Cost of Owning a Dog: What to Know Before Buying or Adopting
May 20, 2020
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The total cost of owning a dog during your first year comes out to about $1,471 for small dogs and $2,008 for large dogs, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). That’s in addition to the initial costs of purchase or adoption.
That’s probably a lot higher than you expected. Most people think owning a dog will only set them back about $26–$75 per month, or $312–$900 per year, according to data from pet services marketplace Rover.
It’s easy to be blinded by the cuteness of a dog as you imagine your neighborhood walks and nighttime cuddle sessions and forget about all of the individual expenses like microchipping, health insurance, training classes and boarding.
Keep reading for an overview of the costs associated with owning a dog, broken down by specific categories and the size of your breed. Or, skip to the printables that allow kids to track their progress toward saving up for a dog and offer alternative pet options that are a bit cheaper.
The Total Cost of Owning a Dog
There are a number of one-time costs that go into dog ownership. In addition to the purchase price or adoption fees, you’ll need to pay for certain medical procedures, like deworming, microchipping and blood tests.
You’ll also need to buy essential supplies and services, like collars, leashes, a bed, a carrying crate and training classes. These one-time costs add up to $470, $565 and $560 for small, medium and large dogs, respectively, according to the ASPCA.
When you add in the annual costs, like food, treats, toys, medical visits and health insurance, that brings the total first year cost of owning a dog to about $1,500 for small dogs, $1,800 for medium dogs and $2,000 for large dogs (not counting the initial purchase price or adoption fees), according to the ASPCA.
Here’s an in-depth breakdown of the individual costs, by dog breed.
Buying or Adopting a Dog ($118–$1,000+)
Costs can vary widely depending on if you buy a puppy from a breeder or adopt one from your local animal shelter. According to the Animal Humane Society, adoption costs can be as low as $118 or as high as $667 or more. Many adoption fees cover a medical examination, certain vaccinations, deworming medications, flea and tick treatments, spaying or neutering, microchipping and other medical procedures.
On the other hand, purchasing a dog from a breeder will cost a lot more: up to a few thousand dollars in some cases, depending on the breed, pedigree and location of the breeder.
For example, consider the cost of some typical dog breeds. A Rottweiler puppy can cost anywhere from $2,500 to $4,000, according to an analysis by Business Insider. Meanwhile, Samoyeds and Irish Wolfhounds can set you back close to $2,000.
Lower-cost option: The most cost-effective option is adopting a dog since many shelters include the cost of medical treatment, microchipping and spaying or neutering in the adoption fees.
Initial Costs of Supplies ($130–$220+)
According to PetMD, the easiest way to train a puppy to sleep through the night is to use a dog crate. Of course, crates also help to house train your dog and make sure they don’t get into trouble when you’re not around.
Depending on the size of your dog, a crate can cost you anywhere from $35 to $125, according to the ASPCA. However, you might want to spend a bit more to ensure your dog is comfortable and happy in the crate.
You’ll also need other basic supplies, like a collar and a leash, which the ASPCA estimates can cost up to $35, and a carrier, which can cost up to $60 depending on the size of your dog.
Lower-cost option: You can use a carrier (similar to the ones that you see in airports) as a crate for your house. However, be sure that your dog has plenty of space. Also, it’s important to know that traditional wire crates for home use typically feel more open and comfortable to dogs and let in more light.
Initial Healthcare Costs ($335–$390+)
If you don’t adopt your dog from a shelter that takes care of the initial medical expenses, you’ll need to take your dog to the vet to perform certain routine procedures.
The ASPCA estimates that spaying or neutering your dog can cost anywhere between $190 and $220, depending on the size of your dog. Then, expect to pay about $70 in other initial healthcare costs, such as deworming, microchipping and basic blood tests.
Keep in mind that your dog also should receive the core vaccines for distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, parainfluenza and rabies. The American Kennel Club (AKC) estimates that these vaccines can cost between $75 and $100.
Lower-cost option: Of course, you shouldn’t cut costs on medical expenses. However, know that all vaccines are not mandatory and that you can work with your vet to develop a personal vaccine protocol for your dog.
Initial Training Costs (~$110)
Before you can enjoy a well-behaved dog who doesn’t pull you on walks or bark at every passerby, you might have to endure playful nips and energetic jumping.
