Back to Top

We will not certify anyone under the age of 13 to be the primary handler.  Learning to use a dog to perform detection successfully is a mentally and physically demanding skill.  The handler must understand and recognize the dog’s physical changes of behavior when he is searching as well as be able to identify factors that may change how the environment needs to be searched.    No one would expect a child to understand how air flow in a room may be pushing odor away from the source, to pay attention to a dog’s increased sniffing activity in an area, or how to ask a dog to check specific areas without accidentally coming in contact with the allergen as the dog is checking.  Additionally, the psychological stress on a child caused by knowingly and willfully going near an allergen can be very intense.  This may also be true for young teenagers or adults.  Although we take serious precautions to ensure the allergens are safely contained, we encourage you to talk about how this might make you or your teen feel to be in a room knowing allergens are present during training times.

The only exception to this rule will be if the dog has been working successfully in that family for at least two years and the child would like to come back through the class to try to certify as a handler.  Young teenage handlers may have a difficult time certifying with their dog on their first attempt, but can become very good handlers with enough practice.  If the handler is going to be a young teen, a parent or guardian should accompany them and should plan on being certified as the primary handler.  Just because a person does not certify, does not mean they cannot continue to practice and try for a re-certification later on when they feel more comfortable.

6. What is the hardest part about owning an Allergen Detection Service Dog?Back to Top

In order to learn how to properly use a detection dog, you must be willing train with the allergens you have stayed far away from for so long.  It is a necessary, but scary aspect of living with an allergen detection dog.  There are many options for safe storage and handling methods that we discuss at length, but you must be willing to handle the allergens on a regular basis in order to maintain your dog’s training.  This is true of any type of detection dog.  We recommend you train with your dog at least two to three times per week for at least the first year.  After this training can generally be reduced to once a week.   The frequency of training will ultimately depend on the dog.  You must be willing to train often enough to maintain a high level of accuracy.  Training is a continual process that must be carried on through the life of the dog.  All detection dogs will lose their proficiency without continued maintenance training.

7. Where are service dogs allowed to go?Back to Top

Current U.S. Federal laws allow service dogs to go anywhere the general public is commonly allowed to go.  This includes places like restaurants, movie theaters, stores and hotels.  It applies to all privately owned businesses that serve the public.  Because service dogs are NOT pets, these rules apply even to places that have a “No Pets” policy.  People with service dogs may not be segregated from the general population and may not be charged additional fees because of their dog.  Almost every school district our dogs have been placed in have been very accommodating.  It appears that school districts nationwide are moving toward a greater understanding and acceptance of the use of non-traditional service dogs.

8. What is the value of certification? Back to Top

Current ADA law does not require nor provide any certification standards for service dogs, but it is the position of this company that individuals should not rely on the detection capabilities of a dog unless the dogs are satisfactorily demonstrating these skills in a way that can be objectively tested and measured.  Typical certifications for most working detection dogs are renewed annually.  Additionally, an official certificate stating you have passed the course or have passed an annual recertification can be key factors in reducing resistance you may get when arranging to use your dog routinely in public places, specifically in schools.  We provide a standard paper certificate for display and a pocket-sized laminated certificate that can be attached to your dog’s vest.  There are many people who do not understand service dog law and the more information you can provide, the better.

Service dogs are lifesaving friends

9. What does an allergen detection dog NOT do?Back to Top

There are many misconceptions about what allergen detection dogs are trained to do.  The basic answer is that they search the environment and alert to the presence of odor.

Dogs are odor detectors, not substance detectors.  Many factors affect the level of odor being released by a substance, such as age, environmental conditions, physical barriers  (such as wrappers), as well as the amount of the substance and its surface area.  If the odor is not present, a dog cannot alert to it.  An example of this is a six-month old residual peanut oil smear on a table that a dog may never find.  At some point, the odor being released from the substance will become undetectable, even if there is still a chance it will cause a reaction for your child.  This is the greatest downfall of any detection dog and the greatest myth.  It simply is not possible for the nose to detect what is no longer there.

Allergen detection dogs are trained to detect allergens, not the onset of an anaphylactic reaction.  To date, there are no known instances of dogs that have been successfully trained to detect anaphylaxis.  No studies have been done demonstrating that anaphylaxis is associated with a unique chemical smell; however we would be happy to partner with any research institution interested in studying this aspect of anaphylaxis.

