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Eligibility Criteria

How to Apply For an Allergen Detection Service Dog

Eligibility Criteria

You are eligible to apply for an Allergen Detection Service Dog if:

    •      –  You or a family member have been tested and diagnosed with anaphylactic allergies
    •      –  The tests are current (within the past 12 months)and can be verified by your allergist
    •      –  The history of anaphylactic response indicates that reaction occurs on contact
    •      –  The dog’s handler will beat least 13 years old by the class start date
    •      –  The handler is physically able to control and work a detection dog (able to walk, bend and reach with relative ease)*
    •      –  You are willing to commit to the lifetime care of your service dog

If you meet these criteria, you are ready to fill out the
“I Need A Dog” Application.

*At this time Allergen Detection Service Dogs is unable to provide detection dogs for people with significant mobility impairments. If you are interested in this, please let us know what your needs are and we will let you know as soon as this opportunity becomes available.


  • If there are already dogs in the home would that be an issue for an allergy assist dog, and or is there a service where you could have your own dog trained if they fit the criteria needed? Thanks

    01/29/2013 at 10:48 pm

    • Generally speaking, other dogs in the home are not an issue for service dogs. As long as the pet dog is not aggressive towards other dogs, it is generally alright. Occasionally, too much play time with other dogs can decrease the service dog’s drive to work, but if you see this happening you can always limit their play time together. Thanks for your question!

      03/19/2013 at 9:27 pm

  • How do you test if it is a anaphylactic response? I get hives and an itchy throat if their are open peanuts in the room or if eat or touch tree nuts. I always have an epi-pen and inhaler on me.

    Christina Hack
    07/23/2013 at 9:51 am

    • The first step is to talk with your allergist about your reactions and get their opinion on the situation. An Allergen Detection Service Dog will guide you to the specific location of the allergen so the area can be cleaned, or so you know which areas to avoid contact with. If getting close to the allergen puts you in greater danger, a detection dog would probably not be a good solution for you unless you have another person willing and able to be the dog’s handler who will do the detection work for you. Generally, this person would be a parent or spouse, but could be another responsible person over the age of 13. Please contact us if you would like to discuss your case in more detail.

      Best regards,
      Ciara Gavin, Founder
      Allergen Detection Service Dogs
      (719) 258-0474

      07/23/2013 at 11:02 am

  • Are you still eligible if you are allergic to bees and when you get stung you go into anaphylactic shock?

    07/26/2013 at 1:45 am

    • Hi Kylan, If that is your only allergy, an Allergen Detection Service Dog would not be an appropriate choice. If you have food allergies in addition to your bee sting allergy, then a dog might suit your situation a bit better. A dog is not likely to be able to give you enough warning of a bee in the area for it to be useful to you. Please give us a call at (719) 258-0474 to discuss your situation in more detail. Best regards!

      11/21/2013 at 2:38 pm

  • I have severe seafood alergies and am allergic to the airborne proteins of cooked fish. I have for the past 6 years lost time at work had numerous doctor visits and hospital visits. We have done several allergy tests all have stated that im allergic to things I have no reaction to. My Doctor has diagnosed me with a Anaphylaxis to Fish and Fish Oder, My employer requires disability paperwork before they will decide if they will tell fellow employees to stop brining fish to work (I work for an internet company) I will have their paperwork this afternoon and I do have a prescription from my Doctor for a Scent Service Dog that we are turning into our insurance. I am trying to find someone reputable to inquire about getting a scent dog that is near my area.

    Thank you


    Rick Schramm
    10/18/2013 at 7:19 am

    • Hi Rick,
      One thing you will want to consider before getting an Allergen Detection Service Dog is that all detection dogs (regardless of their specific field- explosives, narcotics, or allergen) are trained to find the source of the odor and alert the handler. With airborne anaphylaxis, this can be extremely tricky. You need to know where the contamination is so you can have the area cleaned or have the allergen removed, but getting close to the allergen may put you more at risk. There are ways around this, but they definitely add a layer of difficulty that is much beyond basic detection. That said, it can most certainly be done! There are only a handful of detection dog trainers working with allergen detection, not all of whom are reputable. Check credentials and references VERY carefully! Your best bet is to find a company you like and work with them, even if they are not close to you. We have worked with people from coast-to-coast with great success, despite the distance. I encourage you to call us at 719-258-0474. We would be more than happy to talk with you about your specific needs.