It can be useful to find a good trainer who will give you pointers about dog behavior, body language and socialization. There are many different types of training classes out there, whether it’s at your home, at another site, with other dogs or just with your dog.
The ASPCA estimates that initial training can cost about $110, although this varies based on location, the quality of training and other factors.
Lower-cost option: There are plenty of free online videos and resources to help you train your dog yourself. Armed with these resources, as well as plenty of treats and free time, you can avoid the cost of a trainer.
In addition to the one-time costs, you’ll also want to consider the repeated costs: things like food, toys, medical costs and insurance.
Annual Food Costs ($212–$400)
There can be great variation in how much you pay for dog food. Of course, larger dogs eat more than smaller dogs. You also have to decide whether you’ll feed your dog dry kibble or wet canned food.
Similar to your diet, a healthy diet for dogs should consist of meat, vegetables, grains and fruits, according to the AKC. You should check the label of your dog food to ensure that your dog will be receiving a healthy balance of meat, as well as nutrients and minerals from other foods.
The ASPCA estimates that, if you feed your dog a premium brand dry kibble, you will spend about $212 per year for small dogs and $400 for large dogs.
Lower-cost option: In general, dry food is less expensive than wet food. Make sure that the food has plenty of nutrients to keep your dog healthy.
To cut costs, it may be tempting to feed your dog some leftover food from dinner. (Before doing that, make sure to check out this list of “human foods” that the AKC says are safe for dogs to eat.) However, note that the ASPCA says that a high-quality pet food that follows the guidelines of the American Association of Feed Control Officials is often cheaper than a homemade diet.
Also, check out these Petco coupons to find the best deals for feeding your dog.
Annual Healthcare Costs ($210–$260+)
Every healthy dog should see the vet at least once every year, according to the ASPCA. The organization estimates that the exam, vaccinations and preventative treatments for heartworm, fleas and ticks can cost, on average, $210 for small dogs and $260 for large dogs.
Keep in mind that this is a conservative estimate. There are other factors that can inflate your medical bill. For example, older dogs require geriatric screenings that usually involve blood work, urinalysis and x-rays. This can cost anywhere between $85 and $110, according to PetCareRx.
Other healthcare costs include dental cleaning in cases of Gingivitis or bleeding gums, which can cost between $70 and $400; allergy testing, which can cost up to $300; and emergency services, which can cost thousands of dollars, according to PetCareRx.
Lower-cost option: Of course, you can’t cut costs on necessary medical procedures for your dog. However, you can save money in the long run by not forgetting to schedule your dog’s yearly checkup. It’s much less expensive to prevent and guard against illnesses than it is to treat them after the fact.
Additionally, feel free to shop around and look for the most competitively priced vets.
Annual Health Insurance Costs (~$225)
To keep healthcare costs down, you should invest in health insurance for your dog, especially since emergency medical services can set you back thousands of dollars. The ASPCA estimates that health insurance can cost about $225 per year across all types of dogs.
Lower-cost option: Health insurance for your dog is not mandatory, but before you skip this expense, think about whether your dog might require expensive medical care in the future.
It’s also important to note that pet insurance generally does not cover pre-existing conditions, according to LendEDU. That means that if you know your dog has a chronic condition and you buy health insurance, the insurance will likely not cover medical care related to that condition.
Annual Toy and Treat Costs ($40–$75+)
Depending on how much you treat your dog, you can spend a little or a lot on treats and toys! Remember that toys are essential for your dog. According to the Humane Society of the United States, toys fight boredom, provide comfort when your dog is anxious and can even prevent some behavioral problems.
The Humane Society recommends hard rubber toys, ropes, tennis balls (though they don’t weather chewing very well!), “busy-box” or “feeder” toys, soft stuffed toys and even old clothing or blankets. You should avoid toys with ribbons, strings or other elements that can be chewed off.
The ASPCA estimates that toys and treats can cost anywhere between $40 and $75 per year for small and large dogs, respectively. Check out these Petsmart coupons for savings on toys and treats.
Lower-cost option: There are ways to make dog toys last longer. The Humane Society recommends making only a few toys available at any given time and rotating the toys weekly.
Additionally, “found” toys, or toys that you let your dog find instead of simply handing them over, as well as interactive toys, like balls and frisbees, can pique your dog’s interest more than other toys.
