How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? The True Cost of Owning A Dog

How Much Is That Doggie In The Window? The True Cost of Owning A Dog

By Lauren Lee, WeRescue

What’s not to love about dogs and puppies? They warm your heart, they look great in photos, and they love you unconditionally. Whether in pet store windows, shelter kennels, or online advertisements, it’s tough to resist the pleading eyes of a dog waiting for a loving home.

So, it’s no surprise that so many people adopt or purchase dogs, often without a lot of forethought. What might come as a surprise is this: approximately 3.3 million dogs are surrendered to shelters nationwide each year for a variety of reasons.

The truth is, as rewarding as dog ownership is, being a responsible dog owner is a lot of work and it does come with expenses. Many people do not take the time to budget for a dog before bringing one home.

Financially providing for your dog is part of being a responsible dog owner. So we have put together this guide to help prospective dog owners map out what owning a pup would likely cost them over the course of a year.

Responsible Dog Ownership

Responsible dog ownership involves more than providing food, water, and shelter for your dog. It means providing for all your dog’s needs and creating an environment in which your dog can thrive.

This includes providing:

  • Proper nutrition
  • Preventive veterinary care
  • Routine veterinary checkups
  • Health monitoring
  • Grooming
  • A place to call its own
  • Exercise and affection

Annual Cost Estimate

We know that costs vary depending on where you live, your dog’s age and individual needs, the breed(s)of dog you own, and your lifestyle.

In addition to the items you will need for your new pet, the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimates the annual cost of caring for a dog, including pet insurance, is as follows:

  • $737.00 annually for a small dog
  • $894.00 annually for a medium dog
  • $1,040.31 annually for a large dog

The ASPCA breakdown is as follows:

Annual Costs Small Dog Medium Dog Large Dog
FOOD $212 $319 $400
MEDICAL $210 $235 $260
TOYS/TREATS $40 $55 $75
LICENSE $15 $15 $15
HEALTH INSURANCE $225 $225 $225
MISC. $35 $45 $65
ANNUAL TOTAL $737 $894 $1,040

An article published by The Spruce Pets puts the annual cost of owning a dog anywhere between $1,500 and $9,900, depending on the dog’s size, age, health, and choices you make regarding the dog’s care.

That breakdown is as follows:

Type of Expense Yearly Estimate
Food and Treats $250 - $700
Toys $25 - $50
Beds $50 - $200
Leashes and Collars $20 - $50
Grooming $30 - $500
Routine Veterinary Care (for a healthy dog) $700 - $2,000
Preventative Medications and Supplements $200 - $600
Training Classes/Resources $25 - $300
Dog Walking $0 - $5,200
Petsitters or Boarding $100 - $300
Average Monthly Cost of Dog Ownership $125 - $824
Yearly Total Cost $1,500 - $9,900

Obviously, those two estimates vary greatly. We noted that the ASPCA breakdown takes into account the cost of pet health insurance which can save you money down the line should your dog become ill orinjured.

While the ASPCA estimate is on the low side, The Spruce Pets estimate is slightly more detailed, accounting for expenses such as dog training classes, the cost of a dog walker, and pet sitteror boarding fees.

The annual cost estimate from The Spruce Pets may seem high, but again these are estimates and,for the average dog owner, the true cost probably falls somewhere in the middle.

Initial Costs

We did some of our own research and found out what the initial costs of adopting a dog will really costyou.

What annual cost estimates do not take into account are the dog items you will need to purchase beforeyou even bring your new fur-friend home. These are what we will call initial costs.They are the one-time costs associated with adding a new dog to your family.

You should factor in the cost for:
  • Adoption fees - Adoption fees can run anywhere from $200 to $600. If you are adopting from a reputable shelter or rescue organization, thiscost usually covers a number of expenses.

    In many cases, the adoption fee covers the initial vaccinations, any needed medical care,spaying/neutering, microchipping, and the cost of transporting the dog if it is coming to theorganization from another state. The total cost of all of this care could easily exceed $1,000,but most rescues won’t charge more than a $500 adoption fee. The fee should belisted on the organization’s website.

