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Total Cost of Owning A Dog

My 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 [3])