How To Know What a Dog Will Cost You

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The cost of owning a dog will vary from year to year based on the number of vet visits your dog needs, your dog's activity level, the number of times you need to hire a pet sitter or board your dog, etc. So the prices below are just an estimate. However, before purchasing a dog, you should be aware of what it generally costs to keep a dog happy and healthy.

  1. The Dog Itself. There will likely be a fee associated with purchasing or adopting your dog. Generally, if you're buying a pure bred dog from a breeder that expense will be significantly higher than if you're adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group. The cost of a pure bred dog will depend on the breed and the availability of those puppies. However, there will usually be a small fee associated with adopting a dog as well. This will help the shelter pay for the care and boarding they provided for your new dog or puppy and help them to continue with their rescue efforts.
    • Pure Bred Dog: $400-1,000+
    • Adopted Dog: $60-150
  2. Vet Bills. One of the first things that you'll need to do when you get your new puppy is get him neutered and updated on his shots. In their first year, dogs need a lot of shots to immunize them from a variety of diseases. Even if you're adopting an adult dog, you'll want to take him to the vet and make sure he's up to date with all his vaccinations. In addition to these initial exams, you'll likely need to take your dog to the vet every year or so, even if he's healthy, to make sure that he's getting all the immunizations that he needs. Your vet should be able to inform you about how often your dog needs to come in for a check up.

    You should also keep in mind that, in the event of an accident or other unforeseen health emergency, you may need to take your dog in to the vet, and this can become expensive. Surgeries can cost upwards of a few thousand dollars, while a simple ear infection may only cost a couple hundred in vet's fees and medications. Keep in mind that you are responsible for your dog's healthcare and, thus, may be responsiblefor the cost of an unexpected procedure or prescription.

    • Initial checkup for a puppy including shots, etc. (may include several visits): $175-200
    • Initial checkup for adult dog including shots: $60
    • Spay/Neuter: $60-150
    • Annual vaccinations: $100-300
    • Flea medication: $5-10/mo.
    • Illness: $0-$1,000+
  3. Essentials. There are certain items that every dog owner can expect to buy. Your dog will need a collar and a leash, food, food and water bowls, dog shampoo, toys (Frisbee, balls, chew toys, ropes, etc.). While most of these items don't cost much individually, when added up they can start to become pricey. Most of these items aren't a one time investment either, you'll need to buy chew toys and food on a regular basis and even items like collars and leashes won't last forever-you're dog will probably go through at least 4 or 5 in his lifetime.

    You'll also need to buy your dog a doghouse if she's going to be spending a lot of time outside as well as a crate for housetraining purposes, to give your dog a place of her own, and to act as a sanctuary from excited children or other rambunctious pets.

    • Food: $25/mo
    • Food&water bowls: $10-20
    • Biscuits & treats: $10/mo.
    • Leash & collar: $15-25
    • Brush: $10
    • Toys: $50-100/year (or more)
    • Dog bed: $30
    • Crate: $70-150
    • Doghouse: $100-200
  4. Licensing. Every dog must be licensed in the city, county or state of her residence. Licensing fees will vary based on the municipality that administers the licenses. Most licensing offices will charge significantly less for spayed and neutered dogs. Similarly, senior citizens will oftentimes get a discount on dog licensing fees.
    • Spayed or neutered dogs: $10-30/year
    • Unaltered dogs: up to $80/year
    • Senior citizen: $0-15/year
  5. Training & Obedience Classes. Unless your dog has already been trained, it is necessary to take him to obedience school. People typically expect to take their puppies to a training class, but even if you adopt an adult dog from the animal shelter, you may have to take him to obedience school. Training your dog is important so that he will follow your commands and act appropriately (whatever you deem "appropriately" to be (i.e. staying off the couch, not pulling when walking on a leash, sitting on cue).
    • Obedience training: $100-200/dog for a 6-8 week class
  6. Travel & Boarding. Whether you're planning to travel with your pet or board your pet while you're on vacation, you'll have to plan ahead. The cheapest option is typically getting a friend or family member to pet-sit while you're away. You may be able to get someone to watch your pup for free or for a low rate, depending on who you know and trust with Fido. If finding a pet-sitter isn't an option, you'll have to board your dog at a kennel or "doggy hotel" or even take your dog with you. Both of these options, however, will cost a little more.
    • Pet-sitter: $0-30/day
    • Doggy hotel: $20-50/day
    • Dog on flight: $75-90 in cabin, $100 under plane
  7. Grooming. Depending on your dog's coat and activity choices (i.e. rolling in the mud or swimming in the ocean), you may need to have him groomed on a regular basis. Many pet owners like to keep their dogs on a grooming schedule such as once every two weeks, or once a month. This will vary based on how meticulous you are. If you bathe your dog weekly and brush his fur daily, you may never need to send him to the groomer. However, it's still a good idea to take your dog to a professional groomer every once in a while to get her smelling extra fresh and clean.
    • Grooming: $25-50/session
  8. Unforseen expenses: There will likely be many unforeseen expenses as well. When your puppy chews up the remote, you'll have to run out and buy a new one; when your dog gets sick on the carpet, you'll need to head to the grocery store for some spot remover; when you decide that you don't want your dog in the baby's room, you'll have to buy a dog gate. Things like puppy-proofing the house or fixing the fence in the backyard so your dog can run around safely may not be expenses that you're expecting to deal with, but may come up nonetheless. There will always be dog-related expenses that are impossible to predict, so just remember to keep a little extra money in your dog budget in case your puppy gets sick or some other need arises.
  9. Time. The biggest investment that you'll probably have to make in your dog is time. Your dog is going to be relying on you to take him out for at least two walks a day, play fetch with him or run with him so that he can get some real exercise, and work with him to help him learn how to relieve himself outside, perform any tricks you deem appropriate and learn what he can and can't do (and where he can and can't go) in the house.

    You'll also want to spend some quality time with him, whether that means a ride in the car, napping together on the couch, or going for a 6 mile hike. Dogs not only need to be taken care of, they need to be loved and appreciated as well. You should want to spend time with your dog when you come home for work and you should want to spend weekend days at the park, at the beach or on the trail with Rover in tow (or running ahead). A dog is a serious investment in not only money, but time, so be realistic about the amount of time you'll be able to dedicate to your dog and determine whether the result will be fair to your dog and give her the happy life that she deserves.


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