  • Spay or neuter surgery - Spaying or neutering your dog is part of being aresponsible pet owner. Too many pets are still waiting for loving homes. If this is not covered bythe adoption fee (for example, if you purchase a dog from a breeder), the surgery could cost youanywhere from $200 to $800.
  • Microchip cost - Microchipping your dog increases the chances that your furryfamily member will be returned to you if he should ever go missing. Often, this procedure is coveredin a rescue adoption fee. If not, the procedure will cost you about $50.
  • Initial vaccinations - Initial vaccinations for a puppy are administered in aseries: at 6-weeks, 12-weeks, and 16 weeks old. The core vaccines include distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and parainfluenza. The total cost for the series will run between $80and $100.

The average cost for dog vaccinations ranges from $20 to $150 in the first year.

  • Food and water dishes - Expect to pay $25 to $50 for quality foodand water dishes.
  • Leash and collar - You can expect to pay $15 to $50 for a qualitycollar and leash.
  • Pet I.D. tags - Like microchipping, I.D. tags increase the chances that yourbeloved pup will be spotted and returned to you if he should get lost or wander off. You can orderthem online or in most pet supply stores. They begin at $7. If you want to getfancy, you can order collars engraved with your pet’s name and phone number. Those can cost youupwards of $40.
  • Dog bed - Like many products on the market, the quality and durability willaffect the final cost. A high-quality bed will cost you some cash, but there are somelow-quality beds that aren’t easy on the wallet.

    Basic dog beds made with gel memory foam will run anywhere from $30 to $50.Comforpedic Memory Foam dog beds, some of the most expensive on the market, range in price from$90 to $170.

  • Dog carrier - These are best used for small dogs. Some are airline approved. For asmall dog carrier, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $130.
  • Crate - You will use the crate for training and safety. A small, metal crate willcost you $44, a medium - $54, and a large - $95.
  • Doggie seat belt - for car travel. There are several on the market that clip rightinto a harness. The average cost is $15.
  • Pet-safe cleaning supplies - for the inevitable, accidental messes that puppies andnew dogs make. If you are not used to cleaning your home with pet-safe cleaners, expect to invest$30 in cleaners without toxic chemicals.
  • Dog brush, comb, and dog shampoo - for grooming. Dog brushes and combs will runanywhere from $5 to $30. A bottle of dog shampoo will cost you$10.
  • Training classes - Group dog training with a professional trainer costs$30 to $50 per class on average.

    Private training ranges from $45 to $120 per hour session.

    A 6-class package deal typically costs $200 to $600.

Here is our estimate of the initial costs.

Type of Expense Price Range
Adoption Fee $200 - $600
** Spay/Neuter procedure (if not incl. in adoption fee) ** $200 - $800
** Microchipping (if not incl. in adoption fee) ** $50
** Initial vaccinations (puppy) (if not incl. in adoption fee)
** $80 - $100
** Initial vaccinations (dog) (if not incl. in adoptionfee)
** $20 - $150
Food and water dishes $25 - $50
Leash and Collar $15 - $50
I.D. Tags $7 - $40
Dog bed $30 - $170
Carrier (for a small dog) $50 - $130
Crate $44 - $95
Doggie Seatbelt $15
Pet-safe Cleaning Supplies $30
Dog Brush/Comb $5 - $30
Dog Shampoo $10
Training Classes/Lessons $200 - $600
Total Initial Expense
If Spay/Neuter,Microchipping, and shots incl. in Adoption Fee
$631 - $1,820
Total Initial Expense
If Spay/Neuter,Microchipping, and shots are NOT incl. in AdoptionFee
$901 - $2,770

Average Total Initial Expense (if spay/neuter, microchipping and shots included inAF) = $1,225.50

Average Total Initial Expense (if spay/neuter, microchipping and shots notincluded) = $1,835.50

Keep the following points in mind:

  • The higher adoption fees almost always include the costs of spaying/neutering, microchipping, andvetting. If they do not, you should look at other reputable rescue organizations and shelters.
  • The higher estimates are also based on owner choices. You can purchase a quality, durable dog bed,collar, leash, and other products without buying the top of the line products.

