Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The cost of a Service Dog - once in your home

I know that I just talked about Spirit being a cheap date, which he is.  But someone I know today talked about how expensive it was to have a pet.  While I agree the price can run high, a Service Dog is a completely different animal.  But I thought I would make a run down of expenses for those of you who might be thinking about a dog to assist with your disability.
  • Food:  This is the fuel that your dog runs on.  Don't  cheap out on this.  Not only will better dog food mean that there will be less poo, it typically means no stinky farts, better teeth, and a healthier more stable dog.  My main choice to feed is Evo, with Taste of the Wild as my second choice.  Cost per month to feed $85
  • Shampoo:  You will be bathing your dog more often than the typical owner will.  Our dogs MUST be clean and presentable as much as the weather allows.  This means either a shower head in your bathroom and a Hair Dryer ($99.99) or use the facilities at your local self service dog wash, typically $15 a session.  
  • Grooming - the shedding breeds:  If you have a dog that sheds you have to keep the shedding to a minimum.  This can be done with bathing and using a force air blower along with daily grooming.  My favorite shedding rakes are by Pawz Brothers.  Different blade widths allow for pulling out the undercoat.  My favorite number is the 13 ($19.99).
  • Grooming - non-shedding breeds:  The poodle is the most typical non-shedding dog that is used for Service Dog work.  These dogs do not have to be kept in a "Poodle Cut" but can be done in a "Sport Clip" which is one equal trim.  This is easy to do with blade guards ($15.99 on sale) and is much easier than brushing out a full coated poodle every day (or multiple times).  A set of Oster A5 Clippers new are about $120, though you can find them on sale or used from $50.00 on up.
  • Gear - There is SOOO much gear out there, but I will go by what I need for my mobility dog:
    • Leads: The lead that so many of us use and love is the Police Lead .  This lead is double headed and has many adjustable points on it.  You can use it going across your chest as a 4' lead or shorten it to a 30" lead.  It can be wrapped around your waist, or doubled up to a 3' lead.  It is versicle and comes in many price points.  Starting price can be as low at $18.
    • Collars: there are so many to have, depending on what theory you prescribe to.  Here is what I was taught and believe.
      • A flat collar, when used on a dog that pulls can do damage to their trachea.  I do not believe in head halters because they put specific pressure on very delicate nerves on the surface of a dogs face.  Slip collars can also create damage because they are typically narrow and can be pulled against
      • For training purposes I like a Prong Collar ($40-$90).  Yes I know they look horrible, like rows of teeth.  If used wrong, they are a bad tool.  If used correctly they are wonderful.  They give the dog instant feed back, the pressure is reminiscent of a mother correcting a child, they are not near any major nerves and if placed & fitted properly they in no way endanger a dog's trachea.  These are for training purposes only and are taken off when not in use.  
      • For a daily use collar I like a 2" wide Martingale collar.  This is wide enough to distribute force with the squeeze action versus a constricting action of a slip collar or the flat, no information flat collar.  Price about $20
      • And just because they are pretty and I WANT one, here is a beautiful leather collar by Ella's Leads.
    • Harness:  There is a huge debate going on about what is an appropriate mobility harness for a dog.  There aren't many out there on the market, but I will show you the leading three out there with a rigid handle.
      • Bridgeport:  This is your economy harness.  It's Y front is adjustable on both sides, the rear cinch provides some stability.  The downside is that the handle does not fold down, causing problems when trying to fit your dog into tight spaces.  This harness runs from about $75 - $81.
      • Circle E: This is a light mobility harness made for light stability purposes and not for a handler that needs mid to heavy pulling work from their dog.  It is padded with real sheepskin and has a Y based front.  It is created using leather and orthopedic M2 straps; it is created using custom measurements from your own dog.  The handle can fold down but is not adjustable.  Price $350
      • Bold Lead Design:  This design has a straight front breast collar and can be used as a mobility assist with an adjustable handle or can be used to assist with wheel chair pulling.  This one is also custom made according to your dog's measurements.  With handle it is $395, without it is $285
    • Shoes:  Yes our dogs need shoes.  They travel on surfaces that might get too hot, or too cold.  They are in danger of broken glass, sharp stones or chemicals.  Without your dog's feet, many of us could not go out as easily as we do.  I like two types. there are the MuttLuks for winter and the RuffWear for summer.  Like us, the snow and ice can hurt their feet, just as too hot pavement can burn them.  Shoes start at around $60 a set
    • Packs and vests: This depends on the specific user.  Since I have a handled harness I make my own capes to go over the top.  They are vinyl and are clearly labeled with large letters "Service Dog" "Do Not Pet".  There are many places on line that sell smaller vests and patches.  This can range anywhere from $5 a patch to saddle bags over $80.

So the costs do add up.  Some of them you can deduct as a medical deduction (since Service Dogs are considered "durable medical equipment") So keep all of your receipts, you might need them for next tax time!

On a fun note, today we had an employee of Luna Flooring come to bid out a job here at my mother's house.  He left us with a little present that Spirit now loves.  His Luna Bear! (those living here hope that he breaks the little box inside with the company jingle; otherwise little Miss Luna will be going under the knife soon).

Total Price on Gear - runs about $775.  Having your dog do your laundry? Priceless.


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