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How much do dogs cost?

Written by FOTP Team

Updated

When you add up the price of purchase, annual vet bills, food, and grooming... how much do dogs cost?  We’ve crunched some numbers to bring you a guide to the monthly and yearly costs.  It’s important to go into dog ownership with a clear idea about your responsibilities and bills.  But don’t forget the perks.  After all, your dog will repay the investment with fervent loyalty and unconditional love.  

You should expect to pay around $500-$2,000 for a puppy.  But it’s dependent on factors like location and species: if your choice of dog is in high demand and low supply, you’ll see the price rise.

When you start browsing, you’ll see that the price of a dog varies enormously between breeds, regions, and breeders.  It also fluctuates over time.  At the moment, smaller dogs are fashionable (so they’re more expensive), and working dogs cost less.  

Dogs often cost less than bitches – that’s because bitches can produce puppies (which are sold at profit).   Girls are thought to be more placid, with boys more energetic (and keener to please, thanks to pack dynamics).  We must add that, while money may play a part in your decision, you shouldn’t choose a pup based on the price. 

Check whether the price of your dog includes their first vaccinations and microchipping before you collect them.  

If you want to save money and have the patience to train a nervous dog, why not ask at your local dog rescue?  You can talk to them about your requirements (do you have children or other animals? A small yard?) and they are likely to be very helpful, suggesting breeds and animals that you might not have considered – like a personal pup shopper.  Many rescues receive litters of puppies and you can choose to wait for one of those. 

How much does it cost to raise a puppy?

So you’ve collected a pup and brought them home for their very first night in a new bed!  What equipment will you need to raise a puppy?

Note: below, we have averaged the price ranges of the basic options, to allow us to make a rough calculation of the initial cost of raising a puppy.

Food

Puppies should be fed puppy food, which will contain twice as much protein as adult dog food.  They need that extra protein for growth.  Check that the food meets AAFCO guidelines and note if it is “complete” – this means you don’t need to add anything.  Purina Puppy costs $60 for 34lb.  A dog weighing 13-20lb needs 1 cup daily and a dog weighing 21-50lb needs 1.25cups daily – so a bag lasts between 54 and 68 days.  Average cost: $30/month (small/medium dog) for 12 months.

Bowls

You can choose luxury options such as Delft ceramic bowls for your dog – they cost around $150 each.  But regular dog food bowls are available for $4.  You will need at least two: one for food and one to keep on the floor for fresh water. Tip: Stainless steel is a good choice, as it is tough and won’t retain odors.  Don’t buy a cute, small bowl for your pup: pick a bowl that will be big enough for the grown-up dog.  Average cost: $8 (one-off)

Dog bed

A luxury chaise longue can be yours for around $300, but IKEA has stylish beds for $50-$80.  Choose between traditional stuffed pillow-style beds and bean bags, which give your dog a cosy nest.  You might want a second, “fancy” bed to keep in your living area, and it’s worth looking at memory foam beds for older or larger dogs.  Tip:  A washable cover is essential.  It will make the bed last longer.  Average cost: $65 (one-off)

Collar, licence and leash

When your puppy is ready to walk, you’ll need a collar with dog ID tag, licence and a leash.  An ID tag costs around $4-$15 – of course, you’ll need to choose a name first!  The cost of a licence varies by state but we’ll average it at $15.  Leashes vary in price because you can choose retractable leashes, longer or shorter leashes, harnesses and reflective leashes.  Have a look around; we have found leashes costing between $13-$30.  Average cost: $10 + $15 + $18 (one-off)

Crate (optional)

Dogs are den animals, and crates can offer them a personal space. If you want to crate-train your puppy, you will need to buy a crate early and allow them to make positive associations.  You can get extra-strong crates, extra-large crates, travel crates and minimalist crates.  Depending on size and style, a dog crate costs between $35 and $375+.  Average cost for a basic crate: $60 (one-off)

Training

Obedience training is highly recommended.  Even if you’ve had a dog before, don’t try to do it yourself.  Ask local dog-owners where they trained.  Sessions cost around $30-80 and are often arranged in blocks of 6.  Did you know that Search & Rescue dogs train for around 600 hours?  But 6-10 will probably be sufficient.  Average cost: $55 x6 = $330 (one-off – we hope)

Vaccinations

Puppy vaccinations are essential.  They cost between $75 and $100 in the first year. Average cost: $82 (one-off)

Veterinary bills

This is difficult to estimate.  Your dog will need veterinary check-ups and preventative treatments in its first year.  There could also be unexpected bills.  In 2020, Rover reported that routine vet visits cost owners an average of $210 per year.  

Average cost of raising a puppy BEFORE VETERINARY BILLS: $948 (12 months).

What is the monthly cost of a dog?

