How Much Do Service Dogs Cost? Price Estimate

Getting your own service dog is a big step in your life. But, it’s also a serious financial commitment. While they offer immeasurable help, you don’t want to commit to a service dog if you can’t afford it. That’s why knowing how much service dogs cost can help you prepare and budget.

Find out what you should expect for the price of a service dog and how much it costs to take care of one long-term.

Who Can Benefit From a Service Dog

Service dogs are trained to help people living with physical, psychiatric, intellectual, or sensory disabilities.

Their tasks are directly related to their owner’s disability. From alerting someone before a seizure to helping provide balance or retrieving dropped items, service dogs are trained to improve their owners’ quality of life.

Before you continue your journey to obtaining a service dog, make sure you understand all of the responsibilities that come with owning one and check your local laws for eligibility requirements. Planning how you can afford a service dog can also save you a headache in the future.

Types of Service Dogs

Service dog types and duties are as varied as their owners. Their tasks always relate to what their owners need the most. Here are a few of the many types of service dogs:

  • Mobility Assistance Dogs: help assist with everyday tasks that their owner’s physical impairment won’t allow them to do on their own. 
  • Guide dogs: also known as seeing-eye dogs, can assist the visually impaired in travel and a range of other tasks.
  • Seizure response dogs: can detect seizures before they happen, and alert their owners so they can get to a safe place.
  • Psychiatric service dogs: can help those with psychiatric disabilities such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Their responsibilities include detecting an onset of an episode, calming their owners, and a range of other tasks. 
  • Signal dogs: can alert their hearing-impaired owners to sounds, such as a knock on the door.
  • Sensory signal dogs: work with their owners who have conditions like autism. They engage their owners to help them control urges and keep them calm.

Service Dog vs. Emotional Support Animal (ESA)

It’s easy to confuse service dogs with emotional support animals. However, they’re not the same at all.

Service dogs go through rigorous training to perform specific tasks.

In comparison, emotional support dogs provide therapeutic contact. While they can be part of a valid medical treatment, emotional support dogs don’t go through training. This is why they don’t cost as much as service dogs.

Having the companionship of a dog is a gift. If an emotional support animal suits your needs, it may be a lower-cost option for you. However, if it’s medically necessary for you to get a service dog, you should consider the costs and find a way to acquire a service dog at a reduced price.

How Much Do Service Dogs Cost?

The Price of a Trained Service Dog

Training a service dog costs requires expertise and takes a long time. A fully trained service dog needs approximately 600 hours of training. This means that buying a trained service dog comes with a high price tag. 

According to the National Service Animal Registry, the upfront cost of a service dog can be anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Depending on your needs and your service dog’s training, the cost can be as high as $50,000 for specially trained dogs.

The Cost of Training Your Own Dog

Technically, you can train your own dog to assist you with everyday tasks. But, it’s best to leave service dog training to the professionals.

If you want a certified trainer to train your dog, their rates can go anywhere between $150-250 per hour. And this cost can quickly add up.

Especially if you consider that training a service dog can take up to two years. Even longer if you need to train them for specialized tasks.

At Sierra Delta, we empower United States Veterans by providing them with two paths to free dog training, our traditional service dog program and the Life Buddy Program. With an active role in your dog’s training, you can train your dog to your individual needs.

If you’re a Veteran, reach out to us to find out more about our service dog training and Life Buddy program. 

How Much Does It Cost to Own a Dog

The cost of a service dog doesn’t stop when you acquire it. You need to take care of your service dog, just like a pet, and that comes with costs that you should budget in.

Food, vet bills, insurance, medicine, and supplies are the most common expenses of dog ownership.

Before you get a service dog, this is approximately how much it costs to keep a dog:

  • Food: depending on the quality and brand of food, as well as your service dog’s size and appetite, feeding a dog costs between $250 and $700 per year. And don’t forget about dog treats!
  • Vet care: even healthy dogs need regular checkups. And if your dog isn’t healthy, you’re liable for their medical bills and medicines. The annual cost of vet care for a service dog can be anywhere from $500 to $3000, depending on their health.
  • Dog walking: while it costs nothing if you can walk your dog, if you can’t, you may need to invest serious cash in a dog walking service. While rates vary, if you calculate with $20 per walk once every weekday, the amount comes to $5200 per year.
  • Supplies: while some of the supplies your dog needs are one-time expenses, you should still budget $100-200 for things like a leash, collar, bed, and toys.
  • Grooming: if you have a long-haired service dog, you may need to invest $50-250 into dog grooming.

Financial Assistance Programs to Help You Get a Service Dog

While service dogs come with a steep price tag, there’s still hope if you can’t afford to buy one.

Charities and funds help people with disabilities get a service dog for free or at a reduced cost.

  • Assistance Dog United Campaign: You can apply for funding for a service dog grant with this charity.
  • Petco: Petco’s charity collects $15 million every year for service animals.
  • The Seeing Eye: This charity provides grants for guide dogs for the visually impaired.

Saving Money With a Service Dog

There are also ways to save when you have a service dog. For example, the IRS allows you to file for the expenses medically-necessary service dog. Veterinarians may offer discounts for their services, which can also save you money.

Service Dogs are covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Landlords are legally obligated to waive pet policy fees for service animals. They also can’t discriminate against you or deny you housing if you have a service animal.

Sierra Delta’s Here to Help

Training a service dog to help you with everyday tasks takes time, effort, and money. If you’re a United States Military Veteran in search of a service dog, Sierra Delta can help.

As a registered non-profit organization, our mission is to empower every Veteran — disabled and non-disabled — with access to approved dog training that provides purpose, innovation, and community through the love of dogs.

Sierra Delta offers two different training paths. We can help you find the right service dog program that matches your needs if you qualify.

And our Life Buddy Program is available to all Veterans, disabled and non-disabled, to train your dog to your specific needs. It’s a path towards personal wellness and empowerment that 9 out of 10 Veterans in our community choose.

Join us today to find out more about how Sierra Delta can help empower you and your dog!

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