View all Personal Finance articles

How Expensive Are Dogs, Really?

{% description %}There's no doubt about it: dogs aren't cheap. Here are all the costs you can expect to pay and a way to plan for them so you can afford your furry friend.{%/ description %}

Everyone loves their furry friends. For some of us, providing a good life for them (and us) is the entire point of working in the first place. And everyone who's ever had a dog knows that they're not cheap. But did you know how expensive they really can be? It's a good idea to be prepared for these costs before you bring that fluffy bundle home.

Bringing Your Dog Home

The money journey starts right off the bat, even before you bring your new friend home.

Care Items

Estimated Cost: $1,500

First, you'll need to buy care items to get ready for your pup. You'll need things like:

  • A collar

  • Brushes

  • A kennel

  • A dog bed

  • Nail trimmers

  • Food and water dishes

The Dog Itself

Estimated Cost: $0 to $1,500

Then, there's the cost of dogs themselves. It's weird to think of "purchasing" a thing that'll be your best friend, but that's exactly what you'll be doing whether you buy them from a breeder or adopt them from a shelter.

Ongoing Dog Expenses

Estimated Cost: $250 to $700 per year

After you've brought your new friend home, you'll have to pay certain expenses for the rest of their lives:

Food and Other Items

Most people think that dogs only cost as much as the bags of food to feed them. There's that, but there are also things like treats, toys, and things to keep your dog occupied. These costs are small, but they add up over time. And since they're generally small purchases, they can lull you into a false sense of security that owning a dog isn't that expensive.

Veterinary Care

Estimated Cost: $130 to $288 per year for routine care. Up to $10,000 (or more) to treat expensive conditions like cancer.

Speaking of a false sense of security, it's also easy to underestimate veterinary care costs. Since these visits are spaced out at regular intervals, it's easy to forget to save up for them.

It's even more challenging if your dog needs something beyond routine checkups, whether that's as simple as treating a temporary infection or something costing tens of thousands of dollars, like cancer or emergency surgery.

These expenses can hit you like a roadblock, and if you haven't saved up for them, you may need to face a hard decision: either take on debt to pay for the procedure or have your friend euthanized. This is one case where having a good FICO Score can lead to a healthy Fido.

Dog Care

Estimated Cost: $25 to $85 per night

Then there's also the cost of caring for your dog when you're not able to. For example, if you work during the daytime, you may need to hire a dog walker so they can get some exercise.

Another expensive item is boarding, for when you want to take a vacation or visit friends and family. Not only are you paying for your own travel, but you're paying for your furry friend to take a mini vacation too.

If you're lucky, your pup will do fine at a regular boarding facility. But if they have anxiety problems, for example, or don't get along with other dogs, they may need a more expensive pet sitter who can give them one-on-one care.

Training

Estimated Cost: $200 total to $1,250 per week, depending on the type of training

An untrained dog is annoying at best and dangerous to other people and pets at worst. Most people are probably able to get by with group training classes and frequent socialization.

But again, if your dog is leash reactive or has other special problems, you may need to find a specialized trainer who can work with you and your dog one-on-one with private lessons. This can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Grooming

Estimated Cost: $0 to $90 per month

Not every dog needs to be groomed regularly, such as Labrador Retrievers or German Shorthaired Pointers. But some dogs do, such as Bichon Frises, poodles, or Shih Tzus. Even if your dog doesn't need professional grooming, you'll still need to pay for things like new nail trimmers and brushes as your old ones wear out.

Not-So-Obvious Expenses

The above expenses are pretty obvious because they're about the dog themself. But having a dog is a lifestyle decision, and it comes with other costs too, some of which you may not have thought about:

Medical Care... for You

Estimated Cost: $0 - $2,500

Dogs generally have a net positive effect on our well-being. Still, there are some negative effects. It's estimated that up to a fifth of the population is actually allergic to pets, for example. Pet allergies aren't always obvious, but they can make you sick in other ways, such as affecting your sleep. Treating allergies with pills, inhalers, or allergy shots isn't cheap.

Renters or Homeowners Insurance

Estimated Cost: $180-$1,211 per year

Even the best-behaved Fido can go rogue under the right conditions. If your dog harms someone else or their property, they're generally covered under your renters or homeowner's insurance plan.

If you have a mortgage, most lenders require that you have homeowner's insurance. But once it's paid off, or if you rent, insurance is generally optional. It's a good idea to purchase it regardless, to protect yourself from any damage that your dog causes.

Estimated Lifetime Cost of Dog Ownership

Depending on the breed of dog you have, you can expect your friend to live for 7 to 14 years, on average. Based on that lifespan, your total dog ownership costs could range anywhere between $6,745 and $75,396.

If that sounds like a wide range, that's exactly right. There are so many unknowns when you sign up to be a pet parent.

You Can Afford to Have a Dog(s)

The list we've laid out makes it seem like no one can afford dogs. Thankfully, that's not true. You won't have to deal with all of these issues at once, or even at all, depending on your dog. Still, it's a good idea to be aware of these costs, so you can plan for them.

Here's what we suggest: make a budget for the things you know you'll have to pay each month like food, insurance, or any other things for your situation. Then, figure out how much you'd need to save each month for sporadic things like regular veterinary checkups, boarding and grooming, etc. Finally, decide on how much extra you want to save each month to be prepared for possible big expenses like major vet bills, training, etc.

Tally up this number and set it aside each month. If your budget for your dog this way, hopefully all you'll need to worry about is keeping your best friend as happy as possible.

Lindsay VanSomeren

Lindsay VanSomeren is a financial writer living in Kirkland, Washington. She's written for The Balance, Credit Karma, LendingTree, and more.