If you struggle with your sight, a guide dog may be an essential part of your lifestyle. Service dogs aren’t pets—they’re an important way for people with disabilities to gain access to the rest of the world.
Sadly, service dogs can be incredibly expensive. There is tons of training, specialty breeding, and equipment that goes into a service dog. In the end, these dogs can cost $50,000 to $60,000—which is not in the budget of most individuals.
Luckily, guide dogs don’t have to be that expensive. Many organizations that train these dogs rely on donations and fundraising efforts to pay for the majority of their expenses, allowing them to offer guide dogs at a lower price or even free. Furthermore, there are many assistance programs that provide for some of the cost of a service animal.
However, even if you get a dog for free (or almost free), you’ll need to pay for their monthly maintenance costs, including food and veterinary care. We’ll take a look at exactly how much this may cost below.
Bringing Home a New Guide Dog: One-Time Costs
Bringing home a guide dog is a significant investment. You’ll need to have the dog specialty trained before adopting them, as not all dogs make it through training. Therefore, purchasing a dog and then training it doesn’t always work out well. It’s typically best to purchase a dog that is already trained.
There are several avenues you can take to get your guide dog, even when keeping this in mind.
Free guide dogs are readily available through organizations that rely on donations and fundraising to pay for the dog’s training. Often, these organizations have longer waiting lists and may only serve a particular area. They may require more involvement from the owner, as well.
Guide dogs can be expensive, so these free options are highly sought after.
Adopting guide dogs isn’t possible, as they require specialized training and breeding. Guide dogs are bred with a particular temperament in mind, eliminating the large majority of strays. Even dogs from your typical breeder won’t work as guide dogs in many cases.
Therefore, you’ll have to contact an organization that specializes in guide dogs—not go through an adoption agency.
There are breeders that specifically produce guide dogs, typically for an organization they’re partnered with. These guide dogs are often fostered as puppies by volunteers for socialization and general care. The dogs are also trained at this point. Not all dogs make it and some dogs will fail the program and be put up for adoption via normal means (though these dogs can be expensive, too, as they are already trained).
You can’t usually purchase a dog directly from a breeder. Instead, you have to go through the organization the breeder is partnered with.
Initial Setup and Supplies
In addition to purchasing the dog, you’ll also need to purchase plenty of supplies. For instance, you’ll need a harness, collar, leash, food, and dishes. Depending on what you purchase, this could cost very little or thousands.
List of Guide Dog Care Supplies and Costs
|Harness and leash||$100 – $200|
|Collar||$20 – $50|
|Food and water dishes||$20 – $50|
|Bed||$50 – $200|
|Crate||$100 – $300|
|Toys||$20 – $50|
|Grooming supplies||$50 – $100|
|Identification tags||$10 – $20|
How Much Does a Guide Dog Cost Per Month?
- $150 – $500 per month
On top of purchasing the guide dog and bringing it home, you’ll also need to pay for the dog’s needs. Often, there isn’t much financial assistance for this part of the dog’s cost. However, guide dogs aren’t typically more expensive to take care of than your average dog.
There are a lot of factors involved in the price of a dog. The exact breed matters, for instance. Some breeds are more prone to health problems or simply eat more food, which all adds up.
In this section, we’ll break down exactly how much money you can expect to spend on your dog each month.
- $50 – $200 per month
Guide dogs require regular health care, just like every other dog. They need vaccinations and health checks to ensure that they don’t get sick, which can prevent them from doing their job. Preventative care can go a long way to preventing problems in the future. For instance, getting your dog’s teeth cleaned regularly helps ensure that more serious (and costly) dental problems don’t pop up later.
Dogs may develop tons of unforeseen health problems, of course, even with careful preventative care. However, pet insurance won’t often pay for preventative care, so it’s important to budget appropriately.
- $50 – $100 per month
Guide dogs need the same food that any other dog needs. However, because they are working, they may require more calories or a higher amount of protein. It largely depends on how much physical activity your dog is getting in a day.
You should pay for high-quality food, though this can be expensive. Your dog’s health may suffer if you provide a less-than-spectacular diet.
Medication and Vet Visits
- $50 – $200 per month
Some dogs require additional medications and vet visits, depending on their health. Often, if guide dogs develop a serious chronic condition, they’re no longer fit to be guide dogs. However, there are several conditions that they may be able to have and continue working. It all depends on how it affects their physical abilities.
