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There is perhaps no pet-parent bond stronger than that between a service dog and their handler. Service dogs are special companions that have been trained to help their human — typically someone with a physical or mental disability — navigate daily life. But how much does a service dog cost? These special pups don’t come cheap — anywhere from $1,000 to $25,000. The range is so wide because there are multiple routes one can take to obtain a service dog. Let’s explore each one, as well as the pros and cons.
As defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act, a service dog is any dog that has been trained to perform useful tasks for the benefit of a person with disabilities, usually called the handler.3 Qualifying disabilities can be physical or mental and must limit one or more major life activities. Because of this, trained service dogs are legally required to be allowed in all areas where the public is allowed to go.3
Obtaining a service dog that has been bred and fully trained to aid their handler is the most efficient option. These dogs have been trained from birth by professionals to act as companions for handlers with specific disabilities.4 Some service dogs can be purchased from specialty breeders. These pups are selected for their health, intelligence, and temperament, and in general can be considered the cream of the crop.
The only real drawback to purchasing a fully-trained service dog is the price tag. It can cost between $25,000 – $50,000 to adopt a dog that has been selected and trained specifically for service.4 Once you get over the sticker shock and consider what you’re actually paying for, the cost becomes a little more reasonable. Not only does it cover the professional training, but it also bundles in all the expenses of raising a dog and keeping them in good health. You’re paying for the convenience of not needing to do all that work, plus the confidence that comes with getting a professionally-trained companion.
The “middle road” option is to adopt a dog and hire a trainer. Service dog training is an in-depth, 4 – 6 month process.4 During that time your companion will learn the specific skill required to assist you, known as “tasking.” Training also often involves getting your dog used to public settings so they can learn to ignore distractions.
Service dog trainers typically charge by the hour at rates that fall between $100 – $300. Given how much time service dog training requires — a recommended 120 hours across 6 months — the cost range comes out to $20,000 – $30,000.4,5 Of course, the time required to train a service dog will be unique to each individual pooch. If your dog is particularly stubborn or slow to learn, it could end up costing you much more.
Training a service dog yourself is not an impossible task. With ample patience and the right resources, you could train your companion in tasking without needing to hire an expensive trainer. Plus, doing the training yourself will only strengthen the bond that exists between service dogs and their handlers.
The trade-off is time. Service dog training is a rigorous process that goes beyond simple obedience training.6 If they are to be a loyal and helpful companion, a service dog must be:6
The cost will vary. Factors to consider include your dog’s health, breed, age, temperament, and their ability to learn. You can expect the standard expenses to cost $1,000 to $2,000, including:4
Additional expenses may increase what you ultimately pay to train your service dog. You’re also fully responsible for understanding your local laws regarding service dogs, and for maintaining your pup’s health and wellbeing throughout.
When it comes to adopting and/or training a service dog, you aren’t likely to find any pet insurance provider that will cover the cost. What insurance can help you with is keeping your companion healthy and happy.2 Good health is especially important for service dogs, who rely on their senses to keep their handler safe.
If you own or may soon require a service dog, consider adding dog insurance to the total cost. It’s a small monthly fee compared to all the other expenses, and having it could prevent you from paying full price for future vet visits.2 Get started today with a free quote from MetLife Pet Insurance.1
1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.
2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC.
3 “ADA 2010 Revised Requirements: Service Animals,” ADA.gov
4 “The Cost of a Service Dog,” Service Dog Certifications
5 “Service Dog Requirements,” Service Dog Certifications
6 “Service Dog Training Guide – The Basics,” Service Dog Certifications