Total Cost of Owning A Dog

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Cute PuppyMy wife and I had been tossing around the idea of getting a dog for the last few months and our recent trip to England, to visit good friends of ours, gave us a little reminder of how much we liked having a dog around. So, now that we’re back, we’re going to check out the local animal rescue and pounds to see if there are any little guys over there that we like and that also like us! As with any major decision (I consider getting a dog a major decision), you always have to consider the financials or you’ll probably find yourself in a rough spot someday.

Now, back to the matter at hand, we are looking to get a smaller type dog (around the size of a terrier rather than say a lab) so this brief total cost of ownership analysis will be focused on a small dog. We’ll also be going with a pound puppy rather than a bred dog because we feel that since it will be a pet, and not a working dog (my friend hunts, so for him a pure bred Labrador is a must-have), it’s better to go that route. We understand that there is always the potential for future health issues and unknowns about the puppy but that’s a risk we’re willing to accept.

Acquisition Costs

As mentioned earlier, we’ll be going with a pound puppy so we won’t be paying a breeder any fees and chances are all the initial veterinary and medical costs (for things like spaying and neutering) are mostly covered. However, let’s say that none of them are covered and let’s work from there and let’s call them acquisition costs. In reading various resources online, the estimated cost of the first year’s vet and medical costs can range anywhere from $100 to $700. So, if you know how much you can buy your dog for, add on around $500 (just to be safe) for medical costs and you have your acquisition cost.

Fixed Costs

Fixed costs refer to all the things you probably will buy once and then replace as needed. These are things like a water bowl, beds, toys, a crate, cleaning supplies, etc. This varies greatly but you’re talking a base of around $150-250 depending on where you live. Urban areas are obviously more expensive than suburban or rural areas and the best way to determine this is to just go to your local store and start adding things up.

Another fixed cost you may have is training. You can try to train a puppy yourself through the help of books or websites, which is very low, or you can go with a professional. The benefit of professionals is that they know what they’re doing, but they aren’t cheap. Training could cost you several hundred dollars, but training is essential for your mental health! 🙂

Variable Costs

Variable costs really are variable! They include the replacement of some of your fixed costs since they will be used and deteriorate. However, those will out be likely dwarfed by food. The best way to determine this is to ask the place you’re getting your dog from or looking up online. A quick search shows that dog food for a Westie is around $30 a month, or $360 a year. You may also have other variable costs like various medical items to keep your dog healthy, remember to include those as well.


If you estimate the average lifespan of a dog is around twelve years, the cost of the dog could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars. It’s important that you’re aware of this before you get a dog because you don’t want to one of the many owners who are forced to abandon their dog at the pound because you can’t afford them. It’s an unfortunate circumstance but it happens all the time.

One quick note about emergency funds and pets, we will be boosting our emergency fund whenever we get a pet (much like we would with kids) because pets can have accidents and problems just as people can. I’m not exactly sure how much we will adjust it upward but we definitely will.

Time to look for a puppy!

(Photo: cloneofsnake)

{ 31 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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31 Responses to “Total Cost of Owning A Dog”

  1. Have you considered rescuing an older dog? There are lots of breed-specific rescue sites out there and lots of 1-3 year old dogs that need rescuing. Based on experiences in my family, these can be great dogs, much better than you will find in a pound.

  2. cybergal says:

    Wow! As a dog owner, you have left off a lot of costs involved. Boarding or pet-sitting if you ever want to leave town. Things the dogs will destroy – you will want new carpet after he destroys it potentially! Carpet cleaner if he’s not so well trained. Potentially the need to own a different car in the future if your dog and all your family members do not fit in the same vehicle.

  3. AntiPet says:

    In spite of growing up with dogs and birds that I loved at the time, I have become anti-pet . Fine for other people to have and me to play with when I am around, but I don’t want to deal them myself.