10. Why are dogs and families not pre-matched?Back to Top

In the past we have seen many unfortunate situations created by pre-matching dogs with families.  When a pre-matched dog does not work well and the family has spent six months or a year talking about a dog and looking at his picture, then they are either broken-hearted at having to switch dogs, or they wind up taking home a very expensive pet.  Temperament, leadership styles, activity level, search speed and overall demeanor are just a few of the many factors that affect the successful pairing of a dog with their handler.  While all dogs meet the same certification criteria, they go about doing it in their own unique way.  Every dog, just like every person, is very different.

By keeping a larger selection pool of trained dogs, we are able to match families with their dog once they arrive, and then test the match to see if it works.  If a match is not working well, we can switch out dogs to see if another dog’s personality is more suitable.

11. Can a dog be trained on additional odors?Back to Top

Yes!  The hardest part about training detection dogs is teaching them to hunt indoors in any environment, amidst distractions and competing smells, and for long periods of time without finding anything.  To put it in dog terms, we teach them that hunting for (and finding) odor is the key to all life’s happiness!  Once the dogs understand that this is their job in every place they go, then additional odors can be picked up quickly.  The other odors are just additional bridges to happiness.  If you decide to add odors to your dog’s “scent vocabulary” we assign a trainer to work one-on-one with you during the class to make sure you feel comfortable with your dog’s abilities.  We have found two weeks to be sufficient time for the dogs to learn these new odors extremely well.

12. How much does it cost to get an Allergen Detection Service Dog?Back to Top

Prices vary based on the Certification Level the dog the dog has attained.  Dogs that have completed their Level I Training Certification begin at $12,595.  Each client is unique in their specific needs and we will work with you to find out how your requirements match up to our certification levels.  While most clients choose to get their dogs as early in the training process as possible, some clients prefer a more seasoned dog that has proven itself through practical life experience.  Whichever Certification Level you choose, we will work with you to find a dog that is an excellent match for you and your family.

13. Is the cost of the course covered in the cost of the dog?Back to Top

The course and the dog are priced separately.  This allows families who are not getting a service dog to participate in the allergy education classes and the KIDS’ camps.  In order to get a service dog, the course must be completed. The course has been specifically designed to be a fun and educational family experience with the benefit of providing exceptional allergen detection dogs and professional training for their handlers.  The cost of the full two-week course covers two adults and one child.  Additional children may attend the KIDS’ camps for $250 per week. Transportation, lodging, and meals must be arranged separately.

14. What if I need my dog to perform advanced detection tasks?Back to Top

All of our dogs perform very successfully and effectively.  We set the bar quite high for our dogs.  Even our Level 1 certification criteria exceed industry standards and norms for allergen detection levels.  Our dogs are available at different levels of certification, each tailored to meet the needs and desires of different types of clients.  Our certification criteria extend through Level IV, which includes dogs who have at least one year of practical experience detecting allergens in real-life public settings, such as schools, churches and retail stores.

15. Will you work with our non-profit fund raising organization?Back to Top

Absolutely!   Some non-profit organizations exist solely to help people raise funds for allergen detection dogs.  Whether you are fund raising on your own or through one of these organizations, we will do our best to assist you in your efforts in any way we can.  We have seen many successful fundraising campaigns and would be happy to share these ideas with you.

16. Is financing available?Back to Top

Yes.  Financing is often an option as a personal line of credit available through a lender.  Often the best choice for this type of financing is your personal bank or credit union.  Other lenders are available, although we do not endorse any particular institution or creditor.

17. Do you take credit cards?Back to Top

Yes.  We accept Visa and Mastercard.

18. Is the cost of an Allergen Detection Service Dog covered by insurance?Back to Top

The majority of insurance companies do not cover this cost; however in most cases you can use your Healthcare Reimbursement Account or other types of Healthcare Spending Accounts to cover the cost of a service animal.  Federal law now specifically covers allergen detection as an example of a function a service dog may fulfill.  Check with your insurance provider for specific details.  We will help you research this option if you wish.

