How Much Does a Service Dog Cost and How Much Is It to Train Them?2020-04-15
If you're thinking about investing in a service dog to help you with a disability, you likely know that additional costs come with owning these canines compared to the average pet.
Service dogs are highly trained, capable animals. Because they assist and perform tasks for people with diverse abilities and needs, it's vital that the training they receive is comprehensive and professional. For that reason, the costs associated with training a service dog are high. However, this high cost comes with benefits. The higher fees mean you're getting the best-trained canine possible. For example, it can take years to train a seeing eye dog and very few of those that are trained get accepted as working dogs.
Most people don't know how much a service dog costs. In this guide, we review the types of service dogs available and how to train a service dog, as well as financing options and the costs you can expect.
How Many Types of Service Dogs Are Available?
There isn't just one type of service dog. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the definition of a service dog is a canine that provides assistance to a person with a disability. People with disabilities need different types of assistance depending on several factors, and the training of their service dog needs to be specific to their condition.
Here are several types of service dogs:
Guide dogs are probably one of the most common iterations of a service dog. The concept of a guide dog has been around for centuries. People with visual impairments rely on these canine companions for independence. The duties of a guard dog include:
● Leading their owners around obstacles at home or in public
● Assisting with climbing up and down the stairs
● Navigating public spaces
Training service dogs is vital, of course, but especially so for guide dogs. Most people assume that guide dogs assist their owners to go where they want, but a guide dog also needs to be selective in its obedience. They need the training to assess the situation they are in and, if necessary, disobey their owners if they are about to enter into a situation that could be dangerous.
Guide dogs typically wear a special harness with a handle on the back for their owners to grasp. They also often wear vests with a phrase similar to "Do Not Pet" on them, since guide dogs mustn't get distracted from their duties at hand.
Hearing dogs assist individuals who are deaf or hearing impaired. The canines alert the owners to sounds that they either need to attend or avoid. Being able to differentiate these two very different reactions is where quality training comes into play.
Hearing dogs can alert their owners to things like a doorbell or a phone alarm, but also life-endangering sounds like fire alarms. As an example, if a deaf individual is in a building with a fire alarm going off, their service dog will make physical contact and lead them out of the building.
Seizure Alert Dogs
As you can guess from the name, seizure alert dogs assist their owners by sensing when a seizure will happen and position themselves in a way to assist their owner during the seizure.
It's not known exactly how dogs are able to do this, but they are able to pick up on subtle changes in human behavior that other humans wouldn't be aware of. They are trained to recognize the elusive warning signs of the beginning of a seizure, allowing them to alert and position for help.
Diabetic Alert Dogs
Much like seizure alert dogs, diabetic alert dogs are also trained to pick up on subtle changes in their owner.
Unlike with seizure alert dogs, however, this ability is made possible by the incredible sense of smell that dogs possess. This enables them to smell things like chemical changes in blood sugar, allowing them to alter their owners to any drops in blood sugar before they reach dangerous levels. If a critical drop in blood sugar is detected, a diabetic alert dog can also alert others to get help.
Allergy Detection Dogs
For individuals with life-threatening allergies, having an allergy detection dog can mean the difference between life and death. Individuals with allergies can inquire about ingredients in food and other products, but there is always a level of uncertainty. Allergy detection dogs, because of their incredible sense of smell, can pick up on traces of allergens in food or even the air.
These service dogs often work with children, allowing them to go to school and do activities that require more independence. Meanwhile, parents are content knowing that their child is safe.
Mobility Assistance Dogs
For people with impaired motor functions, mobility dogs provide an invaluable service. These service dogs help with everyday tasks that most of us take for granted, including pressing elevator buttons or pulling wheelchairs up ramps.
They most commonly assist people in wheelchairs, who rely on these canine companions for independence. They also help those that suffer from:
● Spinal cord injuries
● Cerebral palsy
● Muscular dystrophy
Autism Support Dogs
Autism isn't classified as a physical disability, but that doesn't change the fact that service dogs play an important role in helping those individuals.