    That said, I would add the following to cost of ownership:

    The opportunity cost of pets is enormous: amount of time you have to spend with (dog park, walks, etc.) plus the lack of flexibility (I can’t come over to visit, go on vacation… because no dog sitter available etc.) My parents live in a different city, but refuse to come together to visit, because someone has to watch the freakin’ dog.

    So what is your time worth? – multiply with hours you have to spend with pet.

    Next – pet inflicted damage – scratches, poop stains, etc. Can also be expensive.

    Also – health impact: I developed a cat & dog allergy out of the blue in the last 3 years. Imagine that happens just after you got a puppy.

    I live in a large city and I am amazed by how many people here own dogs without owning a garden for the dog to run in. Keeping dogs – no matter of size – in high rises, condos etc is just cruel IMO. People who do that should pay a cruelty tax, which should also add to the total cost of ownership.

    Clearly, money is not the only way to decide whether to own a pet – love, companionship etc, but if I were to invest that kind of effort I would much rather invest it in having kids then pets. At least kids don’t ear their own poop (my parents have a beagle…) 🙂 … and their love, companionship will last me to the end of my days.

  4. TheBlogofDog says:

    Congratulations on embarking (bad pun) on a very rewarding life as a dog owner. I agree with Mr. ToughMoneyLove that you may want to consider a slightly older dog. In addition to knowing what you are getting (mixed breed puppies can turn out to be many different sizes), there is the financial benefit of not having to get all of the starter shots for them.

    Another cost-saving tip for new dog owners is to not buy a million toys and chew bones all at once. Dogs have preferences just like kids. I have two dogs. One adored tennis balls and the other couldn’t care less, but that one loves stuffed animals. Buy one or two and find out what your dog likes before making any big investment.

    Finally, if you choose to do training yourself, make sure to take your dog, at a young age, to places where he or she will be exposed to many different people and dogs. Socializing your dog is one of the benefits of going to a dog training class.

    That said, enjoy!

  5. Alan Z says:

    consider pet insurance especially if your going the puppy route. Not sure what area your in, but if there are petsmarts around you check them out. Some of them have a Bansfield pet hospital in them. They offer a pet insurance plan that covers ALOT!!! We got a lab, golden mix puppy and went through all the shots and spaying. All covered with the insurance plan that was only $25 a month with a $150 starting cost. Trust me, they itemize all the things they did and just in the puppy phase, we saved over $1000. Puppy got sick a couple of times and the check ups are free and the only thing we paid for is the medicine. The plan also gives 20% off all services and purchases at the hospital.

    Puppy is grown now, almost 2 years. New plan @ $36 a month for adult dogs. This has paid for it self many times over as well!!! Dog got UTI twice and allergic reactions a couple times…each time the visit to the hospital was free, and only had to pay for medicine. The plan covers lab tests, check ups, teeth cleaning (this is more complicated and expensive than you think), and 2 x-rays a year (xray will be $100-$150 each) So far total savings since we joined is around $2600. So yeah pet insurance is definitely worth it. Walk into any other vet place and it’ll be about $100 just for the check up. Plan covers ALL shots and booster shots too.

    If you want a cheap pet, get a cat LOL

    I know friends without insurance that are getting their wallets BURNED when it comes to the dog’s medical expenses.

  6. rdzins says:

    Dogs can wreck ALOT of stuff. Shoes, clothes, carpet, furniture the list goes on and on. Not maybe even just your stuff, if you have any guests. I have gone to many peoples homes where there dog has jumped on me, and even my car. Here is where training is a necessity.

    I used to love pets since we lived on a farm growing up, but I now see them as a burden or a liability? Am I looking at this wrong? My mil has dogs and every time I go over there I have to watch my kids to make sure they don’t get bit! I wouldn’t have something like that around.

  7. Glenn Lasher says:

    All of this applies to cats, too, though the exact costs may differ. They are smaller than most dog breeds, and so they eat less. For that matter, it applies to any pet, really.

