Welcome to the Cost of Service Dog & Things to Consider
Were you just about to order a new service dog from Amazon? I didn’t think so. If you’ve never had a service dog before, you might be wondering if it’s the right decision for you. In this article, we’re going to take a look at some of the costs of service dogs, the pros, cons, the good, the bad, and the ugly so that you can hopefully make an informed decision about possibly having one of these incredible animals in your life, by your side.
If you’re more concerned about which breed to select, check out my related article: The Best Service Dog Breeds & How to Choose One.
Is a Service Dog Right For You?
Not getting a service dog
The first thing to consider is that there’s a possibility you may be better without a service dog, however ironic that may sound. Think about whether a service dog is an appropriate thing for you, depending on your situation.
Service dogs cost money, live with you for many years, and you may attract attention that you don’t want simply because of your dog.
Some other reasons people may decide not to get a service dog
- Expenses: Food, treats, vet expenses like vaccinations, neutering/spaying, office visits, flea/tick treatments, toys, grooming, service dog vests, and other gear
- All kinds of people including children will be attracted to a service dog, without necessarily respecting the fact that the dog may be working and the human may want to be left alone
- There seems to be a general lack of education about service dogs and this can translate into you having to educate certain people if there are access issues, and this may become exhausting after a while
- Many people will be judgemental and discriminating, especially if they don’t understand the difference between emotional support animals and psychiatric service dogs, or they may be discriminating against a small breed, thinking that only large breeds can be service dogs
- The service dog won’t magically remove your health issues
- Dogs can snore, go to the bathroom, and shed (or require grooming)
Possible ‘Pros’ of Having a Service Dog
Here are the Pros to consider
- Greater Independence
- You’ll always have a best friend there who doesn’t judge you no matter what
- He/she will motivate you to get out of bed and do things when you don’t really feel like it
- A really increased level of personal safety
- The chance of having new possibilities – the dog can open up opportunities for you that you might not otherwise be able to do on your own
- He/she will help you to keep more regular and/or consistent hours
- He/she will get you to exercise every day, even if for a little bit
- The dog will help you meet new people and talk to them
- The presence of the dog can help you feel more confident and less vulnerable
- The dog can help to distract you from negative or destructive thoughts
- Having the dog can give you a real sense of accomplishment; it’s a beautiful living, breathing thing that you are successfully taking care of
- The dog provides company and affection
Possible ‘Cons’ of Having a Service Dog
- Possibly you would have no or reduced amount of alone time, as the dog would follow you or check on you at all times, even when you are taking a shower or using the washroom
- This is a big responsibility, not a lot different from having a child
- Service dogs cost money, initially and on an ongoing basis
- Negative attention people will give you because of your animal
- You must remember that a dog is still a dog, and someone needs to care for him/her, no matter what condition you are in
- Someone will always need to attend to the dog’s food, water, & regular meal times. People will need to take him/her out for a walk and pee just like other dogs. You need to have someone who could possibly take care of it if you were not able to
- It can be very expensive to have a service dog, there are things like Vet fees, possible accidents that require emergency care, pet/animal insurance, medications/vaccines, grooming, training, dog food, and equipment, this all costs money of course
- Limited sense of freedom. You might be unable to make some spontaneous plans without consideration for the dog (like deciding to randomly take a flight somewhere)
- Emotional and time demands
- Everything takes longer when you are taking the dog with you everywhere
- Picking up the dog poo
- From time to time the dog might “have an accident” inside the house or even inside a mall or another public establishment. Dogs aren’t machines and sometimes have “off days”
- People may ask or “bug” you about having a disability since it may be very obvious
- You may encounter challenges with access
- Some (or many) people aren’t educated about the rules
- Children might run up to your dog and bug you and your dog (in a store, for example)
Are You Sure A Service Dog Is Right For You? Some Things To Consider
Service dogs are amazing animals that can transform lives. It may be tempting to rush into the process of getting one.
But it might be good to take a few moments and consider some of the ways that having a service dog would impact your life; in addition to helping with your disability.
An emotional support animal?
There are many things to consider; some that you may not have thought about. Perhaps an emotional support animal would be a better fit? In the U.S., emotional support animals do not have the same public access rights as service dogs, but they can be requested as a reasonable accommodation for a workplace under the ADA or housing situation under the Fair Housing Act.
