How Much Will Your New Dog Cost You

When most people consider getting a dog, some of the first things they think about are what breed they should get or what they should name it. What they don’t think about is how much owning and caring for that dog will cost. While considering the financial cost of a pet is not the most exciting thing to consider, it very well could be the most important.

It can cost a lot of money to have a dog, and Americans spend billions of dollars on their pets every year. According to a survey done of 1,000 pet owners, people typically spend an average of $139.73 on their furry companions each month! This can include adoption fees, kennels, bedding, dishes, food, toys and vet visits, registration, collar, and leashes; the bill adds up fast!

On top of that, a dog’s health can change quickly, so it is strongly advised to have an emergency veterinarian fund on hand.

But don’t let the numbers scare you away from the joys of having a dog! We’ve laid out some of the costs associated with owning a pet below to make your budgeting process easier!

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Overall Costs

Before we dive into the “day-to-day” expenses, let’s look at some fun stuff that pet owners spend their money on.

In honor of National Spoil Your Dog Day (August 10th), leading pet insurance and wellness company, Pumpkin Pet Insurance, commissioned a SurveyMonkey survey of 1,000 U.S. dog owners to understand just how far pet parents will go to pamper their pooches. Among the surprising findings:

  • 72% of parents would splurge on a birthday party for their pooch, with fur-dads more likely to spend thousands on bash as opposed to dog moms who would limit the party budget to under $200
  • Public parks may be free of charge, but 33% of dog parents pay a premium for use of private dog parks
  • 1 in 4 parents have considered taking their pup to a pet psychic
  • 51% of parents spend the big bucks on designer clothes, collars, and leashes

Initial Investment

One of the first expenses of pet ownership is the adoption fee or purchase price. Some popular, boutique dogs from breeders may cost thousands of dollars, but if you find a reputable breeder with high standards they will charge fair and competitive prices. However, if you go with a backyard breeder or puppy mill, they will jack up the prices in order to make a profit.

Obviously, your first choice is the reputable breeder, but it can be very difficult to tell the difference. If you want to save yourself from tons of online research, there are plenty of wonderful dogs and cats that need a loving home for a much more modest adoption charge. Some organizations even allow you to adopt a pet for no fee!

Another benefit of adoption is that the shelter’s fees usually cover a variety of expenses. Many shelters and rescues will microchip animals, provide medical care, and in some cases even spay and neuter the animals. The cost of all this care can reach up to $800, but most organizations rarely ask that much. The upper range of most adoption fees is around $500 but can be lower for adult or senior dogs. Here is an example from Central California SPCA:

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Training is an optional, but strongly encouraged, cost. Pets like cats and turtles probably won’t get much benefit from a training course, but it can be a necessary experience for dogs.

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Dog owners who want to ensure their dog behave well have two options; train the dog themselves, or pay a professional.

While the former may be the cheaper option, you may still find yourself buying books or paying for videos to follow along with for at-home training.

If you would rather leave things up to the professionals, the cost can vary. $250 a year should cover several beginner classes, but many specialty pet-retailers offer low-cost training. Additionally, some shelters will provide training classes for free or at a reduced cost, and private trainers may also offer a discount for adopted dogs!

Food Costs

Pet food will be the largest and most regular portion of your yearly “dog budget”. But despite this, pet food is relatively inexpensive! While it is important to feed your dog high-quality dog food and healthy dog treats, the average pet owner spends only $250 to $700 per year on food.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that the size of your dog affects how much food they eat. Larger dogs need larger quantities of food; smaller dogs, smaller quantities. It’s also important to note that special foods, like veterinary therapeutic diets or freshly-made special-order food, may cost $100 or more a month. Be sure to take these things into consideration when creating your budget!

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Emergency Veterinary Care

Medical costs are arguably the most expensive aspect of owning a pet. Even when you plan for the smaller expenses, they can add up quickly. An average vet visit can cost anywhere from $50 to $400Vitamins are usually around $100 per year, and preventative medication for fleas and heartworms are each around $20 per month.

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But unfortunately, none of this includes emergency treatments your pet may require. Pets can develop diseases such as cancers, get serious injuries if in a fight with another animal, get hit by a car, or eat something dangerous. All of these things will require an unexpected trip to the veterinarian!

Some people find that pet health insurance can be cost-effective if their pet has a life long illness. Plans are paid monthly, and there are a number of reasonable options to consider. You can also set aside a small amount each month, if your budget allows, and save it for a rainy day. Talk to your vet to see if pet insurance is a viable option for you.

Equipment Costs

Equipment costs will vary widely based on the individual. If you live in an apartment building in the middle of a big city, you probably don’t need to worry about the cost of fencing in your backyard. However, there are some pieces of equipment that all dog owners should purchase, no matter where they live.

In general, a sensible nylon collar and leash set for a new puppy is about $10, and a good training harness will average $25. Additionally, treats are more reasonable for small dogs (in some cases, under $10 for a box), but large to giant breeds can cost quite a bit more (around $10 apiece for each treat). While treats and toys may seem superfluous, they can save you a lot of money in the long run!

If you have a dog that’s a destructive chewer, they might turn to your favorite shoes or the leg of a couch if they don’t have something to keep them occupied. A very destructive and determined dog may go through toys faster, so if you have one of these dogs, invest in the toys designed for “tough chewers”.

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Getting a best friend doesn’t have to break your budget. If you do the research, and just be aware of what you’re getting yourself into, you will be fine! Go into pet ownership with your eyes wide open, and be sure to do the math before you take home your new friend.

Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB
Aly DelaCoeur, UW-AAB is one of the founders of Wag Enabled (originally Why Does My Dog). Aly has a certificate in applied animal behavior through the University of Washington and is a certified veterinary assistant and AKC Evaluator. She aims to provide an unbiased perspective on dog training by providing practical, intelligent, and caring advice for people to impart on their canine companions