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The True Cost of Owning a Dog

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Are you getting ready to bring home a new furry family member? Getting a dog is exciting, but dog ownership is a huge responsibility. Are you up for the challenge?

Many people don’t consider the true cost of owning a dog beyond their initial purchase or adoption. In reality, pet ownership is expensive, and if you can’t afford it, you won’t be able to offer your dog the quality of life that it deserves.

We’re here to break down some of the most common costs of dog ownership. Read on to learn more.

First: The Initial Expenses of Dog Ownership

When you first pick out your furry friend and become a brand new dog owner, it’s likely that you won’t be thinking about all of the initial expenses that come alongside dog ownership. Sure, you know that you’ll be paying for the upfront cost of your new dog, but what else is involved?

There are several categories that you need to keep in mind when you’re considering your budget for a new dog or puppy. Some of them will vary depending on the age of your dog and where you get it.

Here are a few things that you’ll need to pay for within the first few weeks of dog ownership.

Adopting Your New Furry Friend

The first and most important expense is the cost of the dog itself. How much are you able to spend on your new canine companion?

It’s common knowledge that adopting a dog is the most affordable option (though there are variables in this category as well). When you adopt a dog, you may not get a purebred dog (though it’s possible if you’re patient), but you will get a dog that’s affordable and in need of a good home.

Adoption fees vary depending on the source of the dog. At most animal shelters, you’ll have to pay anywhere between $50 and $400 for a dog depending on the type, age, and time of adoption. Many shelters offer discounted adoptions when they have too many dogs.

These adoption costs might seem excessive, but they cover initial medical costs, so you’ll save money in the long run.

You could also adopt a dog from an individual. You’ll find that many people offer up dogs for free or for low costs on local buy-and-sell pages. That said, while these dogs are less expensive, you will have to pay for their initial medical costs on your own (more on that later).

Or: Purchasing Your New Furry Friend

So what if you buy a dog instead of adopting one?

When you buy a purebred dog from a responsible breeder, you will pay higher upfront costs. Purebred puppies that you get on a spay or neuter contract will cost you around $800 (for average breeds), while show dogs or breeding dogs can cost over $1,500.

Some breeders will include vaccinations, but many will not. This is something that you need to keep in mind if you’re intent on getting a purebred dog.

First Few Vet Visits

The first few vet visits for a puppy can add up if you didn’t adopt your dog from a shelter. If you bought or adopted an older dog, most of these costs aren’t a factor, however.

Puppies need initial vaccinations. Your local area may require initial vaccinations, but the vet will always recommend a list of necessary vaccinations regardless of where you live. These vaccinations can cost anywhere between $75 and $150 (though you may be able to find low-cost or sliding-scale pet vaccination clinics).

You’ll also need to get your dog spayed or neutered if you don’t intend on breeding it. Spaying and neutering are good for the dog’s health, and it will prevent aggression and bad behavior in the future. This will cost you anywhere between $200 and $500.

Regardless of whether you have a puppy or an older dog, you’ll want to microchip it. This will allow you to find the dog in the event that it escapes in the future. Microchips can cost up to $50.

Professional Training: Yes or No?

Not everyone chooses to invest in a professional dog trainer or training class, so this will depend on the pet parent and the pet itself.

For dogs that are considered “aggressive breeds,” it’s helpful to have a trainer regardless of whether you adopt the dog as an adult or a puppy. These dogs can be friendly, but they need a firm hand.

Even non-aggressive breeds can benefit from professional training. You may save yourself money on damage costs in the future if you take your dog to a trainer. Dog training will teach basic obedience, and it’s good for puppy socialization.

Professional training can cost anywhere between $20 and $250 on average, but private training will cost more.

Initial Pet Care Supplies

Your dog is going to need supplies from the moment that it walks into your home! Are you ready for it?

First, you’re going to want a crate. Crate training is good for dogs, and a crate provides a “safe space” for a new dog that’s acclimating itself to your home. You can find free crates on local buy-and-sell pages, but large basic crates can cost up to $150.

Your dog will need a leash, a collar, and potentially a harness (as well as a tag that has your information on it). You can expect to pay an average of $75 for these things alone. You may also want to buy puppy pads if your dog is young or not used to walks.

Your dog is going to need a bed. Many dogs choose not to sleep in their beds, but a bed (especially inside the crate) creates a comfortable and safe space for the dog. Beds vary in price depending on the dog’s size, but for a basic bed, you can expect to pay up to $50.

