How much does it cost to own a dog?
Updated: Dec 4, 2022
If you’re thinking about adding a dog to your family, you’ve probably already considered the time commitment that raising a puppy and living with an adult dog entails, but especially if you’re a first-time dog owner, you may not have a full grasp of the month to month costs.
I’ll caveat this post with a disclaimer - these are ballpark estimates and costs will vary based on the size/type of dog you choose and where you live. There are also lots of ways to care for a dog - I’ve included all of the supplies we use for Bert and Ernie, but you may prefer to brush your dog’s teeth vs. giving dental bone treats (for example), which has different cost implications. Take this as directional and know that there are good/better/best options for most products.
Also - hats and matching bandanas are nice to haves, not need to haves :)
New Dog Costs
Adoption fee ($0 - $500) or breeder fee ($1,500++)
This is going to range wildly on the type of dog you’re getting. If you’re working with a rescue organization or a shelter, you may have to pay an adoption fee. These often cover the cost of spay/neuter, microchipping, and some of the startup vaccinations and monthly preventative treatments for heartworm and fleas/ticks. You’ll get a copy of your new pup’s medical records to share with your vet!
If you’re working with a breeder, the puppy fee is going to vary based on breed, scarcity (relatively rare/uncommon breed and/or high demand), puppy quality and lineage (show or breeding stock will be more expensive), and other factors. Be sure to read our post about choosing a reputable, ethical breeder for more on this! When your puppy comes home from the breeder, they should have had their initial round of vaccinations and some may be microchipped. Again, you should receive a copy of your dog’s medical records to pass along to your vet.
Puppy shots and associated vet visits ($75 - $100/month for 3 months)
Like babies, puppies go to the doctor a lot. There are quite a few recommended vaccinations that need to be delivered in sequence which will keep you returning to the vet, and puppies just get sick sometimes!
Be sure to check with your rescue or breeder to understand which vaccines your dog has received, but there are a couple in the typical series.
What does it do?
DHPP / DHLPPC
Protects against multiple diseases including Distemper, Hepatitis, Parvo and Parainfluenze.
Series of 4 vaccines for puppies, then an annual booster
Protects your dog from deadly rabies virus
First shot ~16 weeks, boosters every 1-3 years (check with your vet)
Protects your dog from kennel cough, commonly spread in places where lots of dogs are present
First shot ~14 weeks, annual boosters
These are the minimum vaccines often required by municipalities and places where dogs go (boarding, daycare, grooming, training, etc), so you’ll want to keep your records accessible! Check if your vet has an app that you can keep handy on your phone. Some cities and counties require dogs to be licensed and registered, which often comes with a small fee as well.
Depending on where you live, you may want to consider additional vaccines. For us, the Lyme vaccine is critically important to add. We spend lots of time outside in the summer when ticks are active (and plentiful - yuck) and because Bert and Ernie are black and furry, it can be really hard to locate and remove all of the ticks. We give Bert and Ernie flea/tick preventative medicine, but the Lyme vaccine provides an extra level of protection and gives us peace of mind.
Spay/Neuter ($0 - $800)
If you’re getting a dog from a rescue or you’re adopting an older dog, you may not have to cover this cost because your dog will likely already be spayed or neutered. Your breeder and breed club may have some recommendations about the age at which you should consider spaying or neutering your dog. Typically, it’s better for large breed dogs to wait longer (at least a year) because they need the hormones to help them grow and reach their full mature size. It’s often recommended that female dogs go through at least once heat cycle before spaying - check out this blog post from our friend Rosie the Cream about how to prepare for a female dog’s “first period.” Owners of male dogs may experience some undesirable behavior changes (marking, humping, restlessness and wandering, etc.) as the dog matures, so keep an open line of communication with your vet to determine when is the right time for your dog to be neutered.
Know that there are low-cost clinics around the country (like MN SNAP or Animal Humane Society here in Minnesota) that offer reduced cost spay/neuter surgeries and vaccinations depending on income qualifications.
Start up materials (varies)
Here’s a quick list of some of the basics you’ll want to have at home before your puppy arrives. I’m not listing a cost for this because it’s going to vary so widely based on what you choose! You may only use some of these items for a fairly short period of time (puppies grow fast!), so it might make sense to try to borrow from friends/neighbors. Consider joining your local Buy Nothing group and submitting an “ask” for items you need to help cut down on costs.
Baby gates and/or puppy pen
Collar, tag, harness, leash - be prepared to replace these as puppy grows!
Bowls - also be prepared to size up as your puppy’s food intake increases!
Brush and toothbrush
Food and Treats (varies)
Your dog may come home from the shelter or breeder with a bag of the food they have been eating. You can either choose to continue feeding this brand/flavor of food, or you can use it to slowly transition your dog to a new food of your choice. (See this post for some help on the transition window.) Puppies eat different food than adult dogs, and some adult dogs transition to specialized food to support weight management, joint health, or address allergies, so you’ll likely be transitioning foods a couple of times during your dog’s life.
Cost is going to vary wildly based on how big your dog is and the type of food you are using. Bert and Ernie each eat 5-6 cups of food a day, and we go through a 30 lb bag of high quality dry dog food in about 3 weeks. This puts our monthly food cost at about $40/month/dog.
