The True Cost of Dog Ownership

Happy Friday, ya’ll! Earlier this week, my pup got spayed and I am so grateful, not just because I won’t ever have to deal with little puppies ruining my sleep schedule but because I am now finished with the big expenses that come with a dog. I love this little girl so much but she’s definitely cost a chunk of change. If you are thinking about getting a dog, read through this entire post and make sure you’ll have the funds to cover it. Be sure to read my next post where I’ll explain how I am optimizing dog spending from now on.

Are Dogs Worth it?

Before diving into itemized costs, I feel this is worth touching on. Some people think that dogs are money pits. Those people are not dog people, obviously. Pets are part of many families and add a lot of value. According to the American Vet Medical Association, 36.5% of American households own a dog. The American Psychological Association conducted studies that demonstrate pet-owners are more well adjusted in several areas than non-pet-owners. Pets help with happiness and fitness. I can say that so far, my pup helps get me out of the house, especially on cold winter days, and she keeps me in a routine which is something I both desire and have struggled with in my life. Plus, dogs are just cool. It’s so cool how dogs love you no matter what you do and they always greet you with a smile when you come home from work. They’re also funny, which continues to amaze me.

People spend their money in all kinds of ways, and if you chose to spend your money on a pet, then that’s an awesome choice! Just make sure you do have the money to care for a pet. It isn’t fair to you or the pet if you can’t pay for their yearly care or cover an emergency (small or large).

Start Up Costs

So let me start by saying that as of this writing, I have spent $3,211.37 on my pup. She is six months old, which means I have only had her for four months. I probably spent another $25 at least on her which was combined in some grocery trip for myself. In tracking these expenses, I did not save receipts because I am super bad at that. With the exception of actually buying her, every expense went on my credit card. So I just looked back at my statements and categorized the items. A lot of her stuff was bought online anyways so I can look at my various accounts and just see what I bought her. Bottom line: be ready to spend some serious dough in the first year of your dog’s life.

Dog | $900.00

I bought a pure bred dog from a breeder. I used to want to adopt from a shelter, but after someone pointed out that shelter dogs can have huge behavior and medical issues, I decided to get a puppy. I knew I wasn’t emotionally or financially ready for a dog with a traumatic history or serious medical needs. You can definitely get a dog for $100, just know some other vet or food bills could be higher than for other dogs. I made a choice to get a Labrador Retriever because that’s the dog I have always loved the most and I had the savings to pay for her.

What was nice about my breeder – and many breeders are like this – was that he gave me a puppy pack to get her started. There was a bag of food which lasted us a week and Heartgard, a chewable medication to prevent Heart worm. He also gave me a folder full of information. He was great.

Supplies | $322.20

Cage, County Dog License, Name Tag, Leash, Bowls, Food Storage Container, Shampoo, Vibrating Training Collar, and a Brush

Just like people, dogs require items for their care. I tried to get away with not buying some stuff upfront but quickly realized she needed it. As a tiny pup, she literally tried to dive into the food bag every time I opened it. The food storage container was worth it. I also didn’t get her a training collar at first because she was so tiny. But now she is big and fast. She thinks it’s funny to run away from me. It is not.

Some people are saddened by the thought of putting their dog in a cage. It’s not sad. It keeps them safe. If your dog chews on your wooden table or chairs and gets a splinter lodged in their tummy while you’re at work, you will be much more sad than you would have been if you’d put them in a cage. A cage helps dogs with house training. After 2 weeks my dog never went potty indoors again except in one sickness accident. Also, if you are properly cage training your dog, they will view it as a safe place. If you are thinking about buying a dog, I recommend keeping your eyes peeled at garage sales and getting one used. Your dog will never judge you for what you buy!

In the state of Ohio, a license is required. It cost $20. In my city, a name tag with my address on it is law. That was another $10. It’d be silly not to get either of these items. What if your pup gets lost?

Vet Bills | $1,438.57

Vaccinations, Exams, Medications, Testing, and Spaying

Oh my gosh I go to the most expensive vet ever! He is so nice and they always have an opening for me, which was comforting when my pup got sick and hurt in the first two months of having her. It’s two minutes from my house. But I will either be switching vets or be finding a way to limit our interaction to a simple yearly exam. See my next post for more info on how.

Shop around for a vet if you can. Do this before you buy your dog because once they arrive, you will be too tired for months to do any research.

Regular Costs

Food and Treats | $274.64

Nature’s Recipe Puppy food, Milkbones, MarroBone treats, Dental Chews, Krunchie Tubes, etc.

Girl’s gotta eat. There are certainly cheaper dog foods out there than what I buy. But, just like I do for myself, I don’t just want to get the cheapest food. I want a good value. I want my dog to live a long time. So I do buy grain free food.

If you want a well trained dog you gotta buy treats too. Treat every time they go potty. Treats for sit. Treats for shake. Treats for high five. Treats for being cute. 10% of a dog’s diet can be from treats.