Annual Grooming Costs ($264–$408)
Grooming can cost anywhere between $264 for small dogs and $408 for large dogs, according to the ASPCA. In addition to attending to your dog’s coat, groomers also care for their teeth and nails. The AKC recommends taking your dog to the groomer about once a month, but this varies based on the breed and the type of coat.
Lower-cost option: It’s fairly simple to groom your dog at home if you have the right tools. Check out this guide from the AKC and the ASPCA on how to do it safely at home. Also, explore these SleekEZ coupons for discounts on home grooming tools.
Depending on where you live, you might be required to license your dog. Licenses ensure that your dog is properly vaccinated and allow rescue personnel to return your dog if it goes missing. The ASPCA estimates that licenses can cost about $15 per year.
Additionally, if you go on a trip and you can’t take your dog with you, you might need to consider boarding options. Kennels and pet hotels can cost up to $50 or more per night, according to PetCareRx. There are also lower cost in-house and pet sitter options.
Owning a Dog on a Budget
Here are some additional ways that you can slash the cost of owning a dog or save money in other areas of your life by bringing home a dog:
- Measure Your Dog’s Food Intake: Talk to your vet and determine the appropriate amount of food for your dog. Overfeeding can lead to obesity and other health problems in the future.
- Prioritize Your Dog’s Teeth: Just as it can be difficult to find time to floss your own teeth, it can be difficult to remember to brush your dog’s teeth. However, it’s important to keep your dog’s teeth and gums healthy to avoid heart and kidney problems and other expensive medical complications in the future, according to the ASPCA.
- Keep the Fleas and Ticks Away: Harmful parasites can cause skin irritations and even blood loss, which can lead to costly medical procedures.
- Shelter Your Dog from Secondhand Smoke: According to the ASPCA, secondhand smoke from cigarettes can cause asthma, bronchitis, lymphoma and certain types of cancer in dogs and lead to costly medical procedures.
- Skip the Gym Membership: Your dog will require plenty of walks anyway!
Low-Cost Dog Breeds
Some dog breeds are more expensive to own than others because of their likelihood of developing certain health complications. For example, bulldogs can develop breathing issues, and golden retrievers are the most cancer-prone, according to veterinarian Jessica Vogelsang.
Here are some of the least expensive dog breeds, according to Top Dog Tips:
- American Hairless Terriers: No hair means less grooming and less cleanup at home. It also means you don’t have to worry about allergies as much.
- Bichon Frises: Forget spending a lot on food and exercise since these small dogs are mild-tempered and sometimes lazy.
- Foxhounds: These dogs are widely considered to be one of the most healthy breeds around.
- Havanese: These dogs are usually quite healthy and have small appetites.
- Mutts: You can usually adopt a mutt from a shelter at a very affordable price.
- Rat Terriers: Like Havanese, these small dogs don’t eat that much at all.
- Skye Terriers: Save on training costs with this extremely obedient breed.
Explore these printables to help kids understand the time and money that goes into raising a dog and become responsible pet owners.
“Doggy” Bank Chore Printable
Help your kids understand how much money and time goes into buying and caring for a dog. Before buying a dog for the family, ask your kids to put in some work and complete these chores in their “doggy” bank. When they have shaded in all of the coins in the bank, you can bring home your furry friend!
Dog Ownership Checklist
Bringing a new dog home can be stressful. Don’t forget anything! Print out this editable checklist that explains what you should do before and after your four-legged friend arrives.
Pet Budget Tracker Printable
If the costs of owning a dog are too high, there are plenty of other pets that come with smaller price tags and offer just as much companionship. Check out this printable that explores how much different pets cost and allows kids to see for themselves which pets the family can afford.
Additional Dog Ownership Resources
- American Kennel Club Basic Training Guide
- American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Dog Care Guide
- Pet Food Institute Dog Nutrition Guide
- WebMD Dog Behaviors Guide
In addition to thinking about the time commitment, it’s also important to consider the financial cost of owning a dog. The lifetime costs may surprise you.
For a small dog who lives 15 years, given the ASPCA’s first-year cost estimate of $1,471 and an estimated $1,001 every year after that, you would wind up paying a whopping $15,485 over the course of your dog’s life (not counting emergency or surprise expenses).
Sources: ASPCA | Rover | Animal Humane Society | Insider | PetMD | American Kennel Club | ASPCA | PetCareRx | LendEDU | The Humane Society of the United States | PetCareRx | CNBC | Petco | Petfinder | Top Dog Tips | American Kennel Club
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