How to Get a Service Dog

woman petting a service dog in training in front of a fountain
| 8 min read Crowdfunding

Canines have long held the title as man’s best friend. They’re lovable and loyal, and they can provide the gift of independence. The right pooches can perform a variety of services for those with physical or mental disabilities. They can function as the eyes of their owner, guiding them on their daily commute, and they can even remind their owner to take crucial medication at a specific time, among many other tasks. However, there are many individuals with questions, searchinghow do I get a service dog.”

With this guide, you’ll be able to navigate the process of how to get a service dog through fundraising and better understand the costs associated with training or adopting your own service dog.

What are the benefits of service dogs?

Aside from providing companionship, love, and independence, getting a service dog can also provide therapy in many different forms. Bringing one of these intelligent support animals into your world can benefit you in countless ways.

A service dog can assist with tasks and reduce stress, and errands like grocery shopping for food can become easier. These trained canine companions also help boost self-esteem, they are great at helping you while you’re working, and they can also keep you socially active.

How to get a service dog

There are dozens of variables to consider with service animals, and knowing how to get a service dog can be confusing. You also have to answer the question, “Where can I get a service dog?” Fortunately, we’ve broken down the two main ways to get a service dog for you below.

Train a service dog yourself 

You can work with a professional to train your pup to industry standards. Training a service dog can take anywhere from six months to two years, according to the American Kennel Club, and typically requires professional help.

Adopt an already trained service dog

Another easy solution for the “how to get service dog” question is to adopt an already trained service puppy through a service dog organization. To avoid any problems, it’s important to make sure the organization is accredited. Assistance Dogs International (ADI) lists thousands of accredited organizations on their website.

The different types of service dogs

After you’ve figured out how to obtain a service dog, next you need to find a service dog that can address your specific requirements. Not all service dogs are trained to perform the same tasks. This list might help you decide which type of service dog would be best for your needs.This list might help you decide which type of service dog would be best for your needs.

What is a guide dog? 

If you’re visually impaired, it can be critical to learn how to find a service dog. Guide dogs are specifically trained to help you safely navigate the world.

What is a hearing alert dog? 

If you’re hearing-impaired, these dogs are specifically trained to identify various sounds and then alert you as needed. They can alert you to anything from the sound of a ringing phone to the sound of an approaching car.

What is a medical assistance dog? 

If you have trouble performing certain tasks, like opening doors or carrying items, a medical assistance dog can help make life easier.

What is a mobility dog? 

Mobility dogs focus on helping people with physical disabilities, especially those who have walking or balance problems.

What is a seizure alert dog? 

Seizure alert dogs are specifically trained to know the signs. They ensure you are healthy and well and alert others if they sense you are about to experience a seizure.

What is a psychiatric service animal (PSA)? 

Psychiatric service dogs have been trained to provide care to those with PTSD, a stress disorder, and other mental health concerns. These dogs are trained to sense impending anxiety attacks, among other conditions, and take action.

What is an emotional support animal (ESA)?

Emotional support animals provide comfort to people who suffer from psychiatric conditions. Because emotional support dogs don’t perform tasks, they do not qualify as service animals under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Service dog facts

  • It is against the law for any person to ask for your service dog’s credentials, according to the ADA’s policy.
  • Service dogs have specific rights and are allowed to go anywhere the public is normally allowed to go, according to the ADA.
  • Labradors and Golden Retrievers have characteristics that make them the most common choice for service dogs, according to Assistance Dogs International.
  • Only training and testing your dog can qualify it as a service animal, according to the Chicago Tribune. Websites that charge for service animal certificates and vests are not legitimate.
  • Most airlines require written documentation from a licensed health professional before allowing an emotional support animal on the plane.

What is the cost of a service dog?

You’ve already overcome the hurdle of how to get a trained service dog, now you need to figure out the costs associated with them. It’s often tough to pin down the exact price of a service dog, and that’s because there can be dozens of variables. Will you buy a dog and then train it yourself? Will you train your existing dog? Will you use an organization to adopt a trained dog? Keeping these factors in mind, here are the general costs.

How much does it cost to get a service dog? 

An already trained service dog from a reputable organization typically costs anywhere from $20,000 to $40,000. There are many nonprofits that offer discounts or service dogs at no charge to those in need, but you need to apply to these programs. They usually have a long wait list of a year or longer.

How much does it cost to train a service dog?

The cost of training a service dog depends on the needs and disabilities of the individual it serves. Service dog training costs can range from a few thousand dollars to over $20,000, according to At Your Service Dog Training. This is because these animals are required to solve specific issues and enroll in an intense training program in order to be called service animals.

How can you find service dog financial assistance? 

The high costs of service dogs can be discouraging, and it doesn’t help that insurance and Medicaid don’t cover any of these expenses. Fortunately, there are still ways to get service dog financial assistance.

Service dog nonprofits 

If you’re wondering how to get a free service dog, there are many nonprofits that want to help. Most of them require an application, a doctor’s note that specifies your disability, an interview, and a home visit. Then they’ll place you on a waitlist. The wait time can vary from a few months to a few years before you meet with a service animal, depending on the agency. These are a few reputable service dog organizations:

Crowdfunding for a service dog

The question of how to raise money for a service dog is easily answered through crowdfunding. For many, crowdfunding can be a lifeline when the high cost or long wait time of getting and training a service dog stands in the way of receiving essential help. Thousands of people have turned to GoFundMe to overcome these barriers.

GoFundMe makes it easy for friends and family to show their support so you can get welcome a canine companion into your home. You can set up a fundraiser within minutes, and our free fundraising platform lets you keep more of your donations.

If you’re still uncertain about how to create a compelling fundraiser, our blog has plenty of pet fundraising tips to get you started. Start by reading the blog post Pet Fundraising Guide: Tips for Success.

People who used crowdfunding to buy a service dog

These are just a few people who launched fundraisers through GoFundMe to bring service dogs into their lives.

Help Gabby Train Her Service Dog!

When Gabby was just 11 years old, she lost 95% of her vision. She was diagnosed with a rare genetic eye disease that would turn her world upside down and force her to relearn basic tasks. Her parents realized she needed extra help, so they started a GoFundMe to train Hannah, Gabby’s St. Bernard, to become a service dog. Friends and family donated over $11,700 to help Hannah become a service dog for Gabby.

4 Paws 4 Finn!

Finn, who is autistic, sometimes wanders away without telling anyone. When he was five years old, he wandered out of the house and almost drowned. That incident caused his parents to realize that Finn needed extra help to keep him safe, so they started a GoFundMe to get Finn a specially trained autism service dog. Their fundraiser was a success, bringing in nearly $14,000.

Service dog fundraising for independence 

Service dogs can change your life and expand your world with benefits including independence, security, and love. If you need financial help bringing your canine companion home, we’d love to lend a hand. Sign up to create your fundraiser and start animal fundraising today. Once created, don’t forget to share it via email and social media!

Start a service dog fundraiser

Written by Jenna Davis

Asking for help is never easy, but it's my hope that our resources make it a bit easier and empower individuals and organizations to reach their fundraising goals. I believe we can create a better future through generosity and compassion—all it takes is a little bit of support from each of us.