19. Is the cost of a Service Dog tax deductible?Back to Top

Yes.  According to current IRS tax laws, you can include the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a service dog in your medical expense deductions.  In addition, you may be eligible for other tax savings while you have your service dog.  These tax savings can help defer the costs associated with owning a service dog and are covered in detail during our two-week training course by a tax professional.

20. Is there any assistance to help cover other costs associated with my Service Dog?Back to Top

Yes, there are many options you may wish to consider.  If you are a veteran, the Veterans Administration may be able to reimburse all veterinary costs for your service dog.  To access this service, contact the Veteran’s Administration to speak with a caseworker.  You can also contribute to your Flexible Spending Account plan for all service dog expenses, including veterinary costs.   Additionally, many local veterinary offices will discount the cost of their services for working dogs.  Health insurance plans are also available for dogs.  National companies such as VPI, Healthy Paws and PetPlan USA provide different coverage levels based on your needs.  Some companies, such as Mourer Foster, specialize in animal life insurance.  Other companies offer this service but may not advertise it on their web sites.  If you have a preferred insurance provider, check with them to see if they offer animal life insurance.


  • If a dog can guide a blind person or warn a person with epileptic sezuires based on sound and visual stimuli and the phyisical reaction of the body it’s surprising that detection dogs cannot see a child going into anaphylaxsis that show physical
    signs of the reaction by gasping for air and Visual signs like grabbing of the Neck itching hives on the body as well as redness and swelling in the person face or mouth and scratching which is visible in most cases.

    12/07/2012 at 11:08 am

    • That’s great question, Gina. Seizure response dogs do alert to visual clues and are trained to respond appropriately. Allergen detection dogs are typically trained to alert the handler to traces of specific allergens in the environment. This is still a very emergent field, and changes in how these dogs should and/or could work better come to light after every placement. It would not be at all surprising if dogs were trained to do this very thing in the near future.

      12/07/2012 at 3:53 pm

  • What are your thoughts on a gluten detecting dog? I have Celiac disease and have severe reactions to gluten, corn and other foods. Are you able to train a dog to detect gluten?

    12/31/2013 at 5:02 pm

    • Hi Rebecca,
      Thanks for writing. Gluten detection is highly controversial. While gluten is no more difficult for the dogs to detect than any other allergen, it is incredibly prevalent in the environment. We recognize the enormous burden that Celiac disease and other gluten-related diseases cause for people and their families. The need for a solution is huge, but we must first hold to the medical premise of “Do no harm.”
      When we train dogs for people with contact anaphylaxis, these people are typically staying away from places that have high levels of contamination. For instance, a person with a contact allergy to peanuts wouldn’t even go into a restaurant that had open barrels of peanuts or served very many peanut products. These people are already choosing areas they believe to be free of the allergen, and are using the dog as an added layer of protection. However, people with Celiac disease are generally safe around gluten as long as they are incredibly careful not to consume it. So instead of staying away from a bakery, they may go in there and order from the gluten-free menu. The concern then is whether or not the meal served is truly gluten-free, and that is where a detection dog seems like it would be very useful. While dogs are capable of detecting minute traces of odor, whether or not they can do this in an area that is absolutely saturated with the odor they are trying to detect is very uncertain. A detection dog’s main drawback is that they are odor detectors, not substance detectors. The dog’s nose will already be detecting TONS of gluten in the air, and you would be asking them to somehow ignore all of that and tell you if there is a slight odor from cross-contamination coming from your meal. Since science has not proven whether or not dogs are up to this incredible challenge, I am very hesitant to use them for this purpose. However, so many people have asked about this that I am trying to figure out a way to make it happen. If anyone in the canine research community has any ideas, please pass them on!
      Thanks again for question, Rebecca. Be safe!

      03/12/2014 at 10:38 am

  • If I live in a different state how does the training process work and how long will I be there for training with the dog?

    Ashley gerlach
    03/12/2014 at 9:33 am

    • Hi Ashley,
      That’s a great question. Training takes about two weeks. Traditionally this has been done here in Colorado, but more and more often people are choosing to have a trainer come to them with the dog and do 1-on-1 training with them in their home/work/school environments. The cost is about the same either way, but can actually work out to be cheaper if you were planning on traveling with a family member since travel costs will be cut down. You can choose either option.

