The Cost of Owning a Dog

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We are pet people plain and simple. My wife and I grew up always owning pets, mainly dogs. We have owned several different types of pets over the years, including birds, fish (fresh and saltwater) rats, guinea pigs, cats, and dogs.

Shortly after we were married and moved into our house, we got our first dog together. She was a yellow Labrador. We had her for thirteen years. She was a great family pet, but as her health began to deteriorate, we knew it was time to let her go.

We were without a pet for a period of six months. During that time our house and family felt like something was missing. We knew we wanted to add a new dog to our family. In January of 2014, we did just that. Mushu joined our family. He has been such a great addition.

The rats and guinea pigs were choices our children made when they were younger.  We were on board with them having the pets as long as the feed, cleaned and took care of them. All three children did a great job caring for their pets, diligently cleaning their cages each week and making sure each had food and water.

At one time in my youth, I cared for four dogs and three cats. It’s a great lesson in responsibility to care for an animal. Since Mushu has been our only pet for the last three years, I wanted to share with you the cost of owning a dog.

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Initial Dog Costs

There are several places you can adopt a dog from, shelters, private breeders, pet stores, and rescues. I’ve probably been in hundreds of pet stores to see the cute puppies by myself or dragged into one by my wife or kids. I have never purchased a dog from a pet store. We have always used local breeders or shelters.

What I would suggest is to do your research both on the location you like to adopt from and the type of dog you’d like. Mushu is a Shiba Inu. Going from a Labrador to a Shiba Inu is a big difference. Just in size alone. We spent several weeks researching and visiting with different dog breeds to make our final decision. The American Kennel Club is a good place to start.

Once we decided on a Shiba Inu, we first attempted to adopt from a local rescue, but they had a waiting list. We were able to find a local breeder with puppies available but at a high cost. We worked the numbers into our budget and here’s a breakdown of cost:

  • Puppy – $2000
  • AKC registration – $40
  • Crate – $99
  • Bed – $25
  • Collar – $15
  • Leash – $22
  • Puppy Food – $14
  • Bowl – $15
  • Toys – $26

Our grand total spent was $2256. Now, this is not typical. Other dog breeds from a private breeder will cost far less. Our yellow Labrador, for example, cost $850. Adopting from a shelter or rescue usually requires a donation. Pet stores will vary.

We were not able to reuse many of the supplies we had from our first dog for Mushu because some we had gotten rid of and others due to the size difference in breeds. I was able to trade our older large crate for a doggie door. So please keep that in mind when adopting a dog. Your dog will need some “stuff,” and that stuff will add expense. The good news is that most of it can be purchased once.

If adopting a puppy, keep the full-grown size of your dog in mind and purchase stuff to accommodate. This will help to eliminate having to purchase new gear as your dog grows.

It important to do your homework to capture all the initial cost of adopting a pet because after the initial cost there will be ongoing cost as well.

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Health, Grooming and General Care

Like any member of your family you want to make sure they are in good health, smell good, and groom properly. A dog is no different. Well maybe just on the frequency of how often some of these things take place.

A lot of this with vary by breed, but here’s a snapshot of how we care for Mushu and the associated cost to give you an idea of what owning a dog might cost after the initial adoption.

  • Quarterly Check-ups – $100 per visit $400
  • Food and treats – $50 – 6 times year – $300
  • Grooming/Baths – $25 – quarterly – $100
  • Fea/Tick Collar -$41 – yearly – $41
  • Toys – $20 – twice a year – $40

On average Mushu adds $881 to our yearly budget or about $73 per month. Recently he came down with a rash on his backside, and we had to make an extra trip to the veterinarian at the cost of $104 for exam and medications.

Another wildcard is when we travel we must board him. Depending on the length of stay and activity we want to schedule for him, costs can run an additional $15-25 a day. Obviously, if you have a family member or neighbor who can pet sit for you can save this cost. We have done this in the past, but with Mushu, we find it best to board him.

We also give Mushu baths at home from time to time, brush his coat, walk and play with him often. He weighs just under thirty pounds and his by far the smallest dog I have ever owned.

Small dogs can be picked up and cradled like a baby and boy does this often happen with Mushu. He gets his fair share of love and attention. This would be tough to do with some of the larger dogs (60-90 pound ones) I owned in the past.

