How much do emotional support dogs and service dogs cost?

I’d say that all dogs are emotional support animals to their humans. The additional care and comfort a person receives by owning a dog is priceless. But there is a clear definition of an emotional support animal and a service animal. Both require service dog certifications from reputable organizations. Although, unlike an emotional support dog, a service dog requires specific training and testing which can be costly. The most common question people ask when considering getting a service animal is, “How much do emotional support dogs and service dogs actually cost?

General Costs for Emotional Support and Service Dogs

*Please consider the total cost to own a dog also will include vet visits, vaccinations, dog sitting, food, toys, etc.

Emotional Support Dog Costs:

  • Adopt a Dog – $0-$250
  • Training Program: Not Required
  • Registration for Emotional Support Dog: About $100 – Find out additional requirements and Grab your certification here

Service Dog Costs:

  • Cost of Dog: $1,000-$2,000
  • Training Program: Ranging from $20,000 – $30,000
  • Registration for a Service Dog: About $100 – Find out additional requirements and register here. This will allow you to register with the national service animal registry.

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2 service dogs laying down

What is an Emotional Support Dog 

Emotional Support dogs are also known as companion animals or comfort animals. They are not considered service dogs under the American Disability Act (ADA). Designating a dog as an emotional support dog still requires a medical professional to label them as such and an ESA letter. Usually a psychiatrist, medical doctor, or health professional can deem a dog an emotional support or companion dog for an individual. Many times, people who suffer from anxiety or depression find great progress in their treatment and condition when they have an emotional support dog. 

After my son was born, I had postpartum depression and anxiety. It was very debilitating for me and without Wes to help support me, it would have been harder. I had my doctor evaluate the situation and Wes was granted rights as an emotional support dog. Wes was able to fly with me on my lap for a few trips. Always check with your airline before flying to understand their rules and regulations regarding emotional support animals.

Emotional Support Dogs are not allowed to go into public places, like your local coffee shop. For most places with a patio, dogs are allowed to be on a leash and sit next to their owners outside. But, they are unable to go physically into the restaurant or store. 

Emotional Support Dogs also do not require specific training or a formal registry. They have rights through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Check your state laws, but many landlords are required to allow you to have your dog with you regardless of their animal rules for the building.

What is a Service Dog?

Unlike an emotional support dog, a service dog must be professionally trained and registered to earn this title. Service animals must go through extensive training through a certified and professional trainer. You might also find service dogs called assistance dogs or assistance animals. The assistance the dog provides varies by the owner and may include:

  • Guiding people who are blind, also known as Guide Dog – You may see a person with their cane but also a dog to help them cross a street or know where a door is if they are unable to see themselves
  • Alerting people who are deaf or hard of hearing – You may see a dog pawing their owner’s leg when their phone rings or a baby cries
  • Alerting and protecting a person who is having, or is about to have a seizure also known as Seizure alert dogs – It’s possible for a dog to sense their person is going to have a seizure 45 minutes ahead of time in some instances
  • Helping veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome by turning on lights, creating a buffer in public, and interrupting anxiety attacks or nightmares.
  • Assisting anyone who is unable to move on their own or who is in a wheelchair, also known as a mobility assistance dog – You may see a dog helping someone push/pull their wheelchair

7 types of dogs that would be best for Emotional Support and their cost (if purchasing from a Breeder)

Keep in mind that the cost is for the purchase of the purebred dog and not their vet bills, monthly food costs, etc.

1 – Labrador Retriever (~$1,500)

  • Known as the gentlest breed. Also good to crate train at first because they chew A LOT as a puppy.
  • Highly food motivated, so easier to train. Minus my aunt’s lab who without fail, always ate the Thanksgiving pies off the counter.

2 – Yorkshire Terrier (~$2,000)

  • Wonderful lap dog or an apartment living dog because they are small.
  • Super affectionate which makes for a great emotional support dog for an owner.
Yorkshire Terrier and Beagle

3 – Beagle ($1,200)

  • Wes was part Beagle and he definitely was my emotional support dog, just always there for me!
  • Can be cuddly and calm but also have the energy to make sure their owners get out and about.

4 – Corgi (~$1,300)

  • Wes was part Corgi so you know my thoughts on this breed!
  • They are incredibly loyal and have fluffy butts!

5 – Pug (~$1,400)

  • Great with kiddos.
  • They are recognized as a short nose breed and may have breathing challenges. Some airlines don’t allow them to fly because of this.
Pug and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

6 – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (~$2,500)

  • In another life, this would be my dog.
  • Floppy ears for days.
  • People who may feel depressed often will find comfort in this breed, because of their low maintenance and mellow personalities.

7 – Golden Retriever ($3,000)

  • If getting exercise outdoors helps you emotionally, a golden is your breed! They require a lot of exercises and outdoor time.
  • They have white golden retrievers who look like fluffy snow. If that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.

Keep in mind that Wes was considered a mixed breed by the shelter and he cost me $150 to adopt. He was gentle, fun, and cuddly which made him the perfect emotional support dog. You don’t have to get a dog from a breeder and pay thousands of dollars. Visit your local shelter to find your next furry friend for a lower price option.