The best way to keep this cost low is to set up an auto-ship schedule on Chewy.com. Food is cheaper here than in any pet store. If you spend $49, you get free shipping. So order multiple weeks worth of food so you get the free shipping and set the auto-ship time frame accordingly. I tested the waters quite a bit in the beginning figuring out what she’d need most. So I would add and subtract different items and always have 2 bags of food in the order. Now that I have a supply of treats for her, I have the auto-ship for 3 bags of food every 6 weeks and one bag of dental chew treats.  I will still probably have to change this several more times as she continues to grow and moves onto adult food. Oh my gosh! And don’t feed your dog adult food when they’re a puppy. It would probably be cheaper, but you’re sacrificing their health.

Toys $61.64

If you don’t provide your dog with toys, they will make your stuff their toys. I include bones as toys. Puppies love to chew. They need to chew. They’ll always love a good bone most of their life, but it’s especially important to provide chew toys to puppies. I do not give my dog rawhide bones. I bought her Nyla bones as a baby pup and real bones as a big pup. The cheapest option is to actually get soup bones from your local grocery store or butcher. Wait until they have their adult teeth. And give it to them when you need an hour of quiet, whether making dinner or writing a blog post.

Flea/Tick/Heartworm Prevention | 106.22

I view these items as not optional. Ticks are a low grade problem in northeast Ohio. I don’t want my pup to get sick ever. When your pup is a lil puppy, you are kind of anchored to going to your vet for these medications because they are weight based. So every month you have to get your pup weighed and buy the appropriate dosage. As I mentioned, my vet is expensive. I did some major research and learned I can do these medications for half the cost of what I am being charged at the vet by buying multiple doses, now that she is in the final weight range. The weight ranges for flea/tick medication is 45-88 pounds and the range for

Bonus

BarkBox | 108.00

Here’s a great way to spoil your dog. BarkBox offers premium treats, toys, and a chew treat that is delivered once a month. If you get a 12 month subscription, it’d be only $23 each month. And you get at least $40 worth of stuff.

My dog is kind of crazy. She chewed and bit a lot when I first got her, so I assumed she was going to destroy her toys. BarkBox is great for the dog who shreds their toys down to a few strings. But it turns out my pup just likes to carry her toys around places with her. I still love the treats they send but because Sadie preserves her toys so well, the BarkBox isn’t giving us the same value it gives to other people. We canceled the renewal so we just have two more months of BarkBox.   

She has gotten some great chew treats, too, which has helped me learn what we both like. Krunchie tubes (dried out beef trachea) is our favorite. It’s disgusting, I know, but it keeps her occupied and it was great when I couldn’t give her a real bone because she still had puppy teeth.

If you know you buy your dog multiple toys per month and/or premium treats, BarkBox could be a great value for you. I do actually recommend it, as we have loved everything we’ve gotten so far. I am just hoarding the toys for the last three boxes because we still have all but one toy from the first three boxes. Know your dog. Don’t buy what they don’t want or need!

Summary

$3,211.37 for Super Sadie

All of these costs were the outright, explicit expenses of the past four months. I am not so optimized that I calculated the gas/mileage used for driving her to the pet store. This doesn’t include the hours of sleep lost to midnight and 3 am trips to potty. I didn’t include the bandaids and Neosporin needed for my bitten and bloody hands when my pup was in her playful-biting stage. I didn’t include the blanket and toys that were mine and I gave to her. My parents donated a bed to her. You can definitely do a dog more expensive or more cheaply than this. It’s up to you. Just be ready and be conscientious just like you need to be for your own needs. Nothing is free. Find what’s worth your money. Dogs are totally worth the money. 

Here is the chronological spreadsheet of my pup spending if you’d prefer to view it that way.

I will update it in future months as I do my own personal spending updates.

3 comments

  1. Shari, Student in the State of O FI O - Reply

    Your story flooded me with memories of when our lab was a pup! His teeth were so sharp – it seemed they never stopped chomping! He pierced my skin a few times. We crated him for a while but my husband couldn’t stand the thought of putting him in “puppy prison”. We left him outside the first couple summers. We have a covered patio, furniture and wildlife. A dog’s paradise right? He chewed the cedar siding on the house, our wicker furniture and even the handle of our recliner. I recently started tracking his costs and we easily spend $100 per month with food, treats, allergy medication etc. So he’s got to be the $15 – $20,000 dog by now AND bionic, after two ACL surgeries at $4k a pop! Your line “She thinks it’s funny to run away from me. It is not” made me laugh. At almost nine years old, our lab is still very playful.

  2. Ms. Fiology - Reply

    Nice post, MM! I don’t currently have a dog but I remember the costs oh so well. I used to have an Alaskan Malamute for 10 years. He loved his cage and even when I took the door off the cage, he still chose to sleep in it.

    The unconditional love is priceless.

  3. Frogdancer Jones - Reply

    I’ve owned dogs (and I used to breed and show them too) for the last 30 years. Currently, I have 3 dogs… 2 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels who are litter brother and sister who are 6 years old, and a miniature Wire-Haired Dachshund who is 2.
    By FAR the most expensive years of dog ownership are the poppy years and the elderly years. Barring bad luck, you should have many cheaper years ahead of you.
    I couldn’t live without having a couple of wagging tails around me. 🙂

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