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7 Things to Consider Before Getting a Service Dog

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My service dog is my lifeline. We are a great team. Part of becoming a team is the preparation. Here are seven things to seriously consider before deciding to get a service dog.

1) What tasks will my service dog do to mitigate my disability? Tasks or work that directly mitigate your disability differentiate your service dog from a pet.

2) Am I ready to spend my life with a dog, who has the brain of a toddler and will always require extra steps and preparation (though s/he helps me and gives me freedom)? Service dogs are great help, but they require guidance and direction. Living with them and going anywhere with them requires extra planning and preparation. It truly is a change in lifestyle.

3) Can I deal with the extra attention, positive and negative, that a service dog creates? From access challenges, personal questions about your medical history, children and adults distracting your dog and petting without permission, to individuals wanting to learn about service dogs, you may be overwhelmed by the number of demands on your time when you have a service dog.

4) Do I have the money for the initial expense of the dog, the initial training, plus the ongoing training and care and any emergencies that may arise as well as supplies?  The initial cost of a service dog, training, vetting and supplies easily runs $10,000-$40,000 for the first year and $500-$1500 annually if there are no emergencies.

5) Am I prepared to deal with training for the life of the dog? This takes time, physical and mental ability, money and occasionally the help of a trainer.

6) Am I prepared to groom and exercise the dog?  Does my disability impede my ability to complete these tasks? Grooming can be done by you or by hiring someone to groom the dog. Usually exercise is done by the owner.

7) How will my family and friends accept this new addition to my life?  Bringing a service dog into your life can change the dynamics of relationships. It can be similar to adding a child, because a service dog generally is at your side and goes everywhere with you. It is something your spouse/family should be on board with and hopefully your friends support and understand.

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Originally published: January 16, 2017
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