My German shepherd pup just recently had her first birthday, and it got me thinking that it’s high time I wrote an article that breaks down the cost of owning a dog. Not from the ASPCA’s loosely-based “guestimates,” not from the internet’s average listed costs, but honestly and truly based on my personal experience, using brand names and the actual factual cost of each item. Having a dog has been one of my greatest pleasures, although dogs can be expensive companions especially if you get one before putting together a budget and anticipating the expenses. If you are considering welcoming a dog into your family, you should give this article a quick read for a breakdown of costs, both annual and one-time, to see the kind of price tag you’re up against. Since I also have a cat, I’m going to throw in cat care costs as well.
One Time Fees
Adoption or breeder’s fee:
This is the initial upfront cost that you’ll pay to obtain your new furry friend. Shelters like the ASPCA or pounds obviously charge far less than a breeder would. The ASPCA charges a $75 to $200 fee to adopt dogs, with puppies and smaller dogs being more expensive. If you do adopt a puppy from the ASPCA, you will also need to purchase 4 obedience classes at $25 apiece. Breeder’s fees, however, can range from $500 to over a thousand, depending on the breed and pedigree of the dog. So this fee is incredibly varied, and will simply depend on where you choose to get your dog. Personally, I paid $300 for my German shepherd when she was 3 months old, and she was a rescue from a family who could no longer keep her. TOTAL COST: $75-$1200
We paid $138 at a local vet to get our dog spayed, however we went to the ASPCA first to get her licensed and were able to receive a $40 discount off of her spaying. It’s the ASPCA’s way of providing an incentive to get your animal fixed. The ASPCA also offers low-cost spaying and neutering, so check their website to see if there are locations near you that do them! TOTAL COST: $98
Obedience or training classes:
I called around to a few places for private obedience classes, and the absolute cheapest I found was $65 an hour. Yep, these can add up quick. What we went with, however, was a group training course at Petco for $10 on loose leash walking. It completely depends on your dog, your patience, and the amount of time you have to train them but be warned that these classes are not cheap! TOTAL COST: $10
Initial Medical Care:
Some inoculations your dog will need to get every one to three years, such as rabies and distemper. But there are other shots that your dog only needs once or twice in his life and should get as a puppy. These include corona, bordetella, and DA2P. There’s also worms treatments and giardia, among a few others. The cost for my dog to get all rounds of her rabies shots plus the above mentioned ones was about $85. TOTAL COST: $85
Leash/Collar/Food and water bowls:
Her leash was $25, collar was $18, and I got her food and water bowls at the dollar store for a buck apiece. Total: $45 (although I will note that she chewed her first leash in half when left alone with it once as a puppy, so we had to put up another $25 for a new leash. It happens!) TOTAL COST: $45
We crate trained our pup, and the crate was one of the costlier items we’ve purchased for her. It cost us $120, although in retrospect I would have tried to find something less expensive on Craigslist. However we needed it right away, so we paid top dollar at Petco. TOTAL COST: $120
Unfortunately, we went through a few of these (with a 6-month hiatus in between) before she learned not to chew them to shreds. Each bed was $20, but for practical purposes I will not add up how many beds we bought for the total. TOTAL COST: $20
It is such a good idea to get your pup micro-chipped, that way if she gets lost or her collar and tags come off, the pound or shelter can still have a way to contact you. We got our pup micro-chipped at Petco’s Vetco program, and it cost $32. When we moved from one state to another though, we had to pay $9 to have the information updated on the computer. TOTAL COST: $39
This is where costs can really add up, especially if you travel often or don’t have any friends or family members you can coerce to look after your pup while you’re gone. The cheapest I have found overnight kennels or personal dog boarders is $35 per night, so multiply that by the number of nights you’ll be away and tack it on to your travel costs. If you’re okay with leaving your dog at home and having a walker come by a few times a day, then it might be a bit less but again it ranges depending on where you live. TOTAL COST: minimum of $35 per day
As with most things, it’s cheaper to buy in bulk. I personally feed my dog a chicken based dry food from Costco, called Kirkland Super Premium Adult Dog Chicken and Rice and it costs $31 for a 40 lb bag, which lasts about a month and a half. TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $248
Routine Vet Visits:
Remember those shots your dog needs every one to three years? (rabies, distemper and parvo) It will probably run you about $30 for the shots, which are usually good for three years. Break it down per year, and it’s about $10 per year. TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $10
Flea & Tick Drops:
Newsflash: Frontline is crazy expensive! It usually runs about $70 for 3 applicators. We started buying our flea and tick drops at Costco, which sells a Kirkland brand for $20 for 6 applicators. We haven’t had any problems with it and have saved a TON of money. TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $40
Toys & Treats:
Those KONGS may cost a pretty penny upfront, but they’re incredibly resistant and good quality. Our dog is a big chewer so we have about four lying around the house in addition to her tennis balls and rawhides. KONGS run about $25 for the big ones, which we have, but we were able to score three KONGS at a swap meet for $30. We also buy our tennis balls for cheap, Play it Again Sports sells used tennis balls for 33 cents each. Since we lose one every time we go to the park, we buy about 4 per month. And a good rawhide from the feed store runs about $20, but it will last for 8-10 months. TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $66
We tend to groom our dog ourselves, and her nail clippers were $20 and her brush was $12. Her shampoo was $7 from Walmart. We did take her to the groomers once when we had no access to a full bathtub, and it cost $50. This cost will vary depending on if you have a long or short-haired dog, the size, and if its fur needs to be sheared. Let’s assume you take your dog to the groomers twice per year and then groom her yourself the rest of the time. COST UPFRONT: $32, TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $107
If your dog is spayed or neutered, you’ll pay a bit less. Also if you buy the two-year licensing registration as opposed to the one year, it’s cheaper. For us, we paid for a two-year altered dog license and it was $37 (so figure that’s over the course of a two year period.) TOTAL ANNUAL COST: $18.5
These are the things that are optional and not always needed with dogs, but they do come up. And of course, they vary from situation to situation, and dog to dog. But I’m going to list them here just to show you the possibilities.
Pet Insurance: anywhere from $27-50 per month
Medical Emergencies: all across the board. Our one big emergency cost $437.
Dog Walkers: most charge about $15-20 per walk.
Carpet cleaner: the GOOD stuff runs about $7 a bottle.
Additional medications: my cat has a hyperthyroid, for example. Her pills cost $32 for a 2-month supply, and I have to buy special soft treats to stuff the pills into which cost $12 for a one-month supply.
Dog House: literally, anywhere from $50-200, depending on if you DIY or where you purchase it from.
Electric fence: anywhere from $60-250, depending on quality.
Runner/lead: if you DIY, about $25-30.
Harness/Gentle Leader: we had to buy a Gentle Leader for our dog because she pulls a lot on the leash. The large dog model is $22.
I hope that this article has been able to aid you in your financial questions regarding the expense to own a dog. Though they can be expensive, and the money can sometimes add up fast, I could not imagine my life without my four-legged companion. Dogs might not be able to help you with the dishes, pick the kids up from school for you, do your taxes or help you redeem your credit report. But they are the most marvelous of companions, and will love you unconditionally for their whole life.
DK is an enthusiastic financial blogger, pet lover, and avid surfer. Read more of his blogs at RoadFish.com