What Will Buying a Dog Cost You?

by AJ Pettersen · 23 comments

My fiancé and I have been considering buying a dog for some time now. When my roommate’s fiancé came to the town we are playing baseball in, she brought their dog and this gave new life to the conversation. We could see the joy the dog brought them, but we could also see some of the difficulties involved in having a dog in such a transient time in our lives. We know the breed of dog we would like, but we haven’t decided if we want to move forward. This is a big decision and we know it shouldn’t be taken lightly. We determined there are a number of different costs we need to take into account when making this choice.

Initial Cost

The breed we are considering is called a Cavabear. It is part Cavalier, part Shih Tzu and part Bichon. The cost of purchasing from the breeder is $500. With initial shots, toys, a bed, a collar, a leash and puppy training, the cost can get a bit expensive. We are expecting that this will be at least $1000 total on the front end. If we were anticipating living in one place for a while, we wouldn’t think twice, but with my job being on the road half of the year, the decision has become a bit more difficult. How much are you willing to pay upfront?

Pet Rent

During the off-season (September through February) my fiancé and I will be living in an apartment in the town where she works. This means if we want a dog, we will need to pay pet rent. The apartment where we are going to live charges a non-refundable $250 deposit, plus $20 a month. This would equate to $370 over our six month lease. Having a dog would also mean a smaller number of options for future apartment searches as well. Sometimes, living arrangements make it more difficult to buy a dog.

Ongoing Costs

It costs money to buy food and treats for dogs. I estimated this at around $400 per year. With this cost added onto pet rent and initial costs, my fiancé and I are looking at just under $2000 for the first year of owning a dog. Now we have to decide if that cost outweighs the benefits.

Making the Decision

We know we will buy a dog in the future, but we haven’t decided if the right time is now. The benefits of owning are obvious, but our current situation makes the costs higher than normal. If my fiancé comes with me next baseball season, it might not be feasible to have a dog tag along.

These principles are applicable when you are thinking about getting any animal. How have you gone about your decision?

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  • Mary says:

    I have had dogs all my life. As an adult I have owned three wonderful dogs and every one of them was a rescue. They have all added so much to my life. I will tell you that pure bread dogs have MANY more health issues than mutts. My first dog was a rescued hound lab mmix, and he lived to be 16. My second rescue was an Aussie lab mix and he lived to be 14. My current dog is a rescued border collie mix and he is wonderful and doesn’t have any health issues. I never had to do any grooming with any of my dogs unless getting a bath is considered grooming. And I never had to deal with any health issues until my boys got very old and I had to buy something for joint pain. Food, annual shots and flea and heart worm prevention (both monthly) are your biggest costs associated with a dog. If you buy some fancy dog from a (hopefully reputable) breeder (many are not) you have to do grooming stuff. And the whole tooth brushing thing is optional. If you can, adopt don’t shop. A rescue dog will spend the rest of his r her life showing you how grateful they are for your love.

  • Deborah says:

    The up front fees are nothing when compared to the annual fees. Buy or adopt a healthy puppy, which is a crap shoot. Particularly if you travel, use puppy pads in the house from the very beginning and that way when you travel you can use the puppy pads when you travel and there won’t be accidents on the road. Bring his new bed with you to pick him up and he will be very used to his bed and bring that with you when you travel. I travel with my little dog all the time and once his things are set up in the hotel room, he loves his new digs.

    Drury and La Quinta are both hotels that welcome doggie members of the family.

    My doggie costs about $400 US for annual teeth cleaning, ear plucking and shots and a more thorough exam than vet can give when doggie is awake (he is a fierce poodle). Also, he needs to be groomed every 3 weeks at $50 per groom and no, you cannot do it yourself (that’s $1,000 there). Try to brush his teeth from the time he is a tiny puppy (mine would not tolerate it, so he needs to be sedated. These aren’t overwhelming expenses, but as other people said, if he gets sick he needs to go to the vet. You are selecting a long living breed and he needs his teeth and good health for 15 years. Good to select a smaller breed and easier for travel and hotel stays. In four or five weeks, you will wonder how you ever even lived without your little friend as your friendliest family member and annual cost is probably closer to $2,000 per year (maybe a little higher).

  • mel says:

    Adopt instead of buy, help an abandoned dog is priceless. They have soooo much to give, give them a chance!

    • kay says:

      I got a little dog at a pet store in west NY years ago. They tell you to get a doctor to check them out and they will be fine. Do not take their word for it because I found out when I took daisy to valley cottage animal hospital that she was sick and would need pills for her the rest of her life. Please do not get a pet at a pet store.