  8. Qwunk says:

    Congratulations! My wife and I got a pound puppy about 6 months after getting married, and now 5 years later we have two great dogs (plus a baby).
    If you do think of training yourself, I recommend “The Art of Raising a Puppy” and “How to Be Your Dog’s Best Friend” by the Monks of New Skete. Fantastic books by monks who train dogs, they really help you learn to understand and train the dog from its point of view.

  9. My Journey says:

    I have always had a dog, and couldn’t imagine a house without one. That being said (and depending on your wife) add in groomer costs. If you have – lets say a jack russell terrier than that groomer cost would be zero.

    But lets say your wife chooses a 4 pound pomeranian named Tinkerbell, who needs to be groomed every other week….then add 40 or so bucks a month. lol. That being said I know how she sounds, but I love that damn dog.

    But if your wife is NOT mine, and chooses a dog that doesn’t look like she stepped off the AKC billboard, then you could probably hose the dog down.

  10. Miss M says:

    I love it when people first think about cost before getting a pet. Too many fall for the cute face and when fido gets sick don’t bother taking them to the vet cause of the cost, pure cruelty. Also, as you may have figured out a small dog is a lot cheaper than a large one. Food, boarding and vet bills are proportional to the size of the dog.

    You’ve left off the biggest cost though, vet expenses. I’ve spent $2000 at the vet in the last month or two and will spend another $1500 this month for a surgery for one dog. Granted, I have 4 dogs right now so that really drives up the cost! The recurring costs are typically food, flea treatment and heartworm preventative. The flea and heartworm meds are pretty pricey, for one small dog it’s about $20 a month. Count on at least two regular trips to the vet per year plus one unexpected trip, my vet trips range from $50 to $500! Two years ago one doggie needed emergency surgery to the tune of $3k, vet bills have been by far my biggest expense.

    If you have a small dog and crate train them as puppies the destruction level goes way down. I’ve had a few things destroyed, mainly shoes, but it’s my fault for leaving them where the dog can get them! Labs are known destroyers, but a smaller dog can’t wreak as much havoc.

    Lastly, if cost is a concern then an older dog from a rescue may be your best bet. Puppies have a high initial cost, the spay or neuter plus the puppy vaccinations. Also they can go downhill quickly when ill so you need to get them to the vet sooner. Most genetic health issues show up by age 2 or 3. I adopted my 2nd boston terrier from a shelter when he was 8 months old, he had his 1st seizure at 1 year old. He has epilepsy, which typically starts around age 1. I got my 3rd boston from a shelter about a month ago, as for health all they said was appears healthy. Well he isn’t, he has severe breathing problems and needs that $1500 surgery. A rescue as opposed to a shelter vets the dogs before adopting them out, so you should know any problems up front. The shelter doesn’t have time to notice or take care of most health issues.

  11. Your end (boxed) note about creating an emergency fund is well reasoned.

    I’m with Miss M above. I don’t own a dog. My wife is a cat person and we have an “outdoor/indoor” cat. It broke a leg and the vet bill with the requisite medications, cone collars, cages, etc., etc. was darn near $5,000 by the end of it. The cat is almost as good as new (it has a slight limp) but I was on the verge of euthanasia except I wanted to stay married.

    I’m more of a dog person but I like my personal freedom (see AntiPet) too much to own one.

    Have fun!

  12. Alan Z says:

    with proper training a dog will behave the way you want them to behave…$100 will get you a nice 8 week training class…or you can train yourself with a book…

    young dogs are like babies and kids so without discipline they’re going to keep acting up. Honestly to anyone that says they can’t control their dogs, they haven’t been trying hard enough. Every breed is different and some need specialized training (something you should research before getting a certain breed).

    Its tricky but worth it when they’re disciplined and listen to you 🙂

  13. Diane says:

    For training books I also recommend “How to Raise A Puppy You Can Live With” by Clarice Rutherford (fairly cheap on amazon).

    Definitely buy a crate first – well worth the expense! If used properly, a crate will prevent destruction of property costs. We have a new English Cocker puppy, now almost 5 months old. She has yet to destroy anything because we watch her carefully when she is loose in the house. When we can’t watch her she goes in the yard, dog run or crate temporarily. She always sleeps in the crate at night.

