Owning a dog is legitimately one of the best things in the world, but asking how much a dog costs before getting one is an important part of being a responsible pet owner. So in honor of #nationalpuppyday, I want to talk about the real cost of owning a dog.
My wife and I adopted our dog Strider almost three years ago. It’s been an interesting three years. First, I surprised my wife by adopting him while she was out of town (I don’t know how she deals with me), and then our dog turned out to be super weird, but I love him like crazy.
We also had to deal with some unexpected dog expenses because he had to have a tumor removed, and it was over $1,000 out of pocket. He’s all better now, but it was really scary. Fortunately, I was financially prepared to handle it.
That’s the reality of owning a dog: you have to be prepared for anything! You can easily find yourself spending around $1,000 a year on your dog, and that’s on the low end of the spectrum.
What if your dog chews up their bed in a week? What if you need to go out of town and have to board him? What if your dog gets horrible gas and you have to switch to a more expensive food? What if he eats your cell phone charger or a lightbulb? Seriously, those things do happen.
Those “what-ifs” all cost money.
Still, I’m pretty convinced that owning a dog is one of the best things in the world, and brings a lot more happiness than it does stress. We honestly don’t deserve them. But I also believe in being responsible with your money.
Dogs are awesome, but being able to pay your bills, save money, and not go into debt are awesome too.
How Much Does a Dog Cost? | The Real Costs (and Benefits!) of Dog Ownership
1. The initial cost of owning a dog
Before you can even begin thinking about how much a dog costs over their lifetime, dog ownership starts by adopting a dog. I adopted our dog Strider from a shelter, and it was $100. That seemed pretty reasonable considering that cost included his first vet visit, microchipping, and all the required shots.
Adopting from a shelter is by far the most inexpensive choice, with adoption fees ranging from $50 to $200. You’ll mostly find mutts at shelters, and there’s some evidence that suggests that mutts have fewer genetic disorders and health problems than purebreds, which can save you money and vet visits down the road.
If you do want a purebred dog (no judgment, I love all dogs), you can find yourself spending somewhere in the range of $500 to $2,000. There are also purebred rescues, where you can find rescue purebred dogs for closer to $200 to $500.
2. All the stuff you need in the beginning
The initial cost of owning a dog doesn’t end with the adoption fee, because there are a lot of things you’ll need to prepare for before you can even bring your dog home.
- If the cost of vaccines isn’t built into the adoption fee, they can run $50 to $300
- Getting your dog spayed or neutered costs $150 to $700
- You’ll need a lot of random dog supplies – bed or crate, leash, collar, ID tag, toys, food bowl, treats, food. This can easily run $150 to $400
This is all the stuff you need to have when you bring your dog home. I imagine it’s kind of like having kids… full disclosure: I don’t have any yet… and suddenly finding yourself in need of a car seat, clothes, bottles, diapers, and crib, all at the same time.
At the very least, you can easily drop $400 (and potentially much more) in a day between adopting your new pup and picking up all of the related dog expenses.
M$M tip: If you love dogs but aren’t financially prepared for one yet, why not side hustle as a dog walker or pet sitter? Learn more at Rover App Review: Get Paid to Walk Dogs.
3. Dog food and treats
Your dog has to eat, plain and simple. And dog food can range from $20 to $100 a month, and the bigger your dog is, the more you can expect them to eat. I was pretty convinced that we weren’t going to need special food for our dog, but he ended up getting the worst possible gas ever, and we quickly switched to a more expensive brand to save us all.
You can’t anticipate the kind of food that’s going to work for your dog. Some dogs end up with digestive problems, eczema, or might just be really picky. If you end up needing prescription food or food for a specialized diet, it can easily be over $100 a month.
Treats don’t make up a huge portion of your dog’s monthly food costs, but they’re important for training, rewards, and a nice way to bond with your dog. One way to save on treats is to make some at home.
I know a few people who get really into making treats for their dog, trying out new recipes, using cookie cutters…it’s serious. Most homemade dog treats contain things like peanut butter, oats, and some kind of ripe fruit or vegetable.
4. Dogs toys
Dogs love to play and it’s great for their mental stimulation. Good stimulation will keep them from getting bored, which will keep them from destroying your stuff. And it’s great for your mental stimulation too: honestly, it feels really good to throw the ball with my dog or play tug-o-war.
