How Much Does It Cost to Own a Dog (Updated in 2021)

There’s a reason why dogs have long been (and will likely continue to be) one of the most popular pets in the world: they’re adorable, friendly, and fill a hole in your heart that you never even knew you had.

It’s a good thing they’re so irresistible, though, because keeping a pooch around can be costly. Many people fail to appreciate just how expensive owning a dog can be, and that’s largely because they don’t anticipate all the costs that go with having one of these animals in your life.

Those unexpected expenses are actually quite predictable — and they add up fast. If you’re trying to determine whether your budget can handle bringing a furry friend into your household, the guide below will give you a ballpark estimate of what owning a dog can cost nowadays.

Be forewarned, though, that this is just an estimate. The actual costs can vary wildly from breed to breed and dog to dog. Some breeds cost way more than others on average, but even if you adopt a dog of a “healthy” breed, you could still find yourself on the hook for all sorts of unforeseen expenses.

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Bringing Home a New Dog: One-Time Costs

If you’re getting a dog for the first time ever, you’ll have to pay quite a bit to bring them home, regardless if you’re getting the pup for free or paying for the privilege.

That’s because there’s lots of gear — bowls, beds, collars, leashes, etc. — that you’ll have to buy for the first time. Most of these are one-time costs, but you have to spend that money all the same.

If you already have a dog (or had one previously), you may be able to sidestep many of these expenses by just giving the new dog the stuff your other pooch used. Each dog has their own unique taste, though, so your new pup may not want to use all of the old dog’s hand-me-downs.

english cocker spaniel on green grass
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Free

There’s an old saying that goes, “There’s nothing more expensive than a free dog.” There’s truth to that, as you’ll quickly grow so attached to the new pooch that you’ll spend all sorts of cash trying to keep them healthy and happy.

Most free dogs come from word-of-mouth referrals, usually because someone you know had a litter of puppies unexpectedly thrust into their lap. Taking one in can be a great way to ensure they have a good home and keep them out of a shelter, but you should still urge your friend to have their dog spayed or neutered.

Other dogs are rescued as strays. This is another great way to find a diamond in the rough, but just be sure you exhaust all possible ways of finding a potential owner first.


Adoption

$0–150+

Adopting a dog is a great way to give a forgotten animal a loving home — and literally save their life. However, the costs associated with adopting can vary depending on a few factors.

The biggest is where you’re adopting it from. If you’re getting it from the pound, then you shouldn’t have to pay too much in adoption fees (and these fees will sometimes be waived). Also, most pounds provide important medical services like spaying and neutering, which can save you hundreds of dollars if you had to pay for them out of pocket.

If you’re adopting from a rescue group, the fees may go up. This is because they need to offset all of their expenses, as rescuing dogs is an expensive calling. You’ll also likely have to jump through more hoops, including interviews and in-home visits, as these groups usually do lots of background checks to ensure their dogs go to suitable homes.

dog adoption
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Breeder

$200–10,000+

The range above may seem incredibly wide, and it certainly is. That’s because there are lots of different dog types out there, as well as lots of different bloodlines.

If you just want a dog for a pet, then your costs will largely depend on how common the breed is. It’s much easier to find a cheap purebred Labrador than an Otterhound, for example.

If the breed is especially popular, though, it may drive the costs up accordingly, as the breeder knows they’ll find a buyer for all their pups. This is one of the reasons why English Bulldogs are so expensive.

Another huge factor in the price is the animal’s bloodline. This is only important if you plan to breed or show the animal, as it does nothing to affect their suitability as a pet. However, a premium dog that comes from pristine bloodlines can be incredibly expensive, and that’s where you’ll find some of the outrageous prices indicated above.

One final factor is the dog’s training. Some working dogs will come pre-trained by their breeders, and in many cases, you’re paying for the quality of the training as much as the dog itself. This will drive up the cost substantially, but it may be worth it if you have special needs or want to be absolutely certain that the dog is well-behaved.

List of 8 Breeds and Their Average Cost

Labrador $800 – 1,200
English Bulldog $1,500 – 4,000
German Shepherd $500 – 1,500
Chihuahua $450 – 1,000
Great Dane $600 – 2,000
Beagle $400 – 1,000
Poodle $700 – 3,000
Rottweiler $800 – 2,500


Supplies

$50 – 300+

There are a few things that will determine how much you’ll spend on supplies. The biggest one we’ve already covered, and that’s whether you already have things on-hand that you can use with your new dog.

