If the nest is feeling a bit too empty, or if you’re just craving some four-legged company, nothing beats a doggie (unless, of course, you’re a cat person). Dogs are loyal, smart, loving—but, yes, expensive.
First there are upfront costs to buy the pooch (even adoptions from shelters require fees) and the cost of spaying or neutering. There are the recurring costs of food, grooming, flea treatments and other health care. There may be boarding costs when you travel. There are also the inevitable emergencies, which are rarely cheap.
The point is, the costs of owning a dog can add up quickly, and successful dog ownership requires that you be realistic about those costs. A recent study from Rover.com, the country’s largest network of pet sitters and walkers, reveals the true cost of owning a dog. What does this mean for you? The study found that when asked to estimate the monthly cost of owning a dog, most people lowball it by quite a bit. If you become a pet parent without honestly evaluating the financial realities, you could wind up being forced to make lifestyle changes and sacrifice some of your favorite things in order to pay for your pup. Many of the study’s respondents reported a willingness to do just that, but if you know what you’re getting into, you won’t ever have to.
This is not meant to discourage you from getting a dog—quite the opposite. Research suggests that man’s and woman’s best friend can offer a host of mental and physical benefits, particularly for older owners. But the results of this study could help you get a feel for what it really costs to adopt or purchase…own…and care for a dog so you can budget properly, set realistic expectations and get the most out of what could be one of your life’s most fulfilling relationships.
Expect a big hit up front. Welcoming your new family member comes with some significant one-time costs—even adoption fees can easily run into the hundreds, and some dogs from breeders cost well over a thousand dollars. (A purebred with champion lineage from an in-demand breeder can cost five figures.) Many people opt for shelter dogs for ethical reasons and simply because they’re cheaper.
You’ll also spend as much as $200 for flea and tick prevention and up to $100 for vaccinations. Once owners add heartworm treatment, shampoo, brushes, food bowls and a host of other expenses, upfront costs average a total of $1,487. Keep in mind that this figure is just the study’s average. It could swing dramatically in either direction if you buy a high-end pedigree puppy or if someone gives you a dog for free.
There’s never a month off from the cost of owning a dog. That food and heartworm medicine, those treats and toys, and the dental chews and poop bags that you bought in the beginning won’t last forever. In fact, these things are only some of the necessities that you’ll buy over and over again every month for the life of your dog. In all, such typical ongoing expenses add up to an average of $153 per month. That might be the most important number in the entire study. Why? When asked to estimate what they believe the ongoing monthly expense of dog ownership is, people typically guess $26 to $75—less than half of the true average monthly cost.
There are annual expenses. Just like you, your dog should have an annual checkup. That is likely to cost you $250. In addition, pet health insurance, if you choose to buy it, has annual premiums of $360 to $600. In all, you can expect to pay about $730 a year, on average, assuming you buy health insurance for your dog. If not, you can eliminate most of that expense, but the tradeoff is that you’re responsible for paying out of pocket for the cost of any health issues that arise. Be aware, for example, that emergency vet visits can cost $500 to $1,000 or even more.
There’s also the stuff you didn’t think of. Dog owners are often hit with expenses that are easily overlooked and/or don’t fit into the above categories. Pet sitting can cost $30 a night and can easily add up if you travel and leave the dog home a lot. There’s also grooming, training, teeth cleaning and the often-required pet deposit for an apartment or condo. In all, you’d be wise to set aside at least an extra $1,000 a year for these miscellaneous potential expenses. If you’re buying a dog bed and a crate to contain or transport your dog, that can run you $100. If you’re like one of the many respondents who would entertain the idea of buying your dog expensive birthday gifts, throwing him/her parties or even paying to take the dog to “doga” (that’s dog yoga, and yes, it’s a thing) or to get him dog massages, add a little extra to that tally.
Don’t get stuck sacrificing the stuff you love. When all is said and done, it can cost an average of $3,566 a year to own a dog. That’s a shock to many people who wanted a dog so badly that they rushed into ownership without considering the true cost. According to the study, that failure to plan, prepare and save can wind up costing people some of their most beloved pleasures. About 20% say they’d give up coffee to pay for their pooch’s expenses. Another 25% say they’d forgo eating takeout or getting food delivered. Then there’s the 28% who would do without alcohol for the sake of paying Rover’s bills. Then there’s you, who doesn’t need to give up anything because you were realistic about the costs, budgeted accordingly, set a little extra aside and brought your new best friend into a family that was both waiting and ready.