So, how much does a service dog cost?
This is a very common question. The answer – depending on where you look – can vary significantly.
If you spend some time researching on the internet, you’ll realize that there are a lot of different prices available. You’ll also notice that what you’re actually paying for can differ, too. For example, for as little as $500, you can get a ‘service dog certificate’. At the other end of the scale, prices for a fully-trained service dog can exceed $40,000.
How do you know which option to take when getting a service dog? As with any major decision, there are many things you should weigh up. Price is important, but if you trap yourself in a mindset of, “I must buy the cheapest because that’s all I can afford”, or on the contrary, “I must buy the most expensive because it must be the best”, you will miss out on other important factors to consider.
In this article, we’ll look at the factors influencing the price of a service dog, in addition to considering the other items which should be included in your decision making process.
What determines the price of a Service Dog?
From start to finish, it can take anywhere from 12 to 24 months of training for a service dog to learn how to perform their tasks (the exact timescales will depend on the precise nature of the tasks the dog is being trained for).
The training time starts at a very early age, where a puppy is taught its basic obedience and learns how to interact with the world around them. They will learn how to sit, lay down, come, wait, in addition to discovering how to behave around humans and other animals.
It is also imperative that the dog is able to perform these tasks in a variety of different environments. Socialization helps to promote environmental stability, which will be critical for the dog – and their eventual handler – once they are delivered to their forever family.
Finally, after obedience and sufficient socialization, the dog is trained to perform its designated tasks. This takes constant practice – trainers work with the service dog candidate on a daily basis to help perfect the tasks. Depending on the number of tasks, and their complexity, this can take several months to complete.
For a service dog to perform its tasks reliably, there needs to be time invested by a proficient service dog trainer. With 12-24 months of continuous training, there is obviously an associated cost of the trainer’s time, whether they operate as a sole proprietor or are part of a larger organization.
Health and nutrition
In addition to the training time, there are also the usual costs which are incurred when training a dog for any purpose.
Ensuring the health of the puppy is a very important point to consider. Veterinarian expenses, such as vaccinations and neuter/spay procedures, need to be accounted for. There may also be additional costs if the dog requires treatment for illness or injury.
From a nutritional standpoint, the dog needs food for its daily meals, plus treats to help with training. WIth training lasting up to two years, this is a substantial quantity of food!
What else should you consider when purchasing a service dog?
Although it is important to understand the expenses to your trainer of nurturing and training a service dog, there are also other things you should consider when purchasing a service dog.
You should always ask for references. Study the reviews of the training company, and don’t hesitate to ask if you can speak to families who may have been in a similar situation to your own. This allows you to ask questions and learn about the experience they had when dealing with that particular service dog training company or service dog trainer.
Learn about the application process. Some companies charge application fees, meaning you’re charged regardless of whether or not the company eventually provides you with a service dog (at Highland Canine Service Dogs, we do not charge application fees). Ask questions about the timescales involved and find out everything you can about the application process.
When you speak to the service dog trainers, make sure to ask pertinent questions about your individual and family circumstances. An experienced trainer will be able to provide you with the detail and information to make an informed choice.
Learn more about our own application process.
As we mentioned previously in this article, it can take up to two years to train a reliable service dog. Bear this in mind when you speak with companies who provide service dogs. Are their timescales realistic? What does the delivery include? Is the trainer involved in the transition of the service dog into the home of its new handler? These are all questions that your trainer should be able to answer.
A service dog is a huge investment – not just of money, but of your time and emotional energy. This is going to be a life-changing commitment. You’re going to want to work with a company who picks up the phone or responds to emails when you have questions. If you’re struggling to get your initial questions answered, consider if this is something that will frustrate you as the training process moves forward.
You can also gauge the professionalism of a company by its website and social media channels. Does their website contain useful information – and is it up-to-date? Are they active on social media? You can learn a lot through a quick browse of a company’s online presence.
At Highland Canine Service Dogs, we provide reliable and affordable service dogs for autism assistance, mobility, seizures, hearing and more.
We know that a service dog is a major commitment. We also understand and respect the sacrifices that many families make to bring a service dog home. We hope the information in this article helps to guide you on your process when you consider purchasing a service dog.