      The first step is always to fill out an application and get the discussion started so you will know if you are eligible for a service dog. There is no cost or obligation associated with the application, it just lets us know you are officially interested. On the application, where it asks for a class date, write in several 2-week periods that will work best for you.
      Best wishes for health!

      03/12/2014 at 10:16 am

  • Are you allowed to name the dogs?

    04/16/2014 at 6:53 pm

  • I have severe food allergies. Would the dogs be able to detect foods such as pomegranates?

    04/16/2014 at 6:55 pm

    • Hi Cassidy,
      Thanks for your question about allergen detection. It’s one we get asked very often. The answer is a resounding YES! Dogs can be trained to detect nearly any substance, including pomegranates. However, in response to whether or not you get to name the dogs, the answer is Kind Of. The dogs do come already named, but people give their dogs nicknames all the time and dogs never seem to mind. What you decide to call your dog is really up to you….and of course your dog too! As long as they respond to it, I guess they don’t mind it! : )

      06/30/2014 at 5:04 pm

  • Our daughter has a severe red dye and milk allergy. Can dogs be trained to detect these allergens?

    04/28/2014 at 10:12 pm

    • Hi Tami,
      Yes dogs can be trained to detect just about anything, including chemical compounds like red dye. Milk can be broken down into casein or whey protein, if your daughter’s allergy is to one in particular, or it can be trained as a whole – just plain milk.

      06/29/2014 at 12:23 pm

  • Is it possible to train a dog that’s already in my household if she is a good fit?

    05/27/2014 at 1:45 pm

    • Hi Aly,
      The short answer is Yes, it is possible. The also short (but with a longer explanation) answer is that not all dogs are a good fit. A dog needs to be well-balanced, having a good mixture of hunt drive, prey and retrieve drives, intelligence, trainability, sociability, focus, stamina, and environmental soundness. There are other things we look for, but that sums up the bulk of it. We typically use sporting breeds such as Labrador or Golden Retrievers and stay away from dogs that have higher protection drives such as German Shepherds, Belgian Malinois, etc. I’d be happy to talk with you about evaluating your dog as a potential candidate. Our number is 719-258-0474.
      Best wishes for health,
      Ciara Gavin, Founder

      06/29/2014 at 12:21 pm

  • I am allergic to some trees and the tree nuts of the trees… I have had many tests for these allergies… and had to take a reduced epi pen amount once… is a service dog good for me?

    06/13/2017 at 6:04 pm

    • Hi Mackenzie,
      Thanks for your question! Service dogs are most effective when a person’s allergies are causing major disruption in their life – either because the person is having a lot of reactions, their reactions are extremely severe, or they are unable to do normal life activities. While having a service dog does not guarantee a “normal” life, it does make it a lot safer to do things. Dogs can definitely be trained to detect tree nuts (we have trained a lot of dogs on these odors!) and they could theoretically be trained to detect the tree itself. One thing to note about the way detection dogs work: they can ONLY be trained to take you to the source of the odor. If having the dog take you to the tree would put you in danger just by getting close to it, then it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to train them to detect trees. Let us know if you have any other questions. If you decide a service dog might be a good fit for you, the next step is to fill out the application and MAIL it in!
      The address is: 8690 Wranglers Way, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80908.
      We have had a lot of applications submitted online that have been lost forever in cyberspace!

      06/23/2017 at 9:31 am

  • How would the training be safe for a person who has an allergy so severe to peanuts that if the air and oil is contaminated it sends them into an anaphylactic reaction and where ingestion is fatal. Can you give me more information as to if this is safe for them to train and the process and your recommendations? If it was just Ingestion I could see this would be a wonderful idea but with the severity of the reaction that not even having to touch it sends them into full blown anaphylaxis. Any help understanding the pros versus cons in our particular case. The teenager in question has also been admitted to a psychological facility as impatient for anxiety as well as depression partly due to fear of dying by allergen. Thank you for your help and any comments that could help us make this decision.

