Are you thinking of bringing home a new dog, but worried about the cost? Are you trying to work out whether you can afford to keep your new puppy and cover all the bills? In this article we are going to answer the question ‘how much does a dog cost’.
Looking at not just the price of the puppy, but at the ongoing costs of raising and caring for your dog.
The cost of having a dog extends far beyond the price you pay for the dog itself.
You’ll also need dog food, supplies, and of course, the money to pay the vet.
So how much does it cost to own a dog in reality?
From the monthly cost of a dog to the annual cost of owning a dog.
Let’s break down the cost of a dog, so you can determine whether you’re financially ready to bring home a new friend.
How much does a dog cost?
The first expense that you will incur when getting a dog is the cost of the dog itself. This could be the price you pay for a puppy, or the adoption fee you pay to adopt a dog from a shelter.
Dog price can vary greatly, depending on whether you adopt or buy, the age of the dog, what breed you get, and the breeder you purchase the dog from.
The price of dogs and puppies has an extremely wide range. Most of you will be looking for a puppy, and they cost anywhere from around $300 to $4,000!
But when it comes to buying a puppy, low price can be a warning sign that the breeder has not invested the time, love, attention and money that they should have in caring for your pup and their parents.
Good breeders invest hours and dollars on raising their dogs right and taking great care of them.
When they breed puppies this cost is then in part rightly passed on to the new owners.
Whatever you do, don’t be tempted by the cheaper prices for puppies at pet stores. Pet store puppies usually come from puppy mills, where animals are neglected and treated cruelly.
If you are buying a pedigree AKC registered dog they will cost more than an unregistered dog.
Dog breeds and prices
The breed of your chosen pup will also have a big effect on their price.
There are a few different reasons for this. A lot is to do with demand, but some is to do with health. Dogs like Pugs can cost upwards of $1,500, because they are in high demand and have a lot of health problems.
Whereas some breeders have been accused of cashing in on the new ‘designer’ mixed breed dogs, which keen new owners will pay big bucks for. A Pomsky for example could set you back at least $2,500!
Others have to charge a lot of money for their puppies because breeding them causes great expense.
Certain breeds like Bulldogs have been so far removed from their wolf ancestors that they can no longer produce puppies naturally. Most bulldogs for example are born by c-section, and the costs of this operation are high. Often upwards of $2,000.
How much does it cost to adopt a dog?
Adopting a dog is much cheaper than purchasing one when it comes to the initial outlay.
The ASPCA’s adoption fees for dogs are between $75 and $250, with higher fees for younger dogs.
Different animal shelters will charge different adoption fees, but almost all shelters will charge a lower fee for older dogs, because they are not as “adoptable” as puppies.
The adoption fee will go towards supporting the rescue centre you have chosen, and in most cases will not even begin to cover the costs they incurred whilst your new friend was in their care.
Your adopted dog may however cost more in terms of training or behavioral classes as they could have picked up some bad habits with their old owners.
Cost of owning a dog
There are a lot of costs of owning a dog.
These include buying supplies, from occasional purchases like beds to regular costs like feeding. There is also grooming to consider and the dog’s health.
You will also need to consider ongoing costs such as grooming, preventative medications, insurance, training and day care.
Let’s start with something simple: food.
How much does dog food cost?
The cost of dog food depends on the brand as well as where you buy it. Lifetime dog food costs mount up extraordinarily.
A survey of 1000 dog owners by the American Kennel Club found that the average amount spent on food was $446 per year.
This number will likely be lower if you have a smaller dog and higher if you have a larger dog.
You may be able to reduce the cost of dog food by buying in bulk, or by getting a member card at the store where you buy dog food.
But don’t try to reduce costs by buying low-quality dog food.
Poor diet can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s health, resulting in higher vet bills.
Dog supply costs
When you first buy your dog, you will need to pick up a lot of dog supplies. From the essentials to all of those lovely toys and games.
You can have some control over the amount you spend by shopping around and choosing cheaper options. But ultimately there is a big outlay.
Let’s assume you’ve just brought your new puppy home.
Here are some basic items you will need to buy
- Collar & Leash
- Puppy play pen
- Puppy bed
- Puppy car crate
- Puppy kong
- Puppy rope toys
If you total up the cost of each of those items on Amazon, you will be spending at least $200 just on your starter supplies.
This really is the bare minimum list of puppy items you will require. Most of us will want to get more toys and games to keep those nippy puppy teeth busy.
When your pup grows up, you will need to replace many of these items in a larger size. So at around 18 months old you will have a similar outlay again.
