What It Costs To Own Man’s Best Friend


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We brought our dog, Cooper, into our home ten years ago. He was just one in a litter of puppies a friend of a friend was giving away. We offered her $20 but she wouldn’t accept it. Now I understand why; She knew how much it costs to have a dog!

If you are contemplating getting a dog for the family then be prepared to increase your annual budget by at least $1,200. That may sound expensive at first but it’s actually on the low end of owning a pooch.

Here is a breakdown using our dog Cooper as an example:

Puppy Nutrition

When Cooper was three, he started having allergic reactions to most processed foods. We found a brand of dog food that worked that just happened to be the most expensive food. This increased our grocery bill from $200 to $500 a year.

The total does not include treats or the occasional canned food for special days (his birthday or Christmas). I estimate those costs to be $70 a year.

Of course, you probably won’t have a dog with special dietary needs like ours so you can cut the food cost down tremendously by feeding it table food. Just be careful not to get it hooked on steak and grilled salmon.

Making a dog healthy and legal

Every region is different but I’m fairly certain all municipalities require dogs to be licensed. I couldn’t tell you what we spent to license Cooper but it was a one-time fee, maybe $20.00.

If you get a puppy you may also be required to get it spayed or neutered. That’s another $135 to $200

Keeping our dog legal with all the required immunizations is another story altogether. We spent over $150 for rabies and other shots last year alone.

While we’re at it, let’s talk medical expenses: Heart worm pills are $35 for a six month supply. Cooper had a hairline fracture in his back paw last year; add another $160 in doctor visits and medicines.

Emergencies are expensive for both man and his best friend.

Good boy!

To ensure there weren’t little “surprises” left around the house we purchased a doggie pen (cage). You may be able to find them on CraigsList for $25 or a new one could set you back $100.

Then there is obedience training: $165 for 2 months of classes and a doggie-diploma. Unless you are Caesar Millan the Dog Whisperer you’ll need a dog collar and leash. We found the best one was a $17 harness that didn’t choke our pooch when he became overly excited while walking around the block.

As a side note: The obedience classes were very effective except for the releasing of a toy when playing fetch (he’d rather play “catch me if you can”). Other than that, he’s a good boy!

Pee-You! Cooper – you stink!

Nothing gets by my wife’s olfactory senses. If Cooper has been outside too long, or rolled around in something he shouldn’t have, we all hear about it. This increases our budget by about $20 a month for either doggie shampoo or a wash at the groomer’s.

Curbing your dog is a requirement in our city. Old produce bags that once carried peaches or plums are now used for Cooper’s road apples. Designer poop-bags cost $7 on Amazon will last 120 “deposits” and a pooper-scooper is $15 at PetCo.

Of course you could hire a service to pick up your dog’s droppings. Yes, they do exist (check out Yuckos.com)

Send him to the kennel or take him with you

Included in our vacation budget is Cooper’s trip to the spa (that’s what I call the kennel). On average we will spend $225 each time we leave him behind.

Instead of sending Cooper to the spa we could hire a dog sitter. Having someone feed and play with your canine in their environment is a great idea – for you and the person hired to take care of Spot. I’m not sure what that cost would be because we haven’t tried it, but I imagine a neighbor kid would love to be your go-to guy or gal if they were offered a small sum of money to play with your dog!

However, you can save tons of money by bringing you dog with you. There are animal friendly hotels that don’t cost more than a Holiday Inn Express, although you’ll notice the rooms don’t look the same as the HIE. Triavago.com has recently been advertising this as a feature of their hotel booking service.

One of the family

We increase our grocery and medical budget to include normal monthly expenses for Cooper – because he is part of our family. Our Christmas budget is increased a few months before December to include a couple things in his stocking (yes, he gets one too).

Overall, our dog costs us $1,225 a year but brings an unmeasurable amount of happiness when he greets us at the door and when he runs around the backyard with a stick in his mouth. (You should see him run through the leaf piles in the Fall).

