Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog

Child playing with a puppy on grass
Image by Sally Wynn from Pixabay

Getting a dog is a huge commitment, not just in terms of the amount of time that they will require, but also the cost. On top of daily exercise, cuddles and love, dogs also need food, a comfy bed, toys, treats and other essential equipment, and often these are ongoing costs rather than just a one off cost at the beginning of owning a dog.

The lifetime cost of dog ownership will be influenced by many factors such as the area you live in or whether you buy a rescue dog or a pedigree puppy, but the main costs will depend on whether you are raising a small teacup dog such as a Chihuahua, or a larger breed such as a Belgian Malinois.

If you’re looking for more of a quick overview, you’ll be able to skip straight to the end, to a summary table of costs.

Buying a Dog

The cost of buying a dog can vary significantly, from a few hundred dollars, to in excess of $10,000. This will depend on whether you adopt a dog from a rescue center, or you want a purebred rare breed pedigree dog.

The cheapest option in the short run is to adopt a rescue dog, but you could find that in the long run the associated costs of keeping a rescue dog might be more if the medical history of the dog is unknown. Adoption costs vary from $50-$800, and cover a wide variety of expenses from medical checks, to microchips.

If you choose to buy a dog from a breeder, the average dog will cost somewhere within the range of $500-$2000.

Medical Costs and Insurance

Veterinarian examines a puppy dog
Image by skeeze from Pixabay

The first thing you’ll need to do when you buy a dog, is have them checked over by a veterinarian. The initial medical cost will depend on whether they need to be spayed or neutered and whether they’ll need vaccines and other preventative treatments.

Puppies require visits to the vest every few weeks until they reach the age of 16 weeks old, and each one of these visits can cost $100-$300 dollars. If you decide to have your dog neutered, this will cost around $200.

Ongoing medical costs will really depend on the health and breed of your dog. Some dogs are less likely to develop certain diseases, whereas some breeds are prone to many different ailments.

Your best bet either way, if to take out a comprehensive pet insurance cover, where you will only be liable for a percentage of the costs. Medical insurance will cost in between $15 to $75 per month. You can expect to pay a higher premium for a dog with a higher risk factor.


Dog food and water bowls

After the initial cost of buying a dog, and the medical costs, the next big expense is buying all the equipment that you dog will need.

This amount really does depend on how much you want to buy, and the quality of the equipment you’ll get. As a bare minimum, they will need a dog bed, a collar and leash and two bowls.

Whilst you will pay a premium for more quality equipment, it might be more cost effective in the long run to buy a few quality items that will last a lifetime, rather than lots of cheaper less quality accessories which will need replacing every year or so.

You can expect to spend between $200 and $800 on all the initial equipment you’ll need, and then the same again as an ongoing expense.

Food and Toys

Dog with a bone in his mouth

The average cost of dog food is between $10 and $50 per month. This figure will depend on whether you buy high cost branded food, or cheaper non-branded food, feed them a dry or raw food diet, and the size of the breed.

Larger breeds will obviously be more expensive to feed. Don’t be fooled that branded foods are always the healthiest choice, take a look at the ingredients on the packaging, and choose their food based on the amount of protein and the lack of filler foods on the label.

Additionally to food, you’ll need to buy treats such as bones, chews or chicken legs. This cost can be just as expensive as the main food price.

Your dog will also need plenty of toys to keep their brains active. The average initial layout for toys and other brain games will be around $100, and you can easily expect to spend this as an ongoing annual cost if you want to give your dog lots of variety.

Other Costs

There are a whole range of other costs which you might incur, depending on your lifestyle and the services you might want for your dog.

For example, if you want puppy training classes, these typically cost around $40 for an hour class. This can take the cost up to $400 depending on the amount of classes you have.

For some dogs, grooming is a vital requirement, whereas for others it isn’t. Each trip to the groomers will cost in between $30 to $50, which could be a monthly event if you have a long haired breed.

If you work full time, you will most likely need to use a day care service, or a dog walker. You can expect to pay around $20 for a half hour dog walk, and even more for day care.

Unexpected Costs

On top of all the foreseen and plans costs, you should also allow a budget for unexpected costs. The most commons ones are illness and injury. Most unexpected trips to vets can cost in excess of $1000, if it is for something such as a seizure. Try to save around $40 per month, to allow a safety blanket in case any unexpected costs do come up. 

Summary: The True Lifetime Cost of Owning a Dog

Expense One Off Cost Ongoing Cost Per Year
Cost to Buy the Dog $500-$2000 N/A
Vaccines and Routine Care $100-$300 $50-$200
Spray/Neutering $50-$300 N/A
Insurance N/A $180-$900
Equipment $200-$800 $200-$800
Food and Treats N/A $120-$600
Toys $100 $100
Training $400 N/A
Grooming N/A $30-$600
Walking $20-$100 $500-$2000
Unexpected Costs N/A $480

In can be easy to oversee all the true costs of caring for a dog. According to the above figures which are based on years of experience of Thomas Woods, and experienced dog keeper and trainer, the minimum lifetime cost of owning a dog (excluding training, grooming and walking) is close to $12,000, based on a dog living for 10 years. This amount can quickly increase too, so it is important that you fully consider whether you can afford this before buying a dog.