8 Types of Dogs Best for Service Dogs and Their Cost (if purchased through a Breeder)

1 – Bernese Mountain Dog (~$1,800)

  • Incredibly Intelligent and laid back.
  • Strong enough to pull a wheelchair or help a person get up.
Bernese Mountain Dog and Great Dane Dog

2 – Great Dane (~$1,400)

  • This giant dog’s height and strength help lend balance and support to someone with mobility challenges.
  • Sweet loving natured personality helps with children with disabilities.

3 – Collies (~$1,200)

  • Another incredibly smart dog who can sense impending seizures.
  • Calm and cheerful demeanor makes them great therapy dogs and helps those with PTSD and other psychiatric disorders.
Collies and a pomeranian dog

4 – Pomeranians (~$2,000)

  • Surprising to most, but these dogs can alert their owners to symptoms and complications associated with diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and asthma.
  • Tiny-sized making them very portable.

5 – Poodles (~$1,100)

  • They have great noses to detect allergens, even the deadly ones.
  • Sociable dog to help with humans who have mobility challenges as well.

6 – German Shepherds (~$1,600)

  • Known to be the first-ever guide dog in the 1920s.
  • Extremely loyal, alert, and fearless allowing them to service a wide range of disabilities and service dog-related tasks.

7 & 8 – Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers (~$1,500-$3,000)

  • All-around perfect breed for emotional dogs and service dogs.
  • Highly athletic and easygoing personalities allow both breeds to take on specific tasks to help their human owner.

5 great programs to help you afford a service dog.

As mentioned in this blog post, high costs are associated with getting a service dog and training them. If you are someone who needs a service dog because you have a disability such as being blind, mental illness, seizure disorder, being in a wheelchair, or another disability where a service dog will affect your quality of life for the better, you have options to afford a service dog through financial assistance programs or non-profit organizations. There are many more organizations available to you than the 5 listed below. Speak to your healthcare provider to see if they have any recommendations as well.

1 – Brigadoon Service Dogs

Their Mission is to provide service dogs for Veterans, Children, and Adults with physical, developmental, and behavioral health disabilities, to promote a more independent and enriched life. I love their slogan in that they change lives one partnership at a time by “Offering a Helping Paw”

Who do they help

  • Veterans
  • Children
  • Humans with physical, developmental, or behavioral disabilities 
You can find more about their requirements to apply here.

2 – Can Do Canines

Their mission is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by creating mutually beneficial partnerships with specially trained dogs. 

Who do they help:

  • Children
  • Humans with Autism 
  • Humans with mobility issues
  • Humans with Diabetes
  • Humans with loss of hearing
You can find more about their requirements to apply here.

3 – Paws with a cause

Their mission is to enhance the independence and quality of life for people with disabilities nationally through custom-trained Assistance Dogs.

Who do they help?

  • Children with Autism who are 12 and younger
  • Humans who are physically disabled or have debilitating chronic illnesses or neurological disorder
  • Humans who are deaf or hard of hearing
You can find more about their requirements to apply here. 


Their mission is that they have world-class service dogs that change lives

Who do they help?

  • Adults and Children with Physical Disabilities 
  • Humans who are hard of hearing
  • Veterans
  • Children with Autism or other developmental disabilities 
  • Assistance dogs for classrooms, hospitals, courthouses, ministry, and therapeutic settings
You can find more about their requirements to apply here.

5 – Retrieving Freedom

Their mission is to change lives through the training and placement of service dogs for Veterans with disabilities and children with autism 

Who do they help?

  • Veterans
  • Children with Autism 
You can find more about their requirements to apply here.

If you or a family member are not a good candidate for one of the programs listed above or another non-profit organization within your community, other options are available to you. The other options include taking out personal loans or using flexible spending accounts. There may be other financing options with your bank to explore as well.

service dogs

Saving Money with a Service Dog

Below are a few things to consider as you begin your search for a service dog to help offset the out-of-pocket cost as you care for them:

  • Service dogs are protected by the disabilities act and can travel with you on any airline, free of charge. This is not always true for an emotional support dog so please check your airline’s rules.
  • You can always check your local Humane Society to help with vet bills for your service dog. 
  • The IRS allows you to claim service dogs on your taxes, including dog purchases, food, veterinary care, grooming, and training costs. This only applies to service dogs, not emotional support dogs. Always check with a tax professional to receive the most accurate and up-to-date benefits
  • Some Food companies will offer a discounted rate for service dogs. One popular brand is Darwin’s Natural Pet Products.
  • Always check your local pet store to see if they offer a discount for your service or emotional support dog as well. RuffWear is very supportive of service dogs.
  • Before choosing a veterinarian for your dog, check to see if they offer discounted services for a service dog or emotional support dog
  • Landlords are required as part of the Fair Housing Act to make reasonable accommodations to service dogs and emotional support dogs


A service dog can be expensive but the benefits you receive to help with your quality of life are priceless. Having emotional support can also help you with your anxiety even if you are feeling lonely. There are ways to save money ad programs to help make sure you can get the care you need from a dog. Be sure to read the post on making sure you have everything ready for your new puppy too!

Please comment below if you have a service dog or an emotional support animal. We would love to hear about them!


  1. A great post, definitely has helped me with my decision to choose a service dog for my family.

  2. This is really helpful. I’ve always wondered about what goes into training service dogs. It’s a huge commitment but so rewarding.

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