While some of our expenses are driven by Cooper’s medical needs, others will spend far more money on a 4-legged member of the family. Larger dogs will be more expensive to feed while purebred pooches cost an arm and a leg to acquire.  Ironically, pocket dogs are 10-20% the size of an average house dog but cost much, much more in annual expenses as they are often pampered (because they are irresistibly cute!)

How well you treat your dog is a matter of preference. It doesn’t matter how much you choose to spend on your dog so long as you represent it somewhere in your budget.

About Steve Stewart

19 Responses to “What It Costs To Own Man’s Best Friend”

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  1. We would love to get a dog, but don’t have the time or space for one right now and as you’ve pointed out, they cost a lot! We have 2 cats and I keep saying how they are eating us out of our house. Not really but it does feel like I am buying a new bag of food and litter just about every month.

  2. Michelle says:

    “Road apples!” I’ve never heard that phrase before-love it!

  3. Our thirteen-year-old dog has been really cheap. His first big vet bill was actually last month when he hurt his back. The little guy is worth it, but he’s definitely getting up there in age!

    • Awwww. I hope he’s okay. Our little guy is 10 years old and just has allergies. Well, he did have bone spur last year but you’d never know if from the way he tears around the back yard with a tennis ball in his mouth.

  4. You defiantly need a budget line item before decided on a pet. Any pet, not only a dog. We have had many pets over the years fish, rats, guinea pigs, but dogs do make a great additional to the family. So much so that we are consider adding a second to our family.

  5. Kathy says:

    We had dogs for years and years until our last two died the year before we retired. It was a bummer to look forward to having more time to spend with them and then have to adjust to not having them. I have to say that they were worth every penny we spent on them, but I warn people about the cost of a dog depending on its’ size. Large dogs cost a lot more. We had Newfoundlands so all medications cost more, grooming cost more and food cost more. But, as I said, they were worth it and were so much a member of our family that they are with us in our formal family portrait we had done, which still hangs over the fireplace mantle. Can’t begin to imagine never having had them.

  6. Mary says:

    I compute this average monthly. 1 dog 2 cats, ordinary expenses. 86/MO vet and board. Last year that was 150/mo. 25 per mo grooming, 146/mo food and supplies. Yeah.
    We mix expensive but on sale food with cheap. End of life expenses easily another $1200 per animal, minimum, given a time least a few months of failing kidneys, heart. So you can depreciate the critters too. We have about 8 years left, so that’s 3600/96= another 37 per month.
    This excludes the $8000 in furniture and blinds damage, repainting doors. Constant cleaning. I love my Roomba. Put down another $800 /3 for vacuum

  7. We love our dog dearly, but if I could go back in time 9 years, we would not have bought him. We were at our worst state financially . . . and we bought a (really cute) pure-bred Cavalier King Charles Spaniel! Ugh! A couple of years ago, he had bladder stones, and it cost a grand total of $4,500 to deal with it at the time – not to mention the more expensive food we have since been buying as a result of his condition.
    If you want to get out of debt, don’t buy a dog.

  8. I’ve promised my husband for years that our next pet will be a dog. Now that one of the two cats has passed away (sniff sniff), we’re readying for a dog. But he wants a puppy, and neither of us want a chihuahua as any part of the makeup.

    Which means we’re probably going to have to buy one. (I hate that, since there are so many dogs looking for love in shelters, but maybe I’ll lobby for the second dog to be a rescue.) We had a Banfield plan for the cat, so I’ve been socking away the $27 a month to help offset the painful cost of buying a pup.

    I told him we’re not getting a new pet until 2015, when we have a couple of goals met. Because yeah, those (adorable) suckers are expensive!

  9. We’ve had pets most of our life, or should I say they have had us. Over the years we lived with various dogs and cats. Today we have just one cat.

    Our prior cat we had to put to sleep earlier last year. We went through multiple years of expensive treatments and medicine. She then developed cancer that we could not do anything to help. That was very tough to do.

    It is situations like this that show how bonded we can become to our animals. They are definitely our family members.

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