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How To Budget For A Dog: Budgeting For Your Best Buddy

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Dog Care By Kate Brunotts 16 min read March 2, 2021

how to budget for a dog

Dogs are undoubtedly a wonderful addition to your life, but if you don’t budget properly, they can actually cause significant stress.

Our furry friends can come with a variety of expected and unexpected expenses and it’s our responsibility as pet parents to give them the care and support they deserve. 

Unfortunately, too many owners decide to get a dog, only to discover later that they can’t afford one. We’ll explain how to determine a monthly budget to ensure that you can care for your dog the way she deserves. 

How to Budget for a Dog: Key Takeaways

  • Dogs can be expensive pets, so it is critical that you plan for the financial burden they present. Estimates of the annual costs of dog ownership vary between about $800 and $4,300, based on a wide variety of factors.
  • In addition to the cost (if any) of purchasing your dog, you’ll have to prepare for one-time and ongoing needs. This includes things like crates and first-year vaccinations, which you’ll usually only pay once, as well as things like food, flea prevention, and toys, which you’ll have to buy repeatedly.
  • There are a few ways you can reduce some of the expenses associated with dog ownership. This includes things like signing up for a health insurance plan, looking for low-cost spay and neuter clinics, and selecting a small dog rather than a giant pooch.

Bottom Line: How Much Does it Cost to Care for a Dog?

the cost of dog ownership

As a ballpark figure, you can expect to pay anywhere from $800 to $4,300 annually for your four-footer. Different financial authorities have arrived at varied estimates, so what you actually pay is heavily individualized.

For example, CNBC estimated paying $1400 to $4300 a year, the ASPCA estimates cost of about $800 to $1000 a year, and Investopedia predicts you’ll spend roughly $1400 a year.

Your range may be more or less based on your dog’s size, medical needs, lifestyle, and the rates of your area. 

Keep in mind that these estimates don’t take into account the initial first-year expenses of acquiring and welcoming your new pooch into your home, which are often quite significant.

Below, we’ll break down a dog-care budget item by item so that you can have a clear sense of where the costs for your canine come from. 

Things a Dog Needs You’ll Need to Budget For

There’s no getting around it: Dogs need a lot of stuff! So, it’s important to consider all of the various supplies, services, and gear you’ll need to buy for Fluffy.

Here are some of the key items you’ll want to consider when budgeting for your future furry friend. 

Acquisition: The Cost of Buying or Adopting a Dog 

how expensive is it to buy a dog

You can acquire your dog in three main ways, and each has its own price tag and considerations. Remember that some dog breeds have higher price tags than others due to their more strenuous upkeep costs, small litter size, and demand. 

For example, French bulldogs require c-section births. They are physically incapable of performing natural births safely, which is part of the reason that they are such an expensive dog breed.

  • Adoption ($0 to $600):  Adopting a dog from a family with a surprise litter is usually free or next to free. If you choose to adopt from a shelter, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100-$600. This is a super affordable option in comparison to buying from a breeder or pet store as you’re only paying a small fee to support the upkeep of the shelter and the care already administered to your dog. However, you’ll often (but not always) have to settle for a mixed-breed pooch when adopting.
  • Pet Stores ($800 to $2500): While pet stores may seem like a quick place to find your new best friend (especially for those seeking a purebred pup), they’re usually not the best option available. You’re unable to meet the parents of these puppies or review their ancestry closely, which increases the risk of ending up with a doggo who has genetic disorders or disease. Additionally, pet stores increase the cost of puppies without providing some of the care benefits you’d see with a breeder or adoption organization. On top of all that, pet stores usually get their pups from inhumane puppy mills, where dogs are bred for profit in horrific conditions. No dog lover wants to support that kind of practice!
  • Breeder ($700 to $2000+): The price of a breeder can vary greatly depending on the breed and bloodline. For example, French bulldogs regularly go for $2000 or more due to their history of potential health issues, popularity, and small litter size. If you’re looking for a specific breed, be sure to purchase from a reputable dog breeder, who should have an extensive knowledge of your puppy’s health history. Spending more upfront on an AKC-registered dog can save you money down the line as these screened dogs often have fewer health complications throughout their lives. 