      Best regards,
      Ciara Gavin
      Founder, Allergen Detection Service Dogs

      11/21/2013 at 2:49 pm

  • My 6 year old has a dairy allergy (anaphylactic) , by consumption and by contact. Would you recommend a detection dog ?!

    11/04/2013 at 11:08 pm

    • Hi Gaby,
      Yes, we have successfully trained dogs to detect both casein and whey (combined or separate) and it is actually a more common find in a real-world situation than nut residue. If contact exposure is recurrent or if the potential for exposure is causing undue anxiety or is interfering with your (or your child’s) life, then an Allergen Detection Dog may be a very suitable choice. Please contact us to talk about your situation in more detail.

      Best Regards,
      Ciara Gavin
      Founder, Allergen Detection Service Dogs
      (719) 258-0474

      11/21/2013 at 2:59 pm

  • Hi, our daughter is six years old. You don’t offer any service animals for younger children? Our daughter is currently homeschooled because her allergist feels it’s too dangerous for her to go to school. I believe a service dog might open the possibility of going to school, if she were able to have one with her. She has life threatening allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, soy, wheat and eggs.

    11/10/2013 at 12:26 pm

    • Hi Angela, Allergen Detection Service Dogs are often a wonderful option for children who want to be more involved in their community, it is public school, church or extracurricular activities. The age limit of 13 applies to the person who will be handling the dog, not to the person who is actually benefiting from the dog’s work. Parents are the most common handlers of Allergen Detection Service Dogs. In these cases, the parent would take the dog to school in the morning to do an initial check of the classroom and any other area the child might enter during the day (the library, gym, art room, etc). The dogs can be used to check tables, chairs, backpacks, coats, lockers, or anything that might potentially be contaminated.

      Detection is a very active task, not a passive task where the dog sits quietly by the child’s side. The dog must investigate the environment to be able to sample air from many different areas in order to find the odor coming off of these residual trace amounts we are looking for. Asking a child younger than 13 to take on the full responsibilities of handling a detection dog, both the physical skills required and the emotional stress of knowing that if the dog alerts they are in the immediate vicinity of a life-threatening allergen, is just too much. We even caution parents of teens to really think about whether or not their teen is emotionally ready to take on this type of a task before jumping into it.

      11/21/2013 at 2:32 pm

  • I have Celiac disease and get severe reactions to gluten, casein, lactose, and other foods. ADA classifies celiac diseases as a disability, and I am very interested in getting a dog to help me. Can you help me?

    11/22/2013 at 5:00 pm

    • Hi Rebecca,
      Allergen Detection Service Dogs can certainly be trained to detect those substances and getting one may certainly be appropriate in your case. The only thing you may want to consider is how common it is to find gluten in an area. Whereas people with nut and other contact allergies often avoid places where these allergens are served, most people with Celiac disease are ok to be around gluten as long as they don’t consume it. This can have confusing effects on a dog who has been trained to search out and alert to gluten. We train the dogs to expect a reward when they find the target odor. When that odor is permeating a space or is coming from the table next to you and they do not get rewarded, it can cause confusion or decrease the dog’s anticipation of reward the next time they smell gluten. Over time, this can hinder a dog’s detection performance. These are just a few things to consider, and yet there are probably more exceptions than cases that fit this profile! Allergen Detection Dogs are certainly good choices for some people with Celiac disease, even if not for all. If you’d like to talk more about your specific situation, we would love to talk with you! Call 719-258-0474.

      11/23/2013 at 10:02 am

  • I have severe nut allergies, as well as to sesame and some fruits. I’ve been hospitalized many times for anaphylaxis. I’d like to train my dog to become an allergy detection dog. How do I go about that?

    01/16/2014 at 2:36 pm

  • My sister is severely allergic to gluten. If it is in the air and she breathes it, her skin breaks out in hives. Would a service dog help her?

    Rebekah Lyn
    01/27/2014 at 6:24 am

  • My mother is severely allergic to triclosan, a chemical commonly found in soaps, detergents, beauty products, and anything treated with Microban in the U.S. including, but not limited to, towels, furniture, napkins, etc. Contact with anything treated with this chemical results in severe blisters and rashes, which have led to serious infections like sepsis in addition to constant extreme discomfort from touching even the most benign-seeming object. Would a triclosan-detecting dog be an option?