    Also, factor in some chew toys to keep the little teeth busy. We go through a lot of those! I recommend Bully Sticks for chewing – you can find them on the web cheaper than in pet stores.

    Good luck in the puppy hunt & enjoy!

  14. Diane says:

    AntiPet – I just had to address your post separately. I absolutely agree you should not have an animal if you’re anti-pet.

    But if you think the time and money investment in kids compares to a dog, you’d better avoid kids also! The opportunity cost of kids makes pet ownership pale by comparison.

    And if you think kids will give you love and companionship on the same level as an animal, think again! Dogs will be thrilled to see you and be with you always, kind of like an infant -5 year old. After that, things change with kids.

    I have 2 sons, 17 & 22 and currently 1 puppy & 1 cat. I love them all – my kids are wonderful, but they’re not much into companionship – and mine are more willing to be with me than most kids their ages. But the puppy adores us!

    Having had multiple dogs over the years (4 at a time for many years) I’m well aware of the financial and opportunity costs, but for me the dogs are well worth it – as are the kids! I wouldn’t want to live without either of them.

    My feeling is that you can live a neat and tidy life, or you can live a large, happy, messy one that includes kids and pets. Sometimes I can see the appeal of neat and tidy, but overall I find that rather cold & sterile… just something to consider.

  15. Tim says:

    i’m amazed how many people consider a dog a burden. that to me suggests a dog wasn’t or isn’t right for them. as with any pet, if you want want it has to fit within your lifestyle. what is sad is when people see a cute puppy only to realize that it doesn’t fit their lifestyle. we love our dog and don’t consider him a burden on our lifestyle. yeah, you need to walk them, but hey you should want the exercise, at least we do. i’m sad when i see an overweight dog, especially large dogs who live in apartments all day long and only get an outside visit in the morning and evening to go do the business. if you are getting a dog, or any other pet, get one that fits your lifestyle; otherwise, the dog will suffer and that is bad. they (some more than others) take a lot of work, though, to train, so it is a commitment. it is nice though to come home to a pet that wants nothing more than to make you happy and be happy.

  16. Suzanne says:

    Congrats on welcoming a pound dog into your home. I hope both your family and the dog will find it a good transition and enjoy a wonderful relationship.

  17. Brittany says:

    I second the idea of looking to a rescue group. Rescue groups often get their dogs directly from pounds in various areas and have them in foster homes before you adopt them. There are several advantages to this. 1) You get someone’s opinion on the dog’s likes, dislikes, and temperament. 2) There’s often a trial period, during which you take the dog home (with supplies provided by the rescue group) and see how it works out. This 3-7 day period can be great for deciding if you’ve brought home the right dog. 3) Up to date on vet services, in addition to being spayed/neutered. 4) Often already housebroken or working on housetraining so less work for you. 5) Typically have been taught basic commands like sit, stay, down, lay down, etc.

    As a former foster mom for a rescue group, I really do urge you to look into breed-specific or all-breed rescue groups in the area. A lot of the time, people take home a dog and then realize because of the dog’s personality, activity level, fears, etc that it’s not a great match. If you have the trial period, you can learn that before you commit and potentially get yourself into a bad situation for years to come. I hope you look into it!!

  18. This is quite helpful. Me and my wife have been talking about getting a dog as well. Now that we’ve mastered taking care of plants, we are moving up the food chain until we can take of small humans. A dog seemed like the next natural step.

    We’ll look into it in more detail when we get back from a week-long trip. We have a number of other weeklong trips scheduled through the year, so the costs of a week of kenneling would have been good to find here.

    • jim says:

      Well, the costs of kenneling vary so it’s difficult to include the price of that as easily as something like food and toys.

      • Maybe another post covering the ranges of kenneling. I had no clue and would have bought anywhere from $10 a day to $100 a day. Actually that’s probably the range – a lot like gyms.