The Costs of Basic Dog Needs 

Basic needs are the expenses that are essential to your dog’s day to day life.

Many of these items should last a couple of months but you’ll likely need to replace some of them at least a couple of times throughout your dog’s life due to growth and general wear. 

  • Collar, Leash, and ID Tags ($20 to $70): These items are important to keep your pooch safe on an everyday basis. If you have a smaller pooch, you’ll also need to invest in a quality small dog harness to avoid putting pressure on her neck. 
  • Crate ($30 to $160): A well-designed puppy crate is essential for puppies as it can be an excellent housetraining aid and safe space for Spot. You might have to use crate dividers while your pooch is growing, or you can buy new, larger crates as your puppy grows (though this will obviously increase the amount of money you spend). 
  • Food and Water Bowls ($20 to $40): Your pooch will need a basic food and water bowl set (stainless steel dog bowls are a popular option). You might also want to get travel or collapsible bowls if you plan on going on lots of adventures with your best buddy. 
  • Toys ($30 to $100): Toys aren’t really optional as they keep your dog mentally and physically stimulated, which will keep her feeling her best. You’ll want to make sure you get your dog a variety of toys, from tug toys to squeaky toys, with different use cases and textures.
  • Parasite Protection ($50 to $150): You’ll need to invest in a topical or oral preventative treatment to protect your pooch from fleas, ticks, worms, and other parasites on a regular basis. Some of these preventatives are taken monthly, while others are administered once every three months. 

Doggo Dinner: The Hefty Cost of Dog Food

The cost of dog food

Your new pooch will need food and — in some cases — you’ll be amazed at how much food she can gobble down! So, it is imperative that you consider the cost of your dog’s food before taking the pooch plunge.

Your dog’s dietary requirements will vary greatly depending on your pup’s lifestyle, size, and individual needs. But no matter your dog’s specific needs, these recurring expenses will certainly be a part of your monthly mutt budget. 

  • Food ($30 to $400): It’s important to feed your dog a healthy dog food to keep her looking and feeling her best. You’ll obviously have to invest more in this category for larger dogs, but keep in mind that dogs needing therapeutic or prescription diets are even more expensive to feed. Similarly, diets featuring fresh ingredients and human-grade dog foods are often many times more expensive than traditional kibbles.
  • Treats ($10 to $40): Treats are essential for training and keeping Fido’s tail wagging. You also might find that different treats are better for certain scenarios. For example, a long-lasting bully stick may be better for a car ride than a couple of standard training treats. 

Veterinary Care and Dog Health Costs

veterinary expenses

This is one of the most volatile budgeting categories for dogs, as you can’t anticipate an unexpected trip to the animal hospital.

The best thing you can do is expect the unexpected and either bulk up your savings or enroll your pooch in a pet health insurance plan, so that you know your pooch is covered in the event of an emergency.

Nevertheless, there are also some routine veterinary expenses that you can and should prepare for each year. We’ll talk about both types of veterinary costs — routine and unexpected — below. 

  • First Year Visits ($150 to $800): If you get your dog as a puppy, your first year will likely be the most expensive as you have to budget for the standard puppy vaccinations which can cost anywhere from $60 to $120. From there, your dog may need to be spayed or neutered which can cost between $50 and $800, depending on your dog and your area. Though, you can potentially find a lost-cost spay or neuter clinic in your area which can help cut costs. 
  • Semi-Annual Visits ($90 to $150): Your pooch will need checkup visits once to thrice a year to monitor her health and administer any needed vaccine boosters. Depending on your dog’s needs, you may need to budget for even more frequent visits. 
  • Emergencies ($500 to $3000+): The average cost of a vet visit varies greatly depending on the nature of the appointment, but emergency situations are usually one of the biggest expenses that comes with being a pet parent. This category has a fairly wide range since emergency operations or surgeries can cost a pretty penny. Just know that if your dog eats something she shouldn’t or suffers a medical emergency like bloat, your bank account is going to feel it.
  • Teeth Cleaning ($200 to $800): Unfortunately, dog dental cleanings can be pretty expensive since they usually require some form of anesthesia (dogs aren’t very good dental patients when awake). You’ll want to make sure you brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis to minimize the associated costs as much as possible. 
  • Over-the-Counter Medications ($50 to $200): You may need to purchase things like dog ear cleaning solutions, hot spot remedies, canine probiotics, or certain supplements based on your dog’s needs. 

