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What Does It Cost?
By David Wyttenbach, President of VSRDA


I was just asked the question, "From starting at zero to the point of becoming certified with your dog, how much did it cost?”  That's a good question. Even the asker of the question knew there were lots of variables, and of course everyone manages their money differently, but I knew I was able to have an answer for myself anyway because I keep track of that kind of information.

The answer for me was:  $20,000.00

That's a nice, neat, sum of an answer...but let me show you how I got to that figure.

I went with my first dog, Hero, because that was truly starting from zero. I did not own boots, a compass, a map case, backpack, helmet, flashlight or any other type of personal gear. I also did not own a dog crate for the house or one for the car. Nor did I own anything for my dog, such as a harness, vest, lead, toys, and collar. Heck, I did not even own a dog when I first came out to the team.



I did not include the cost of Hero himself, which I got specifically to do search and rescue work with, because dogs can come in as many different costs as they do breeds. From free all the way up to several thousand dollars.

Time Period: October 1999 to October 2003 (when he became certified) - 4 years

$4,410* in Gas for the 23,519 miles driven to training, demos, and seven searches that I attended as a K9 Escort "aka Walker" with another handler working their dog. (*Estimating by taking the actual miles driven and dividing it by my vehicles 16 mpg and multiplying it by an average $3 per gallon of gas cost) / Average of $92 per month.

$2,128 for Supplies (dog brushes, bedding, crates, bowls, nail clippers, etc.) / Average of $44 per month.

$671 for Toys (balls, Frisbees, tugs, plush, etc.) / Average of $14 per month.

$1,876 for Food / Average of $40 per month.

$5,559 for Vet bills & tick and heartworm preventives / Average of $116 per month.

$6,086 for SAR (my gear - boots, pack, compass, uniforms, team dues, classes/conferences, books, etc.) / Average of $127 per month.

Total Cost: $20,730 / Average of $432 per month.


Remember there are many variables...some can train more often and certify in a faster time. Others have dogs with lots of vet bills while others (the lucky ones) have hardly any. And of course there is a huge range in costs for food depending on the diet that you feed your dog. And again, these are just my numbers. I'd love to hear if you are in my ballpark, or come in well above or under what it took me, but otherwise, any time someone asks me again, I'll simply say "It'll cost you $20K"

(P.S. On a side note, this did not count towards the cost, but if you were interested in TIME, I volunteered 1,278 hours towards trainings, demonstrations, and seven searches that I attended as a K9 Escort before becoming certified / 27 hours a week.

At the end of the day, the rewards I get in return such as the feeling I get working with my dog in the outdoors volunteering my time and helping people is: PRICELESS.

You can make a world of difference to K9 SAR teams all around the world by donating to our fundraiser campaign of which 10% will be forwarded to Crook County Search And Rescue K9 team.
Thank you for your generous support!
Last updated on 05/18/2015
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