Without a doubt, many children pine for the days of adulthood where they can finally have a furry friend of their own. Dogs are called man’s best friend for a reason!
But the dreams can quickly turn sour if you aren’t prepared for the reality of pet ownership. Are you ready to have a cute little someone depending on you?
Owning a dog comes with many responsibilities and financial expectations that you need to know about before becoming a dog owner. Having your pupper as a companion is absolutely priceless- but financially they have a few surprising price tags secretly tucked away.
How much does a dog cost? Well the ASPCA estimates that some dogs can cost you $700- $1,000 annually, and the first year alone can exceed $1,000 with additional expenses! It’s important to know if you can drop $70- $100 per month on a dog and still be able to feed yourself too.
Besides food, water, and the occasional vet visit, what else does dog ownership entail? Here’s our list of dog costs that you can expect if you bring home a new four-legged family member.
Buying a Puppy Vs. Dog
The age-old question- do you want a puppy to join the family? A puppy is under a year old and can have more initial costs than a dog. Puppies need more vet visits, training classes, and overall care costs are higher- and don’t forget replacing the toys and shoes they snack on- and you need to know if you can handle the extra expenses.
Adding pets to your life can shift your whole dynamic- in positive and negative ways. Money isn’t the only important factor. Costs may even out, but don’t forget to ensure your own time as a part of owning a dog. You have to be available for training and be prepared mentally if your new puppy is more energetic or more destructive than you expected.
Initial Costs of Dog Ownership
How Much Does A Dog Cost?
First Year vs One Time Costs
There are a few expenses for dog owners that only happen one time or only occur once per year. If you know the starting costs of a dog and what your furry friend could cost per year, it’s easy to add this into your budget and see how Fido fits into it.
Don’t have a budget yet? Now is a great time to learn how to budget and save up for your furry friend.
Adopting a Dog
Adoption fees from a rescue vary, usually based on how old the dog is you are looking to adopt. Puppies tend to be higher priced than adult dogs or senior dogs, and some of that is because of the additional medical costs of a young dog- sometimes it’s about how high the demand is for families who want younger pets.
An adoption fee can range anywhere between $50 and $500, it changes based on your location. Using Petfinder can give you a better idea of local rescues and how much they charge.
The fee covers whatever health expenses the rescue has provided your potential dog. It can include any of these medical options: the spay or neuter; a microchip; 1-3 of the first vaccines a puppy would need; and whatever else they’ve needed when they got to the shelter.
Buying a dog based on breed is something to research and may take more financial investment. The cost of buying a dog varies more than adoption and is often much more expensive. Breeders can charge anything from $500 to thousands of dollars. Some very rare dog breeds can even go for $9000 or more.
Rescuing a dog will always be more cost-effective than buying from a breeder. The point of going to a breeder is to know what type of dog you’re getting. Knowing the breed can tell you how large the dog will grow to be and can even give you an idea of how the dog may act.
Some dog breeds are better with kids or other animals than others, and it’s an important detail to know when adding a furry friend to your family.
If you do choose to buy a dog, do your research and make sure it is a registered, reliable breeder. If you don’t, this could cost you more in initial expenses or in the future.
One con of buying a dog is the medical costs may fall on you, whereas a shelter will have handled some vet expenses before you adopt. Not all breeders will have provided medical care like vaccinations or a spay/neuter, and you have to factor in the cost of those on top of the buying price.
First Vet Visit
Whether you buy or adopt, you need an initial visit with your vet. It’s always a good idea for your vet to get to know your new pet and give them a clean bill of health!
An annual trip will be needed with any pet, but a puppy will have a few visits. When you get a puppy rather than a dog, they will need three vet appointments to get their initial shots for the first several months.
It may be about $100 a visit, but the costs will be less per year when they are older.
Spay or Neuter
If you chose to adopt a dog, this most likely will be included in the adoption fee. That means it will cost you nothing additional and you can skip the extra trip to the vet!
It saves you a bit of money, but mostly time since it’s one less thing to do once you bring your dog home. If you buy a dog from a breeder, you likely will need to take cover the fixing yourself.
Spays are for females and are a lot more complicated than neuters so they cost more. A spay can average around $500 and a neuter could cost around $200.
Every dog needs a crate and comfy bed- you’ll need to start crate training right away! Crates can range from $30 to $150, depending on the size of your dog and what quality crate you choose to purchase.
Crates don’t have to be too large, but if you get a puppy you may need a bigger size so they have room to grow. A dog bed can come comfy and basic at $20 or you can spend a little extra for a nicer bed; some cost upwards of $100 so you can price shop around.
Some dog beds can get pretty fancy so this cost depends on if you wanna splurge on your new furbaby.
If your dog gets away while on a walk or gets out of the house without you, you may not be able to catch up and your dog may get lost. It can happen in the blink of an eye!