Grooming: The Cost of Canine Haircuts 

Grooming is also an important part of your dog’s regular routine, though some breeds and breed mixes require more or less coat maintenance than others. 

Getting a new Chihuahua? You probably won’t need to do too much regular grooming. But, if you’ve got your sights set on a new poodle, you’re likely going to need to budget for regular, professional grooming, which can get pricey.

The following dog grooming tools and supplies will help keep your canine comfortable, looking great, and healthy throughout his life. 

  • Basic Grooming Supplies ($20 to $100): You’ll want to have some basic grooming supplies at home to keep your dog in tip-top shape. This includes things like brushes or combs, nail clippers or grinders, styptic powder, and paw wipes. 
  • Bath Supplies ($30 to $150): Bathing your dog at home can help you save money over time and bond with your best buddy. You’ll need to invest in puppy shampoo, towels, and potentially a doggie bathtub
  • Professional grooming ($30 to $100): The cost of dog grooming will vary greatly on your area, the size of your dog, and your dog’s coat type. Even if you plan on bathing your best buddy from home, going to the groomer semi-regularly can be great for getting a professional haircut or wash, and with some breeds, it’s essentially a requirement. 

Miscellaneous Canine Costs: Things Your Dog May or May Not Need

you may need a dog walker

Based on your dog’s individual needs, she may need a few of these extra items or services. 

While these items are beyond the basics, they are important to consider before bringing your furry friend home to make sure you have enough saved up to take care of your future pup. 

  • Management Tools ($50 to $150): Throughout the puppy stages and beyond, your dog may need management tools like playpens, pee pads, or tie-downs to keep her safe. You’ll also want to invest in items like cable ties and baby gates to puppy-proof your home. 
  • Dog Walker or Daycare ($15 to $50 per visit): Occasionally, you may need to have someone step in to walk your dog, or you may need to take your puppy into doggie daycare to blow off some steam. These costs can add up quickly, so be sure to include them in your budget. 
  • Clothing and Booties ($10 to $50): Depending on your dog’s coat and your climate, you may need to fit Fido with a warm canine winter coat or some dog booties to protect his paws
  • Trainer or Training Classes ($100 to $150 per course or session): It may be a good idea to invest in some group training classes (PetSmart offers dog training classes, as do local trainers) or private training sessions with your pooch to get her off on the right paw. You can also consider an online dog training course which will be much more affordable – our 30 Things to Teach Your Dog in 30 Days is a great training course to start with!
  • Training Tools  ($10 to $30): Tools like treat pouches, clickers, and dog whistles can be extremely helpful for any doggie training session. 
  • Travel expenses ($50 to $200): If you plan on traveling with your dog, you may have to get a dog passport (for international travel) or at the very least, some portable pet supplies like a good travel dog bed. Should you choose to travel without your dog, you’ll need to budget for the cost of care while you’re away. 
  • Replacing Destroyed Possessions ($50 to $250+): It’s only inevitable as a pet owner that some of your favorite items will be chewed or stained over the course of your dog’s life. So, pad your budget a bit to account for replacing damaged items if need be. 

Different Dogs Will Present Different Costs

All doggos are individuals with varying needs, aptitudes, and quirks — and that’s part of the reason we love them so much! But, it’s important to take these things into account, as no two dogs will have precisely similar requirements.

Dogs will have different initial and long-term costs based on their lifestyle, breed, and a variety of other factors. Here are a couple of things to take into consideration while picking out your pooch. 

