How Much Does It Cost To Train a Service Dog? – The Cheat Sheet

Sully | Sully HW Bush Instagram

The heartbreaking image of George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully dutifully laying by the casket collectively broke the country’s heart. Bush’s spokesperson tweeted the image with the caption, “Mission complete.”

The two-year-old Labrador Retriever became Bush’s aid in June to assist him with daily life, NPR reports.  Bush suffered from a form of Parkinson’s which left the former president wheelchair bound toward the end of his life. Sully, named after pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger III, can open doors, pick up items and get help if needed.

Sully’s special training will continue to be put to good use. He will assist wounded veterans during recovery at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.  Service dog training is extensive and expensive. So what does it cost to train a dog like this?

What kind of service dogs exists?

Bush received his dog from America’s VetDogs, which is a nonprofit organization, CBS Miami reports. America’s VetDog dogs are trained to meet the needs of various disabilities. But other organizations train dogs to meet specific needs.

For instance, guide dogs assist the blind, whereas hearing dogs support those who are deaf. General service dogs work with individuals in a variety of disabilities. Therapy dogs help individuals manage emotional issues.

Dogs learn skills like getting help if the individual has a seizure. But also assist with mobility issues like picking up and retrieving items. Also, turning on and off lights and opening and holding doors. Some dogs can answer the phone by pushing a button and others can wake up an individual from a bad nightmare.

Where are dogs trained?

| Canine Companions via Twitter

Most dogs begin training immediately. While the dogs are still puppies, they go through an initial basic training program, which can last about 10 weeks. Nonprofit organizations like America’s VetDogs partner with a local prison for basic training. Inmates work with the pups before the dog moves on to advanced training.

Advanced training often takes place at the nonprofit’s facility. America’s VetDogs has a 10-acre facility in Smithtown, New York, CBS Miami reports. Additional training occurs once the dog is placed with an individual. The dog and new owner train together as a team.

What does it cost?

Service dog recipients don’t have to pay for their service dog, CBS Miami reports. However, it can cost the nonprofit $22,000 or more, according to The Daily Puppy. America’s VetDogs reports it costs $50,000 per dog. This includes breeding, raising, training, and placement. Also, veterinarian bills and food too.

Most service dog organizations rely on grant money to provide their services. This includes service dog grants. The Assistance Dog United Campaign offers assistance. Plus organizations can apply for an animal welfare grant.

Individuals who seek private training for a dog can be expensive too. Professional dog trainers cost $150 to $250 per hour, according to Service Dog Certifications. Plus, training can run well into the thousands, depending upon the needed skills.

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