  • PF Pro says:

    Dogs are chick magnets!!!!

  • Jean says:

    Yea, there is a lot of time and money invested in having a pet like a dog that a lot of us don’t realize at first since they are so cute! But if you consider it a member of the family, it is not so expensive. Another factor to consider is what you will do on trips. Most airlines don’t allow animals on board as far as I know and the cargo section can be a life hazard, so locating a good animal shelter that will take proper care of the dog is also important.


    • kay says:

      Some airlines will let you take your pet on board but it will have to have a ticker. Your doctor will have to put on paper that they are not sick and they have their shots up to date as well.

  • susie says:

    I would not be without pet insurance. I have Trupanion. Choose your deductible level and they pay 90%. Do your research. There are many companies with various plans. As my dogs are for a lifetime I have a high coverage plan and I use it regularly.

  • Jessica says:

    I love all the “adopt, don’t shop!” responses. There are TONS of small breed dogs needing homes – go to petfinder.com and search away! That’s an awful lot of money for a mutt – on a financial blog, it seems pretty frivolous to even discuss purchasing a purebred dog.

    And in terms of costs, what about heartworm prevention, flea/tick control? What about grooming?

    It’s true that you cannot predict a pet’s health – I work at a shelter and just took in a 3 month old chihuahua puppy because it had a double cherry eye and the family couldn’t afford to pay for the $1,500 surgery to correct it!

  • Dot says:

    Get a shelter dog. Don’t get a purebred PLEASE!!!

  • Justin @ The Family Finances says:

    I also agree with the idea of adopting. We rescued a retired racing Greyhound and couldn’t be happier with our decision.

  • Mary Reed says:

    Unless you are totally a dog person and plan to make the dog part of your family – included in all aspects of your life – do not get a dog!!! They are expensive, time consuming and needy. If you work full-time, the dog will get lonely. The dog will need daily exercise. And plan to add several hundred dollars to your travel budget if you travel and have to board your pet. Vet bills are very expensive – last week my dog got an ear infection and the vet bill was over $100 – just for a visit and some medication. Annual vaccines are very pricey, too. You need to plan time to train your dog – and yourself. Being a good pet owner is a huge responsibility. And, I totally agree to get your dog at the animal shelter. Pet sit a friend’s dog for a week first and see how it goes.

  • Holly says:

    I’m so relieved to see all of the “adopt” posts. $500 to commission a dog that is a MUTT? That is truly ridiculous, no matter how cute the animal.

    Becoming a dog owner is like becoming a God. You have your work, friends, hobbies, the internet, books, movies, television, bars, etc to keep you company. Your dog only has YOU. He depends on you for absolutely everything. The author is saying that he won’t have time to play God half the year. I’m sure the author will get married to the fiance, but what if the relationship doesn’t work out? Who gets the dog, or does it end up in a high kill shelter?

    Travel with a dog is a ridiculous inconvenience and fraught with hidden costs. What if the dog gets car sick or has a health emergency on the road? Emergency vets cost a lot of money and can be hard to locate. The time/opportunity cost is huge for feeding and watering and relieving a dog several times per day. Most businesses are not dog-friendly. You can’t leave a dog in a locked car while you eat at a restaurant, or see a museum, it will bake to death. You will pay a premium on hotel rooms in case your dog ruins the carpet. You will have to spend all of your free time at night in the hotel room because the mutt you’re looking at WILL bark and disturb other guests if left alone and scared. Dogs develop a surface preference for where they like to do their business. If your dog MUST have a grassy area, you will have to venture out at night in strange cities and maybe walk for miles to find grass, just so your dog can urinate and defecate. This can be dangerous for you and the dog. See the movie “The Brave One”.

    If you don’t travel with the dog, regular boarding of a dog is extremely expensive, not to mention very selfish. When you board, you leave your dog with people who are experienced with handling animals, but don’t truly know your pet’s personality, health history or daily schedule. If you regularly board for weeks at a time, you can expect a dog to develop undesirable behaviors and personality problems from being constantly abandoned by the humans he loves.

    It’s my recommendation that the author not buy a dog at all, and if he truly wants to make a difference in the life of an animal, he should make a donation to a local no-kill rescue.

  • Susan Cole says:

    I just adopted a 15 week old bulldog lab mix from the local shelter. Greta Garbo has already had two vet visits for routine checkups and booster shots, and the cost pd food and toys does add up. I had my contractor build a fence in the back yard before adopting. I Own my home and am home every night but the 5:30 am wake up walks take some getting used to. But we love her and she is settling in well.

    Does anyone have experience with pet insurance? The deductible is 1000 dollars and then you pay 30% of the remaining cost. It would only be accessed for very expensive procedures, it seems to me.

  • Felicia says:

    OH – forgot to mention the “damage factor”. All dogs are different in the amount of damage they cause to your belongings. My dog thankfully chewed on a corner of my area rug the first week home, then never again damaged a single thing in my home. Even after I stopped crating him and let him have the run of the house 8 hours a day while I’m at work.

    A friend of mine however, wasn’t so lucky, about 10 years ago, they came home to find their dog had opened up almost every upholstered piece of furniture in the house. Cost – seriously, you do NOT want to know.

  • Felicia says:

    I agree with the majority of the responses here. The first thing I thought when reading this was “EEK, why would anyone this day in age BUY instead of adopt.” Please please please open your heart to adopting a dog. There are so many out there. I’m happy that while you have underestimated the costs of a dog, you’re thinking it through as thoroughly as you can. I would recommend you consider fostering a dog from your local shelter. Adopting my dog Toby 3 years ago, was the best decision I’ve EVER made – but I have to admit that as a first time dog owner, I was overwhelmed. Understand what you’re getting into by fostering. For me, everything worked out better than I could have ever imagined, but my life is different – in that I’m a home owner, and don’t need to consider how Toby will impact my living options now or in the future. It was quite interesting to learn there’s PET RENT people have to pay. Sheesh!

    Per my comment of underestimating expenses – like the others I must stress vet expenses. Toby’s first year cost me a fortune due to eating all the bad things possible outside. He was at the vet for one thing or another – almost once a month without fail that first year. One thing I am glad I did – was set aside 4k before I got my dog. I commited that 4k to only be used for dog expenses and I’ve carried that over each year. I’ve never had to spend that much, but It’s comforting to know I have it at my disposal, should something happen that requires an expensive procedure.

    Best of luck to you. No matter how you end up getting a dog in the end… If you do, I know you will find it is one of the most wonderful experiences in life. To love and be loved by a dog.


  • Jules says:

    Vet bills: don’t forget them. We have three cats. I spent $700 in vet bills on the first one, just for the basics–worming, shots, spay. Did I mention she was my “free” kitty, too? The second one I adopted, but a few weeks into the adoption, I suspected renal failure, and it took me an extra $300 to confirm that and get a preliminary treatment plan together. The third one we adopted, and he ended up needing a dental (100 euros) and then we discovered that he had renal failure, too. All told, it adds up to a ton of money we spend every month on the prescription diets and two vet visits a year–1000 euros a year, thereabouts, and that’s if none of them get sick.

    Secondly. It should cost you a LOT MORE than $500 to get a purebred dog from a breeder. Genetic testing, temperament testing, finding a good stud–these are not cheap, and if a breeder is only charging $500, then he’s most likely what people call a “backyard breeder” and won’t be able to tell you diddly about what precautions he took to select against genetic faults.

  • Bill says:

    I agree with the posters that say you should adopt and need to consider vet bills. I bought a standard poodle puppy from a “reputable” breeder*, and at age 2 she developed Addison’s Disease, which requires lifelong management. She’s 11 now- that’s almost a decade of unexpected vet expenses- it’s not always just a one-time thing like an emergency surgery.
    Adopting a dog gives you lots of financial advantages- one, if you adopt an adult dog, you have a much better idea of its health and can avoid some early-onset health issues.
    If you do choose a puppy, a mixed breed is likely to be healthier.
    (Note: I’m not saying that all mutts are healthier than all purebreds, but if you have to choose between a mixed breed of unknown parentage and a purebred of unknown parentage you have a better chance with the mutt.)
    Adoption fees are much lower and expenses like vaccinations and spaying/neutering are usually covered by the shelter or rescue (or the dog may have already had these done if it’s a stray, owner surrender, etc.)

    (*I now know that very few breeders are reputable- some breed for working ability, which means that careful attention is given to health and temperament, but most of these dogs are too intense to be family pets. The other more common category are conformation show breeders- the ones who claim to be selling you family pets. This isn’t the case at all. Good show prospects are rare, so they breed enough litters to ensure that they’ll get a few, keep those dogs- “pick of the litter”- and sell the rest as “pet-quality” dogs to make money to support their hobby, which is showing… and these dogs don’t have to be healthy or even tempered- they just have to conform to a very rigid standard of appearance.)

    It’s also worth pointing out that some breeds are all unhealthy- the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one, actually:


    “Cavaliers can often suffer from some serious genetic health problems, including early-onset mitral valve disease (MVD), the potentially severely painful syringomyelia (SM), hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, and certain vision and hearing disorders. As today’s Cavaliers all descend from only six dogs, any inheritable disease present in at least one of the original founding dogs can be passed on to a significant proportion of future generations.”

    “All Cavaliers eventually suffer from disease of the mitral valve, with heart murmurs which progressively worsen, leading to heart failure. This condition is polygenic (affected by multiple genes), and therefore all lines of Cavaliers worldwide are susceptible. It is the leading cause of death in the breed. A survey by The Kennel Club of the United Kingdom showed that 100% of Cavalier deaths are cardiac related.”

  • ChrisCD says:

    We have almost always adopted our dogs. There have been two exceptions, a dog that was given to us by a breeder friend and a dog my wife got me.

    From the cost stand point, you will save a lot of money adopting. We have never regretted an adoption. Shelters and Foster Care places are very careful with the dogs they allow to be adopted.

    I will just echo the sentiments about cost thought A dog is way more expensive then you think. And it only takes one semi-serious illness to really demonstrate how much of a commitment it really is. There is pet insurance , but honestly, I don’t know how good any of the plans are.

    So if you are not able to set aside a significant amount of money to cover vet bills, please wait.

  • adele says:

    I agree the above cost estimates were too low, and completely concur with the comment above that teeth need to be cleaned (including blood work prior to the procedure), and regular grooming for little dogs, or once a year for the big guys who have undercoats.

  • adele says:

    Please do not “buy” a dog! This country puts down about 7 million pets a year. Many are perfectly fine, or would be fine with a little TLC. Also, dogs from puppy stores come from puppymills, and there is no exception here. Reputable breeders of a specific breed do not EVER sell their pets to a pet store. This is a volume driven business and the dogs suffer enormously. Mother dogs never leave the cages (and by never I mean never), never get vetted, groomed, or taken care of when they are sick. If you doubt any of this, check out the ASPCA’s website, or ask any dog-shelter or animal rescue person for their opinion. You should see the condition they are in if a puppymill has been flagrant enough to warrant being shut down. These places have little or no oversight and while that fact is being changed legislatively, it takes time. The images of dogs left in cages for 8-10 years, only to feel grass under their feet for the first time (if they can even walk), are enough to keep you awake. So please, do not support that industry.

    Consider searching a breed-specific rescue and fill in an application, be flexible (the right dog will come to you when it is supposed to, like anything else), and be ready to have someone walk you through the application process. I’ve adopted two purebred yorkies from a shelter (who were terribly neglected but cleaned up very nicely!), a chihuahua, and a minipinscher. Your breed is out there; just do a little work. Believe me, it’s worth it and you will quickly be a convert to this cause when you see the unconditional love a rescued animal lavishes on you.

    Also, pets make great companions, but they require regular vet care. If you cannot afford it, do not adopt. They are not “until-dogs,” they are forever-dogs. Don’t make other people clean up your mess. And let’s stop being such a disposable society, please.

    If you are thinking your house or apartment is too small, dogs need a lot less space than people realize. They mostly care about being with their owner. Regular walks can accomplish what a fenced in yard cannot.

    On the subject of a fenced in yard, do not leave your dogs unattended outside without supervision. In this economy, people steal dogs (and they do not need to be purepbreds) to train fighting dogs, and to sell to research facilities. It’s a tough elsson to learn.

    Thanks for hearing my tirade… please please please do not buy dogs when so many are euthanized – not always in great ways (19 states still gas, some shoot, some do heartstick) – who would make perfectly wonderful pets.

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More says:

    I agree! Adopt a dog! You also have to budget for all of the unexpected things like chewing through your laptop power cord, potential allergies, illnesses and even more. Pets ALWAYS cost more than you think they will so make sure you can afford it.

  • Rene Simon says:

    Please, please don’t buy a dog. Adopt one. Also your cost estimates seem low. There are a lot more expenses than food in one year. Proper veterinary care will include things like teeth cleanings. Also small dogs like that usually require some kind of professional grooming. Dogs are such a huge life commitment. My two cents. 🙂

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