If you live with a disability, the right tools and resources can make a big difference. Service dogs are a widely recognized tool that can bring a measure of independence and freedom to people who need them. Unfortunately, service dogs are also expensive. These dogs need intensive training and care to help them do their jobs well, and all those hours of work can add a lot to the price tag.
Although prices vary, most service dogs require tens of thousands of dollars in training. Generally, a service dog will cost between $10,000 and $50,000. There are some options to mitigate these costs, but many service dog owners will need to raise the funds for their dogs themselves.
Reasons for Needing a Service Dog
Service dogs are dogs trained to perform specific tasks to help owners who have a disability. Some service dogs are trained to help their owner accomplish things that they can’t do on their own—like guide dogs that help a visually impaired person navigate safely. The other main category of service dogs is alert dogs—these dogs can use their keen senses to seek out specific scents that warn them if their owner is in danger.
Types of Service Dogs
You’ll notice that Emotional Support Animals aren’t on this list. Although there are protections in place for Emotional Support Animals, these aren’t the same as service dogs and don’t generally need specialized training.
How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?
If you’re considering buying a service dog, the cost can range from around $10,000–$50,000, depending on the organization and your dog’s training needs. The biggest impact on price is the type of training required. Since most service dogs need to accompany their owner in public, all should receive extensive training to help them behave properly in distracting environments. From there, each type of service dog has different training needs. If a service dog is only needed to perform a few tasks for the owner, training can be relatively simple.
On the other hand, some service dogs require extensive training to perform complex tasks in a wide variety of situations. Medical alert dogs often cost between $10,000 and $25,000, while hearing dogs and guide dogs are more expensive, costing around $20,000 to $50,000.
Part of a service dog’s training will be matching with an owner and learning to work with your specific cues and needs. Depending on the temperament of the dog and the owner, this part of the process might be easier or more difficult, and the price might vary.
Another option that some owners consider is training a dog they already own. Service dogs generally require work with a professional trainer. This costs between $150 and $250 an hour, and training requires regular sessions over the course of several months. In some cases, training a dog you already own might end up cheaper, but if your dog doesn’t respond well to training, it may require more time and money than you expect. It’s also important to consider your dog’s age—if your dog is already getting on in years, it probably isn’t worth the investment in training.
Additional Service Dog Costs
In addition to the upfront costs of getting a service dog, you should be prepared for the ongoing costs of ownership. In general, service dogs have similar costs to other dogs of the same breed. You can expect to pay up to $500 a year in food costs, $1,000–$2,000 a year in medical and pet insurance costs, and around $100 a year in toys and supplies. Because many service dogs are larger breeds, they tend to be more expensive in terms of food and medical care.
Options for Service Dog Funding
If the upfront cost of a service dog is beyond your reach, it’s worth considering funding options. There are many nonprofit organizations that can help cover part or all of your dog’s costs, and government-funded grants are also available in some areas and with some conditions. However, many nonprofits have long wait lists and specific requirements to qualify. Some owners also pay for their service dogs through crowdfunding, home equity loans, or personal loans.
Do I Need to Register My Service Dog?
There is no national service dog registry, but many smaller, optional registries do exist, and various certification programs are available. These often cost a few hundred dollars but can help you ensure that your dog is ready for use as a service dog and smooth the road when working with landlords, store owners, and others who might have an interest in denying service to a service dog owner.
Service dogs aren’t the best choice for every disability, and their cost can make them prohibitive. The extensive training they require isn’t cheap, whether you train your dog yourself or find a pre-trained dog. Service dogs also require regular food, equipment, and medical care like any other dog, and that can add to the price. However, there are many options to help you pay for a service dog, and most owners agree that the cost is worth it.
Featured Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock