From food to medical care to pet insurance (should you decide to buy it) there are myriad costs associated with caring for any dog – or any pet, for that matter. In fact, the average dog owner spends roughly $180 each month on their furry friend, according to WalletHub research and estimates from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the American Pet Products Association (APPA).
But some breeds are more expensive than others, due to a combination of factors such as rarity, temperament, grooming requirements, common medical problems and even whether you plan on entering any dog shows in the foreseeable future. For instance, purebred Tibetan Mastiffs and English Bulldogs both cost more than $3,500 to purchase as puppies, on average, and they are also among the most expensive to care for and difficult to insure. These high costs are a direct reflection of breed lineage, as purebred dogs are obviously more attractive for show purposes and many have developed serious hereditary ailments as a result of inbreeding.
Such prodigious costs underscore the value of adopting one of the 3.9 million dogs brought to U.S. shelters each year and thus helping to save it from a roughly 30 percent chance of being euthanized, according to the ASPCA. Not only do adoption fees (usually around $250, according to WalletHub research) pale in comparison to the cost of buying a puppy from a breeder, but hereditary health problems will also be less of a concern because most shelter dogs are mutts.
Whether you’re adopting, buying or just curious, you can find more information about dogs’ financial requirements, the most expensive breeds and saving on pet ownership below.
How Much Does It Cost To Get A Dog?
Getting a dog can cost anywhere from about $100 for the cheapest shelter dog to more than $10,000 for a purebred with a champion lineage, according to WalletHub research. But regardless of whether you adopt or buy from a breeder, the purchase price you pay is only the beginning of your financial commitment – as you’ll see below.
|Expense||Average Cost*||Covered By Pet Insurance?||How To Save|
|Adoption Fee||$250||N/A||Adoption is the cheapest route to ownership since animal shelters tend to be nonprofits concerned with recouping costs more so than maximizing earnings. Adoption fees are also typically tax-deductible, and you’ll likely be able to find a specific breed if you’re patient enough and your tastes aren’t too exotic.|
|Purchase Fee||$1,250||N/A||If you’re dead-set on purchasing a purebred, comparing prices at numerous breeders is the best way to save. Also make sure to verify health and lineage records to make sure you’re getting what you pay for.|
|Initial Medical Exam||$70||SOME POLICIES||Getting your new dog checked out by a vet is essential, just to verify there are no serious medical problems and get legally required vaccinations. Most shelters will perform this service before you adopt a dog, which is yet another reason to do so rather than buying from a breeder.|
|Spay/Neuter||$180||NO||Many clinics offer free spay and neuter services to the local community in order to control the pet population.|
|Dog Crate||$50||NO||Compare options online and use customer reviews as a value guide.|
|Collar, Leash & Tags||$30||NO||This shouldn’t be a major expense. Just make sure to get a strong enough leash and collar so you don’t have to buy replacements too often.|
|Training||$140||NO||Shelters often have affordable training classes, and there are copious amounts of free information online about the subject.|
*Costs vary due to a number of factors, including the shelter, breeder and/or veterinarian that you use as well the size and age of your dog and your stance in regard to obedience training.
Most & Least Expensive Dog Breeds:
Breeders are the most attractive option for people who want to get a very specific type of dog – especially puppies – without delay. But costs — both the purchase price and the ongoing cost of care — vary widely by breed, which means it’s important to do your homework before shelling out a lot of money and bringing a new dog into your home.
With that in mind, WalletHub supplemented previously published reports about the most and least expensive dog breeds with independent cost comparison research to gauge the immediate financial implications of purchasing different types of dogs. And in case you were wondering, the most expensive dog in the world was a Tibetan Mastiff, purchased in 2014 for nearly $2 million! Fortunately, that was a unique case.
|Most Expensive Dog Breeds
(Average Puppy Price)
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel($3,819)
Egyptian Pharaoh Hound($2,500)
Portuguese Water Dog($2,449)
Black Russian Terrier($2,143)
|Least Expensive Dog Breeds
(Average Puppy Price)
American Hairless Terrier($800)
Cost Of Owning A Dog
It’s no wonder why financial fears are among the most popular impediments to dog ownership, according to surveys conducted by the American Humane Society, which indicate that 29% of non-dog-owners cite “general costs” as their main reason for not getting a dog either for the first time or after having one previously. It’s an expensive commitment to make, running the average owner north of $2,000 per year, according to data from the APPA and the ASPCA.
Even if you minimize initial costs by adopting rather than buying a dog, your wallet’s not out of the woods. You’d still need to pay for everything from food to medical care (both of which vary in cost based on a dog’s size), and it all adds up to a fairly hefty tab that you’ll have to factor in to your budget. In many cases, the amount owners wind up spending on their pooch each month would be enough to cover the ongoing cost of leasing a decent set of wheels – a Honda Civic or a Ford Focus, for example.
Below, we’ll give both you and your wallet a better idea of what to expect, from the cost of your puppy starter kit to core annual expenses and even some one-off bills that prospective dog owners often overlook.
The following table will give you a sense of which common expenses impose the biggest financial burden:
|Expense||Average Cost||Covered By Pet Insurance?||How To Save|
|Food||$17/mo.||NO||More expensive isn’t always better for health, so don’t believe the hype. Instead, ask your vet for a recommendation.|
|Vitamins||$5/mo.||NO||This is one expense you shouldn’t scrimp on, as it’s a key element of preventive veterinary care.|
|Routine Veterinary Care||$27/mo.||Sometimes||Finding the right vet and staying on top of preventive care are essential to reducing long-term veterinary costs.|
|Teeth Cleaning||$15/mo.||Sometimes||Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth at home and buying teeth-cleaning treats will help minimize the need for veterinary dental work.|
|Grooming||$11/mo.||NO||Try to do the grooming yourself or schedule regular appointments, and ask for a bulk rate.|
|Toys & Treats||$14/mo.||NO||Buy online, and don’t go overboard until you know what your dog likes.|
|Dog Walker||$280/mo.||NO||Ask neighbors for a recommendation or try to get a group discount.|
|Boarding||$35/day||NO||Ask a friend or relative to pet-sit.|
Note: Some of these expenses are optional and thus not applicable to every situation. Average costs are based on WalletHub research as well as data from the APPA and the American Kennel Club.
Other Potential Costs To Consider:
One of the golden rules of personal finance is that planning only for the best-case scenario isn’t planning at all — it’s wishing. Prospective pet owners must therefore be sure to consider one-time expenses and potential emergency costs in addition to the recurring annual cost drivers mentioned above. The table below will give you a sense of what to look out for, in terms of both relatively minor expenses that crop up every few years and major bills from things like surgery that may or may never be needed. This information will help you make an informed choice about which breed to get as well as set a target amount for your doggy emergency fund and budget accordingly.
|Ailment||Average Treatment Cost|
|Non-Cancerous Skin Mass||$339|
|Pyoderma (Hot Spots)||$40|
|Benign Skin Mass||$999|
|Skin Abscess, Inflammation or Pressure Ulcer||$458|
|Torn ACL or Cartilage||$2,667|
|Malignant Skin Mass||$1,434|
|Household Cleaning Supplies||$15/mo.|
Sources: Veterinary Pet Insurance and the ASPCA
*Simply having a dog won’t necessarily drive up the cost of your homeowner’s insurance, but it could. Most insurers will charge more if you have what they designate to be a “risky” breed (varies by provider). You don’t want to withhold having a dog from your insurance company either, as that could jeopardize future coverage.
Annual Pet Owner Spending Statistics
Dogs are the most popular type of pet, with 42% of pet-owning households having a pooch. And because many other household pets are relatively low-maintenance (e.g., fish or hamsters), it’s fair to infer that we do the bulk of our annual pet spending in the name of man’s best friend.
The following charts illustrate how pet owners prioritize their spending as well as the extent to which per-pet spending has grown in recent years. This information can prove quite useful in terms of understanding the evolving financial burden imposed by pet ownership as well as by providing perspective regarding the difference between doggy luxuries and necessities.
U.S. Pet Owner Spending By Year
Tips For Saving Money On Pet Care
Like saving money in general, minimizing the cost of pet ownership requires a combination of foresight and day-to-day resolve. In other words, one must plan in order to provide at least a basic level of care for a pup no matter the circumstances, in addition to tracking spending habits over time so as to ensure that affordable luxuries don’t turn into financed necessities.
You can find a complete list of money-saving pet care tips in CardHub’s guide, but here are a few quick pointers to get you started:
- Adopt, don’t buy.
- Early investments in training pay big dividends.
- Preventive care is the key to good health and low long-term costs.
- Don’t believe the hype about overpriced dog food.
- Pet insurance usually isn’t worth it, unless your dog is prone to ailments requiring surgery.
- More expensive toys don’t necessarily equal more fun.
- Forget the clothes — unless you have a very small dog that would get too cold in the winter.
Image: Staley401 / Shutterstock.com