Woman holding dog in front of window

How Much Does a Dog Cost?

Getting a dog can be a wonderful experience for kids and adults alike. But if you’ve never had a dog, you may not realize how much it costs. 

Make sure you understand the financial commitment before you promise your kids, your partner, or yourself a furry companion.

Adoption, Vaccination and Training Costs

The cost of a dog depends on what kind of dog you decide to get and how you get it. If you adopt a dog from a local shelter, you may pay a small fee up front. Adoption fees can stretch into the hundreds of dollars, but many shelters offer occasional free or discounted adoptions on certain holidays. 

If you want a specific breed of dog and choose to buy from a breeder, the cost can stretch into the thousands of dollars. The Humane Society offers a helpful guide for finding a responsible dog breeder.

You can also buy dogs at many pet stores. But note that many pet store dogs come from puppy mills, which are widely considered to be inhumane. These dogs may have serious health or psychological issues, which can be heartbreaking for their owners, not to mention leading to expensive vet bills. 

After you pay to adopt the dog, you’ll need to budget for some initial costs. Establish care with a veterinarian and talk to them about what kind of care your pet will need. A new puppy will require several initial vet visits, including vaccinations, that may cost several hundred dollars each. 

Spaying and neutering costs a similar amount, although this is occasionally available for free or a reduced cost as a city service. 

If you adopt an older dog, they may have already received their vaccinations or have been spayed or neutered. The shelter you adopt from should know what kind of care your new dog has received.

Whatever the age of your new dog — but especially if you adopt a puppy — they may need professional training. Dog trainers can charge widely varying amounts. 

Rover estimates that private training can cost in the hundreds of dollars per hour. Group training can cost between $50 and $300 per session, with sessions typically occurring weekly for a month to six weeks. The more difficult your dog, the more training tends to cost. 

Ongoing Costs 

Like any caregiving responsibility, having a pet comes with ongoing costs. Your dog will need food (and treats!), leashes and collars, toys, a dog bed, and more. They will also need routine grooming and vet care. 

You may need to make some changes to your home in preparation for your dog, like fencing in your yard, installing a dog door, or using gates to keep your dog from going into certain rooms. Talk to friends and family members with dogs about these changes to get a sense of how much they might cost. If you need a contractor for something like a fence, ask local friends for referrals. 

There are also unexpected costs that may come up, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. If you’re working from home now but plan to return to the office, you may need to pay a dog walker once or twice per day. These can cost anywhere from $10 per hour to $35 or more per hour depending on where you live.

Next time you go on vacation, you’ll need to hire a dog-walker or pet-sitter. You also have the option to put your dog in a kennel or dog hotel, which can cost up to $50 per day. Make sure to add that to future vacation budgets. 

How Much Does Pet Insurance Cost? 

If your precious pet gets a chronic illness, you may see annual costs exceeding thousands of dollars a year. This can be a serious financial burden that is, unfortunately, not easy to prepare for.

Pet insurance might be worth considering, but make sure you understand how a plan works before you purchase coverage. 

Generally, most pet insurance plans are structured around a deductible. Once you hit your deductible, your plan will pay out above that. Sometimes these plans are structured with a maximum amount of annual coverage, but not all carriers have such a ceiling. Some plans also eliminate waiting periods. 

Like many types of insurance, pet insurance plans can be designed to cover ongoing wellness expenses or to only cover unexpected costs. 

Although pet insurance is still an emerging field, there are a lot of options these days. You can customize what you need into a plan that works for you. It is important to do a side-by-side comparison of the various plans and coverage, and your insurance broker can help with pricing each of these out. 

Note that, if you adopt an older dog with pre-existing conditions, you’ll need to find a plan that will insure your dog. Your premiums will likely be higher than they would be for a puppy. 

Preparing Financially for a Pet

As with many new expenses, the best way to prepare is to set up a separate savings bucket for your pet’s needs. That way, if an unexpected cost arises, you have the funds available. 

Getting a dog can be a great experience. Dogs become part of the family for many people and they can provide years of joy and companionship. And with proper planning, your life with your dog can be free of financial stress.

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