The True Cost of Owning a Dog

Whether you like big dogs or small dogs, you're in good company because at Education First, we love our dogs! Thinking about sharing your home with one - or one more?  We've got you covered. We'll talk about one-time expenses, ongoing costs, considerations, necessary supplies, and more to help you figure out what you can afford. 

Owning and caring for a dog won’t come cheap. But if you work out the numbers before moving forward, you’ll know what to expect and have an easier time budgeting for these new expenses. Here’s a rundown of what purchasing and caring for a dog can cost.

Start-up costs

First, let’s take a look at the larger expenses that you’ll (fortunately) only need to pay once.

If you decide to buy a purebred from a breeder, it’ll cost you anywhere from $500 - $3,500. If the breeder is out of state, you may need to add shipping costs – usually around $500. This cost may be offset by lower healthcare expenses over time. Good breeders will offer puppies that are eight weeks or older, started on their first set of vaccines, and usually health guaranteed for the 1-3 years of their lives. Finishing out vaccine schedules for the first several months will cost another $100 - $175. If you choose to have your dog spayed or neutered, add $20 - $300 to your total.

Shelter dogs often come fully vaccinated, spayed or neutered, and microchipped for a much lower fee. If you get your dog from a shelter, you can pay as little as $50 or up to $400. Many shelters have occasional “Clear the Shelter” days, during which you may be able to pick up your new pup (or kitten) for free. October 1st is also National Black Dog Day, where darker dogs can be adopted for free. Follow your local shelters on social media or call them to find out when these days will occur.

Wherever you decide to find your new pup, you’ll need to spring for some gear before bringing your pet home. Basic supplies include a bed, a collar and leash, a feeding bowl, water bowl, and some toys. Combined, these should run you about $50 - $100 on average.

If you’d like to have your dog trained, you can pay as little as $25 for a single class, or up to $300 for a full course of training, plus resource materials.

Total one-time costs: $125 - $4,350

Ongoing costs

Once you’ve paid the costs to bring your dog home, you’ll need to consider what it costs to care for your pet each month.

Dog food

Your four-legged friend’s gotta eat, but how much is dog food going to cost you? That depends on several variables.
First, how much are you able to spend? The cheapest dog food can cost less than a dollar a pound, but if you go gourmet, expect to pay gourmet prices - $1.60/lb or more.

The size of your dog also plays a role in how much the food will cost. A teacup-sized pup will only need 140 calories a day, or ⅓ cup of food, while a 100-pound beast will need a whopping 1,925 calories a day, or 4½ cups of food.
Finally, consider your dog’s special dietary requirements. A bag or can of food for dogs with sensitive stomachs or allergies can cost as much as $2.60/lb or more.

Total monthly cost: $20-80

Preventative health care and routine well visits

All dogs will need medications to prevent common conditions such as heartworms, fleas, and ticks. Some vets may recommend vitamins or other supplements, and dogs should also have their teeth cleaned occasionally.

Costs for these preventative measures will vary by the size of the dog and its general health. Most vets also advise dog owners to bring their pets in for a wellness checkup at least once a year. The cost of this visit will vary by location and practitioner.

Absolutely no one wants to think about it, but it is critical to have a budget in mind in case of an emergency with your pet. Emergency vet bills can add up to thousands of dollars very quickly, especially on the weekends or in the middle of the night. It’s so important to plan and come up with a number you simply can’t afford to pay, or decide if you’re willing to go into debt. If you can’t afford vet bills, in some cases it’s also possible to seek help from or surrender your pet to a local rescue to save their life. Rescues often have budgets and relationships with veterinarians for that specific purpose. Let your vet know what you’re willing to do ahead of time so they can help you make those decisions. It’s likely that trying to decide in the emotions of the moment would be almost impossible.

If you have an insurance plan for yourself, you may be able to add pet insurance to your plan for as little as $9/month, depending on your provider. Pet insurance can be extremely useful in offsetting these emergency costs, and often cover some routine costs as well.

Total monthly cost: $20-80

Grooming and bathing

If you’ll be giving doggy baths at home or out in the yard and trimming its nails on your own, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. If you’ll be hiring someone else to do the washing and occasional grooming, these costs can add another $60-$100 every six weeks.

Total monthly cost: $0-100

Doggy day care, boarding and walking

Here’s where doggy costs can start to skyrocket.

Doggy day care averages $30 a day, while individuals who travel often can expect to add another $40 to the price per overnight stay. Hiring someone to walk your dog will bring these costs up even more, with professional dog-walking services charging as much as $30 for every half-hour walk.

Total monthly cost: $0-600

So, how much does it cost to own a dog? After the initial one-time costs, expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $960 a month, depending on how much you choose to spend, how often you’ll need to board your pet, and any health conditions your new family member may have.

Your fur baby won’t come cheap, but you can’t put a price on having someone who will be thrilled to see you walk through the door every day. The companionship, unconditional love, and joy that a dog will bring you and your family is often worth the expense. Be sure to review the costs before bringing your pet home, and to make sure you can comfortably afford them before jumping in with two feet.