Most pet parents consider microchips to be a necessary expense they wouldn’t do without. A microchip is a guarantee for lost dogs to be identified and returned home. Most rescues have chip readers to ensure the stray dog in their care isn’t missing from their family.
Just like the spay or neuter, if you rescued your dog this may be included in your adoption fee. If it is not, the average price is around $45 at a vet office and we think it’s worth every penny for your peace of mind.
A fenced-in yard or an electric fence is very convenient but not a total necessity when it comes to getting a dog. These give you the freedom and security for your dog to have solo time outside. If you have a fence, lucky duck, then you have one less expense to think about!
However, some pet owners don’t have any fencing and it could be a few thousand dollars, from permits to installation and even maintenance. Budget-wise, a more cost-friendly option would be a ground stake and cable line for outside time.
That would only cost about $20 on average and doesn’t often need replacing or much upkeep.
Obedience & Training
Obedience classes are a must! (Says the dog trainer!) The first year you will want to get your puppy into a socializing class and then basic obedience. Making sure your dog can play well with other dogs, children, or behave while out and about can make a big difference. It’s a huge weight off your shoulders!
Training classes can average between $200 – $300. There are lots of options and the cost can change based on what your pet needs.
You may want to consider getting your house pet ready. Just like with children, there may be some things dog owners don’t want furry family members getting into.
It could be baby-proofing your cupboards, like the cupboard that has their food, or hiding away anything to avoid getting chewed on.
Ongoing Monthly Dog Expenses
Food & Treats
Dog food also has a large price range, fluctuating because of the quantity and quality of what you buy. The average good quality dog food will be between $40 and $70 a bag, and how long it lasts depends on how large your dog is.
If you’re looking at your yearly budget, the food costs can easily be a few hundred dollars per year. A quick tip: consult a vet on what to buy, but also be sure to check serving sizes!
If you overfeed your dog, you’ll be spending more moolah than you plan. Treats should always be included in the dog’s daily nutrition intake, especially to help with training them at home. They’re a good incentive for learning to sit- or not jump on everyone- and you may need to have them in your pockets at all times.
Treats can average about $30 and can last you a while if you don’t spoil them rotten as soon as they come home.
Leash & Collar
Dog walking can be a lot of fun, and has some great health benefits for you! But you need the right equipment so your dog doesn’t slip away. As mentioned in my blog, I Got The Puppy, Now What Do I Need?, when it comes to the first days of having a puppy, stick to a cheaper training collar and leash.
You may go through a couple of leashes in training, so don’t spend more than $20, but it isn’t a bad idea to have extras laying around. Splurge on the fancy stuff for when the puppy grows out of the teething stage.
Yearly Dog Costs
A routine vet visit is needed usually once a year to check over your dog’s general health.
Veterinary care can cost around $200 a visit; any additional cost factors including rabies or vaccination shots, possible dental care like teeth cleaning; or medicine for conditions like ear infections, skin irritation, etc. It’s basically like your own trip to the doctor, with some a la carte expenses on the side.
Monthly medications your dog will need are Flea & Tick and Heartworm Preventative. We highly suggest setting up your prescriptions on Chewy.com and subscribing to save money.
This way Chewy contacts your veterinarian, then ships the medications to you with no hassle. There is also a reduced price for utilizing the autoship. On average this will be around $200-$400 per year.
Depending on where you live, you are required to get a license for your pets. Similar to a microchip, it helps rescues identify lost dogs and get them back to their rightful homes.
On average a dog license is around $10. Some towns charge an additional $5 if your dog is not fixed, mostly because dogs on the loose who aren’t spayed and neutered can increase the stray dog population. Another great incentive to spay and neuter your pets!
Rent or Deposit Cost
If you rent an apartment or a house, you need to talk to your landlord before even looking at dogs. Always check your lease to make sure you can have pets and see if they are an added expense you need to factor into your budget.
Landlords can add a deposit and/or fees to your rent each month. A pet deposit is a refundable security deposit that you get back as long as your animal doesn’t cause damage to your rental place.
It can be anywhere from $100- $500. On top of that, depending on your state, your landlord can add a pet fee (pet rent) to your monthly rent, which can add $10- $100 to your bill.
Unplanned or Unexpected Dog Expenses
Pet insurance for a dog can cost anywhere from $300 to $1000. It all depends on what you chose, what company and what is covered.
Just like your own insurance, you can pay per month and have plenty of options for coverage. This is a helpful option if you are worried about surprise vet visits and unexpected medical costs.
Your vet office may have suggestions for dog owners, or you can ask your own health insurance provider if they have pet add-ons for your policy.
If you like to travel, you can’t forget to include the cost of a fuzzy little someone tagging along too. Plane fees can be $75 -$200 for domestic flights, and you should check their guidelines for pet restrictions before booking your trip.
