Besides being our trustworthy and loyal friends, dogs can help us in many other ways as service dogs. They take on missions humans can’t perform quite as well and help people with disabilities. Although their assistance is essential for many people, guide dogs, and service dogs are not cheap.
Service dogs must go through a long and challenging training program. Therefore, getting a service dog may be a costly and challenging experience. Fortunately, you can reduce the financial burden in several ways. We’ll explain why you should have a service dog, the costs of getting one, and how to make it more affordable.
Types of Service Dogs
When we hear the word service dog, mostly a guide dog helping a blind person is the first thing that comes into our minds. However, service dogs can help people with a wide range of ailments and disabilities.
According to the ADA, a service dog is “a dog that has been specially groomed to complete tasks or work more effectively for an individual with a disability.” Therefore, by definition, a service dog can do a lot more than being a guide. Here are some other types of service dogs and tasks they perform:
1. Guide Dogs
Guide dogs serve as the eyes of visually impaired people and help them walk and do several other tasks. They prove to be assistive in navigating bumps and slopes, not only on streets but also in-home. They can also alert blind people for unexpected obstacles like someone suddenly crossing in front of them or an upcoming car.
2. Signal Dogs
Signal dogs are like guide dogs, but they help people with hearing disabilities. They signal various situations like a knock on the door or a ringing phone. Singal dogs’ training is the most difficult one.
3. Seizure Responding Dogs
Seizure dogs mostly help people with epilepsy. They can identify seizures before they occur, allowing the owner to go to a safe spot, bring help, or minimize the injuries by guarding their head.
4. Sensory Signal Dogs
Sensory signal dogs help people with autism. They can warn them about dangerous sensory input they may not notice, like smells and sounds. Also, they can keep the owners from making repeated gestures or calm them down when overstimulated.
5. Psychiatric Healing Dogs
Psychiatric healing dogs are beneficial for people with mental disabilities. These dogs can help prevent panic attacks and self-harm or remove the owner from triggering situations. Additionally, their compassionate and friendly nature helps patients heal.
Average Cost of Trained Service Dogs
Though the exact cost may vary depending on the breed of dog and the sort of training it receives, you should expect to pay around $15,000 and $30,000 for a service dog on average, but it may go up to nearly $50,000. The cost changes depending on the breed and the training they got. Each breed has different traits, and there are various types of service dogs specialized in different fields.
In addition to the initial expenditures, dog lovers spend between $500 and $10,000 each year on their dog’s care for food, veterinarian exams, immunizations, entertainment, and more training. However, these yearly expenses are not exclusive to service dogs.
Average Cost of Training Your Service Dog
Instead of getting a trained dog, you can choose to get a dog and train it after adoption. Depending on your dog’s level of knowledge, the primary tasks it needs to learn, the instructor’s fees, and the duration of the training, you can save a significant amount of money with this method.
If your dog has previously had some behavior training, service training might take anywhere from four to six months. However, if your dog has no prior training, it might take up to two years for your dog to complete the training. Also, it would be best if you worked with a professional trainer in this process. They may cost $150 and $250 per hour. If your dog is not the right fit for training, this method may cost you more than getting a trained dog. Therefore, you should decide carefully before adopting a dog to train for being a service dog.
Other Expenses of Service Dogs
Training fees are exclusive to service dogs. However, like any other pet, service dogs require other expenses for their care. Considering the precious and priceless role they play, it’s worth making these common expenses:
There isn’t a big difference between the food of an average dog and a service dog. However, service dogs go through intense training that makes their muscles stronger and metabolism faster. Therefore, they might eat more than average dogs. If your average dog eats 400$ per year, get ready to spend $600 per year on your service dog.
2. Vet Care
Like humans, service dogs also require routine check-ups and other medical care. Even if you live in a low-income area, your dog vet can take out $280-290 per year from you.
3. Preventive Care
There are some medications your dog needs as a preventive measure. Your friend regularly needs heartworm treatment, flea and tick prevention, vaccines, and other things to live a healthy life. These drugs can cost you around $300 each year.
Daily items of your service dog like balls, collars, beds, and toys are not one-time expenses. They will wear out in time and need replacement. However, these are not too expensive. All this stuff can cost you 120$ per year.
Characteristics of a Good Service Dog
As we mentioned, your dog’s characteristics significantly affect its cost as a service dog. If they don’t have certain essential features, they may take too long to train or even fail to work as a service dog after completing the training. Hence, we compiled the traits that make a good service dog for you to keep n mind:
Intelligence probably wouldn’t be the first thing you look for in a pet dog. You can prefer your dog showering you with love, following you everywhere, and doing adorable things over intelligence.
However, service dogs are usually required to accomplish much more complex jobs. Completing the training and then successfully fulfilling these duties require a high level of intelligence. As a result, most service dogs are intelligent and easy-to-train breeds.
Your service dog will usually work at public places or among other people. Therefore, he needs to be friendly with everybody. Most importantly, he should not feel intruded on when any other pet or human comes near.
Aggressive and over-protective dogs can be excellent working dogs in certain fields. However, they can not be good service dogs.
As we mentioned, most duties of service dogs take place in public places where they will encounter a lot of stimulation. To avoid causing disruptions when you are out in business, service dogs must be generally quiet. That doesn’t only mean ignoring dogs who run, leap, or play while working but also the ones who are aggressive or easily frightened. They should know how to ignore such dogs and stay calm.
Imagine a guide dog sneaking food and hiding it or scattering his toys all over the house. That would be more of a problem than assistance for a visually impaired person. Additionally, it would cause an extra load of cleaning on the disabled person. Some accidents are unavoidable however; being sloppy shouldn’t be a service dog’s personality trait.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Which are the best breeds to adopt as service dogs?
All dogs cannot be service dogs; there are some characteristics they must have. They must be easy to train, friendly, obedient, calm and focused. Boxers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Great Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Pitbulls, Golden Retrievers, and Border Collies are the top eight breeds that inherently display these characteristics. Therefore, they are perfect to be trained and adopted as service dogs.
Are emotional support animals (ESA) and service animals the same?
Despite their common adoption as a medically qualified care plan for several diseases, ADA doesn’t consider emotional support animals as service animals. The primary difference is in their training. Service dogs must be specifically trained to perform specific tasks. On the other hand, no such training is required for emotional support dogs.
In short, getting a pre-trained, ready to help service dog initially costs between $15,000 and $30,000 on average. However, there are more affordable ways to get a service dog. You can request help and get a service dog for a lesser cost through non-profit or other specialized organizations.
Another option is to adopt a dog and train him yourself. If you don’t have enough knowledge or time, you may fail to train him fully to be a good service dog. Also, you can get professional training sessions for around $150 and $250 per hour. However, training may take too long and become expensive if your dog doesn’t have the suitable characteristics.
In addition to initial costs, there are regular health and care costs approximately of $1500 you should keep in mind if you get a service dog.