After a long search, or perhaps a lightning-quick encounter with destiny, you found the most loyal and brave of companions – your new dog. However, budgeting for the costs of owning a dog is no simple feat.
Learning how to budget for a dog will help you spend less time worrying about the impact on your budget and more time enjoying your pooch’s company.
Table of contents
- How much does it cost to own a dog
- Decide between adopting or buying
- Know which breed is best for you
- Identify basic expenses
- General savings
How much does it cost to own a dog?
Taking care of a dog is a long-term financial commitment, typically lasting at least 10 years. Most expenses fall into one of two categories: upfront and recurring.
Upfront costs can be more than you’d expect. According to a 2022 report, Rover.com found that while 38% of dog owners believed their upfront costs would be around $500, in reality, the actual upfront costs of owning a dog ranged from $1,050 to $4,480.
Initial expenses may include spay or neuter surgery, vaccinations and dog registration. A leash and harness are necessary for walks and toys for entertainment. Of course, you‘ll also need to provide your new best friend with a comfy place to rest their furry head, so a crate and dog bed are also important initial purchases.
Recurring expenses can add up quickly and can average anywhere between $480 and $3,470 per year. The most prevalent costs are food, vet visits, preventative health treatments (flea, tick and heartworm) and grooming. Additionally, most states require that you renew your dog’s registration annually.
Optional expenses can tack on an additional $1,210 to $4,040. These might include pet insurance or other expenses like dog walkers or sitters.
Of course, these cost estimates depend on many factors including your dog’s age, size and medical health. Also, where you live and your lifestyle will make a difference in your dog’s needs.
Decide between adopting or buying
Depending on what type of dog you want and your lifestyle, you may choose to either adopt a dog or buy a dog from a pet store or breeder. Keep in mind, though, that there are usually significant differences in cost, which can also affect your budget.
Adopting a dog
Adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter is typically cheaper than buying a pet and can run as low as $50 or as high as $700. Shelters and rescues will often, though not always, cover initial medical expenses like spay or neuter surgery, initial vaccinations, ID tags and microchipping.
Buying a dog
Buying a dog is, as expected, considerably more expensive than adopting, with the price running anywhere from $1000 to $4,000 or more depending on the breed.
Some breeders may provide initial vaccinations, ID and microchipping, and other medical necessities. Others, however, might not — so make sure to ask what’s included in the price before you commit.
Additionally, if you’re buying a purebred, ask about specific preventative or specialized care for the breed and certification documents of lineage.
Know which breed is best for you
Knowing which is the best breed for you and your family and what that breed needs is crucial to creating a realistic budget. The costs of pet ownership are affected by many factors: your dog's health history, size, age, as well as your lifestyle and location.
Some of the most popular dog breeds are Labrador and Golden Retrievers. Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds and designer or mixed-breeds such as the Goldendoodle also rank high in popularity.
The average monthly cost of owning a Labrador ranges from $50 to $100, while their cousin, the Golden Retriever, apparently has golden tastes as well, with monthly costs averaging $100 to $150. The cost of Australian Shepherds, German Shepherds and Goldendoodles averages $50 to $150 monthly.
Keep in mind that certain breeds, such as pugs, are prone to having more medical issues than other breeds. Be sure to know what challenges your breed faces so you can adequately plan for their care.
Identify basic expenses
Owning a dog can come with a lot of expenses, both expected and unexpected. An effective budget includes the cost of medical and preventative care, food and treats, grooming, boarding, security essentials and entertainment to keep your pooch happy and engaged.
Here are some of the one-time and recurring costs you can expect.
According to APPA, pet owners pay an estimated $242 on routine vet care and $458 for surgical procedures per year. As for routine visits to the vet, a preventative visit can set you back anywhere between $50 and $100 on average. Note that those estimates vary widely depending on the type of dog you have, their healthcare needs and where you live. This means that vet bills in a major metropolitan area — say, Los Angeles or New York — will be noticeably higher than in a smaller town.
Dental care is also a budget consideration, and the average annual cost is anywhere between $100 and $1,000, depending on the size of the dog and whether they require anesthesia.
Keeping up with a routine vaccination schedule is important for preventing illness and disease. Vaccines are typically categorized into two groups: core and non-core vaccines.
Core vaccines are essential for your dog’s health as they prevent viruses that can cause illness or even death. They also prevent the transmission of diseases to humans. These vaccines include distemper, adenovirus/hepatitis, parvovirus (with all three vaccines usually combined and referred to as DAP/DHP) and rabies.
Puppies are given initial vaccinations spread out over a period of time, usually at eight, ten and 12 weeks. Adult dogs are given the rabies vaccine annually and DAP/DHP every three years. In total, these core vaccines typically run between $320 to $480 for the first year and $100 to $320 per year thereafter.
Vets may also recommend non-core vaccines for specific conditions unique to your dog such as Lyme disease, bordetella (kennel cough) or for specific risks that your dog faces given where you live such as the rattlesnake vaccine. Non-core vaccines can range between $20 and $40 per vaccine.
You’ll probably make a number of visits to the vet or animal hospital throughout your dog’s life, sometimes for routine care, but other times for emergencies. There are a wide variety of insurance companies that offer customizable pet insurance policies that can help you save money during those vet visits — and some can cover as much as 90% of your dog’s medical costs.
The average monthly cost of insurance premiums typically runs between $24 and $50 dollars per month, and, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHIA), annual premiums for accident and illness insurance average $582 per year.
There are other alternatives to financing your pet’s medical expenses, including emergency funds, veterinary discount plans and financial assistance through organizations or foundations that offer funding for a variety of medical conditions and dog breeds.