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Mushu is part of our family. Everyone share in the responsibility of his care. It would be difficult imagining our family without a dog. For us, the cost, work, and effort are well worth it.

Are you a pet owner? How do you cut costs for pet ownership? Do you have a budget line item for your pets?

29 thoughts on “The Cost of Owning a Dog”

  1. What a beautiful dog! We’ve been contemplating adding a four-legged friend to our family, so early appreciate the cost breakdown you’ve provided. If anything it looks more affordable than I had expected. And how do you put a price on man’s best friend, anyways? 🙂

  2. Those are great dogs, so intelligent and I love their look, like a little fox! We have a 16 yr old mutt/shelter dog, Quinn, that looks like a solid black border collie and a greyhound rescue, Lola. Like you, after Harley had to be put down due to bladder cancer, we felt like the house was just empty. We adopted a Greyhound, although that took almost 4 months before we got Lola. House visits, pre adoption interviews, and more, it was pretty intrusive, but only $250 financially. Fun fact: Greyhounds have been inbred so long, they can’t tolerate corn, so normal dog foods don’t cut it. Fortunately, we found a good non-corn food with enough fiber now that “yard cleanup” is WAY better. Shudder…

    We just had a $400 vet bill for Quinn due to some random health issues, she is 112 now, lol. She’s still decently bouncy, even if her eye sight is mostly gone.

    Except for finding a vet that matches the online prices for heartworm and flea and tick medicine, down here the OTC stuff doesn’t cut it – ridiculous, we generally do most of the other stuff ourself. Lola doesn’t need grooming, whew, but I’ve trimmed Quinn a couple of times myself now. She’s gotten too old to take to the groomers – with the long hair and aversion to blow dryers, it’s an all day affair to let her try to dry out and is just too taxing for her. We fortunately found a neighborhood pet sitter that we can use, especially now that she can’t share a kennel with Harley. That has worked well and is WAY cheaper than a kennel, thank goodness. That stuff adds up quickly.

    • Thanks. We get the fox comment often. We have a neighbor who owned a greyhound named Track. He was such a friendly dog.

      DIY with dogs really depends on the dog, Mushu for his size is a pretty good bather, but with fight me to the death to have his nail clipped.

  3. Your pup is adorable.

    We’ve chosen not to have a pet for now. Little Bit wants a cat or dog, Jon is less sure that the cost (financial and time) of a dog is something he wants to take on (he’s vetoed a cat.). I’ve kind of stayed out of the battle of wills. The compromise was supposed to have been an aquarium so that Little Bit could prove she could take care of pets. She got one for her birthday in June, but her dad has yet to take her to buy the promised fish.

  4. He’s very handsome! As you know I’ve had a lot of health problems with Pepe over the last year. I sometimes wonder if people factor in that kind of stuff when they get a pet. So many senior pets are abandoned because they have problems that are expensive to take care of. I’m so grateful I have a full time job. While I would never, ever get rid of Pepe for that, I would be in do much debt right now if I was still freelancing. But I would do anything for him. They are part of the family!

    • Thanks Tonya. You do need to have a financial plan when owning a pet, they can have unexpected health issue too as anytime and certainly as they age. If you are not ready to take on that responsibility you should steer clear of ownership in the first place.

  5. Mushu is one handsome canine. Thanks for sharing the true cost of dog ownership. Mrs. Groovy and I are lucky. We only have a cat, and Ashby is a bargain by comparison. We found him on the street, so he was free. In 2015, vet and food bills came to $438.33. He did cost us $475 in pet sitting bills, though. So far this year, we’ve spent $304.70 on food and veterinary care; $320 on pet sitting.

  6. Mushu is adorable! I have had dogs and cats in the past, and this is a good overview of the costs. Some dogs may require obedience training and that would be an additional expenditure. Before getting a pet, you should make sure that not only can you afford the expenses, but that you can dedicate the time and attention…that’s only fair to the animal.

    • Thanks Gary. Great point wish I forgot to add. We did take Mushu to training for a one time cost of $125. You also have to be aware of the time commitment too.

  7. Mushu is a gorgeous dog! We have 3 fish, two cats and a shih-poo named Sammy. I spend an average of $70/month on them (if you include vet costs, flea meds, etc.). Typically food and litter run under $30/month.

