Can I raise my own guide dog? - Page 3 - German Shepherd Dog Forums
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post #21 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-13-2012, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SheilaH View Post
At the same time, I see the need for vast numbers of service dogs here and abroad, where perhaps people cannot afford to purchase a professionally trained dog.
The three reputable programs I'm familiar with (Fidelco, Leader Dog, and Paws with a Cause) do not charge clients. Granted it "costs" about $30,000-$45,000 to raise and train a guide/service dog for 10 years of work but the client does not buy the dog or pay for the program.
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post #22 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-14-2012, 08:28 AM
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Originally Posted by carmspack View Post
I would say no - really bad idea . Firstly the dog is not a pet so there has to be enough separation to make wise , absolutely necessary decisions about the dogs suitability and progress. Many dogs are washed out along the way . .
I agree. While in theory, I don't see anything wrong with it, the problem lies in whether the dog will end up being well suited for the job and what the person will do with the dog if they don't end up being suitable.

My aunt got a black lab who had to be cut from the program as he had epilepsy. The pro's who train these dogs find pet homes for the ones who aren't suitable, but what would a private person do with the dog? It's harder to get rid of them when from the beginning you had your heart set on keeping it and get attached.
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post #23 of 24 (permalink) Old 09-23-2012, 03:52 AM
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On the subject of cost... I see this a lot and it is a common misconception about raising your own service dog. Ultimately raising and training your own dog (considering you do it right and do the proper health screenings and get help along the way) is Not a cheaper alternative.

It can actually run into more money than the majority of programs out there, and that's not even taking into consideration the fact that you have to contend with any wash outs you may have (which does happen).

Cost -

Program trained dog - Free -15,000 depending on the programs.

Keep in mind that the majority of reputable programs are non-profit and will help with fund raising and as non profits not only can they take donations but they're tax deductible which makes fund raising easier.

Owner trained dogs (cost break down for estimated 24 months) -

Purchase price of candidate - free - 2500$ +
Food - 250 - 1200$
Routine Vet Care - 800 - 2000$
Health testing - 600 - 1500 +
Spay/ Neuter - Free - 300$ +
Basic Equipment - 140 - 2000$
Training classes/consults - 200 - 1000$ +
Service dog Specific equipment - 50 - 600$

While I'm sure that I missed some things this still breaks down to 2,050 - 9,300$ or more... and keep in mind that it can and does easily go to the "and more" part of cost. All not considering that you could make it most of the way through training before realizing your candidate is not suited and needs to be washed out.

People go into this thinking it's cheaper, or it's easier, or the waiting time is shorter or a whole list of ideas that are unrealistic in the long run. While I support owner training... I've owner trained my last three service dogs and will hopefully get started with my fourth OT candidate soon, I want people to go into this realistically and not with a sugar coated fantasy of it.

If you don't feel that you could realistically take your dog to a difficult title in obedience or similar sport than you may be getting in over your head trying to train a service dog. It's hard, and heart breaking but is very rewarding at the same time. You need to have someone familiar with service dogs who can give you a realistic opinion of your dog because it's way too easy to get blind to a dog's faults if you need them.

OP - There are some people who have OT'ed their own guide dogs, it can be done but if you aren't really familiar with it I can't recommend it. Guide dogs are under more pressure than any other type of service dog. Any other type of service dog can generally be corrected by their sighted handler if they are beginning to run into issues. This isn't so with a non sighted handler.

As to guide schools allowing handlers to raise their own pups.. there is a reason they don't do this. Mainly because guide puppies are raised with the intention to be working dogs but they are still pets, and the families are expected to treat them as such in order to allow the puppy time to mature and grow properly. Fully trained guide dogs are not pets, they are working dogs and while they have down time there is a completely different set of rules involved. Not to mention that there is no way to tell at 6 weeks which puppies are going to be the right fit for a handler down the line, not to mention that it's hard if not impossible at that point to even tell if a pup will go on to graduate to a guide dog.

Wash out rates for most programs are still in the 50% range, more or less depending on how they want to twist the statistics ... 50% of the puppies that are Accepted into the program.. not counting those that wash out before going to their raisers.

If you are interested in owner training there are resources and groups out there that could give you a realistic idea of what it is like.

Last edited by JeaneneR; 09-23-2012 at 03:55 AM.
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post #24 of 24 (permalink) Old 11-14-2012, 02:54 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you to the most recent posters and to JeanetteR for taking the time to comment and to lay out the expenses of Owner-Training a dog that might not end up being suitable for the job. These are very real obstacles, especially in the current economy.

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