The cost of owning a dog ranges between $700 and $1,100 annually, according to the most recent estimates by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). A 2018 survey by financial services company TD Ameritrade found Millennials spend an average of $1,285 on their dogs yearly.
But annual dog expenses vary widely based on a variety factors—from your taste in dog gear to the size of your dog to the average cost of a visit to the veterinarian in your area.
Estimating what a dog will cost must include these variables, as well as your tendency for impulse buys and wild card canine issues, such as health emergencies and property damage caused by destructive chewers and diggers. Only with these in mind will your estimates fall into the ballpark. Read on for our rundown of the approximate costs of owning a dog in the first year, and the annual expenses that continue through your dog’s lifetime.
The First Year Cost of a New Dog
The first year of owning a new dog is the most expensive because it includes adoption fees or or the cost of buying a dog. You must also factor in the new dog supplies you’ll need, whether you’re a first-time dog owner, or already have a dog or two. Dogs need their own dedicated gear in the house to be healthy and happy.
How Much Does It Cost to Buy a Dog?
The cost of buying a dog varies so dramatically, we can’t even provide a range. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder is typically costly because they put so much care into the health of their sires, dams, and litters. Expect to pay higher prices for American Kennel Club (AKC) registered puppies and the offspring of noted dog show champions, as well as for popular ‘designer’ mixed-breed dogs and certain rare dog breeds. If you’re buying, our
Dog Breed Selector can help guide you to a breed that’s a good match for you, your family, and your lifestyle.
When choosing a dog breeder, do your research. Check their stated credentials against records with the AKC, as well as national, state, and local dog clubs dedicated to the specific breed. Search online news articles with their name and kennel—lawsuits and criminal records related to their business will show up. The goal is to avoid buying from puppy mills, where dogs are bred with little care for the welfare of the animals or attention to genetic health issues.
How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?
The cost to adopt a dog varies between organizations, but adoption is typically the cheaper route to dog ownership. Whether you are adopting from a municipal shelter or non-profit rescue, the process includes fees that cover the cost of spaying or neutering, other veterinary tests and care, the shelter facility, staff, and training for volunteers. Consult our detailed post on how to adopt a shelter dog if you decide to take the adoption route.
Puppy (Or Rescue Dog) Expenses for the First Year
The responsibility for spaying or neutering falls to you if you are buying your new puppy from a breeder. The price varies between veterinarians, but routine spaying or neutering procedures can cost up to $300. Seek out low- or reduced-cost spay/neuter programs for the most affordable options. Spaying and neutering have health and behavioral benefits for dogs, and some US cities mandate the procedures by law; as mentioned above, they’re included in adoption fees for rescue dogs.
Other first-year expenses for your new dog include:
- Dog collars
- Dog bowls for food and water
- High-quality dry or wet dog food
- First veterinarian visit, and follow-ups for vaccinations
- Flea and tick treatments/preventatives
- Dog grooming supplies – dog-safe shampoo and toothpaste, toothbrushes, nail clippers, brushes, etc.
- Dog house training supplies
- Dog gate(s) – if you want any no-dog-zones in your home
- Dog crate
- Dog license – usually a low municipal fee
- Dog bed
- Dog treats and toys
- Dog safety harness for travel in the car
- Dog first-aid kit
- Eco-friendly dog waste pick-up bags
- Dog-safe household cleaning supplies
Ongoing Expenses: The Annual Cost of a Dog
Once you’ve stocked up on dog gear, most ongoing expenses involve restocking supplies or replacing damaged items from the above list. But the annual cost of dog food, treats, and supplies varies depending on what you buy and the size of your dog—it probably won’t surprise you that the cost of gear and food for big dogs is pricier than it is for small dogs.
According to the ASPCA, the annual cost of premium dry dog food for a large dog will run you around $400, and only about half that ($212) for a small dog, with food costs for a medium-size dog landing somewhere in the middle. For toys and treats, the ASPCA puts the annual price tag at $75 for large dogs, $55 for medium-size dogs, and $40 for small dogs. But once again, the exact yearly cost of dog ownership will vary based on individual choices.
Optional and Unexpected Dog Expenses
Professional dog services—grooming, dog walkers, doggy daycare, overnight boarding, obedience training, and agility classes—fall into the category of optional expenses because you can groom, train, and exercise your dog on your own. Many people also have nearby family members or friends who can pitch in to help with walks, or to dog sit during vacations.
But for other dog owners, outsourcing these jobs is a necessity. Whether they’re struggling with obedience training, have no time for grooming, or don’t have family to help out with walks and overnight trips, these services are lifesavers. They can be pricey though, so factor them into your budgeting if you think you’ll need one or more of these dog care services.
Unexpected medical issues can also raise annual costs. If your dog develops a chronic illness or has a medical emergency, you’ll have to pay for any resulting medical care, medications, or surgical procedures out of pocket. Pet insurance can offset medical costs, but the plans are expensive and usually don’t cover 100 percent of veterinarian bills.
Finally, you adore your furry best friend, and want him to have the best—but that Captain America costume or umpteenth dog toy doesn’t count as a necessity. These extras are admittedly hard to resist; to prevent overspending, establish an annual ‘fun and games’ dog budget and then honor it.
Dogs are expensive, but the annual costs of owning a dog can vary by thousands of dollars. Before bringing a dog home, honestly assess what services and gear you’ll need and how these expenses fit into your household budget. What you learn will help guide your decisions about food, supplies, family dog care duties, services, and fun extras. The more you understand the financial realities of owning a dog, the more prepared you are for the priceless rewards of a furry best friend.