Want to get a great service dog but don’t want to break the bank doing it?
I'm assuming you’ve already done the research and have watched the same video on your favorite breed a hundred times. You know the breed, age, and temperament you want in your perfect pup and now it’s time to find your best friend for the next decade.
This is a complete step-by-step guide to finding your ideal match.
Here's how from A - P
A) After you’ve finalized the plan with yourself it’s time to ask your medical team for advice. What kind of dog do they think would help you the most with your disabilities?
B) Write up a list of things you cannot do for yourself, then go down the list and make sure these are things that your future partner can help you with. Pick out the top three most important issues you want your dog to help you with. For example: If you have a history of seizures, you want your dog to be able to sense them before they happen (according to Dr. Robert Weilbacher a dog should be able to sense a seizure minutes before they happen.)
C) Remember that in order for the dog to be a service dog it must provide a service that you cannot do for yourself such as: protection, emotional support, or companionship. This is in accordance with ABA rules, so make sure your top three things you cannot do for yourself fall into these categories. Service dogs and training are not cheap, so make sure you actually want one before moving forward
D) Strategize on ways to save some $$...your dog will cost anywhere from $100 - $5000 before the training! Lucky you, many states offer scholarships on training, here are links to several that do:
The annual cost of keeping an Assistance Dog will be around $1500 per year, so it’s best to be financially capable to stomach that kind of dent. We have an upcoming article on financial aid options for service dogs, stay tuned for that. Another way to save money is to plan on training the dog yourself, or rescuing a dog from the shelter to eliminate the breeder fee. To see a complete list of the fees, psych dog partners has a fantastic article breaking this down. In review on this several ways to save money:
1) Adopt Dog
2) Train Yourself
3) Get Financial Aid For Adoption
E) Make a list of all the breeders who specifically breed and train service dogs in your area, chances are there won’t be too many. But just in case try and find a breeder locally, you don’t want to go gallivanting across the country and pay for a flight for no reason. Think about it, you may have to make multiple trips out to the vendor for adoption, training, and follow up. Limit your travel costs if at all possible. If you can’t limit travel costs there are several credit cards that will give you a free flight based on monthly spending, see million mile secrets here.
F) If you will need to travel make a list of all the national breeders that interest you on a quick google search, included below are some reputable breeders:
G) Go down the list of breeders and cross off the ones that don’t have a dog for your specific disability. For example, if you see a breeder doesn’t have dogs for autism then you won’t be getting the training that you need to have in for your companion. Best to call the breeder and find out what they specialize in beforehand.
H) Most important in choosing a breeder! Ask for recommendations from people who have gotten puppies from them and make sure to check Yelp, Google, Angie’s list and other review sites for good reviews. You can check to see how long a breeder has been in business by plugging their url into a domain checker here.
I) Ask the breeder how long they keep their pups in the litter before selling. If it is only 5 – 6 weeks of time with mother and her pack that is a bad sign. You are looking for a more socialized dog in the 8 – 12 week range.
J) Make sure you interview the breeder and the breeder interviews you back! That is a sign that the breeder cares about the puppies they are producing, and means they are likely to help you should you have issues in the future. More time with the breeder means more investment on their part
K) Pick a breeder. How to pick a breeder? For more information check out this great article here.
L) Do you want to train the dog yourself? Or will you stay onsite to have the breeder assist you with training? Decide and agree on a price. The training cost will be between 1000 - 2000 anything more is excessive and anything less you should be warry of the breeder.
M) Plan a time to fly out to the breeder and select your puppy with the breeder, not all service dogs make it into service so it’s best to give yours the best shot at success by controlling for the breed and age
N) A rescue dog is the cheapest way to bring a dog into service most shelters will support you for a year of vaccinations and training and could save you close to $5000. Rescue dogs can become great service dogs and will immediately have a strong bond with their owner. However, a rescue dogs temperament can be volatile so investing in training upfront could benefit you in the long run.
O) Do not take home any dog until you have tested out several in the pack. You are going to have this dog for the rest of its life so take your time to pick out the one whose temperament you gel with the best.
P) Flying back home with your dog can be tricky. We’ve written an article on this subject. But here are the basics:
a. Call airline to check out their special requirements and tell them you have a dog
b. Get a dog vest and registration card
c. Be prepared to answer questions about your dog
d. Do not agree to any extra fees, an airline cannot legally charge you for having a service dog.
Follow these steps and checks and you will have a loving companion that improves your quality of life. The basics: strategize with your med team on the qualities you are looking for in your service dog, pick a cost-effective strategy with training, and look at reviews for a reputable breeder in your area.
Good luck and happy searching!
Want to tell us the story of how you found your dog? Email me here at email@example.com