You can expect to add around $25 to $150/year in your dog budget for toys. Destructive dogs can go through toys really quickly, and the ones that claim to be indestructible are more expensive.
5. Dog bed
This might sound like a one-time cost, but trust me, it’s not. Some dogs tear beds to pieces in a matter of days or weeks. If your dog is a chewer, I recommend an elevated bed frame with vinyl, like this one from Kuranda. It’s actually chew-proof and easy to clean.
Even if your dog isn’t a chewer, you’ll still want to replace their bed from time to time. The padding goes flat, gets wonky, and they can start to stink pretty bad even if you do clean them often. You can expect to spend $50 to $200 a year on your dog’s bed.
6. Leash and collar
These are must-have dog expenses, and most places won’t let your dog out in public without both. You might not need to replace your dog’s leash and collar every year, but when you do, it can run $25 to $50.
Some dogs do better on a harness for leash training. So you may need to try out different styles of leashes, collars, and harnesses to find what works best for your dog.
Bathing your dog, trimming their nails, cutting their hair – these are costs you’ll have to plan for too. You can save a little money by going the DIY route, but you’ll still need to pay for dog shampoo, clippers, nail trimmers, etc.
On the low end, you can spend around $30 a year on grooming, but if you go with a professional dog groomer, you can spend upwards of $500 a year.
8. Routine vet care
Preventative care can lower the cost of owning a dog because you can identify and treat minor issues before they become major ones. Here are a few annual vet care costs:
- Annual wellness checkups can run you $200-$300
- Lab or blood work can cost $100-$300
- Dental cleanings are priced around $300-$800
- Keep in mind that puppies need to visit the vet more often in the first few months, and each appointment can be around $100-$300 each
9. Medicine and supplements
Your dog is going to need medicine to prevent fleas, ticks, heartworms, and other parasites. Vitamins and supplements aren’t must-haves for all dogs, but it’s impossible to know what kind of medications your dog might need as they get older. This is another dog expense that costs more for bigger dogs, and the range can be anywhere from $100 to $500 a year.
10. Obedience classes
If there was one thing I wasn’t going to have, it was a poorly behaved dog. I wanted to be able to take Strider out in public without incident, and not worry about how he might handle having new guests in our house.
Obedience classes aren’t required dog expenses, but I highly recommend them. We paid for one-on-one training with a certified trainer and it was great for both me and Strider. I learned a lot about him, and now he’s better at being a dog who lives within the rules of the human world.
Classes can be expensive: you can easily spend around $50/hour. You can also try books, YouTube videos, and other online learning resources to try to reduce training costs. Overall, you can spend around $25-$300 in the first year of training.
Every pet owner, unfortunately, is probably going to deal with some kind of emergency pet care. And you can’t predict when, what, or exactly how much it will cost. An emergency pet hospital visit can run from $500-$5000 depending on what needs to be done.
According to Trupanion, the average cost of swallowing a foreign object and needing surgery to remove it is nearly $3,000. And surgery for a fractured pelvis (a really common injury if your dog is hit by a car) is over $3,700.
Want to save for your new dog and prepare for emergencies? Read How to Make Money: Top 44 Ways in 2020.
12. Miscellaneous costs you need to think about
Here are a few more things you might need to put in your dog budget depending on your lifestyle, where you live, the kind of dog you have, and more.
- Dog walking. If you’re too busy to walk your dog and you don’t have a yard for them to run around in, you may need to pay for dog walking services through a company like Rover. Dog walking can cost anywhere from $15-$30 a walk and needs to be done daily.
- Dog boarding or pet sitting. If you travel, you’ll have to financially plan for what to do with your dog while you’re away. You can easily find yourself paying $35-$50 a night for dog boarding or pet sitting.
- Traveling with your pet. Don’t want to leave your pet at home while you travel? The three major U.S. airlines – American, Delta, and United – charge $125 for carry-on pets. There are often hotel fees for having a dog, and they can be up to $75/night with a deposit or cleaning fee.
- Cleaning fees. Not only do dogs shed, but they can be pretty gross at times. Some dog owners need to rent carpet steamers or pay for cleaners to come in when their dogs get too gross or tracks in some mud, dirt, etc. from the outside world.