You can save money on some items by buying larger sizes initially. Like a full sized crate, but with a divider so the pup isn’t tempted to use it as a bathroom as well as a bedroom!
Another way to save money on supplies is to look at online auction or sale sites that offer preloved goods. Or to ask around your friends. If they have an adult dog they got as a puppy, they might still have their puppy equipment going spare.
However, if you buy a puppy at 8 weeks old you will have a lot of costs over the years. The initial cost at 8 weeks, upgrading everything when they are a year to 18 months old, then replacing items as they get worn every year or two.
How much does it cost to train a dog?
The cost of training a dog varies a lot depending upon your location, the breed you have purchased and your own experience or willing to learn!
The AKC dog owner survey found that owners spent an average of $340 on training fees and supplies. However, when it comes to training costs, there is a wide range.
You can train your dog yourself at home with nothing but time and a bag of treats.
The price of training classes varies greatly depending on location, but a group class will always be cheaper than a private class.
According to this website, the average cost of a group course is about $95. Individual sessions can range from $30 to $100 per hour.
Doggy Day Care
If you work away from the home, you will need to think about what your dog is going to do during the day.
Adult dogs should not be left for more than 4 hours without access to the back yard to do their business. Puppies should have company for most of the day, especially when they are still being potty trained.
You have three main options for doggy day care. One is a doggy day care center. There your dog will be looked after, get to play with other dogs and get entertained. You drop him off when you leave for work and collect him afterwards, just like a kid’s nursery school. This is usually the most expensive option.
Cheaper options can be dog sitters or dog walkers, depending upon how long you employ them to take your dog out for.
One way to reduce these costs is to sign up to a dog sharing scheme. These are carefully vetted and match together potential dog owners with people who love dogs but aren’t able to care for one full time. You pay an initial registration fee, but after that it’s totally free although heavily based on trust.
How much does dog grooming cost?
Some dogs only require bathing and brushing, so it’s easy to groom them yourself at home. But dogs with long hair like Shih Tzus, Pekingese and Poodles often need to be taken to the groomer regularly to be clipped.
The least expensive dog grooming service (a bath and a haircut) at Petsmart costs $29. Say you take your dog to the groomer every 6 weeks, you will spend $232 on grooming each year.
Average dog neutering cost?
Medical costs for dogs really mount up.
According to the AKC, the average cost of spaying or neutering a dog is $160. The price will vary depending on the size of your dog and the veterinarian you visit.
The ASPCA has a network of low-cost spay/neuter clinics around the country. If there is a low-cost clinic in your area, you may be able to to spay or neuter your dog for 50-75 percent of the price that a regular veterinarian would typically charge.
Many low-cost clinics offer an even lower price for dog owners who receive public assistance, such as disability benefits, food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). In New York City, for example, the ASPCA spays and neuters dogs for only $5 for owners who show proof of public assistance.
It’s important to consider whether you actually want to spay or neuter your dog, as there are some potential reasons you might want to keep him or her intact. But this decision should be made for reasons beyond the financial.
Average cost of vet visit for a dog?
Depending upon where you live the cost of a vet visit will vary, but will usually be at least $60.
Vaccinations against rabies and other viruses that can affect dogs will come at an additional cost. If you purchase a puppy that has not yet been vaccinated, you will need to pay between $90 and $120 to get your puppy vaccinated.
If you adopt a dog from a shelter, the dog will most likely already be vaccinated.
After his initial vaccinations as a puppy, your dog will need regular boosters of the rabies vaccine. Some states require that dogs get rabies shots every year, while others only require a rabies shot every three years. The rabies vaccine typically costs $15 to $20.
Dogs also need a yearly test for heartworms, as well as preventative heartworm medication.
Additional services that you may want to consider are flea and tick preventative treatment, and potentially annual dental cleanings. If you are buying a breed with overcrowding problems, like Chihuahuas
The AKC survey found that dog owners spent an average of $423 per year on vet care. You might be able to reduce that cost by purchasing a pet health insurance plan.
Cost of pet health insurance
When working out the average cost of owning a dog, it’s important to look at insurance.
The cost of pet health insurance is difficult to estimate, because it depends on a number of factors.
The first factor in determining the price of insurance is where you live. Medical procedures for pets are most expensive in some states than in others. The higher the cost of pet health care, the higher the cost of insurance.
The second factor is your dog’s breed. Dog breeds that tend to have fewer health problems will cost less to insure. We’ll get into more details on that in the next section.
The third factor is how old your dog is. An insurance plan for a puppy will cost less than an insurance plan for an older dog.