    02/10/2014 at 5:19 pm

    • Hi Danielle,
      Yes, it definitely seems like your mother would be eligible for a detection service dog. Although we have never trained a dog for this particular chemical, dogs can be trained to detect any odor and triclosan should be no different. Please contact us at 719-258-0474 to discuss her situation more in depth. Thanks for your inquiry.

      02/12/2014 at 2:46 pm

  • I have a daughter that has a fatal latex allergy. The doctor said we have a 3 minute window from being exposed to death. It also includes pitted fruits , tropical fruits, nuts. She cannot go out to work or go out by herself because of the three minute window and how much she is allergic to.

    03/12/2014 at 2:33 pm

    • Hi Helen,
      Latex, fruits and nuts are all odors the dogs can be trained to detect. Often latex is a respiratory allergy, in which case you will have to carefully consider whether or not to a detection dog would be right in your daughter’s case. All detection dogs are trained to pinpoint the source of the odor. To date, no detection dogs working in any capacity have ever been trained to take the handler AWAY from the odor. There are a lot of reasons behind this, and I won’t go into those now. If going to the source of the odor is too dangerous for your daughter but you still would like a detection service dog, you may consider having the dog trained to do his searches off-leash. She could stand in the doorway of the room and watch to see if the dog responds to any areas. Another possibility would be to have another person trained to do searches with the dog for your daughter so she doesn’t have to come anywhere near the allergen contaminated areas.

      03/13/2014 at 2:36 pm

  • Hello,
    I have severe allergies to many different types of weeds and also some trees. I go into anaphylaxis if I am around them and sometimes I have spontaneous attacks that doctors have not been able to figure out yet. I live and work in Alaska so I have to be outdoors and can’t always identify the weeds i’m allergic to in time to avoid them. Is this something an allergy alert dog could help me with?

    04/14/2014 at 8:09 pm

    • Hi Sophia,
      Dogs can be trained to detect just about any substance, including pollen. However, we face major trouble during detection for these airborne allergens because dogs can only be trained to lead you to the source of the odor (i.e. into more pollen), there is no reliable or verifiable way to train a dog to take you OUT of odor. If there was a way, we would do it!
      I’d like to take a minute to explain why it’s not possible, in case there are any less-than-honest dog trainers out there who attempt to tell you they can train this. We train dogs to detect something we cannot see and do not have any good ways to detect: odor. The tiny particles being given off by a substance are more concentrated at the source and disperse through the air, becoming less and less concentrated as they travel away from the source. We have no real way of knowing where these little particles are, except by watching dogs hunt. When they hunt for something, they will show a distinct change of behavior (COB) when they enter into air containing these particles. They will follow that odor back to it’s source using their nose as their guide. We train them to recognize the odor of allergens and trace them back to their source so we know where to clean, what areas to avoid, and whether or not something is safe. In training we hide these allergens for the dogs to find in areas that are otherwise clean and uncontaminated, so we can tell the dogs if they are right or not.
      If we tried to train the reverse (teaching the dogs to alert to the odor and then take the handler to clean air), we would have no clue whether the dog was right. We have no way of detecting whether the air is clean or contains odor. So we wouldn’t know if the dog’s initial alert to odor was correct or was a false response, and we wouldn’t know if the air the dog was taking you to was clean or contaminated. At best, it would be a wild shot in the dark, and certainly NOT worth risking your health over!

      04/22/2014 at 3:06 pm

  • Hi, do you need to be anaphylactic to get a detecting service dog? I am severely allergic to Dairy, Gluten, Sugar and Lamb and usually get bed ridden for days when I consume them but I have never had an anaphylactic attack. I just wonder if this would be a good option for me as its hard to tell sometimes if food has been in contact with any of these sometimes.

