How much does a service dog cost?
Ashburn, VA

How much does a service dog cost?

Ashburn, VA

How much does a service dog cost?

$18,000 – $40,000 cost for an already-trained service dog
$8,000 – $17,000 average cost to train your own service dog

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:

$18,000 – $40,000 cost for an already-trained service dog

$8,000 – $17,000 average cost to train your own service dog

Get free estimates for your project or view our cost guide below:
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Kristen Cramer
Written by
Kristen Cramer
Edited by
Tamatha Hazen
Fact-checked by
Tara Farmer

Average cost of a service dog

A service dog costs $18,000 to $40,000 on average for an already-trained dog from a service dog organization. The cost for a professional dog trainer to teach your canine companion to be a service dog ranges from $8,000 to $17,000+, depending on the type of tasks the dog must perform.

Service dog training cost
Service dog training type Average cost
Already-trained service dog $18,000 – $40,000
Service dog training fees $8,000 – $17,000

Cost for a trained service dog

A trained service dog costs $18,000 to $40,000 on average, but costs can reach $50,000+ depending on the type of service dog and amount of training required. The cost is high because most service dogs require 1 to 2 years of training before being placed with someone with a disability.

Some non-profit organizations use charitable donations to cover all or part of the cost of the dog itself and the training process. This allows them to place service dogs with people with disabilities for free or at a reduced cost of $1,000 to $10,000. Many of these organizations have waiting lists of 6 months to 3+ years.

Service dog training cost

Another option is to purchase or adopt a dog yourself and work with a professional dog trainer. Service dog training costs $120 to $250 per hour or around $8,000 to $17,000 in total, depending on the training required.

The International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP) recommends a minimum of 120 hours of service dog training as part of their Minimum Standards for Public Access. This also includes training you as the handler to learn how to work with your service dog.

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What is a service dog?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) defines a service dog as a dog that has been individually trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The tasks performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability. Here are some examples of tasks that qualify:

  • A person with mobility issues may have a service dog that helps to open doors or bring items to them.

  • A person with epilepsy may have a service dog that detects the onset of a seizure and helps the person remain safe when seizures occur.

  • A person with diabetes may have a service dog that alerts them to whether their blood sugar levels are too high or low.

  • A person with PTSD may have a psychiatric service dog that helps them from wandering into danger during a flashback or dissociative episode.

A service dog opening a gate for their handler in a wheelchair
A service dog opening a gate for their handler in a wheelchair

Is an emotional support dog a service dog?

Therapy dogs and emotional support animals (ESA) are not considered service animals under the ADA and are not granted the same rights as service dogs. The ADA makes a distinction between psychiatric service dogs and emotional support animals based on the tasks they perform. For example:

  • A dog whose presence provides comfort or calms anxiety is not considered a service animal.

  • If the dog is trained to sense an imminent anxiety attack and take a specific action to help the person avoid the attack or lessen its impact, the dog is considered a service animal.

What disabilities qualify for a service dog?

Any disability that meets the ADA's definition qualifies for a service dog. The ADA defines an individual with a disability as "a person who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a person who has a history or record of such an impairment, or a person who is perceived by others as having such an impairment."

This broad definition of impairment encompasses a wide range of physical and psychiatric conditions. The ADA does not name specific impairments or conditions, but some examples include:

  • Blindness (partial or complete)

  • Deafness (partial or complete)

  • Paralysis

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

  • Cerebral palsy

  • Muscular dystrophy (MD)

  • Epilepsy or seizures

  • Osteoporosis

  • Arthritis

  • Cancer

  • Diabetes

  • Autism

  • Neurocognitive disorder

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

Service dog cost factors

The biggest factor in the cost of a service dog is whether you purchase an already-trained service dog, pay a professional trainer to work with your dog, or train your dog to be a service dog yourself. However, the following factors also impact the cost:

  • Type of service dog: There are several different types of service dogs, including guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, psychiatric service dogs, seizure alert dogs, hearing assistance dogs, and more. Some types, such as guide dogs, require more extensive training to perform more tasks, which can affect the cost.