    We save by buying food in bulk at Costco and doing the grooming ourselves. We purchased Wahl clippers when we got Sammy and have been giving her trims/baths ourselves. She never looks like she’s been to a pro-groomer, but she’s cute anyway! 🙂

    • Thanks Amanda! Sounds like you got a great plan for your pets. How’s Sammy do with the bath and clipping? Mushu puts up a fight to be clipped.

  8. We do not have a dog at the moment. It is something we are aiming to get when we slow down. I love dogs and it is nice to know depending on the breed, size, and age you can find a four legged family member that fits your budget. It can be affordable as long as you are aware of what it truly costs. I had a dog a few years ago that required daily treatments for her health issues. Dog medicine is not cheap but it was worth it to maintain her health. Your Mushu is adorable. Thanks for sharing. Great information to have when we decide on our future four legged companion.

  9. This is a great post Brian (and one cute pup there too!) We don’t have any pets right now. We had two cats that lived long and happy lives with us until they passed. It’s great that your pet gives you such joy and that you have planned for the costs. So many people get pets before they figure that out. Even $850 is a lot for some people.

  10. Brian, Mushu is absoluely adorable!!!

    I like dogs, but I’m more of a cat person. Currently, we have a geriatric cat, and a betta fish. If it were up to me, we’d have four or five cats, plus chickens and goats. 🙂 My husband and my daughter would like to get a dog, but since I’m the person who’s home the most and would end up doing most of the care, I’m not too hot on the idea. I also – with apologies to all of the dogs out there – am not a fan of doggie smell, or barking, or jumping. And as you pointed out, dogs are more complicated when their owners travel. Cats are fine on their own for a few days, but dogs require much more planning (and often cost).

    But I completely agree that pets add a tremendous amount to our lives, as well we teaching children responsibility and compassion, so we’ll always have some sort of furry family member.

    • Thanks Amy! I’ve owned cats before and agree they can be low maintenance, but you’d never catch me walking my cat. 🙂

  11. I feel you there. Dogs have been part of our family. Now, we have 5 dogs. Though the maintenance is a bit costly, the joy each dog brings is very special. My kids have learned how to take care and responsibility.

  12. Perfect timing! We’re contemplating adding a working dog to our family and I really appreciate the cost breakdown. My husband and I both had dogs as kids, but never together. I’d always assumed that I’d just grab a stray from a shelter, but I’m now realizing that it’s sometimes worth the investment to buy from a local breeder (especially one that offers training). The yearly cost isn’t as much as I was expecting. Can I ask what price range of food your Mushu is getting (i.e., cheap stuff vs canned delicacies)? I don’t know anything about it, I just assumed it’d cost more.

    • Good luck Janeen. We use blue buffalo for Mushu. It’s a little bit more expensive, but we try and buy it when it’s on sale and use coupons. The price will range depending on size of dog and amount your purchase. We use just dry kibble, usually a 15-20lbs bag runs $28-30 and last 2-months.

    • Janeen, I don’t know what you expect from a working dog so I can’t offer specific advice. I do have many years of working with sled dogs and hunting dogs so I have learned a few things. While a shelter is a good place to get a great family pet it is less likely to be a good place to get a good working dog. For a working dog I would go to a breeder whose dogs are doing the same type of work I want to do. One notable exception is weight pulling dogs. I have known several shelter dogs who have been trained to pull hundreds of pounds in competitions.

  13. Mushu is a cutie! I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone spell out exactly what they spend on their pets. It would be interesting if you kept keeping track of “Mushu expenses” over his lifetime. I suspect they will get higher as he gets older. That has certainly been the case for us. We’ve had a few whopper vet bills – and though we love our Rocky dearly, he makes me realize that for most people (not everyone) struggling with debt it’s best to hold off until things are better financially.

    • Thanks Ruth. I’m sure Mushu’s expenses over time will rise. I know with other aging dogs we have owned in the past vet visits became more frequent as they got older. It is certainly something to consider before adopting.

  14. When I was training and racing sled dogs I kept detailed expense records. By feeding very inexpensive raw meat and buying dry dog food by the ton I was able to keep feed costs down to 60¢ per dog per day. The total cost of my dog hobby was $16,000 – $20,000 per year when travel, entry fees, equipment and vet bills were added in. Back then I was caring for 20 dogs. It has been 10 years since I retired from that sport. Today I still have 4 of those dogs and the expenses are much lower. I don’t know how I’ll react when they are gone but I do know it weill free up a bunch of money from the budget.

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