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More Than Kibble: 9 Dog Ownership Costs to Consider

A woman playfully wrestling with her husky puppy.
Nina Buday/Shutterstock

Dog ownership is on the rise as people adopt shelter-in-place buddies. While that’s awesome, it’s important to go into it with a clear picture of how expensive dogs can be. Here are some things to consider.

There’s more to dog ownership than the initial adoption fee or breeder cost. Whether you’re paying $50 to $100 to adopt a dog from the local shelter or $200 to $1,000+ for a purebred dog, that’s just the start of the expenses.

So, let’s put aside the trips to the park, and the snuggles and such, and take a good hard look at how expensive it is to own a dog.

Preventative Veterinary Visits

Two veterinarians checking a Corgi dog.
Andrii Medvenikov/Shutterstock

Dogs and puppies have to go to the vet regularly for vaccinations and regular checkups. Puppies have to go more often until they get all of their shots, get neutered or spayed, and are well on their way to healthy adulthood.

When your dog is 1 year old, he won’t have to go as often. Healthy dogs will only need a checkup once a year until they’re considered a senior (at what age this is depends on the breed). Senior dogs need to go to the vet every six months.

You might also want to consider pet insurance, but just be sure to research what your policy covers. Many only cover emergencies, not routine visits.

Some of the preventative treatments you’ll pay for include rabies shots, vaccines for distemper-parvo, and other diseases. If you ever board your pet, she’ll also need a vaccine for kennel cough. You also want to protect your dog from bugs and the diseases they spread, so you’ll need heartworm medication, flea and tick treatments, and more.

The costs for all of these vary depending on where you live and your dog’s weight (bigger dogs need higher doses). You’re probably looking at $1,000 per year (at least) for the life of your pet to cover vaccinations, wellness checks, and preventive medicine.

And, of course, that doesn’t include if your dog has skin issues, food allergies, or anxiety (all of which are quite common).

Emergency Veterinary Visits

As much as we hope they won’t, accidents do happen. Dogs of all ages get into stuff they shouldn’t. He might eat your medication or cut one of his footpads on broken glass or a nail in the yard. She might get into a scuffle with another animal, or get loose and get hurt while cruising the neighborhood.

The cost of an emergency vet visit will vary depending on what needs to be done. It could be a $60 office visit, or a surgery that costs over $1,000.

While there’s no way to know if your dog will ever need to be rushed to the emergency vet, you should still make sure you have an emergency stash of cash to cover it, just in case.

Collars and Leashes

Collars, harnesses, and leashes might not seem like that much of an investment. However, if your puppy chews them up, you’ll have to either keep buying new ones or invest in one with a lifetime guarantee, like a Lupine. If you have a puppy, you might also have to buy a bigger collar at some point.

An aggressive dog (it happens) might require a harness that expresses that, so people know immediately not to approach your dog or that he might be nervous and need a moment. If your fearful dog bites someone, you might end up spending even more money on court fees or even lose your dog.

Depending on which brand or type of leash you choose, the cost can vary. You can get a harness and a leash for under $50 with a lifetime guarantee. If you want something fancy or want to invest in multiple collars and leads, you’ll spend more.

Food and Treat Costs

Your dog has to eat every day, just like you. Depending on her diet plan and age, you’ll be feeding her once or twice a day. Different types of dog food have different serving sizes, and you want to make sure you’re not feeding your dog too much (or too little).

In addition to dog food (which can get extra pricey if your dog has allergies or health issues that require specialty blends), you’ll also want to have some treats on hand. Treats are essential for training purposes, but you don’t want to give your dog too many, or he’ll gain too much weight.

It’s difficult to estimate how much you’ll spend each month on dog food and treats. It depends on your dog’s age (a senior dog might eat less than an active, younger one) and size (larger breeds need more food). Either way, expect to spend a few hundred per month just feeding your dog.

Training Costs

A line of people standing behind their dogs at a training class.
Speedkingz/Shutterstock

Some folks choose to do all the dog training themselves. However, if you’re raising a show dog, or he has some problems listening, you might want to sign him up for training classes. They’ll teach your pup more than just sit and stay. It’s also an opportunity for them to socialize and get used to other people and dogs.

If you’re looking to use your dog in a professional field, whether it be as a scent or therapy dog, you’ll want to invest in classes to get her certified. Training can cost anywhere from $25 per class for basic lessons, to $100 or more for a certification course.

Training devices are sometimes needed, as well, such as bark collars and clickers. This is another area that has varying costs, as there are some things you might not choose to use to train your pet.

Dog Licensing

It’s important to follow the rules and laws regarding pets in your area. This usually involved registering your dog and getting him licensed. Dog licenses require that your pooch has his rabies shot up to date.

A dog license can cost anywhere from $10 to $20. The fees vary based on where you live, as well as whether your dog is fixed. It’s not a one-time fee, either; typically, you have to renew it every year.

Pet Toys and Bedding

Even older dogs like to have toys to play with. Toys can get expensive, though, especially if you have a puppy that likes to chew a lot or has a strong bite. Tug toys, balls, swimming toys, stuffies, and a plethora of other toys will likely begin to fill your home when you bring a dog into your life.

Toys can cost anywhere from $1 apiece to the quite expensive puzzle game. Toys also wear out, so you might have to replace them every few months.

You also want your furbaby to have a comfortable place to sleep. You might have to invest in a crate for training or sleeping. Crates vary in price depending on size, but you’re probably looking at no less than $50.

You should also get her a comfy doggie bed—especially if you want to try to keep her off the furniture. The bigger the dog, the bigger the bed you’ll need. Like toys, beds are also subject to wear and tear and might require replacement.

Grooming

A brown Pomeranian being groomed at the groomer.
Evmefoto/Shutterstock

Even short-haired dogs need grooming. If you have the space at home to properly wash your dog, you can save money. Just be sure to buy shampoo made for dogs so it’s safe. You’ll also need to keep up on trimming his nails and brushing his teeth.

Longer haired dogs and show dogs need regular visits to a professional groomer. Cutting your poodle’s hair to get it to poof out might not be something you can figure out on your own. Long-haired dogs are also susceptible to knots in their fur, and a groomer knows how to get them out without hurting him.

A monthly trip to the groomer can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. It depends on what your dog needs, but a bath and nail trim will be on the lower end.

Boarding

If you travel and can’t take your dog with you, you’ll have the additional fees of boarding her or hiring a dog sitter. The cost usually depends on the size of your dog, extra features (like a bath or playtime), and how long you’re boarding her. Boarding can start at around $25 a day.

If you work all day and can’t stop in for potty breaks, your dog might need to go to doggy daycare. For this, you’re also likely looking at a minimum of $25 a day.


Dogs are amazing companions, but they’re certainly expensive over time. Consider all of the above and try to budget in advance for all the expenses that come with being a dog mom or dad.

Yvonne Glasgow Yvonne Glasgow
Yvonne Glasgow is a professional writer with two decades of experience. She has written and edited for nutritionists, start-ups, dating companies, SEO firms, newspapers, board game companies, and more. Yvonne is a published poet and short story writer, and she is a life coach. Read Full Bio »

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