If you don’t, then you have a lot of stuff you’ll need to buy. Some of it can be skipped or worked around, but the essentials are still essential, and they still cost money.

One of the biggest factors that affects this category is the quality of the stuff you’re buying. For example, you can get a regular dog bed for $20 or less, but if you want a top-of-the-line, indestructible model, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars on it.

Also, you should keep in mind that some of these supplies can save you money elsewhere. For example, you may not want to splurge on chew toys, but giving your dog something constructive to gnaw on can stop them from destroying your couch or your shoe collection.

List of Dog Care Supplies and Average Cost

ID Tag and Collar $15 – 30
Spay/Neuter $20 – 300+
X-Ray Cost $100 – 250
Ultrasound Cost $250 – 600
Microchip $45 – 55
Teeth Cleaning $150 – 700
Bed $20 – 100+
Nail Clipper (optional) $3 – 15
Brush (optional) $5 – 40
Crate (optional) $15 – 100+
Leash $8 – 40+
Toys $5 – 50+
Carrier $20 – 80+
Food and Water Bowls $10 – 50+


Annual Expenses

$500+ per year

This category will depend on your personal preference as much as anything else. If you love to spoil your pooch, then expect to spend a lot more than $500 a year on them. However, you can keep this number down if you’re frugal with your purchases.

You don’t even have to neglect your dog to save money here. Remember, dogs love spending time with their owners most of all, and taking them to the park or for a hike is free. You can make your dog the happiest animal on the planet with a kind word and an ear scritch, so don’t think you have to spend a fortune on them to be a good pet owner.

Beagle dog
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Health Care

$500 – 2,000+ per year

This is another category that will vary wildly, as it depends on your dog’s age, health, and breed.

Younger dogs will almost always cost less than senior dogs. You may only need to pay for food, toys, and regular checkups for your dog while they’re young, but once they reach their senior years, those costs can start to climb. Just like with people, older animals require more healthcare — and that can be expensive.

Their overall health is worth considering, as well. If your dog has a chronic disease, managing it is likely to be expensive. Some pups can contract these diseases while young, which adds to the lifetime cost of owning the animal, whereas others only come down with serious issues later in life.

Likewise, certain breeds are much healthier than others. Some, like Bernese Mountain Dogs, are incredibly likely to contract serious illnesses that will dramatically increase their cost of ownership. Other breeds aren’t as likely to suffer from anything serious, although there are never any guarantees in this department.

As a general rule, though, mutts will usually be the healthiest dogs, so consider skipping the purebreds if you want to save money on vet’s bills.


Check Ups

$100 – 300 per year

Popping in to see your vet once or twice a year may seem unnecessary if your dog is healthy, but this is one expense that could save you lots of money — or even your dog’s life.

If your dog ever comes down with a serious condition like cancer, finding it early can save you thousands of dollars in medical costs, as well as increasing your dog’s odds of survival. Periodic checkups are a great way to make sure your pup is as healthy on the inside as they seem on the outside.

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Vaccinations

$75 – 100 per year

You’ll spend a lot more on vaccinations when your dog is still a puppy than you will later in life, as most dogs only need periodic boosters once they’re fully grown. Again, though, this is not an area in which you want to save money, as vaccines will protect your wallet as much as they do your dog.


Dental

$20 – 1,000+ per year

Canine dental care is expensive, and if your dog has to have a tooth pulled or a root canal, you could easily be out thousands of dollars as a result. Fortunately, you have a lot of control over your dog’s dental health, as regular brushing can prevent serious issues from forming.


Treatments for Parasites

$50 – 200 per year

You can get bargain-basement parasite treatments, but they’re often not as effective as the pricier stuff. You’ll have to weigh the likelihood of your dog getting a flea or tick versus how much you want to save money here. If your dog is mostly kept indoors or in an urban environment, though, you may be able to skimp a bit in this category.

Japanese Spitz
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Emergencies

$500 – 2,000+ per year

It’s hard to put a firm number on this because there are all sorts of dog emergencies out there (and dogs are figuring out new emergencies all the time). However, in severe cases, your dog might need x-rays, overnight care, dialysis, or other kinds of expensive medical care, so it’s smart to prepare for the worst.