        I found a place in Silicon Valley (where I live) that’s $20-$24 depending on the size of the dog. I imagine that’s towards the top end since it’s Silicon Valley. At least I can now budget around $30 a day for when I go on vacation. That’s not as horrible as it seems.

        • jim says:

          That’s a good idea, thanks Lazy Man. We’re fortunate in that we live about 45 minutes away from my wife’s parents. When we get a dog, they’ll look after him or her for free (I’ve watched their two Scotties on numerous occasions)… that’s $30/day saved!

  19. LOL! So you’re contemplating the purchase of a walking vet bill, eh? Hang on to your wallet…it will try to float out of your pocket and take up residence in the vet’s cash register.

    Dogs are very expensive, and they absorb a lot of time (at the moment, Cassie the Corgi is lobbying me to turn off the computer and play with a ball). At one point I figured I’d spent over $40,000 on my German shepherd and my greyhound over the course of their 13-year lifespans. But what did I do after they were gone? Naturally, I ran out and got another dog.

    There’s no rationality entailed in acquiring a dog as a pet. Chuck that idea out the window. There are only two rational reasons to get a dog: 1) if you hunt and you’re competent to train a hunting dog; and 2) if you need a service dog for a handicap. Dogs should never be acquired to “guard” your house: animals bred and trained for aggression are dangerous, and burglars have guns and knives, which they use without compunction on your protection dog. Burglar alarms are cheaper, more effective, and safer.

    Now that you know you’re making a purely emotional decision, do consider getting an adult dog at the humane society or a breed rescue. Let someone else replace the furniture the dog ate in puppyhood & adolescence and the carpets the dog destroyed in the course of house-training. If you’re lucky, you’ll even find a pooch that’s already obedience trained.

    Of the smaller dogs, I would highly recommend a corgi. The one I found at the humane society is an incredible little animal: small enough that I can pick her up (important in one’s old age), exceptionally friendly and compliant, and safe around children.

    But if you have room for a larger dog and no one in the house is the careless type who will leave the front door hanging open, you can’t beat a greyhound. Nothing could be a better house pet (except for the size: most are fairly big dogs, although some only reach about 40 or 50 pounds). Overall, if they haven’t been injured on the track their health is excellent. They are fully socialized to be around humans and obedience-trained to the nines. Greyhound adoption agencies are overrun with the critters, and the people there will make an honest effort to find a dog that fits the needs you describe.

    Google your local humane society and also “your desired breed” + rescue + “your state.”. Most rescue organizations have photos of available dogs. They’ll usually describe the breed’s characteristics, including its drawbacks.

  20. Travis says:

    My wife begged me for a puppy a little over two years ago. And as lucked would have it our neighbor ended up finding one abandoned on the side of the road. We took him in, got his shots, got him fixed, got him a cast when he broke his leg running into traffic, built him a fence so he couldn’t run into the road anymore, he dug under the fence, we had to put up an electric fence, he got lonely, we had to get him a girlfriend, and my wife was tired of him after about 6 months. He’s a very sweet dog, but the investment is much bigger than we could’ve ever imagined.

  21. My cute little pug has become a walking money vacuum. Allergic to everything, he needs prescription dog food, takes a pill twice a day plus drops in his ears, goes to the vet several times a year and is so freaky about getting his nails clipped, I have to pay a groomer to do it. He’s a good dog and I love him but, if I’d known then what I know now….

  22. Diane says:

    As for vet bills, you can probably never be sure what you’ll get. I had 4 purebred American cockers – 3 of which kept a vet in business.

    I switched to English Cockers & my 1st one lived to the age of 15, probably costing less than $2000 in vet bills over her entire life! She was always healthy – just got basic care. I took her to the annual rabies clinic for a $6 vaccination and gave the rest of her shots myself, purchased from a local feed store.

    I’m on the 2nd English Cocker now, so we’ll see how that goes. So far, so good. I feed high quality food, because I think that’s worth the investment in long-term health.

