Service Dogs: How Much They Cost, Full Budget, and More

Written by Abdulmumin Akinde
Updated: August 1, 2022
© Glynnis Jones/Shutterstock.com
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For thousands of years, dogs have evolved alongside humans. They assisted our ancestors, hunting side by side with them for millennia. Today, dogs are still regarded as man’s best friends for different reasons. Now they serve as trusted companions and partners. Dogs can also be specially trained to provide physical and emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Such dogs are known as service dogs or support animals. Wondering how much it’ll cost to own a service dog? In this article, we will answer the question of how much service dogs cost, what to budget, and everything you need to know about them. 

What Is a Service Dog?

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a service dog is a type of specially trained dog that can perform various tasks for the benefit of people living with a disability. The duties of a service dog range from providing physical assistance to psychiatric support, sensory stimulation, and intellectual assistance to those suffering from physical or mental disabilities. 

For individuals living with disability, owning a service dog can increase their safety, health, happiness, and overall quality of life. Various breeds and sizes of dogs can be trained to be service dogs. However, some breeds are more favored for this job due to some of their innate characteristics. Golden Retrievers,  for instance, are known for their friendly and calm nature, which is why they’re among the most popular choice for service animals. Others commonly chosen for this purpose include Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, German Shepherds, and Collies

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These dogs have natural nurturing and loyal personalities, which makes it easier to train them and get them to bond with their handlers. Service dogs also display a high awareness of their environment, making it easier to trust them to care for people with one disability or the other. Service dogs require extensive training that may span several months or years before they’re qualified to serve as human companions. 

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How to Get a Service Dog and How Much It Costs

Generally, if you need a service dog, there are two routes to follow. You can either adopt an already trained dog or train a dog you already own. The main benefit of buying an already trained service dog is that you can start benefiting from the services of your dog right away. Training your own dog will take several months or years, and there’s no guarantee that the dog will be an ideal candidate to become a service dog 

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Trained Service Dog?

According to the National Service Animal Registry, the upfront cost of owning a trained service dog can be anything between $15,000 to $30,000. Some dogs may even cost as much as $50,000. The exact cost of the service dog depends on various factors, including the size of the dog and the specific responsibilities the dog is capable of performing. While these figures might sound expensive, you should know that it takes a lot of training to raise a service dog that is skilled enough to assist a person with a disability. 

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What is the Cost of Training Your Dog?

Training a dog you already own is cheaper than getting a service dog. How much this route will cost depends on how you train the dog. The average cost of hiring a professional dog trainer is between $150 and $250 an hour. Considering that it may take up to 2 years for a dog to be fully ready to render support services as you need them, the amount is likely to run into thousands of dollars. 

Interestingly, support animals don’t necessarily have to be trained by professional trainers. In fact, an owner may be able to train their dog. You may also sign your dog up for an online service dog certification course such as the Canine Good Citizen program sponsored by the American Kennel Club. Of course, these might take longer and may not be as effective as getting professional training. 

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Additional Costs of Owning a Service Dog

The cost of owning a service dog goes beyond the upfront cost of buying or training a dog. Like any other dog, you’ll still spend some amount of money to care for your service animal. Some of the expenses you should budget for include: 

Food

Your service dog will live with you, which means it’ll have to eat too. Feeding a service dog is typically expensive because they’re usually larger dogs which means they’ll eat more than the smaller breeds. Averagely, you may spend up to $400 a year on dog food for your support animal. 

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Veterinary Care

Your dog is also going to need checkups with a veterinarian. At the very least, one visit per year may be necessary. This can cost as much as $260 yearly, depending on the average cost of veterinary care in your area. 

Preventative Medicine

Vaccination, heartworm rugs, and other preventative medication can add a few more bucks to your budget. However, these measures are necessary to keep your pet healthy. Generally, you may spend about $300 on preventive care yearly. 

Supplies

You’ll need additional supplies such as leashes, collars, bedding, and toys. This can add an additional $100 or more to your yearly budget. 

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You also have to prepare your mind for additional costs that are difficult to estimate, such as emergency vet care. If you can afford it, getting pet insurance is an excellent way to mitigate such risks. 

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Why Is Owning a Service Dog So Expensive?

Service dogs are not like your regular pet. To become the efficient support animals that they’re, they must have undergone extensive professional training and additional care. These dogs are typically specially bred or selected during their first few months and raised to become service animals. 

The upfront costs you’ll need to service cover the adoption fees, vaccination, spaying or neutering, and the trainer’s fees. This is why training your own support dog is a more affordable alternative. However, you’ll still need to hire a certified service dog trainer, and the process will take several months or years. 

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Can I Get Assistance to Pay for a Service Dog?

If you cannot afford to pay for your service dog up front, there are some possible solutions you can explore. Many government organizations and nonprofits offer financial assistance for people with disabilities who cannot pay for their own support animals. They may provide you with a service dog for free or at a subsidized fee. Although the subsidized fee may still run to thousands of dollars, it is still significantly cheaper than paying the entire fee upfront on your one. 

Some agencies also help you raise the money you need through grants, loans, or fundraising events. You can seek help with raising funds you need from organizations such as Paws With A Cause, National Education for Assistance Dog Services and Dogs for Deaf and Disabled Americans, and America’s VetDogs

Conclusion 

If you cannot afford to pay for your own service animals, you can look out for organizations that can assist you with the process. Although it is expensive to get a service dog, it is worth it in the long run. They provide companionship and assistance for individuals living with a disability. 

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About the Author

Abdulmumin is a pharmacist and a top-rated content writer who can pretty much write on anything that can be researched on the internet. However, he particularly enjoys writing about animals, nature, and health. He loves animals, especially horses, and would love to have one someday.

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