People new to the service dog (SD) world that lack previous training experience and choose to owner train (OT), are typically unaware of how difficult and costly it can be. It is especially disheartening when people learn that the cost of a professionally trained program dog (PD) can be upwards of $25-40,000! For many disabled folks, that amount of money is unattainable and instead, they may decide to OT. There are large amounts of misinformation on the internet regarding service dogs that creates confusion and can be difficult to sift through. Sadly, in many cases, they unknowingly set themselves up for failure. Here are some common misconceptions about OT an SD versus getting a PD.
Most people decide to OT is because they believe it’s cheaper. This is a myth. In fact, it can cost as much or more than a PD. Teaching a dog a few tasks does not automatically make it a fully trained SD ready for public access. Proper training is very involved and can take anywhere from 18-24 months. It is highly recommended that one hires a behaviorist to make sure the dog is fit for service work and then a professional SD trainer to work with. Then of course are vet bills, food, toys, grooming etc. To do it right, you’ve got to do your homework and spend money, and there’s a lot of both.Washout rates, meaning the dog is not fit for service work for one reason or another, are much higher with OT. How many dogs can one afford to train, feed, and cover all necessary vet bills, vaccines, etc.? This is a major hidden cost and risk factor that is often overlooked. Programs also wash dogs, but at a substantially lower rate.Kudos to those that do successfully OT, it’s not easy even for experienced trainers. It takes a lot of blood, sweat, tears, patience, time, and money. But thankfully for everyone else and those with financial limitations, there are wonderful nonprofit service dog programs out there. They strive to make these special and life changing dogs affordable by charging less than half of what for-profit programs do. Serving the disabled community since 1999, Amazing Tails is proud to be one of these organizations.