- Dog clothes. While a dog in a sweater might look ridiculous to you, some dogs need sweaters or jackets to stay comfortable when it’s cold outside. You’ll need to keep this in mind if you get a dog with a thin coat, is light-bodied, or is a toy breed.
How much does a dog cost per year?
When you add up what I just went over, the annual cost of owning a dog is between $1,070-$4,000.
Leash and collar
Routine vet care
Medicine and supplements
That doesn’t include first-year costs: adoption, the extra stuff you need in the beginning, and obedience classes. That’s an extra $380-$1,900 if you adopt from a shelter. But also don’t forget puppies can add an additional $400-$1,200 in first-year vet visits.
How to financially prepare for pet ownership
If you’re looking at the above figures and starting to question if you can afford a dog, good, that’s the point. Dogs are amazing, complex animals… sometimes I even like them more than people… and you shouldn’t take adopting one lightly.
The key here is just to be honest with yourself and your finances. I know that feeling of wanting a dog so badly that you make a gut-based decision, but I also knew that we could afford Strider with no issues.
Here’s how to start planning financially for a dog:
- Look at your budget. Can you afford the initial costs of adopting a dog? Will you be able to afford dog food, vet visits, toys, and more and still keep up with the rest of your bills and savings?
- Start an emergency fund. Putting around $1,000-$2,000 for emergency dog expenses will be a huge help if something awful happens. Nothing would suck more than for your dog to be hurt or sick and you’re struggling with how to pay for it.
- Look into pet insurance. Pet insurance is another potential expense, but some pet owners love it. You can learn more about pet insurance and see if it’s right for you and your dog at Is Pet Insurance Worth It? Pros and Cons for 2020.
More things to consider before getting a dog
The financial aspect of owning a dog is one thing. Even if you can afford a dog, there are a few more questions to ask yourself before running out and adopting one today.
Do you have enough space?
Dogs need room to play and jump around, but after adopting a 75-pound dog and bringing him home to live in my apartment, I’m less worried about space than I was before. I think most people get used to it.
But, if you have a really crowded space or live in a place that’s pretty small, like a studio apartment, I would avoid getting a big dog. They might jump in the beginning, can knock things down with their tail, and might get really restless in a small space.
How will your other animals respond?
Ideally, your pets will get along great from the beginning, but that’s not always the case. Some new dog owners will need to spend more time, in the beginning, introducing their pets, and I’ve even heard of people taking a few days off work to keep an eye on their pets.
What about your kids?
I don’t have kids yet, but when we do have children, I know they will be a top priority when adopting future pets. You’ll need to consider things like allergies, how responsible your kids are, and if they could get injured by an overexcited, playful pet.
Do you have time for your dog?
Owning a dog is amazing, and it’s really freaking exciting to get one, but not everyone has enough time for a dog. They need constant attention in the beginning (so don’t get one if you’re about to go out of town), and if your dog gets bored, they can become incredibly destructive.
It’s okay if you don’t have time for a dog. Just be honest with yourself and your finances before you get one.
What breeds are you allowed to have where you live?
Some communities, subdivisions, and apartment complexes have restrictions for certain breeds of dogs like Pit bulls and German Shepherds, so do your research before you adopt. These are pretty unfair, IMO, but the last thing you’d want to do is get rid of your new dog because you didn’t check the rules.
Are you ready for the commitment and responsibility that comes with getting a dog?
Getting a pet is a huge responsibility. They take time, money, and lots of love… they also give lots of love back (I know that’s sappy), and it makes them hugely worth the rest of those costs, again IMO.
Getting a dog is a major lifestyle change. I see too many people who get a dog because they think it will be fun or cute and then can’t commit to the time and responsibility a dog really requires. Having a dog means you’ll have less free time – be prepared for that before you bring one home.
How much does a dog cost – my final thoughts
Adopting a dog is legitimately one of the best things I’ve ever done. I give my dog crap from time to time for doing weird dog stuff, but I can’t imagine my life without him. Dogs are awesome like that.
Do yourself and your future dog a favor by considering the cost of owning a dog, as well as the time commitment. If it’s not the right time now, there will be plenty of dogs to adopt in the future.