How Much Does a Service Dog Cost?

Written by: Staff

Service dogs are types of assistance dogs that are trained to help people with disabilities, specifically those who have a visual and hearing impairment, but a well-trained service dog can also help with autism, moving around, PTSD, anxiety, seizures, and even diabetes.  The cost of a service dog will depend on the organization that offered the training, the type of training the dog received and geographical location.

Service Dog by Calsidyrose, on Flickr
Service Dog” (CC BY 2.0) by  Calsidyrose

How much does a service dog cost?

The price range for a service dog can be anywhere from $3,000 to train it personally to as much as $35,000,+ if you were to use a popular organization.   There are many ways you can obtain a service dog:  either by training the dog on your own with or without a trainer’s assistance; by sending your dog to an approved training facility; or obtaining the dog through a program or private trainer.

If you were to adopt a dog through a program, for example, you will more than likely have to pay an application fee, a registration fee, a training fee to reimburse the organization and the dog itself.  This, on average, could bring the total of a trained service dog to about $5,000 to $8,000.  A private trainer, if you were to choose one, could be up to 50 percent more than this.

For instance, Psych Dog Partners said the costs can widely vary depending on the training.  A rescued adult from an animal shelter with two years of private training could cost $5,200, whereas a puppy purchased through a service dog breeder could be in the similar price range.  In their experience, the doctor had found that the price of the purchased puppy incurred $3,000 in vet bills, which cut the dog’s lifespan short.  The key, as explained by them, was to find a dog that will succeed as a service dog and saving money for a few months to afford a quality dog will be worth it.

Autism Service Dogs of America, according to its official website, charges $13,500 for every approved family.  The full costs to breed, raise and train is well over $20,000. PAWS With a Cause, another rescue, offers its service dogs for a fee but states it can cost up to $30,000 to cover the cost of care, training and support.

If you were to bring an approved dog to a training facility to have your dog personally trained, so many factors could be in play such as the dog’s age, its history, temperament, your commitment level, the professional training the dog and if you qualify for any subsidies.  To budget, plan on spending $135 to $200 per group class, often totaling more than $4,000 to $6,500; again, depending on the training factors.   The length of the training will depend on the age of the dog, its skill level and how involved the owner is.  To budget, plan on spending at least one year to train a dog successfully.

Service dog overview

A service dog, often referred to as an assistance dog, will be able to help people with physical, neurological and psychological disabilities to help them perform everyday tasks, increasing their daily quality of life.  Depending on the specialty, they perform a lot of functions, ranging from helping someone who is hearing impaired hear the phone to helping those who suffer from stress, trauma or a traumatic brain injury.   Each service dog, no matter who you adopt through, should be individually trained to meet the needs of the owner.

The three most common types of service dogs you will see on the market will include a guide dog, hearing dog and service dog.  A guide dog, also known as a seeing eye dog, will help guide the blind or those who are partially blind.  These dogs are able to get around obstacles and help those who are hard of seeing live an easier lifestyle.  A hearing dog, also known as a signal dog to some, can alert its owner anytime an imporant sound is heard such as the phone or doorbell.  Lastly, a service dog is a dog trained to help those who need help with disabilities other than seeing or hearing.  For example, they could help someone move around who have a hard time being mobile or be a medical alert for someone who has diabetes.

What are the extra costs?

A service dog will be just like any other pet dog.  Shore Service Dogs, Inc. says you should be prepared to spend $1,600 per year on the lower end for food, supplies and routine veterinary care.

As noted above, most agencies will always charge an application fee, usually around $50 to $500 or more.

Reputable organizations often mandate training sessions to learn how to work with your dog.  If these sessions were outside your area, then you should be prepared to spend money for lodging and transportation.

Tips to know:

If you have an organization in mind, be sure to see if they have a wait list as many top organizations have waiting lists longer than five years.

How can I save money?

Some state agencies and/or local civic organizations may have scholarships available to those who qualify.  These scholarships, just like a college scholarship, could drastically decrease your investment.

A lot of the most popular organizations in the United States offer their dogs for a price that’s much lower than what they put into it investment-wise.  This can be done due to the donations many of these organizations receive.  If you feel you qualify or even want to know more about the company and how it works, research a few charities/organizations in your area to receive more information since all work in different ways.

Training your own dog, if it qualifies, can sometimes be cheaper than using the organization’s dog.  However, keep in mind that some organizations prefer to breed and train their own dogs and won’t accept outside dogs.  Paws Training Centers has a helpful PDF showing you which dog breeds they recommend.

Some costs could be deducted when you train, purchase the dog and take care of it.  Talk with a tax professional for more information.

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