  • Coat Type — Long-haired dogs and breeds with high-maintenance coats will require more grooming and upkeep than dogs with shorter, easier-to-maintain coats. In fact, some dogs will require regular (even monthly), professional grooming sessions.  
  • Health Concerns — Some breeds have common health concerns that can certainly add up over time. While these aren’t always avoidable, finding a reputable breeder with extensive knowledge of your dog’s health history can help you cut down future costs. 
  • Size — Generally speaking, large and XL dogs will cost more than smaller dogs will. If you’re on the fence about budgeting, you might want to consider a pint-sized pooch. 
  • Acquisition Cost — Acquisition costs don’t just vary by method, they will also change depending on the breed you’re looking for. Adoption is a great way to find your furry friend without shelling out too much dough initially. 
  • Time Investment — While this doesn’t have a dollar amount per se, it’s worth noting that dogs require as much of a time investment as they do a financial one. You may need to adjust your work schedule to take care of your pooch, and different breeds will require varied amounts of bonding, exercise, and training to keep their tails wagging. 

Dog Budgeting Tips and Tricks

dog budgeting tips

It’s important to understand that dogs are expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t employ some nifty tricks to help keep your dog-care costs low. Here are a couple of smart money-saving dog care strategies that can help you save money over time. 

  • Find A Mature Mutt — If you choose to go the adoption route, it’s well worth considering an adult dog. Older dogs will have already received their preliminary shots (and oftentimes, they’ll already be spayed or neutered) and may come with the benefit of already being house trained as well.  
  • Health Insurance — Health insurance may be a good pick for your pooch if she ends up having a chronic condition. However, if you choose to go this route, make sure you invest in this care as early as possible as most pet insurance companies do not cover pre-existing conditions. 
  • Subscription Services — Dog subscription services can be a great way to save a little change on items you’d be buying anyway for your pup. You can also look for “subscribe and save” options when you order things like dog food online. 
  • Learn Basic Grooming — Even if you take your dog to the groomer every once in a while, learning how to groom your pooch from home can be a great way to keep Fido feeling fresh in-between the professional appointments without draining your bank account. 
  • Keep Your Pooch Healthy — One of the best ways to protect your pup and your wallet is to practice preventative care. Make sure your dog stays up to date on her wellness visits, gets plenty of exercise and play, and sticks to a healthy diet. 
  • Pet Savings Account — While building a pet savings account isn’t always easy, it’s certainly worth it when you need it the most. Try to set aside a few dollars every week or month to prepare for those unexpected pet emergencies. 

Dog Budgeting FAQs

Are you still trying to iron out your budget for your best buddy? Here are a few common questions and answers to enhance your understanding. 

Is it expensive to own a dog?

In short, yes. However, you can find ways to cut costs and find a dog that works with your budget. You shouldn’t look into owning a dog until you’re absolutely certain you can afford a furry companion. 

How much should I budget for a dog each month?

As a ballpark range, you should budget at least $70 to $200 a month for your furry best friend (though some owners will find their dog costs upwards of $350 per month).

This answer will vary greatly depending on your dog’s individual needs, lifestyle, health, and breed. That being said, if you have a particular breed in mind, it won’t hurt to do some research on the typical costs associated with the breed.

Keep in mind that cost also varies depending on where you live, so it might be worth speaking with some of your local dog moms and dads to see what their budget breakdown looks like. 

What is the cheapest way to get a dog?

There isn’t necessarily one ultra-cheap way to get a dog. While adoption might save you money upfront, it’s always possible that your adopted dog can come with unexpected expenses or chronic health issues.

Dogs are undoubtedly expensive but they are all well deserving of a caretaker that can fully meet their needs. 

***

Our furry best friends can certainly cost a pretty penny, but they are oh-so worth it. It’s our responsibility as pet parents to make sure we can provide for these wonderful furry friends. 

Do you have a budget for your dog? How do you take care of Fido-related finances? We’d love to hear all about it in the comments below! 

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Written by

Kate Brunotts

Kate is a dog-loving content specialist with over a decade of canine-care experience. She is currently a professional dog walker and pet sitter, with previous experience working at the Heart of Chelsea Animal Hospital in Manhattan. When not spending time with four-footers, she can usually be found crafting top-notch dog-care articles that pet parents can trust. Kate loves dogs of all shapes and sizes, but Bernese Mountain Dogs hold a special place in her heart.

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