Service Angel Percy recently posted a great video describing some of the pros and cons of having a Service Dog.
I’ve noticed that many new or potential Service Dog handlers focus a lot on the Pros side of things and don’t consider the Cons enough. Which is understandable. Getting a Service Dog (or any dog!) is exciting and has the potential to change your life. But having a Service Dog is also a lot of work and responsibility. They draw attention and turn a quick milk run into an hour-long affair.
Here are some of our Pros and Cons:
Pro #1: Greater Independence
A Service Dog can really bring a feeling of independence to their disabled handler. Tasks and activities that perhaps required the help of another human might be able to be completed with just the help of a service dog. People that don’t struggle daily with chronic illness or disabilities don’t always understand how big of a deal this is. Even with willing helpers, it doesn’t always feel good to ask for assistance and depend so heavily on the people around you for the simplest of tasks. Service Dogs can remove some of that burden.
Con #1: Zero Alone Time
If you value your personal space or alone time, you can kiss that goodbye with a Service Dog. Need to take a trip to the bathroom? Don’t be surprised if your Service Dog wants to lay on your feet. Want to take a shower? Your Service Dog will probably try to check in on you frequently (or even join in!) Many people see this as a Pro, but in practice, it can be a bit much.
Pro #2: A Constant Best Friend
Chronic illness can be a very lonely thing. It’s difficult for people to understand. Even those who live with you and see you every day. Having a dog that loves you no matter how sick you are and is by your side through every struggle is such a blessing. A Service Dog never gets tired of listening to you talk about your illness and never gets annoyed when you’re too sick to go out.
Incorporating a Service Dog into your daily routine can be a big responsibility. There is no more running out the door for a quick errand. You will need to make sure your dog has everything that they need too. You’ll need to always be prepared for accidents, messes, or sudden illness. Time for bathroom breaks will need to be added on to whatever activity you are participating in. Your Service Dog will depend on you to take care of their needs and put their best interests in front of your own, much like having a young child.
Pro #3: Great Motivation
Depression, fatigue, pain, and lack of motivation are common amongst individuals with disabilities. It can be hard to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning (or sometimes the afternoon) when it seems like all you’ll face is suffering. While not a task, a Service Dog can provide a reason to keep going. A Service Dog can do many amazing things, but they can’t usually feed or walk themselves. Beyond that, one look at their happy face can bring their handler back from that dark place.
Con #3: The Expenses
Service Dogs are very expensive. Sometimes you can find a program that provides dogs for free or assists with fundraising, but this isn’t always the case. It’s not uncommon for program-trained service dogs to cost $15,000-25,000. That’s not including the ongoing costs of basic care once you receive your dog. Don’t think that you can avoid those expenses by training your own service dog either. Owner-training can easily cost just as much (just for the first two years) and can be much more expensive when you consider the fact that most people don’t succeed on their first attempt.
Pro #4: Increased Level of Safety
Dogs have incredible intuition and some possess the natural capacity to sense things that no human or medical device is capable of. The ability to prevent dangerous injuries by warning of medical conditions AHEAD of time is a powerful and sometimes life-saving attribute. Sometimes it’s not even about having prior warning but being able to complete tasks in a safer way due to the assistance of a Service Dog. This peace of mind is where the power of a Service Dog really shines through.
Con #4: Negative Attention
Anytime you leave the house with a Service Dog, people are going to notice you. Most of the time, in my experience, people are sweet and curious. But sometimes people can be rude and invasive. They feel the need to assess whether or not you are “disabled enough” for a Service Dog. If they don’t deem it so, they can become downright nasty. You need to develop somewhat of a thick skin if you want a Service Dog because you will become a spectacle no matter where you go.
Pro #5: New Possibilities
A properly trained service dog can open up so many new possibilities for their disabled handler. Activities that weren’t feasible before might now become an option. For someone with social anxiety, a service dog might give them the confidence to leave their house to go grocery shopping. For an individual with diabetes, a service dog’s warnings can allow them the freedom to participate in physical activities that were once too dangerous. These are just a couple of examples, but there are countless similar stories.
Con #5: A Lot of Hard Work
Even though they are trained to a very high level, service dogs still have the same needs that pet dogs do. They still need to be fed, exercised, and groomed. Sometimes they can mean even more work because you need to maintain their training and learn to incorporate them into all of your daily activities. For a person with physical limitations, this can mean a lot of hard work. Sometimes the assistance a dog provides won’t outweigh the effort that goes into their care.
Do you agree with these points? What are your biggest Pros and Cons of having a Service Dog?