Recurring Costs

  • Quality food and treats - This can vary greatly depending on what type of food youchoose to feed your pooch, as well as whether or not he has special dietary restrictions orrequirements. You can pay anywhere from $40 to $90 for a large bag of kibble (drydog food) that will last roughly one month.
  • Local licensing tags and fees - you can find this out from your town hall. The annual registration fee for spayed/neutered dogs in many areas is $15.
  • Safe and durable chew toys- any toys that are easily ripped apartcan become accidentally ingested. On average, the cost of three indestructible chew toys is$45.
  • Poop bags - for picking up after your dog. Budget in $15 a year.
  • Flea and tick prevention - if you live in an area where these pests pose a healththreat to pets and people. Depending on where you live, you may be advised to keep your pup on apreventative year-round. Depending on the size of the dog, the average cost is $60 to$120 a year.
  • Heartworm prevention - This too may be a seasonal cost or a year-round treatmentdepending on the climate where you live. On average, it will cost $100 annually.
  • Grooming - This depends on whether you choose to groom your dog or have itprofessionally done. If you opt for a professional, costs depend on the size of your dog, the dog’scoat, the dog’s demeanor, and any additional services not included in the grooming package. Onaverage, groomers charge between $60 and $90 per session.
  • Routine veterinary care - For a healthy dog, this includes at least one fullwellness check per year (sometimes two), blood work, regular vaccinations, and checkups if you areconcerned something is wrong. $700 to $2,000 a year.
  • Dog walker - Dog walkers charge on average $30 to $60 per hour or$30 per 30-minute walk. If you are available during the day to walk your dog, youmay not need a dog walker. However, if you hire a professional to come in five days a week for onewalk a day, it could cost you approximately $7,350.
  • Petsitters or boarding - This depends on your lifestyle. Do you vacation somewherewhere dogs are welcome? Do you plan to board your dog in a kennel or have a friend dogsit? Do youplan to hire a professional dog sitter? On average, pet sitters charge $20 to $40 perday. Overnight pet sitters charge approximately $75 to $85 per night.

Here is our annual estimate for recurring costs.

Type of Expense Yearly Cost
Food $480 - $1,080
Local licensing fees $15
Durable toys $45 - $135
Poop pickup bags $15
Flea and tick preventative $60 - $120
Heartworm preventative $100
Grooming (1 time per month)
* can be $0 if your dog doesnot require grooming
$0 - $720
Routine veterinary care and wellness visits $700 - $2,000
Dog walker
* can be $0 if you walk yourdog
$0 - $7,350
Pet sitter (based on 5 nights per year)*
* can be $0 ifyou don’t travel without your dog
$375 - $425
Total Annual Estimate for Recurring Costs $1,415 - $11,960
Average Annual Estimate (recurring costs of dog ownership) = $6,687.50Average Monthly Estimate (recurring costs of dog ownership) = $557.29

Breed-Specific Medical Costs

If you have a certain breed in mind, become familiar with the breed’s history, physical traits, andtemperament. Certain breeds are genetically prone to specific health problems. This could cost you a lotfinancially (and emotionally) down the line. For example, most flat-faced dog breeds have chronicrespiratory issues and difficulty regulating their body temperatures in heat.

Do your research and find out which breeds or mixed breeds tend to have the least genetic healthproblems.

Plan Ahead

There is no way to know what the future holds. As a responsible pet owner, the best you can do is putaside some money in case your dog needs it for an unplanned illness, accident, or surgery.

Dogs are an investment. They are more than a financial investment. Your dog will be your best friend,your loyal guardian, your protector, and faithful companion. Whatever you invest in him, will come backto you tenfold.