Autism support dogs help their owners navigate social settings, and keep track of autistic children who wander off. Having a service dog as a constant support system also helps those with autism better regulate their emotions and improve their communication skills.
Psychiatric Therapy Dogs
Service dogs are trained to assist their owners with mental health disorders that might not be obvious to the public, like:
● Bipolar disorder, anxiety
● Post-traumatic stress disorder
Many people with these disorders find it difficult to do things like leave their home or take care of themselves, or have tendencies to suffer from panic attacks or immense discomfort in public.
In these situations, psychiatric therapy dogs provide comfort to their owners and protect their personal space. They can even be trained to do specific tasks, such as turning on the lights in a room before their owner enters so that they can feel safer.
Many of these tasks are emotion-based, not unlike emotional support dogs or therapy dogs. However, service dogs receive extensive training and are not officially considered pets.
Where to Train Your Service Dog
In the United States of America, there are no required Americans with Disabilities Act certifications for service dog training. There are minimum government standards for this training, but it's completely possible to train a service dog yourself if you prefer.
Training Your Service Dog Yourself
The most important resource when training your service dog is time. While there is no minimum for the number of training sessions in the United States, international standards recommend an estimated 120 hours over six months. A good amount of those hours should be in a public setting to get your service dog used to distractions or surprises.
Depending on what your service dog will be assisting you with, you will need to train your service dog to do specific tasks. Find an excellent resource for the training process since there is a lot of training material available that can be very useful.
Once you're satisfied with the level of progress your service dog has accomplished, you can apply for certification. While this certification isn't a requirement in the United States, most public places will need some sort of official documentation to allow service dogs. A public access test is available, but you can also elect to use a custom service dog ID card and service dog vest.
Even though the United States doesn't require professional training, many individuals opt to utilize these services to ensure that their service dog is trained by people who have extensive experience in the area.
There are a few options concerning professional training sessions. You can adopt your dog first, then source a local program that will train dogs for a fee. It's also common for individuals to adopt service dogs directly from training programs, where young dogs train as soon as they are old enough.
Several organizations also exist that provide service dogs to those in need of them, but not everyone can afford either the dog itself or the training. Nonprofit service dog organizations, in these cases, will provide the training so that when you receive your service dog, they arrive already equipped to assist.
Estimated Cost for Owning a Service Dog
Depending on your chosen method of training, the service dog cost can vary greatly. If you choose to train your service dog yourself, your price will be lower. Professional training will come at a higher cost.
Training Your Service Dog Yourself
Owning a dog, whether it is a pet or a service dog, will cost anywhere between $500 and $10,000 per year due to:
Spay neuter services
● Routine vet visits
● Additional training
If you are planning on training a dog that you already have, you'll also end up saving on the initial adoption cost as well.
If you opt to train your service dog yourself, you will need to invest in training materials to do so. There is also the option of hiring a trainer by the hour, which would range from $150 - 250 per hour depending on your location and trainer.
In comparison to having your service dog trained professionally, this might seem like a much cheaper option. However, keep in mind that the hourly training will add up quickly, as will other expenses.
For a service dog that has already trained, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 up front. However, this depends on the breed of dog. Some service dogs could even cost up to $50,000.
This might seem incredibly expensive, but this cost doesn't just cover the training. The amount you pay will also cover:
● Adoption costs
● Vaccinations, spaying or neutering
● Trainers fees
● The general expense of food and daily care
While much more expensive, this type of training is usually both more effective and a quicker process than opting to do the training yourself.
Service dogs can be a necessity for individuals with any type of disability. The process of getting a service dog might seem like a daunting one, but once you determine what kind of dog would suit you best and what kind of training you prefer, there are a tremendous amount of resources to help you along the way.
The costs associated with service dogs depend most on:
● The type of training you choose
● The type of dog you choose
● Where you choose to adopt them
The good news is, no matter if you adopt a service dog that has already trained or want to train your family pet, there is a path forward for you.
To learn more about the costs associated with service dogs and training, contact the specialists at The Official ESA Registration of America. Register your animal today to begin the training process!
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