    Even mixed breed dogs are chancy – I’ve seen some with terrible allergies and others that are healthy. The mixed breeds I’ve seen from the pound tend to be much more difficult about things like bathing, grooming & nail clipping due to unknown fears…

    As for nails, my current pupppy is freaky about getting her nails clipped also – 1st time I’ve ever dealt with that. I bought a rechargable dremel for $20 at Wal-Mart and she’s fine with having them sanded down~! A worthwhile investment.

  23. susan says:

    Well, everything you mentioned is true. But, you need to start deducting for the things that also would be in the credit column..i.e., absolute love for a lifetime (as opposed to spouses/children (I said absolute) +12,000 per year (has to be worth a grand a month); automatic never fail wakeup service +600 per year; reducing heat costs (lap dog or rottie, doesn’t matter, fur is warm) +3600 per year; psychiatrist on paws +6000 per year; personal bodyguard (again, lap dog or rottie, doesn’t matter, barks are loud) +1200 per year….I could go on and on but, forget all those figures and just go get your best friend to be. I adopted two rottie mixes and a chow mix and when I added the chow, the rotties went to a cheaper food. All are shelter dogs and I would give my entire retirement account and my house for the three of them. Get your dog. God will take care of the rest.

    • jim says:

      Oh we will get a dog and there are definitely credits you mention (I’d argue “absolute love for a lifetime” is worth more than $12k a year!)… I just wanted to make sure I had a handle of the debits. 🙂

  24. Cindy says:

    I have read the blog. I have 5 wonderful dogs and some fish 4 tanks to be exact. I have pet insurance and I have 4 standard poodles who need to go to the groomers 75 a piece every 3 months, vet expenses, and the food, well, let us say that is up there. I have a 6 month old St. Bernard champion lined puppy who got puppy class. I will show her later. the chew toys, stuffed animals, rawhide treats, leashes, collars, tear duct supplies, herbial shampoos and conditioners, all the fish tank supplies and the various crates and pads and stuff add up each year. HOWEVER, I take care of them and they give me much love and protection in return. I breed standard poodles, but I only sell to homes that will be forever homes to my puppies as i spend a lot of time with each one and that is additional expenses each year. Please remember to think of the shelter doggies. If you buy from a breeder, please check them out. Too many puppy mills that don’t care for the adults. Your dogs are first family then they must be healthy and checked by the vet and check the lineage of the parents to make sure they are free of heredity diseases before breeding a dog. I am taking the time to mention this as some smaller breeders locally are the way to go if you want a purebreed dog. The mixed ones that are a fad are just for the money. Don’t do this. AKC has a list of local breeders in your areas that sell and MUST meet AKC standards. Look there first. Don’t just buy on impulse at the pound or at the rescues or from a breeder because they need a home or they are cute puppies or dogs. RESEARCH people! Check out the organization, from the clean kennels, or from at the pound, or from the breeder’s home. ASK QUESTIONS always! NEVER NEVER impulse buy. Check out the facility whatever you buy from. RESEARCH the breed first, even mixed breeds. You can pick one and go home and look up the lab/rottie mix and research labs and rotties etc. GET puppy class, prepare for the puppy or dog’s arrival, get a good vet before you get the dog. He is your valuable friend! When you get the dog home it takes a month for the dog to acclimate to a new environment no matter the age. If you own other dogs or kids take them WITH YOU! Introduce on neutral territory. Hope that helps. If you have any dog questions, you can email me. I will be happy to help you.

  25. Rachel says:

    my family and I are interested in rehoming a dog from a near by rescue centre as we are strong animal lovers. We currently have a 1yr old cat called felix who is lonely and my youngest child is obsessed with dogs in the street. As my husband and I are both unemployed we are trying to work out the cheepest possible way of both looking after and owning a family pet. can anyone advise me?

    • moneylover says:

      DONT get a dog unless you are employed!!! If he/she gets sick you wont have the money to even take her/him to the vet, much less to buy necessary medicine and others.

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