Finally, the price of a pet insurance plan depends on the amount of coverage you want. The cheapest health insurance plans only cover accidents, like a broken bone. If you want a plan that includes preventative care, like vaccines and heartworm treatment, you will usually have to pay extra.
The only way to know for sure how much a pet health insurance plan will cost is to shop around for quotes. There are some great online comparison sites that will let you pick and choose between different plans.
We highly recommend choosing a plan which offers lifetime cover and that rolls over for existing conditions. If you don’t choose such a plan and your dog gets a lifetime condition like diabetes, or one that requires multiple operations like hip dysplasia can, then you will only be covered for the duration of the policy.
This can lead to crippling costs and potentially heart breaking decisions when the policy expires.
Costliest dog breeds
The costliest dogs are those that have a high purchase price or those that are likely to have more health problems throughout the course of the lives. Breeds with more health problems will rack up more vet bills and will cost more to insure.
Certain dog breeds are more likely to develop serious health problems because of inbreeding or because they are bred to have certain characteristics.
Brachycephalic / flat faced dogs are prone to severe health problems.
Because of their flat faces, many of them need surgery to help them breathe.
They can be very expensive to insure and in some cases providers will not offer full cover for certain breeds.
This should give you a strong indication that they are a potential minefield of health problems. Breeds with severe health problems caused by their flat faces include among others the French Bulldog, Bulldog and Pug.
But flat-faced dogs are not the only ones that are prone to health issues.
A 2009 study done in the United Kingdom found that every one of the 50 most popular dog breeds in the UK had an increased risk of some health disorder because of being bred to fit certain physical characteristics.
The researchers concluded that the Miniature Poodle, the Pug, the Bulldog, and the Basset Hound had the highest associations of disorders as a result of their breed standards.
Other breeds to avoid are those with exaggerated conformation. Such as the very long backed Dachshund, who is prone to paralyzing intervertebral disk disease.
How to reduce the cost of dog ownership
I’ve already discussed a few steps you can take to bring down the cost of dog ownership, such as adopting rather than buying, choosing a healthier breed and choosing a breed with low grooming costs. But there are a few more steps you can take to reduce costs.
First of all, you should never neglect preventative healthcare. Yearly check-ups are just as important for dogs as they are for humans. They will prevent serious health problems that will be extremely costly to treat.
Other important components of preventative healthcare include feeding your dog a healthy diet, taking care not to overfeed him, and exercising him regularly.
You should also brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Veterinarians offer dental cleanings, but you can brush your dog’s teeth yourself with toothpaste designed for dogs.
Can I afford a dog?
If you take into account all of the factors shown above, the initial cost of a puppy will often be in excess of $1,000.
You will then have varying ongoing costs depending upon the size and breed of dog you have chosen.
A dog with healthy conformation, health tested parents and kept at a low weight will incur less costs as he grows up.
If you work away from home, then you will need to be confident that you can pay for doggy day care, a dog sitter or a dog walker during the day.
Get your pen ready and put in estimates of all of the costs into this handy form.
To estimate feeding costs, decide upon your desired brand. Costs vary hugely between manufacturers so make sure not to underestimate.
For veterinary related costs, give your local animal hospital a ring. They will be happy to help and to see that you are taking your decision seriously.
When calculating training costs ring a couple of local classes and ask for an estimate. Assume that you will need puppy socialization classes, basic puppy training and then and maybe a six week refresher training course each year. If you are keen to try obedience or agility with your older dog, take that into account in your calculations.
Here’s an optimistic example, based upon a healthy breed of dog with limited need for veterinary assistance:
How Much Does A Dog Cost
We can’t give you an exact total cost of a dog over the course of his lifetime, as this varies depending upon so many factors. However, you can safely assume that it will cost you at least an additional $2,000 a year.
The best way to know what you are letting yourself in for financially however, is to do the math beforehand. I hope you have found the above information useful in working out how your ideas for your new furry friend add up.
Do you have enough disposable income to cover those costs?
If the answer to that question is a confident yes, then you’re financially ready for a dog.
Resources & Further Reading
- “Costs of Dog Ownership.” American Kennel Club.
- Bovsun, Mara. “Your Puppy’s First Vet Visit – What To Expect.” 26 October 2015. American Kennel Club.
- “First-Year Puppy Vaccinations; A Complete Guide.” 20, October 2015. American Kennel Club.
“Vets warn people against buying ‘flat-faced’ dogs.” 21 Sept. 2016. BBC.
- Asher L. et al. 2009. Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: Disorders related to breed standards. The Veterinary Journal
- Walsh, JA. 2008. Evolution & the Cesarean Section Rate. The American Biology Teacher.