You’re going to need toys for when you bring your dog home. You don’t need anything extensive, but a few chew toys will make your dog feel more comfortable right away. Toys can range anywhere between $1 and $20 on average, depending on the size and durability.

You’re also going to need food and food dishes. We’ll discuss food costs in a later section. It’s helpful to provide food to your new friend right away so they can associate you and your home with it.

Preparing Your Home

Preparing your home for a new dog is similar to preparing it for a new baby. Again, this will vary depending on the age and breed of the dog.

We recommend getting several baby gates for areas that you don’t want your dog to enter (especially when you’re not home). It’s also helpful to put them around stairs. You may want to add a new fence to your yard if you plan on letting your dog run around outside.

A puppy can tear through even the most well-prepared home, so you’re also going to want to consider the potential costs of repairs. Puppies often harm carpets, molding, and hardwood floors.

Keeping Your Dog Happy

Your initial supplies will work for the first few months of dog ownership, but over time, you’re going to need to replenish your supplies. As dogs grow and age, their needs change.

If you buy or adopt a puppy, remember that it’s going to need larger collars, harnesses, and beds. You may go through several of each of these items before your dog has reached its full size.

This means that many of your supplies are going to be reoccurring costs. While your dog will stick with one harness, leash, collar, and bed size when it reaches its final size, you’ll need to replace toys and broken or over-used items.

In other words, consider all of the initial pet supplies costs and multiply them for every year of dog ownership.

Re-Occurring Veterinary Care Costs

One of your primary responsibilities as a pet parent is making sure that you’re keeping your pet as healthy as possible. While there can always be unforeseen circumstances, routine vet visits are crucial and can help prevent future emergencies.

Vet costs are going to vary depending on where you live and the general needs of your dog. Dogs with special needs (such as diabetic dogs) are going to have greater routine vet care costs than otherwise healthy dogs.

All pet owners should expect to take their dogs to the vet at least once per year. This is so your dog can get all necessary vaccinations, flea and tick treatments and so the vet can give your dog a general health check. The vet may also recommend that your dog has a yearly dental visit to prevent gum disease and tooth decay.

Shop around when you’re looking for a reliable vet. While you shouldn’t base your choice on the cost of the vet alone, you can keep it in mind. Remember, it won’t help you or your dog if you choose a vet that’s so far out of your budget that you can’t have routine visits.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $120 and $300 for routine pet visits, though you may be able to find low-cost clinics if you’re in a low-income household. Dental visits can cost over $150 on top of that.

Emergency Vet Bills

Even with the best of care, emergency situations can happen. You need to be prepared for these costs when you get a dog. It’s helpful to have a “pet savings” account that you can pull from in the event of an emergency.

It’s impossible to estimate the exact cost of an emergency vet bill.

Labs alone can cost hundreds of dollars, and hospital visits can cost well over $1,500 (depending on the length of the stay). Letting a pet suffer from an emergency injury or illness is inhumane, so while the costs are high, they’re necessary if you want to be a responsible pet owner.

Keep in mind that if you have to visit an emergency-specific vet at non-office hours, the costs will likely be higher. Pet owners need to keep emergency costs in the back of their minds, even if they have healthy pets.

Pet Insurance: Yes or No?

If you don’t want to max out your credit card on emergency vet bills, consider getting pet insurance. Pet insurance isn’t a necessity, but it is a helpful addition to your pet budget that might save you money in the future.

The annual cost of pet insurance is going to vary depending on the type of coverage that you want and the specific insurance company. Most pet owners who invest in pet insurance find themselves paying anywhere between $30 and $50 per month for basic health and injury insurance.

Many people worry that pet insurance is an unnecessary expense. For most people with young and healthy dogs, this is likely the case. For people with older dogs or dogs that struggle with health issues, pet insurance can save you a lot of money over time.

If you have the expendable money to spend on pet emergencies, pet insurance isn’t a necessity. If you know that you’ll struggle to pay for a surprise vet bill, however, consider insurance.

Dog Food

Dog food is the most common reoccurring cost of owning a dog. The cost of feeding your dog is going to go up as the dog ages (if you started with a puppy), and it’s going to vary depending on the size of your dog and the quality of the food.