Medications for On-Going Conditions

$100 – 500+ per year

Again, there are so many different conditions out there that it’s hard to put a firm number on this. Some conditions require a monthly medication, so they won’t cost much, but others will require you to give your dog medicine every single day. These are more expensive, as you might expect.

You may also want to buy supplements to keep your dog healthy so that you don’t have to put them on pricy medications. Supplements are almost always cheaper than medications, but they’re still not cheap if used daily.


Insurance

$600 – 1,500+ per year

Pet insurance is a hot-button issue. It’s expensive, there’s no doubt about it, and many people balk at paying that much for something they may never use.

However, pet insurance can save you a lot of money if your dog has an emergency, and it may save you from having to make difficult decisions about your dog’s life.

This is completely a personal choice, but if you can swing it, pet insurance may just be a literal lifesaver.


Food

$200 – 1,000+ per year

This is another area where you might be tempted to save money — after all, dogs will eat anything, right? — but you shouldn’t skimp here.

High-quality kibble will help keep your dog healthy, and that can save you lots of money in healthcare costs. It will also ensure that your dog stays active and happy for as long as possible.

It’s also worth noting that healthier food is less likely to make your pooch overweight, and obesity is a huge medical issue for dogs.

Labrador Retrievers_shutterstock_fotorince
Image Credit: fotorince, Shutterstock

Environment Maintenance

$50 – 200+ per year

This is one area in which owning a dog is fairly cheap. All you need is a steady supply of poop bags if you’re living in the city, or a poop scooper and a trash can if you have your own yard. Either way, disposing of their waste is much less expensive than with other pets (like cats).

Poop bags $50/year
Poop scoop (one-time cost) $15 – 50

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Entertainment

$50 – 200+ per year

As mentioned previously, dogs are perfectly happy just running around in the grass with their humans. You don’t need to spend a fortune on toys and other entertainment for them.

However, dogs always love new toys, and many can teach important behaviors or stimulate vital parts of their brain. Also, chew toys are a good idea if you have a dog that likes to destroy things like your furniture.

If you don’t have as much time to spend with your dog as you’d like, or if you have mobility issues, then toys can be an excellent stand-in for your attention.

It’s also a good idea to buy higher-quality toys rather than the cheap stuff, as the pricier toys are more likely to last longer.


Total Annual Cost of Owning a Dog

$500 – 2,000+ per year

If you want to own a dog, you should resign yourself to spending several hundred dollars per year on them regardless of how frugal you are. However, those costs can quickly balloon if you decide to splurge on your dog or if they have serious medical issues to contend with.

Also, the costs of owning a dog typically escalate over time. You can expect to make a sizable one-time investment in supplies when you first bring home your puppy, but after that, the costs will likely be minimal. Once they reach their senior years, though, there will generally be quite a few expenses that you didn’t have to deal with when they were younger.

dog in adoption happy pets
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Owning a Dog on a Budget

It is possible to own a dog while simultaneously keeping your costs down, but it’s not necessarily easy. Many of the possible expenses, such as healthcare, are largely outside your control.

One of the easiest ways to limit costs is choosing a cheap dog to begin with. If you get a breed (or a mutt) that’s unlikely to suffer from pricey medical issues, you could save thousands of dollars compared to a sicklier breed.

Beyond that, your best bet is to give your dog time and attention rather than material things. If you can spend tons of time with your pooch, you won’t have to spend money on toys, dog walkers, and other expenses.

Saving Money on Dog Care

The easiest way to save money on dog care is to do as much of it yourself as you can. That means walking them yourself, grooming them yourself, and doing all sorts of preventative maintenance (like brushing their teeth and feeding them a healthy diet).

Of course, this means you’ll spend your time instead of your money, but that’s a trade-off that has to be made one way or the other.

siberian husky and golden retriever
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Conclusion

If you’re going to own a dog, there are some things you’re going to have to shell out money for. This includes one-time costs like adoption fees, spaying or neutering, and buying all their supplies, but it also includes on-going expenses like food and medication.

These costs can quickly run into the thousands, especially over the life of your dog. You’ll have to be sure your budget can withstand the strain of having a pet in your life before you bring one home.

Owning a dog isn’t a cheap proposition, but it’s undoubtedly worth every penny. These animals will keep you happy, healthy, and entertained, and they’ll shower you with the purest love you can imagine.

Try to keep that in mind the next time you’re writing a gigantic check to your veterinarian.


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