    12/01/2017 at 1:24 pm

    • Thanks for your questions. We’ve only had a handful of patients with airborne anaphylaxis to their allergens, and up until a few years ago I simply denied applications from these clients based on the potential risks. Then, one day a client called and told me about being in the hospital every couple of weeks due to airborne reactions. She said she would rather know whether or not her allergens were in the room within the first few minutes, even if it meant getting closer to them, than be in the room with them unknowingly long enough to find out about them with a reaction. For her, we put the training aids in sealed plastic bags during her training searches. We had to control for this extra odor so we didn’t accidentally train the dog to detect plastic bags, but it worked out and it was a safe option for her. For another client with an airborne allergy to latex, we trained primarily on solid latex items that didn’t effect her as much, or placed softer latex items in bags. I definitely don’t think this would work for every client, but it has made me think outside of what I previously thought was possible.

      As with every case, I will provide you with as much information as I can to help you decide, but ultimately this decision is always up to the allergic person, their parents or caregivers, and their medical team. I do know that having someone, even if that someone is a dog, to “watch your back” can take a huge weight off of a person’s mind. I most often see this effect on Moms, but I think this teenager might benefit from it too.

      By the way, that first airborne allergic person who was having reactions every two weeks hasn’t been in the hospital for a reaction in nearly two years now! Talk about anxiety relief!!!

      Call me, I’d love to help if I can. 719-258-0474
      Ciara Gavin, Founder

      01/13/2018 at 6:56 pm

  • Hi, I am 14 and I have been allergic to many varieties of foods since birth. When I was born I was allergic to beef, milk, eggs, apples, and tomatoes. The doctors said I would outgrow all of my allergies by the time I was two… that wasn’t the case. Last year I started to outgrow a few of my allergies very slowly and now I am allergic to milk and eggs, but they are so severe that I cannot come into contact with milk and I cannot even be in the same air as a cracked egg or my airway swells up.

    12/17/2017 at 3:19 pm

    • Hi Shelbea,
      I’m glad to hear you’ve outgrown some of your allergens. Hopefully the same will be true of milk and eggs for you some day in the future! Until that happens, it sounds like you’re wondering if an Allergen Detection Dog would be a good fit for you. The answer is a definite “Maybe.” When it comes to airborne food allergies, our role as a service dog provider is to tell you about what the dogs can and cannot do, explain the risks, and then encourage you to have a thorough conversation with the people who know you and your medical history the best. Usually that is a group chat between you, your parents or caregivers, your allergist and pediatrician.

      Dogs CAN:
      *be trained to detect virtually any substance, including allergens like eggs and milk
      *be trained to sniff the door seam (the space under the door where it comes close to the floor) for trained odors coming from the room without ever having to open the door. Don’t get me wrong, this is tricky business here. It is not as reliable as other forms of detection because it depends greatly on whether air is flowing into or out of the room (called negative or positive airflow) and whether the air being sent from the room contains sufficient levels of odor for the dog to be able to detect it. Is it a perfect or highly reliable system, NO. Is it better than going into a room without knowing anything, YES!
      *be trained to alert to an allergen at the source of the odor.

      Dogs CANNOT:
      *be trained to alert as soon as they smell something. Well, technically that’s not true. They can be trained to do that, but the problem is that they are WAY too smart for something like that. Humans can’t tell where odor is and where it isn’t. We would have no idea when a dog trained this way was right or wrong and it wouldn’t be long before they realized this minor detail! They would quickly learn that whenever they alerted, they got their reward and they would do it all the time. Almost all detection dogs go through a short “false response” phase in their training, usually when they get tired or impatient for the reward, but with conventional training we know when they are in the right spot or not. Without some knowledge, at least in the training protocol, we would certainly be training dogs to tell us that allergen odor is EVERYWHERE!

      What this means for someone with airborne allergies:
      You have to decide (preferably through that group conversation I mentioned earlier) whether it would be better to enter a room, do a search for your allergens, and have the dog lead you to the source of them within a few minutes would be better for your health or worse. Some people with airborne allergies say they would rather know right away, even if it meant getting initially closer to the source. Other people have decided that knowingly getting closer to them was scarier or riskier than just entering a room without searching it. It’s not a clear choice, not an easy choice, and I highly advise talking through many different situations with the people who know you and your medical history the best.

      If you’d like to talk about any of these issues in more detail, please call and we can help give you the resources you need to help you decide if an Allergen Detection Dog might be the right choice for you. 719-258-0474

      Blessings for health,
      Ciara Gavin, Founder

      01/13/2018 at 6:41 pm

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