Now, you could feed your dog a raw or homemade diet that doesn’t require you to visit the dog food aisle at your local grocery store. That said, most people aren’t aware of what dogs need for proper nutrition, so this isn’t the best option for new dog owners.

Vets will recommend expensive “healthy” dog foods. Do your research before buying a type of dog food to make sure that there are no health concerns. Even vet-recommended foods are often imperfect.

Affordable dog food can still be good, but again, do your research and pay attention to how your dog responds to the food. Some foods might not agree with certain dogs.

Small dogs aren’t going to have large food expenses. You can often buy dog food once per month in small bags. Large dogs, however, will go through many pounds of dog food every month.

You can expect to pay anywhere between $150 and $500 per year for dog food, though the costs may be higher if you have a large dog with high-quality food.

Potential “Extra” Costs

The above costs are all what most dog owners can expect to pay during their dog’s lifespan. It’s the bare minimum that’s necessary to keep a single dog happy and healthy for most households.

But what about extra costs that most people don’t consider when they buy or adopt a new furry friend? Other life issues will arise that will create more expenses associated with dog ownership.

Here are a few more common “extra” costs that can come alongside owning a dog.

Pet Fees in Rentals

Are you a renter? Even if you don’t currently rent your home, it’s possible that you will rent in the future. You need to keep this in mind when you get a new dog.

Renting with dogs is tricky. Many property owners don’t allow dogs at all, so you’re going to have limited options. You may have to rent above your preferred price range if you’re bringing a dog with you.

This is an even larger problem if your dog is a large or restricted breed. Finding homes that allow pit bulls, for example, is far more difficult than finding homes that allow Yorkshire terriers.

Even if you do find rentals within your budget, you may have to pay extra fees due to your dog. Many rental properties require a separate “pet rent” that can be anywhere between $50 and $150. Some properties only request an initial pet fee (often around $200, but this varies from property to property).

You may also have to get renter’s insurance (or a better renter’s insurance policy if you already had insurance). This protects both you and the property owner in the event that your pet causes damage to your rental home.

Boarding, Walking, and Short-Term Care

Do you travel for work or fun? If so, you’re going to need to remember the costs of caring for your dog when you’re not home. Unless you always bring your dog with you (more on that later), you’ll need to find a caregiver.

This cost will vary, again, depending on where you live, the length of the care, and the individual who’s providing care.

If you’re boarding your dog, you can expect to pay an average of $40. Vets may offer more affordable boarding options to current clients, and you may be able to find individual petsitters that offer affordable boarding.

It’s not appropriate to hire someone to “check-in” on your dog instead of boarding it. Dogs need frequent attention, and if you plan on being away from home for extended periods, you need to hire someone to care for your pet.

What if you aren’t going away on a trip, but you will be away from home for longer than you’d like? Rather than hiring a full-time dog caregiver, hire a dog walker. Dogs often need walks in the middle of long workdays (especially if they’re still puppies). A dog walker will help.

Dog walkers can cost anywhere between $10 and $35 on average, but you may be able to work out a deal if you ask friends or family members.

Travel Expenses

So what if you’re bringing your furry friend with you? Whether you’re moving or going on a trip, bringing your dog presents new and unique challenges. These challenges are going to cost money.

First, you’re going to need travel supplies.

If you’re flying, you’re going to need a special travel crate for your dog unless it’s small enough to ride in the cabin with you (in which case you’ll still need a travel-appropriate carrier, though these are more affordable). Regardless of whether the dog is in the cabin or in the storage area, you’ll have to pay an extra fee.

Fees range from $125 to over $500. Make sure that you contact the airline beforehand for an exact cost.

Many people choose to transport their dogs through a pet transportation service as traveling on a plane is often unsafe. This is more common for people who are traveling across international borders, but it can cost several thousand dollars (though it does include the cost of necessary certifications and vaccinations).

Your vet may recommend medication to help your dog stay comfortable during your trip, which will add an extra cost.

If you need to stay in a hotel with your pet, you will also have to pay extra pet fees (and you may have more trouble finding a hotel at all). These fees vary depending on the hotel.

Grooming Your Dog

Many dogs don’t require regular grooming. If you don’t choose to see a professional groomer for your dog, make sure that you have grooming supplies at home (such as a brush).

Professional grooming for dogs varies depending on the breed. Dogs with long fur will cost more than dogs with short fur. Contact groomers in your local area to compare services.

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