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How Much Does an Emotional Support Dog Cost?

Emotional support dogs play a crucial role in providing comfort and support to individuals dealing with mental health challenges. Unlike service dogs, which are trained to perform specific tasks for people with disabilities, emotional support dogs offer companionship and a calming presence that can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety, depression, and certain phobias. While they’re not granted the same public access rights as service dogs, they’re recognized under housing laws, allowing them to live with their owners without pet fees.

The cost of an emotional support dog can vary widely depending on several factors. You might adopt a dog from a shelter for a nominal fee, or you could go through specialized agencies that may charge for their animals. Keep in mind these fees often include vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and sometimes a basic level of training, which is beneficial in preparing the dog to be a well-behaved home companion.

Of course, it’s not just the initial costs you’ll need to consider. There’s also ongoing expenses, such as food, veterinary care, and any additional training you might want for your emotional support dog to ensure they remain a positive, soothing presence. These costs can add up over time, so it’s important to factor them into your decision.

Cost Factors of Emotional Support Dogs

Initial Adoption Fees

Adoption fees for dogs can range widely. If you’re eyeing a particular breed, such as a Golden Retriever or a Labrador Retriever, the cost could be higher, often reaching up to several hundred dollars. Poodles and German Shepherds are also popular choices that may come with steep adoption fees, while opting for a mixed-breed dog from a shelter might be more budget-friendly.

Training Expenses

Basic obedience training for an emotional support dog is essential, even though they don’t require the specialized training that service dogs do. If you choose professional training, costs can vary, with some dog trainers charging by the hour and others offering packages.

Healthcare and Maintenance

Routine veterinary care, including vaccinations, is vital for your emotional support dog’s health. Initial medical costs for a new dog can include spaying/neutering and microchipping. Regular care costs might cover flea prevention and annual check-ups. Pet insurance could be a wise investment to manage unexpected veterinary bills more affordably.

Additional Costs

Beyond the basics, you’ll have other expenses such as food, grooming, toys, and a comfortable bed for your companion. If you frequently travel or work long hours, you may also need to consider the cost of doggy daycare or pet sitters. Be mindful that over a dog’s lifetime, these costs will add up, so it’s crucial to plan your budget accordingly.

Selecting the Right Emotional Support Dog


Selecting an emotional support dog involves considering breed temperament, size, and your living situation to ensure compatibility with your mental health needs.

Choosing a Breed

When selecting a breed for emotional support, it’s essential to connect with one that aligns with your lifestyle. Certain breeds are renowned for their calming presence and ability to help with mental health issues like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and stress. Here’s a breakdown of some popular breeds:

  • Golden Retrievers: Known for their friendly nature and patience.
  • Labrador Retrievers: Loyal and known to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels: Attuned to owner emotions, good for anxiety and depression.
  • Poodles: Intelligent and hypoallergenic, suited for those with allergies.
  • German Shepherds: Loyal and protective, often good for PTSD.

Temperament Considerations

Your dog’s temperament is crucial in how they’ll support you emotionally. You need a dog that is:

  • Adaptable: They should be comfortable with your routine.
  • Sociable: A friendly dog can help ease social anxiety.
  • Calm: Calm dogs are excellent for managing stress and moments of high emotions.

Size and Living Space

Your living environment affects the size of the emotional support dog you should consider:

  • Small Apartments: Smaller breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels adapt well.
  • Larger Spaces: Bigger dogs like Labradors and German Shepherds can thrive.

Remember, under the Fair Housing Act, your landlord must accommodate your emotional support dog regardless of pet policies.

Training and Certification

Emotional support dogs provide comfort and support in forms of companionship and affection for an individual suffering from various mental and emotional conditions. Unlike service dogs, they aren’t required to perform specific tasks, so their training differs. However, proper training and certification are crucial to ensure they can behave appropriately in various environments.

Self-Training vs Professional Training


  • Pros: You’ll save money and have the opportunity to foster a deep bond with your dog.
  • Cons: It can be time-consuming and may lack the experience needed for specific training techniques.

Professional Training:

  • Pros: Trainers are often skilled in advanced techniques, can ensure a comprehensive training program, and provide a structured environment for learning.
  • Cost: Prices vary widely, but can range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the trainer’s expertise and the training program’s length and scope.

Obtaining an ESA Letter

Before considering any training, you’ll need an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional such as a therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist. This letter confirms that your emotional support dog is part of your mental health treatment plan.

Steps to Obtain an ESA Letter:

  1. Schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.
  2. Discuss your need for an emotional support animal as part of your therapy.
  3. If qualified, the professional will provide you with a signed ESA letter.

Financial Assistance and Support

The costs associated with obtaining an emotional support dog can be substantial, but you’re not alone in this. There are options for financial support that can ease the burden, from nonprofit aid to navigating the complexities of insurance coverage.

Nonprofit Organizations and Charities

Nonprofit organizations and charities can be invaluable resources when you’re looking to adopt an emotional support animal (ESA). Many organizations offer financial assistance or subsidized training costs to help cover your expenses. 

  • Start Your Search with:
    • Local ESA-related nonprofits
    • Animal welfare organizations

Insurance and Health Care Support

Understanding insurance and health care support options is important when financing an emotional support dog. While traditional health insurance doesn’t typically cover ESAs, you may find some relief through pet insurance plans that offer coverage for routine care or medical expenses. It’s essential to check with your insurance provider to see if there are specific products or riders that could extend to the care of your ESA. Keep in mind, though, that emotional support animals are not the same as service animals, which are more likely to be covered under certain types of insurance given their specialized training and designation.

  • Check With Your Provider About:
    • Pet insurance options
    • Riders for ESA on existing plans
    • Potential coverage benefits for service animals (if applicable)

Frequently Asked Questions

In exploring the costs related to emotional support dogs, you’ll find varied pricing and options tailored to different needs.

What is the price range for an emotional support dog?

You can expect to pay between $100 and $200 for a legitimate mental health professional’s evaluation for an emotional support animal (ESA) letter. Some assessments may cost more depending on the professional’s credentials and the comprehensiveness of the evaluation.

Are there options to obtain an emotional support dog at no cost?

While acquiring an emotional support dog usually involves some expenses, adoption from rescue centers or shelters can often reduce or eliminate the upfront costs of getting a dog. However, the ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional will still incur a fee.

What are the costs associated with training your current dog to be an emotional support animal?

Training costs for an emotional support dog can vary widely and are typically not required since ESAs do not need specialized training. The primary expense is obtaining an ESA letter from a licensed mental health professional, which confirms the need for an emotional support animal for your well-being.