Life of a service dog
Red Cross service dog in Italy, January 1909.
The typical working life of a service dog is usually eight to ten years, depending on the owner's needs and preferences.
Service dogs are free to act normally when they are not working. Typically, the animals are taught to identify work versus free time by whether or not they are wearing their gear. Exceptions to this rule may exist, such as a seizure alert dog, which must not ignore an impending seizure even when it is not wearing its gear. Nevertheless, just as with any other trained animal, working dogs must still obey commands even when they are off-duty. Because of the strict behavior expected from a working dog when it is on duty, many owners will usually not permit people to pet the animal, or be reluctant to remove gear on request (such as for security inspections.)
When a service dog retires, it may remain with his owner or a family member as a pet. If the owner is unable to care for him and a successor dog at the same time, he may be returned to the program for "re-homing." Typically, the family that raised it as a puppy is given the first opportunity to keep him as a pet. Others are adopted out to carefully screened homes. These dogs are highly desirable pets because of their manners and obedience training; waiting lists for such placements may sometimes be measured in years