    06/13/2014 at 3:07 pm

    • Hi Rebeka,
      Thanks for your questions. Our primary goal is to train dogs to help save lives. A detection dog might be a good option for you and you certainly can put in your application, but the applications are prioritized and life threatening allergies will always come first. This doesn’t mean you will never get a dog, it only means you might need to wait a little bit longer. Why don’t you give us a call and we can talk through your specific situation and see if a dog would be a good fit. Also, give some thought to whether or not you REALLY want a dog to tell you where gluten and sugar are. It might be overload.
      Ciara Gavin, Founder

      06/29/2014 at 12:02 pm

  • Hi,we have a nine-year-old with a severe peanut allergy. We recently moved into an area where he is now having random reactions to peanuts because the area grows them. I’m wondering if a dog would help me sweep areas before allowing him to engage in activities like soccer games and scouts. We homeschool because of the allergies. His last test was several years ago though. Would a)a dog be able to help us find peanut shells on the soccer fields and playgrounds, and B)would that testing need to be done again to be considered even if record of allergy goes back 7 years?

    06/28/2014 at 6:17 pm

    • Hi Emily, Thanks for asking. Yes, dogs can sweep a large areas such as soccer fields for allergens. Let me tell you a little about what we have seen in the past regarding peanut shells. When you first crack open a peanut and separate the shell from the nut, the dogs are easily able to find them – even single shells in large areas. However, over time and especially when exposed to the open weather, the shells appear to lose all odor. Even very experienced dogs do not tend to alert on weathered shells unless they are trained specifically on peanut shells (as opposed to being trained just on peanut protein alone.) This makes sense because the chemical makeup of peanuts is not the same as the chemical structure of their shells. Dogs can certainly sniff out shells, weathered or not, but what they are telling us is that after a certain time, shells in the environment either no longer have peanut protein on them or the peanut protein is no longer giving off any odor. The number one problem with using dogs as allergen detectors is that THEY ARE ODOR DETECTORS, NOT SUBSTANCE DETECTORS. (I cannot emphasize this enough! They are the best tool we have, but they are certainly not perfect) If shells are a specific concern to you, make sure you ask that the dog be trained on this odor individually.
      As far as testing is concerned, most experienced allergist will tell you that reactions trump results anyway. If testing was done several years ago and reactions are continuing to occur, we will take that as absolute confirmation that his allergies have not gone away. The reason we ask for recent testing is really to ensure that no one gets a dog unnecessarily.
      Thanks for your questions Emily. I hope this long-winded response helped answer some of them for you. If it brought up more questions than answers, please feel free to give us a call at 719-258-0474.
      Blessings and best wishes for health,
      Ciara Gavin, Founder

      06/29/2014 at 11:57 am

  • Hello,
    My daughter has had an anaphalatic response to cats and now carries an Epi-Pen. First we thought it was just when she touches them but she is now responding if she gets within a few feet of one. We are actually in the process of adopting a Golden Doodle puppy and were hoping maybe we could get training for the dog to help alert her to the presence of cats and fetch the epi pen from her bag in case she were to be alone. My daughter is 13. Do you provide any training to outside dogs or know of a resource for us? Thank you!

    06/26/2015 at 1:04 am

  • Hi,
    I have Mast Cell Syndrome which causes me to go into anaphylaxis quite often. The issue is that I am allergic to almost everything when it comes to testing. I was wondering if it would be beneficial to have an allergy alert dog! My allergist told me to look into it. Thank you!

    06/14/2017 at 5:07 pm

    • Hi Cheyanne,
      An allergen detection dog would only benefit you if you know what you are allergic to so the dog can alert you to it. Sometimes people think dogs can be trained to figure out what you are allergic to, but so far that hasn’t been tested. If you can find out what is causing your reactions, chances are we can train a dog to alert to it!

      06/22/2017 at 10:56 pm

  • Hi,
    My name is Sandra, I am 30 years old, I have suffer all my life ever since I can remember, when I was around 17 they tested me for allergies and gastro, they said it was so many other allergies and just inflamation of my esophagus, we didnt know about Celiac. I learned about in 2014 tried to clean my died but not completely GF, and I got a little better, i then asked my pcp to test me, unfortunately her answer was “you don’t fit the criteria, you are too big for it” so i stopped seeking for help, and continue to be sick eventhough i wasnt eating breads. It wasn’t until March of 27 that i got tired of being sick and feeling exhausted, getting blisters in my mouth and hives, anemic and in pain all the time that I made an appointment with Dr. Maddur a gastroenterologist who tested me and diagnosed me immediately with sever celiac. I have been doing completely GF at home, but of course going to a restaurant even though i order GF i still get sick for days. I need a service dog, I currently have 2 dogs a 2 year old Brindle whom himself is a Emotional Support Animal for myself and Fiance and we just rescue a 3 month old German Shepard, they both are smart dogs. I would like to train my CodyLee the puppy if possible. Please guide me.