  • Application fee: Some service dog training organizations charge a $50 to $150 application fee.

  • Crowdfunding: Many people use GoFundMe or other similar sites to raise money for a service dog. The more funds you raise, the lower your out-of-pocket cost will be.

  • Dog licensing: The ADA does not allow cities or states to require people to register their dog specifically as a service animal. However, service dogs are subject to the same licensing and vaccination rules applied to all dogs in your city. A standard dog license costs $15 to $30 per year.

Dog ownership costs

In addition to the cost of the dog itself, you'll also be responsible for the dog's care and well-being throughout its lifetime. The average cost of owning a dog is $120 to $350 per month, including food, treats, toys, supplies, basic vet care, and flea, tick, and heartworm prevention treatments.

Be sure to budget for these expenses:

  • A routine annual vet visit costs $50 to $250, while an emergency vet visit costs $100 to $800+. Additional tests and treatments increase the cost.

  • Dog vaccinations cost $35 to $365+ per year.

  • The cost to microchip a dog is $20 to $60.

  • Pet insurance can help to cover the cost of veterinary care over your dog's lifetime. Pet insurance costs $35 to $75 per month for an accident-and-illness policy and an extra $10 to $25+ per month for a wellness add-on plan.

How to get a service dog

Options for acquiring a service dog include:

  • Getting a fully trained service dog from an agency or organization

  • Getting your current dog professionally trained by an organization

  • Adopting or purchasing a dog and getting it professionally trained as a service dog

  • Training your own service dog

To get a trained service dog, most organizations require you to meet specific eligibility requirements. In general, you must have written documentation from your healthcare provider stating that you have a disability and require assistance from a service dog.

Registering or certifying a service dog

It is important to point out that there is no nationwide agency or organization that certifies or registers service dogs.

The ADA warns that there are many individuals and organizations selling service dog registration or certification documents online, but these documents do not convey any rights under the ADA and are not recognized by the Department of Justice.

How do I make my dog a service dog?

If you have an impairment that meets the ADA's definition of a disability, you can work with a service dog trainer to teach your dog to perform specific tasks related to your disability. People with disabilities also have the option to train their dogs themselves. However, keep these important details in mind:

  • Service dogs require extensive training to successfully perform their tasks and meet the behavioral requirements outlined by the ADA.

  • ADA rules state that a service dog must be under the handler's control at all times.

  • Service dogs must be well-behaved around other people and animals, remain calm in public places, refrain from sniffing behaviors, and not solicit food or affection while on duty.

  • The dog must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered while in public places unless those devices specifically interfere with the dog's tasks. Service dogs that are not leashed or tethered must respond immediately to voice or signal commands.

  • Service dogs are not allowed to bark repeatedly in a quiet place like a theater or lecture hall.

  • A service dog should be capable of safely crossing parking lots, halting for traffic, holding a sit-stay or down-stay on command, and heeling through narrow aisles.

Training a service dog yourself is a huge commitment in time and effort. For the best results, hire a professional dog trainer near you to teach your dog the necessary skills.

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A service dog providing assistance for a person with mobility issues
A service dog providing assistance for a person with mobility issues

Service dog FAQs

Do service dogs have to wear a vest?

No, according to the ADA, service dogs do not have to wear a vest or other ID indicating they're a service dog. However, service dogs must be leashed, harnessed, or tethered while in public, unless doing so interferes with their assistance-related tasks.

Does insurance cover service dogs?

Health insurance plans do not cover the cost to get, train, or maintain a service dog. Alternative funding options include non-profit group assistance, grants, and crowdfunding.

How are service dogs trained?

The service dog training process involves several stages, beginning with basic obedience training and progressing to public access training, specialized task training, and individualized training based on the person's specific disability and needs. This training process can take 1 to 2 years or more.

Are service dogs allowed in restaurants?

Yes, service dogs are allowed in restaurants. The restaurant is also not allowed to require the person and their service dog to sit in an outdoor seating area, even when one is available. However, service dogs are not allowed to be seated on chairs or be fed at the table in a restaurant.

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