In addition to yearly vaccinations, you’ll need to give your dog important treatments for flea, tick and heartworm prevention. These treatments are often combined.
Here is a rundown of annual costs for preventative treatments:
- Flea shampoo: $20 to $40
- Flea collars: $30 to $170
- Flea prevention, oral and chewy tablets: $40 to $150
- Flea and tick prevention (combined), topical application: $120 to $240
- Heartworm prevention tablets: $56 to $215
- Flea, tick and heartworm prevention (combined), topical application: $190 to $261
Food and treats
How much you’ll spend on dog food largely depends on the size of your dog, of course, but also on their activity level and dietary restrictions. Additionally, the ingredients and quality of the food you choose and whether you buy the food from a brick-and-mortar store or have it delivered to your home will affect the price.
Dry food, otherwise known as kibble, is typically the most affordable option and the range of cost is anywhere from $30 to $130 for a 24-pound bag, in-store or online. Wet or canned food can range between $25 to $68 for a case (12-count) of 13-ounce cans. Delivery of fresh dog food, on the other hand, can cost $60 to $140 per month.
Grooming needs vary greatly depending on your new pet’s size and the type of coat they have. Typically, long-haired breeds — such as Shih Tzus or Irish Setters — will need professional grooming to prevent tangles. You might also need a professional groomer if your new pal is a larger breed like a Saint Bernard or English Mastiff. Grooming costs may include a shampoo, haircut, brush, blowdry and nail clipping, and these might run anywhere from $20 and $150 per month.
Boarding and kennel costs are important considerations for all pet parents. APPA’s annual report shows people spend an average of $228 on boarding per year. However, if you need daily doggie daycare, most places offer care packages, and average costs can range from $15 to $40 daily.
ID tags, microchipping and licensing
Most states require that pet owners obtain a license for their dog. Getting a license is important, and not only because it helps you avoid a fine. If your pet is ever lost, their registration can also help animal control officers return them home.
You can obtain forms for your dog license in person through animal control, online or in some cases, through your vet’s office. Licensing can run between $20 to $100 and is an annual expense. Some counties even offer lifetime licenses if your dog is microchipped or has had spay or neuter surgery, so be sure to check with your local animal control about their requirements for this option.
Microchipping and ID tags are other important ways to ensure that your furry friend is returned to you if they were to get lost. Microchipping, a quick procedure where a tiny chip is inserted into your pet’s skin, can cost between $25 and $80. Almost any vet office can perform the microchipping procedure.
ID tags, on the other hand, are sold at any pet store and can cost between $5 and $20.
Spaying or neutering your dog can cost anywhere between $320 and $800. This surgery is important for animal population control. It can also reduce aggressive behavior and even prevent some health conditions later on in a dog’s life such as certain types of cancer or incontinence.
Even though many of us love to snuggle up at night with our pooch, many dogs will still need a crate to call their own. Small crates can start at $20 and large ones can run up to $330. They will also need a dog bed to rest their furry head, and these can run anywhere between $10 to thousands of dollars for designer beds.
There are many options for behavioral training, both group and individual classes. Group programs can run between $20 and $50 per class. They usually meet for one hour per week for a four- to six-week period.
Private dog training is much more costly and runs between $40 and $120 an hour. Some private trainers also offer semi-private sessions at a discounted price.
Toys are an important way to entertain and connect with your best bud. According to APPA estimates, pet parents spend about $56 annually on toys. Having a variety of chew toys and rotating them could be the best way to keep your pooch engaged.
When planning a budget for your dog, you might want to explore additional ways to save money. Knowing the size and breed of the dog you want will help you determine how much money you’ll likely spend. For example, the ASPCA estimates the annual cost for a small dog is $512, a medium dog is $669 and a large dog is $1,040.
However, life can sometimes take unexpected twists and turns, so it’s also practical to have emergency savings set up for expenses related to your pooch. A stash of $500 is a good place to start, followed by monthly contributions into a savings account. Emergency savings can also provide you an alternative to the ongoing cost of insurance.
Trimming your budget
Tracking your pet expenses and spending habits are the first steps to trimming your budget. Here are some additional ideas for ways you can easily save money:
- Make your own toys and accessories, or for sturdier accessories like crates and water bowls, buy second hand.
- Learn to groom your dog at home.
- Join a subscription service from an online pet food store to save on dog food.
- Use reward and cash back credit cards for purchases. You might earn up to 6% cash back when you shop in-person or online.
- Consider hiring friends, neighbors or family members as your dog walker or pet sitter. They may do these services for you at a cheaper price.
- Look into grants, financial aid and other financial resources for assistance with special circumstances such as unexpected illness or accidents.
How to budget for a new dog FAQ
How much does a dog cost?
Why are dogs so expensive?
Do dogs need pet insurance?
How much should you budget a month for a dog?
Summary - How to Budget for a New Dog Key Takeaways
- You should research the dog you want to buy. The size of your dog and type of breed are two important factors which will help determine your expenses.
- If you adopt from a shelter or rescue, the average cost is $50 to $700. Buying a dog usually runs between $1,000 to $4,000.
- Initial costs include vaccinations and spay or neuter surgery, licensing, and setting your pooch’s space up with dog crate, bedding, toys and can run between $1,050 and $4,480.
- Recurring costs such as vet care, food, grooming and accessories can run between $480 and $3,470 a year, according to Rover’s yearly report.
- Contribute monthly to a savings account for your pet expenses and consider having additional emergency funds set aside for a rainy day.