You’ll probably want some treats of varying sizes for your pup for training and rewards. You may also choose to give your dog supplements (probiotics, joint, calming, etc.) depending on their needs. We give Bert and Ernie dental bones daily to clean their teeth - they are super crunchy, specially shaped bones that help to abrade any tartar on their teeth.
Preventative Medications & Ongoing Vet Care ($20/month + $100 quarterly)
We give Bert and Ernie heartworm medication and flea/tick medication every month. Because they spend time in places with lots of other dogs (like daycare), we want them to be protected all year long. The cost of these medications varies based on the weight of your dog - above, I’ve listed the approximate monthly cost per dog for the medications we use. Talk to your vet about the right products and cadence for you.
We bring Ernie and Bert to the vet for annual wellness exams, and of course for the intermittent illness. Ernie’s our ear infection guy and he’s had a handful of lumps and bumps along the way. He had a small benign cyst removed from his face last year, and he had to get stitches once when he had a cut. Bert’s been pretty low maintenance so far - let’s hope he stays that way! The cost estimate above assumes an annual exam + 3 other TBD items/prescriptions per year. If you have a dog with special medical concerns (allergies, epilepsy, etc.), plan on paying more for the associated medications.
Grooming (variable - $100 every 2 months)
This is going to depend a ton on the type of dog you have and how much grooming you are willing to take on yourself vs. leaving it to the professionals. There are a couple components that I’m rolling into the grooming bucket: nail trims, baths, and haircuts. Some dogs will need all of these things on a regular basis, and other dogs are more “wash and wear,” low maintenance dogs. We don’t usually have to trim Bert and Ernie’s nails at home because they wear them down while walking, but we have a clipper and a grinder if needed. If you’re comfortable doing this yourself, you can save $10-$20 a pop! This video gives a pretty good demonstration of the process. Know that most vet offices will offer quick nail trims if your pup doesn’t do well with this at the groomer.
Bert and Ernie get a bath and haircut about every 8 weeks. Our lovely groomer Barb does a great job trimming up their Grinch toes and taming Ernie’s crazy head floofs! Cost of professional grooming will vary based on the size of your dog. Bert and Ernie don’t really get stinky in between professional grooms, but some dogs (especially those with oilier/hairy coats) definitely do! If you don’t want to throw your pup in the tub at home, check around for DIY dog washes in your area. These places offer professional grooming tubs, shampoos, and dryers, and the best part is that you get to leave the furry mess behind! In the summertime, Bert and Ernie swim a lot in the lake, and we invested in a dog blow dryer to dry them off after these adventures. They both love it and get so fluffy, but it also keeps them from getting hot spots.
Training Classes - $200+
Taking your dog to puppy school and a basics manners class should be table stakes if you plan to bring your dog out in public! Some of the skills you learn in basic obedience classes (like recall) could actually save your dog’s life. You’ll also learn how to greet new people and dogs and useful skills like sit, wait, place, etc. When you and your dog dedicate time each week to working together and learning new things, you’ll strengthen your bond. You can certainly go above and beyond here with additional courses, specialities, and sports depending on what you enjoy and what’s available in your area. There is a whole world of activities to do with your dog!
We do not have pet insurance for Bert and Ernie, but lots of folks swear by it! We have been lucky that Bert and Ernie are not sock eaters (a trait unfortunately common to Bernese Mountain Dogs) and are relatively healthy. If you’re considering getting pet insurance, it’s best to do it as soon as you bring your puppy home because many pet insurance plans do not cover pre-existing conditions. For dogs, this can extend to include everything from ear infections and hot spots to cancer. Premiums will vary depending on your dog’s age, breed, medical history, and the level of coverage you select. Most insurance does not cover regular preventative care (annual wellness exam and vaccines) either, so be sure to factor that cost in to your budgeting in addition to monthly insurance premiums. For more on how to pick the best pet insurance, check out this Wirecutter article.
Daycare or Dog Walker
Cost here is going to vary based on your market, the frequency with which you use these services, and the type of service you select. Bert and Ernie go to a local free-play doggie daycare once every other week and they come home exhausted. It’s a great opportunity for them to burn off some energy and continue socialization with other dogs! Some daycares have live streaming cameras so you can check in on your pup throughout the day. Ours posts a huge album of photos at the end of every day - we always love seeing Bert and Ernie hanging out together.
Sometimes you may have to travel to places you can’t bring your pup! If you don’t have friends or family nearby to watch your dog, you’ll need to board them or hire a dog sitter. Again, cost here varies drastically by market and by type of facility. You can find everything from a free-play daycare setup to home stays to veterinary clinics - there’s so much variety. If it’s your first time boarding, some places encourage you to bring your dog by for a trial to make sure they are familiar with the location and that you can see it for yourself. We’ve never used Rover for dog walkers or boarding, but many friends have had success using it to find people to watch their pets. When we need to board Bert and Ernie, they stay at the same place they go to daycare so they’re with familiar people in a familiar spot.
Beyond food and basic medical care, what your dog needs most is love, time, and attention from you!