How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?

One of the most amazing things about dogs is the way they can serve and help in a myriad of different ways. This becomes especially true when referring to the service dogs who assist individuals with various mental and physical disabilities. Only a select handful of canines have the right temperament and level of patience necessary to complete the service dog training process and be given to a family or individual in need. A service dog is indeed a very special canine that is given extensive training in how to perform a variety of different jobs and tasks to help many people regain their independence in life. The high level of investment in time and energy training these animals unfortunately comes a high cost. The price of service dogs for sale varies widely, but this article provides all the information you need to know to make an informed decision about the different service animals available and the various costs associated with bringing one into your life or the life of a loved one.


Before You Decide to Get a Service Dog

Service dogs help many children and adults with various disabilities and provide the support and affection they need to help to make them more independent and confident in everyday life. Service dogs perform a diverse range of functions and fill a variety of roles in peoples’ lives, including mobility assistance, seizure alerts, diabetes alerts and other medical alerts, and they assist many people by becoming hearing dogs, guide dogs, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder assistance dogs.

Bringing a service animal into your life is a major decision and if you’ve ever searched online “how to get a service dog?” or “how much does a service dog cost?”, you may have come across conflicting information and different prices. This article aims to clear that up once and for all.


The Cost of a Fully-Trained Service Dog

A dog that has been bred and raised specifically to be an assistance animal is going to cost you a great deal.

Most service dogs for sale that have been trained to perform specific jobs and tasks cost upwards of $20,000. However, help with funding may be available from not-for-profit organizations that specialize in placing service dogs with the people who need them.

While this price may seem high, you need to take into consideration all the expenses associated with training, boarding, veterinary care and the other costs necessary to make a dog a service dog. Training a service canine can take several years in total, and even though many trainers are volunteers at non-profit organizations, the overall cost of the trainer and supplies is still quite high. Also, you have to take into account the cost of the accessories, including a service dog harness and vest and additionally service dog registration so the organization can keep track of their animals. Many non-profit organizations produce very high-quality assistance dogs that become invaluable helpers to many people in need, and the complete process of making any dog a service dog takes time, hard work and commitment, and therefore comes at a substantial cost.


Finding the Right Agency to Help

how to get a service dogThere are many excellent not-for-profit organizations that will assist in placing a service animal with an individual or family who needs the help. Some have stricter eligibility requirements than others, but in generally anyone with a major mental or physical disorder that impairs their ability to perform normal everyday tasks should qualify for a service dog.

These organizations are often heavily reliant on individual donations and grants and are limited in terms of the help they can offer with funding. Very often they will fund part of the cost of the dog through their own fundraising programs, and the purchaser will be required to pay for the remainder of the cost. However, this does not mean that you have to pay for this with your own money. Many non-profits also assist in helping families with their own in fundraising activities, so you don’t ever need to feel completely alone or let the price prevent you from getting a service animal if your life would benefit from one.

If you need help with funding, then there are many organizations that can and will help you. Money needn’t be an obstacle in getting a service animal for you or a loved one.

Non-for-profits that only partially fund the cost of a service animal are usually experienced at helping families with fundraising in their local community. Even if they’ve never fundraised before, by working together and working hard to invest in the future of their disabled family member many are able to raise the necessary funds in a reasonable amount of time. With time and dedication, most of the families who are truly committed to getting a service animal are able to successfully raise the required amount of money. Fundraising the cost of a service animal usually takes between 4-8 months for most families.

The benefit of getting a fully-trained canine is that you won’t have to go through the laborious training process yourself. Also, these dogs are usually bred by experienced breeders specifically to become service dogs. They are hand-chosen from puppyhood and had their temperament, health and personality tested to ensure that they will become excellent assistance animals. In other words, they are well worth the high cost.

After getting a new service dog, it’s essential you get handler training so that you are able to control the animal while in public. A few training sessions on controlling the dog with basic commands are usually provided when you get a service animal from an agency.

service dogs for sale

Can I Get a Service Dog at No Cost?

You may be able to get a service animal for free from a non-profit if you are unable to afford the cost or are in urgent need of an assistance animal.

However, this does not mean that the dog is free. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a free service dog – someone somewhere is paying for the training and raising of the animal. If an agency advertises “free service dogs” or “at no cost to the recipient”, what this usually means is the funding for the animals is provided by their own or a third party’s fundraising programs and donations they have received. Nevertheless, people in need can effectively get a service dog for free from some organizations.

Organizations that pay for the cost of the animals from their own fundraising generally have long waiting lists (several years long) and in some cases may still not be able to complete all the funding due to a lack of donations. You should check with any individual agency first to determine exactly how they organize their funding programs and what help is available to you.

Organizations that only provide part of the funding for their service dogs usually have shorter waiting lists than the organizations that pay for the entire cost of the animal.

Other Solutions

Also, you might want to consider whether a therapy or an emotional support dog might be more suitable for your needs. Neither therapy dogs nor emotional support animals undergo any specific training and, if your own dog has the right temperament and you qualify, you can make your own dog an emotional support dog or contact an organization that travels with therapy dogs and ask them to bring one to you at no cost. Depending on your needs and requirements, exploring these options may save you both time and money.


Service dog on escalator - CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsPartially-Trained Dogs and Looking for Puppies

If you think you won’t be able to raise the money for a fully-trained service canine, you could always search for dogs for sale that have successfully completed obedience training and possibly other kinds of training but haven’t been put through a complete service dog training program. You could then take the dog to an experienced trainer and put the dog through the training process one step at a time. This could save you having to make the large up-front payment for a service animal, and would spread the payment out over a year or more by paying for the training as you go. If you decide to go this route, you want to make sure that the dog you get has the right temperament to become a service dog. A service animal needs to be patient, calm, disciplined and above all loving.

Also, you can search for a puppy that you think has the right temperament to become a service dog. One good way of determining a puppy’s temperament is to look at his/her parents and observe their behavior and reactions to different events and people.


Training Your Own Dog for Service

Many people decide to train their own dog for service. By looking into how to make your dog a service dog, you can substantially lower the cost. You can look for experienced service animal trainers and week by week prepare your pet to become your number one helper. Additionally, you can register your service dog at one of the various online companies that offer this service for as little as $79 and purchase the accessories yourself and save thousands of dollars in the process. Of course, deciding to go this route will involve you having to spend much more time and energy, and your own dog may not have the right personality and disposition to become a working service animal.


The Cost of Caring for a Service Animal

In addition to the upfront cost of getting a service animal, you have to consider the cost of caring for the dog for as long as you have him or her. Good quality dog food and vet care are not cheap, and you have to take into account all the costs associated with having a dog, and you will have to give your dog daily exercise and regular grooming. Before getting any service animal, you should consider how having a dog will impact your life and the lives of anyone else you live with (including other pets, if you have them). If you have specific medical needs, there are many other technological options that may serve your needs as effectively as a service animal could.

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