    06/19/2017 at 1:40 pm

    • Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for contacting us. We can train dogs to detect gluten and may even be able to train one of yours. We have an initial evaluation that we put all our dog candidates through to see if they have what it takes to become a detection service dog. We can guide you through this process through a video conference like FaceTime or Skype and let you know if we think your dog might work. Why don’t you give us a call to talk this through more in detail. 719-258-0474.
      Thanks, and have a blessed day!

      06/22/2017 at 11:00 pm

  • Hello! I am 12 years old and I am severely allergic to peanuts. Very often we are not sure if something has peanuts in it. Example: Birthday Party treats, family reunions, pool parties, and cook outs. I have my own chihuahua and I successfully taken care of him for the past 5-6 years. My parents have 4 other dogs, but I need a service dog. I don’t know if I am eligible for a dog because I am not 13, would the dog belong to my parents but stay with me? Please explain! Thanks!

    06/19/2017 at 8:20 pm

    • Hi Madison,
      Congratulations on taking care of your Chihuahua. They can be very challenging at times! Our rule of 13 is not set in stone. There are some kids who are ready to handle the responsibilities of handling their own detection dog at a younger age – you might be one of them, but I would need to ask your parents some questions before I said yes. If we decide your parents should handle the dog at first, they would need to take the 2-week training course ad get certified as handlers and then they could train you over the next year or so. When you were ready, I would do a certification test with you and your dog to make sure he was finding things accurately for you.
      One thing you need to know before you go any further: Dogs are only odor detectors, they aren’t substance detectors. That means if the smell isn’t reaching their nose (or their brain isn’t processing the odor in time) they can’t alert to the allergen. This means they are sometimes wrong. Even the very best detection dogs in the whole world get it wrong or miss things sometimes. Because of this, even with a fantastic dog checking your food, you still can’t eat things you normally wouldn’t. The examples you gave in your question are the perfect examples of what you STILL can’t eat even if your dog checks them and doesn’t alert to them. The dogs should only be used to check things that you would normally eat anyway to make sure there hasn’t been a mistake. Think for a minute about ALL the recalls that are out there. You don’t want to be the one kid who has the reaction that let the company know there was a problem with their food! Mistakes in food processing happen all the time and dogs can be there to double check, but they should always be your last line of defense against a reaction, not your first!
      Thanks again for contacting us. Stay safe!
      Best wishes for health,
      Ciara Gavin

      06/22/2017 at 10:54 pm

  • Hi, my 13 year old son has a severe case of celiac disease and typically misses 25-60 days of school a year from vomiting due to contamination. He has a hard time gaining weight and has completely pulled out of sports due to lack of energy. My 11 year old daughter has it as well, though she’s not as sensitive. I suspect I have it; though my test was negative because I went gluten free to support my kids. I took the genetic test and have 2 sets of both celiac genes. I just saw a clip on the TODAY show of your services. Are you able to train a dog for multiple people in a household? If not, my son is my biggest concern so that’s ok. Though celiac doesn’t cause anaphylactic reactions, I’m assuming you will train a dog to detect for celiac patients? Also, we have an incredibly obedient dog who was trained all the basic dog commands by a military family, do you train existing dogs in a family?

    Karen Keck
    06/22/2017 at 1:15 pm

    • Hi Karen,
      Thanks for contacting us regarding gluten detection dogs. I’ll answer your questions individually then give you a brief summary of when gluten detection dogs are most effective.
      1.) Yes, service dogs can be trained for multiple members of the house who have the same allergy/sensitivity.
      2.) Yes, we have begun including Celiac Disease as a qualifying medical condition.
      3.) Yes, we can do an evaluation of your dog to see if it might have the drive, temperament and talent it takes to do detection work as a service dog. We can walk you through the initial evaluation protocol and it can be done through any video conferencing app (FaceTime, Skype, etc.)
      I look forward to talking with you more about this. Glad you saw the segment on the Today Show!

      06/22/2017 at 10:38 pm

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