- Read more on our blog: Service Dog vs Emotional Support Dog
A Service Dog Won’t Magically Fix All Of Your Problems
The first thing to realize is that a service dog is not a magical elixir. It won’t fix all the bad things in your world and make them go away so that your days are filled only with sunshine and butterflies.
Although I am positive that you and your dog can find plenty of sunshine and butterflies, too, literally:
Health & life improvement toolkit
A service dog is considered just one of the many things in your health and life-improvement toolkit.
It is best to use your service dog in conjunction with other therapies that you may need, such as counseling, medications, or other professional services or products.
Expecting the service dog to be your therapist, medication, and doctor all in one, may not work out the best for all situations and may not be realistic.
Remember that a service dog is still a dog. They can only do what they can do.
They can provide an amazing, priceless, life-altering service; but they can not speak English, they can not fly to the moon, they can not drive you to your pharmacist, and they can not call your mom for you! (or can they?)
You And Your Service Dog Will Attract Attention
If you’re always walking around in public with your service dog, you are probably going to get noticed.
You may not be the type of person who likes attention from random strangers, but you may have no choice. Children and adults alike will be attracted to your dog, wherever it is that you may go.
- Since Service Dogs are permitted into public places where regular pets are not always allowed, you may also get extra attention and it might not always be positive
- Not everyone is educated about service dogs or the laws around them
- Some people flat-out hate dogs
- There are probably a lot of people who aren’t understanding living with disabilities
- Not everyone understands that a lot of disabilities are invisible
People may even become confrontational, especially when they are uneducated about service dogs. Do you know the best way to deal with confrontational individuals?
Service dog schools and organizations can help prepare you for these challenges, but it’s impossible for them to prepare you for every possible situation. And if you train the dog on your own or with a dog trainer, there’s a lot you’ll have to learn on your own.
Do you love being the center of attention? Are you prepared to answer a lot of questions about your dog, or about people with disabilities in general?
Are you okay with the fact that your service dog, in a way, acts as physical evidence – or dare I say an advertisement – of your visible or possibly invisible disability?
I would like to be able to tell you that it’s possible to have a service dog and then be able to just slink into the background wherever you go… but it’s just not going to happen.
In many cases, it will still be worth it to get a service dog despite this all, but it’s good to be prepared.
It may get frustrating having to answer the same questions every single day from different people, wherever you go, especially if you’re just in the mood to be left alone.
Financial Commitment That Can Last 10-15 Years
Cost Of Service Dog – It Goes Beyond The Initial Cost
While there may be little or no cost upfront to get your service dog, remember that you will be responsible for subsequent costs; and that there will be ongoing costs for as long as you have your dog, which could be 10 or even 15 years.
Service dogs do not usually work into old age, but if you choose to keep your dog after his retirement, he will still of course continue to need stuff that costs money. So the cost of a service dog is a gift that can keep on giving, but that’s no different from any other animal.
Just Some of the Costs to Think About
- Food for the dog – is it a big dog? Big dogs need more food!
- Veterinary Care – regular care, but he might get sick or injured, he might step on a nail; this all costs money
- Other equipment or supplies
A Service Dog Is Still A Dog
Every single day your dog will still be a dog. I am sorry if this sounds very obvious! Every single day your dog needs:
- Time to play and just be a dog – don’t be surprised if he might want to randomly chase a squirrel when he’s not at work
- To attend to the “Call of Nature”
- Are you committed to taking him out for these things, 365 days per year, 7 days per week, even if it’s cold outside, raining, snowing, hailing, or whatever crazy weather you have around your area?
Your Service Dog will have an amazing skill set.
But it won’t help anyone if the dog is not challenged, or not allowed to practice his skills or to learn new skills.
Are you committed, or at least sensitive, to the fact that the dog may require ongoing training?
Dogs have personalities, and they may want to show you a lot more of their personality if they are not getting opportunities to practice their skills if you know what I’m saying.
Your Service Dog At Home
- Is your home environment a good place for a Service Dog?
- Do you have family members who are allergic to dogs?
- Do you have space to have a dog?
This is a lot to think about. So take your time!