Sites like Tripadvisor have much to offer when selecting hotels or finding fun things to do, but they can help you find pet-friendly or any other amenities you need on your trip.
Boarding & Pet Sitting
Boarding can be for when your dog comes along for the trip or when they are staying behind. Dog boarding can cost $25- $85 a night, though can save a little if you book for a week’s stay.
Hotels can sometimes accommodate your dog for free but you often pay an additional fee. It may cost about the same as boarding your dog. But not all hotels are dog-friendly either, so check online thoroughly before booking a place to stay. If you are going on vacation and cannot bring your furbaby, then check out Rover.com.
They have a large list of sitters that will either stay in your home or your pup can go to them. Depending on your area, the rates will fluctuate. It roughly costs between $30 to $50 a night for Rover. A boarding facility would be close to the same price range, just less one-on-one time between human and dog.
Grooming & Cleaning
If you have a dog that needs infrequent grooming, then this will cost you less. If you have a dog that needs regular maintenance, then every six weeks or so you’ll need to spend some money at the grooming salon.
Dog grooming can be anywhere from $40 to $70 a visit, depending on what needs to be done.
You can do things at home to save money, like keeping them washed and brushed frequently. If you’re comfortable, you can even trim their claws and buzz their hair yourself- but we recommend seeing how the groomers do it first.
If you’re a dog parent, this may be your biggest expense. Some people don’t think about how much toys will wind up costing. Dogs need new toys to avoid boredom, which may lead to destructive behavior.
Some good toys will keep them active and happy, and hopefully away from your shoes! You should have two sets of toys that are constantly rotated to keep your dog’s mind entertained.
Some pet owners average about $300 per year on toys, between a monthly BarkBox subscription and purchasing toys in between.
An emergency vet visit is something no one expects, but you still have to plan and budget for one in case.
Some pet apartments estimate saving an extra $1000 for whatever veterinary care may be needed at a moment’s notice. I have had one too many experiences with doggie emergencies. Because of this I have done my research and am now fully prepared. I have had two of my dogs end up with emergencies and both cost me close to $2000, a dog.
After the second incident, I discovered Care Credit. It is a medical credit card that you can keep on hand for unexpected veterinary bills.
The card will cover the cost of the bill, then you get a monthly minimum payment until it is paid off. Some procedures are 0% interest, others do have some interest included. But knowing that I have an emergency card on hand for emergencies is more peace of mind than worrying about interest rates
Your dog may have more medical care costs with age, which can be expected and discussed once you know more about your dog. Some dog breeds or senior dogs may need more from the vet each year.
Pugs for example may need more help with congestion troubles, and their medicine will be part of their veterinary care. With a senior dog, you can expect they need some additional health care for arthritis, eye trouble, or anything you would expect for yourself as you age.
There could be an additional expense of $100 here or there for medication or a few hundred if they need surgery down the road.
Dog Cost Budgeting Tips
When you firmly decide to get a dog, create a weekly dog expenses budget to see how you can spread out the costs. If you have a day you want to adopt by, like a birthday or anniversary, this makes things easier!
For each week leading up to Home-Coming day, buy one to two things you need for the dog. Then set aside some money for your new dog for vet visits or anything else they might need.
This way once you get to the big day, you have everything you need but did not spend $500 or more on one transaction. It also keeps you from buying every adorable toy you see!
Also, you will have money set aside for whatever additional costs that may pop up once they’re home. If you haven’t started, a budget in life just makes for smooth sailing!
Check out these budget templates that have us stay on track. Also, Mint is helpful if you need some budgeting help but are short on time or patience. It is a great way to see or even schedule all the monthly or yearly expenses with an easy-to-read system. It hooks right up to your bank account or credit cards, and you can see every transaction and what you’re spending money on. Mint’s budgeting section has an entire Pet Expenses category to get you started!
Don’t forget to price shop around for all your pet care needs- your wallet will be happy to save every penny it can! You can even shop online for extra coupons or to earn more money back on purchases using Rakuten. Or double-check Ibotta for coupons while you’re out and about shopping.
Should You Get a Dog?
There are so many benefits to having a dog in the family, from unconditional love and companionship to a good running buddy keeping you active. If you can handle the financial costs of owning a dog, it is worth it and can add so much positivity to your life. But a dog is a living creature and being pet parents is a hefty responsibility.
Pets are big commitments and the cost of owning them is all on you. If you want any pet- a dog, a cat, or a lizard- you need to plan for the annual cost they’ll add to your life. Become pet owners if you are prepared!
This article was written by Taylor Hake CCTBS, CACTP, Certified Training Professional, and Behavior Specialist. With her own business, Taylor has worked with hundreds of dogs, of all different kinds of breeds. She has also taken the opportunity to foster dogs through a local rescue organization. Taylor has fostered almost 40 dogs with the rescue.