Dogs with chronic conditions may need more vet visits. Many people decide to get their canine seen every 6 months when they’re a guide dog, as having an undiagnosed condition can be disastrous for their owner in some cases.
- $20 – $100 per month
Having a guide dog is a huge commitment, and you’ll probably want insurance to help cover that commitment. Guide dogs are expensive to replace, and they can rack up expensive vet bills on some occasions. Pet insurance can help cover some of these emergency vet costs, which can open up more funds to pay for a new guide dog.
Illness and injuries are exceedingly hard to budget for, as you have no idea when they’re going to happen. However, a monthly pet insurance payment is much easier to budget for and can offset some of these unknown costs.
- $10 – $300 per month
Maintaining a guide dog’s environment can be very expensive—or it may not be very expensive at all. It all depends on the dog’s living space, lifestyle, and behavior. For this reason, there is a huge variance here.
You’ll likely need to replace the dog’s harness and leash occasionally, as a guide dog will use this equipment more than other dogs. You’ll need a special harness, depending on your needs. Cleaning supplies are often necessary, too, especially poop bags (as your dog will be in public more than other dogs).
Here’s a list of everything you may have to replace. You probably won’t be replacing all of these items during the same month.
|Bedding||$20 – $100/month|
|Cleaning supplies||$20 – $50/month|
|Leashes and collars||$30 – $100/month|
|Harnesses||$50 – $150/month|
- $10 – $50 per month
Guide dogs have a specific purpose and often get plenty of mental stimulation from doing their job. However, there are many cases where your dog may not actually do much work. When at home, guide dogs aren’t needed as much—if at all. Therefore, you need toys to help keep your dog entertained during downtime.
You can purchase your dog a subscription box of toys, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $30 per month. However, you can also select your dog’s toys at a pet store.
Total Monthly Cost of Owning a Guide Dog
- $150 – $500 per month
The total monthly cost of owning a guide dog can vary considerably, depending on the exact breed and your location. There are several ongoing costs, such as feeding and housing the dog. Equipment will also need to be replaced at regular intervals.
Guide dogs may not be just pets, but they do have about the same expenses. It’s important to budget for the monthly cost of owning a guide dog, even though it may not be as much as buying one.
Additional Costs to Factor In
There are many additional costs of owning a guide dog that you need to consider. For instance, you may need to pay for emergency treatments for unexpected illnesses and injuries. These can be significant, even if you have pet insurance. Most of the time, you will have a deductible that must be met.
While guide dogs are extremely well-trained, they can still have accidents. Household damage caused by your dog will need to be repaired, which can be costly.
Occasionally, accidents happen that cause behavioral changes in guide dogs. For instance, an attack may make your dog anxious or stressed. These events may cause your dog to need behavioral training, and they may never be able to work as a guide dog again. Sadly, these events are more common than you might think.
Owning a Guide Dog on a Budget
Purchasing a guide dog is expensive. However, owning one doesn’t have to be. These dogs often don’t cost any more to maintain than your average canine. Because they do spend their time working, they may need a bit of extra food, but this often doesn’t add up to much.
It’s important to prioritize the needs of your dog, as they can’t perform their job if they’re sick or hungry. Planning ahead and being mindful of expenses can help make owning a guide dog more manageable on a budget.
Saving Money on Guide Dog Care
There are many ways to save money when caring for a guide dog. For instance, you can purchase food and other items in bulk. If you know you’re getting a guide dog, try to shop for the dog before you even bring them home. Take advantage of discounts and sales, especially on bigger items, like beds.
There may be non-profits that help with guide dog care or large veterinary bills. Don’t assume you can’t afford more expensive surgery or medication for a chronic condition without looking around for these organizations.
Don’t skimp on food quality, as this can lead to health problems further down the line. The potential health problems of not feeding a balanced and complete diet are far more costly than purchasing the correct commercial dog food for your dog.
- Related Read: 12 Incredible Guide Dog Facts You Might Not Know
Guide dogs are notoriously expensive. A lot goes into a service dog. They’re carefully trained, often for months, which costs quite a bit. Not all dogs make it through training, and these drop-outs raise the price of those that do make it. You can expect to pay a few thousand dollars for your guide dog unless you’re provided one for free through an organization that runs on donations.
You can expect to spend around $150 to $500 per month after you get your service dog. This cost includes food, health care, grooming, environmental maintenance, and toys. The cost of owning a guide dog is similar to the cost of owning any dog. However, guide dogs do have some extra equipment needs.