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How Much Do Service Dogs Cost?

How Much Do Service Dogs Cost?

We may have some experience of what it costs to bring a puppy home or even the cost of adopting a fully-grown dog, but how much does a service dog cost?

Having a service dog can undoubtedly change the life of the owner, but everything does come with a cost attached. 

The problem we have here is that a service dog is completely different in nature and what they need to do compared to a normal family dog. That does, as a result, change the costs associated with them.

So, prepare yourself because there’s a good chance that this cost will rank higher than you would have perhaps ever imagined.

The Answer

The National Service Animal Registry states that the average upfront cost for a service dog varies from anywhere between $15,000 to $30,000. However, that figure can reach even higher depending on the specific tasks that the dog needs to be trained for.

In some cases, it may end up costing closer to $50,000, and that is a huge sum of money when you compare it to how much a puppy will cost. 

service dog

The Reason Why the Costs are So High

While this figure is quite eye-watering, it does make sense to then look at why the costs are as high as this. 

You must keep in mind that a service dog needs to do different things from a normal dog. After all, we do not depend on or rely on our family dog in the same way as an individual with a disability does toward their service dog.

It also means a service dog needs to have the ability to perform significantly more functions than a normal family dog.

That all adds up, and it’s also the reason why it can take a service dog such a long time to go through the appropriate training.

Also, do keep in mind that not every dog entering into the service dog program actually graduates at the end. 

The Cost of Hours of Training

A service dog requires hours of training to get them to the standard whereby they can actually help people with whatever disability they are trained to deal with. 

The training these dogs receive tends to involve specialist training. That is a costly thing, and when you add up the hours spent over months, it’s easy to see where the climbing costs can start to occur.

But Training is Not Essential

Now, with such a high cost attached to them, it becomes more understandable when individuals feel that owning a service dog is outwith their reach. After all, not everyone has $20,000 available for a dog.

However, the surprising thing is that the ADA, (the Americans with Disabilities Act) does not state that a service dog needs to go through specific professional training to then become a service dog.

That really does shock some people, and it opens up the door for individuals to take the time to train their own dogs to help them with certain problems connected to their disability.

As a result, that does drop the cost, but it’s ultimately something you need to balance up in your own head.

Also, it does put a lot of pressure on you to train your dog correctly, and to manage to get them to do whatever it is you need help with.

service dog giving paw

Getting a Professional Dog Trainer

But let’s say you want to train your dog to help you out with certain issues connected to your disability, then what sort of costs should you expect?

In this instance, you may end up needing to pay a professional dog trainer with this type of expertise somewhere in the region of $150 an hour.

However, that is an average figure with some charging less, and others charging closer to $250.

With those sorts of rates, you can see how it can quickly escalate to the high figures mentioned earlier. However, you cannot put a price on having some sort of freedom. 

Does it Always Have to Cost So Much?

The scary thing is the way in which the potential cost could prevent people in need of a service dog from going ahead and getting one. So, does it always have to cost as much money?

The cost of a service dog does come on a sliding scale. It all depends on the skillset required and how much training that skill then involves. 

But here is a key point to consider. Some experts state it can take as long as two years for a service dog to complete its training.

You can then really see why the price is so high if you plan on getting a service dog where all of their training has been completed.

But What About Other Costs?

But the problem is that the costs do not stop when you buy your service dog. A number of costs are ongoing, so it makes sense to also have an idea as to what they may cost. 

Admittedly, this part is tough in terms of accuracy. Certain costs can vary depending on what you buy, and even where you live.

So, it’s only intended as a ballpark figure to help you to begin to understand what the different costs may be.

service dog puppies


As a general rule of thumb, it will cost you typically in the region of $400 to $500 a year just on food. Now, that is for general food.

If your service dog had to go on some sort of special diet, then this cost will increase.

Food designed to help a dog with certain nutritional requirements will always cost more.

Also, most service dogs are larger in size, and that does mean they require more food in order to keep them healthy.

However, as long as you expect to spend around that amount of money per year on food, then it should not be too far off the actual cost.

Medical Bills

Taking out some form of pet insurance to help cover any medical costs makes a whole lot of sense.

This becomes even more important when your dog plays such a vital role in your life and your potential safety.

However, this too costs money each year. 

How much you pay will depend on so many factors, so it’s tough to tell you what to expect here. So, what happens if you do not take out some form of insurance?

Well, it’s important you take your dog to the vet at least once a year for an annual examination.

This will include any booster shots or vaccinations that they will require in order to remain as healthy as possible.

This bill, which includes the checks and injections, will typically set you back somewhere in the region of $250. So, you can include that in your yearly costs as well.

But there’s another medical bill you may have to deal with, and it’s what is known as preventative medicine. 

Preventative medicine is where you need to give your dog medication to help prevent various illnesses from developing in the first place. In areas where fleas and ticks cause problems, then heartworm medication is important.

The bill for preventative medication can climb to between $200 and $300 per year. So, if you add that to the annual examination, you can say that veterinary bills will sit at around $500 for the year.

And that is if your dog stays healthy. If they develop some sort of illness, then it will clearly end up costing you a whole lot more. It could easily result in you spending over $1000.

With that, is it any surprise people look at taking out those insurance policies to help them out in times of need?

Other Supplies

Finally, you have other supplies to think about. That includes toys, bedding, vests, leashes, and more. 

This cost will vary from year to year, but don’t be surprised if you end up having to spend around the $100 mark on other items to help keep your dog healthy and happy. 

As you will clearly see, the costs add up, and then when you think your dog will hopefully live for around 15 years, then it does equate to a lot of money.

But the major cost is in the training. However, you need to think about the difference it makes to your life. At that point, you see how it will end up as the best money you have ever spent. 

Overall Conclusion

So, a service dog will cost more than $15,000 and it could run as high as $50,000 depending on training needs and how long it all takes.

That doesn’t then figure in the ongoing costs that we mentioned towards the end.

However, a service dog changes the lives of those individuals they help. It is a small price to pay for the freedom that having a service dog can bring.

These dogs take training and behavior to a whole new level. The training they undergo to develop their skills is absolutely exceptional. It’s a whole new experience for anyone with a disability.

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