Before rushing out to collect the puppy you’ve seen online, stop to consider the ongoing, monthly cost of owning a dog.

The American Veterinarian Medical Association publishes guidelines for responsible pet ownership, which apply to every animal that you take into your care.  Here is an idea of the expenditure that you can expect every month.  

Flea, tick and heartworm prevention

There are lots of different treatments for these parasites.  The costs vary but you could be spending $40-$200 per year.  For a more precise estimate, contact your veterinarian before bringing home your new puppy.

Food

You can choose natural dog food, raw dog food, subscription dog food, and “complete” dog kibble – the options are almost endless.  Dry food is better for dogs’ teeth – and whatever food you pick, you should think about adding dental chews or brushing.  Obviously bigger dogs cost more to feed, and their food can be a substantial proportion of your household grocery bills!  The average cost of dog food is $30/month – but you should investigate to obtain an accurate figure for your breed and taste.

Grooming

This is also dependent on breed and size but a dog groomer charges between $30 and $75 per session.  If you want to groom your dog at home, that will save money – you’ll find grooming supplies online.   (Tip: try to find a brush with gentle tips, as some can be too sharp.)

Toys

Without toys, your puppy might find their own!  Save your shoes and table-legs by bringing some toys home for your dog.  If you experiment, you’ll find out what type of toy they love.  Some are obsessed with retrieval, some like to carry toys around, and some love squeaky creatures.  Most will enjoy a game of tug-of-war!  For extra-energetic pups, a Kong toy (with food hidden inside) provides entertainment with a reward for persistence.  You can spend whatever you like on toys – $0 to $100s every month.

So... how much does a dog cost per year?

The cost of owning a dog will vary during their life, so very few years will look the same.  There is additional cost at the beginning, when you need to purchase equipment, vaccinations and training.  There can also be greater bills at the end of their life, when health conditions require urgent or serious treatments.  

You need to consider variable costs such as kennel stays (if you go on vacation), dog-walkers (if you work away from home), and additional supplements or therapies.  

The cost of a dog per year is widely searched and often debated. Different sources give different figures, but they’re all in the same ball park.  Rover says $600-$2,000; the AKC says at least $1,034; and Forbes estimates the cost of a large dog to be $1,570 per year.  

What do we think?  If you plan to spend around $1,200 on your dog per year, you’ll be able to manage the costs effectively.  

How much does a dog cost over its lifetime?

The American Kennel Club has published estimates for the lifetime costs of a dog:

Small - $15,051 ($1,254/year)
Medium –  $15,782 ($1,214/year)
Large dog – $14,480 ($1,034/year)

Can you afford a dog?

We hope that we haven’t made you feel pessimistic about dog ownership.  These figures will give you an informed basis for decisions.  It’s really important to think about whether you can afford a dog, and to save some backup funds – otherwise, a surprise vet bill could damage your finances.  People can and do go into debt because of treatments which are jaw-droppingly expensive but impossible to refuse.

How to afford a dog...

You can save money on dog expenses by doing things like making your own dog toys, joining a veterinary plan, and choosing basic dog food.  You can groom your dog at home and ask relatives or friends to dog-sit when you want to go on holiday.  Brushing your dog’s teeth will help you to save on dental treatments. 

Budgetary planning will help you to afford a dog, and you can do your research and work out a monthly plan.  You might want to try to standardise most payments so each month looks the same.  Dog food is available on subscription and some vets offer a monthly scheme so that you can spread the cost of treatments across the year.

For peace of mind, you can take out pet insurance, which will cover a percentage of veterinary bills in exchange for a regular monthly payment.

Dog ownership costs (and rewards)

There are 76.8 million dogs in America.  Dog ownership is an expensive pursuit, but people clearly believe that it’s worthwhile!

What makes us so devoted to our expensive hounds?  The bond between a human and their dog is irreplaceable.  Dogs can boost our mental and physical health, prevent loneliness, and reduce stress.  (Science has proven it.)  In other words, the cost of a dog is nothing compared with the returns.

Here are our top five reasons for getting a dog.

1. You’ll be less stressed

Studies have shown that stroking dogs increases the production of oxytocin (the feel-good chemical) in humans.  Experiments have also shown that dog-owners have lower blood pressure and recover from stressful situations faster than non-dog-owners.

2. You’ll get daily exercise 

You’ll have to give time to your dog – but physical exercise, like walking, is also time for you.

3. You will be less lonely

80% of pet owners say that dogs make them feel less lonely.  Dogs visiting elderly residential homes have been shown to dramatically reduce depression.  

4. Your immune system will benefit

Because you’re exposed to all the diseases that your dog will pick up every day, you build up a stronger immune system.  Kids too.  

5. If you have children, they’ll learn about caring for animals

Children learn to be gentle and cautious when there is a dog in the house.