Dogs ain't cheap.

Sorry to rain on your puppy parade, but remember that next time you're face-to-face with a floppy-eared fluff-ball begging you to play.

But the sad reality is that high costs of dog ownership might be the most common reason dogs are surrendered to shelters.

But let's flip all this doom and gloom on its head.

By reading this guide, you're showing that you're a thoughtful dog owner who appreciates the responsibility of caring for another life.

You're awesome!

So let's jump right into it: How much does a dog cost?

This guide looks at 14 expenses dog owners face, both required and optional, with ranges based on several factors:

  • Dog size
  • Breed needs
  • Behavior/personality
  • Your lifestyle
  • Location

Let's get started.

how much does a dog cost

How Much Does A Dog Cost?

This guide will dive deeper into the many costs you'll incur as a dog owner, but here's the quick summary.

Necessary Expenses

A lot of guides explaining dog-related costs include things like daycare, dog walking, or pet insurance. Not everyone wants or needs those expenses.

But these 8 things? Unavoidable.

  • Getting your dog: Free-$11,000
  • Spay/neuter surgery: $50-$400 (usually included in adoption fee)
  • Food and treats: $250-$1,500 per year (size-dependent)
  • Bed, leashes, collars, and harnesses: $50-$100 (one-time)
  • Grooming equipment: $20-$30 (one-time)
  • Annual vet visit: $50-$100
  • Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm prevention: $125-$300 per year
  • Basic toys: $50-$100 per year

That's $475-$2,000 per year ($40-$170 per month) for the absolute bare minimum of care, plus about $70-$130 in one-time costs (not including the cost of your dog, which varies wildly).

Optional Expenses

Most dogs need more than just the essentials above. I mean, $100 per year in toys? Olive chews through that in 2 months.

Here are some additional expenses you may (or may not) incur.

  • More toys: $3-$10 per toy x 2-3 toys per month
  • Crate: $20-$150 (one-time and size-dependent)
  • Grooming: $30-$90 per visit
  • Microchipping: $40-$60 (one-time)
  • Licensing and registration: $10-$20 per year
  • Training: $25-$100 per hour x 6 sessions (average)
  • Dog walkers: $1 per minute (so $20-$40 per day)
  • Daycare: $15-$40 per day
  • Boarding: $40-$80 per night
  • Emergency vet visits: $250-thousands per visit

Those costs can add up quickly.

Let's dive deeper into each.

humane society puppies
Adorable (and adoptable!) puppies from Lynchburg Humane Society.

14 Dog-Related Costs You May Face

1. Getting Your Dog

Cost: Free-$11,000 (required)

The cost to acquire your dog can vary greatly. In fact, this probably is the most situation-specific cost on this list.

On the low end, you may be able to find a dog for free if someone in your area had an unexpected litter or needs to rehome a pet.

Ignoring the free option, animal shelters often have dogs for $50-$200, though some range upwards of $500 for puppies of more popular breeds (like Poodles). Exact costs are very location and shelter-specific. Senior dogs, generally ages 6 and up, are less expensive because of lower demand, but a senior dog may be the perfect option if you're looking for a mellower household.

Check out our list of shelters by state to see costs in your area.

On the high end, reputable breeders with purebred lines of in-demand dogs can charge an paw and a tail. Samoyeds can cost upwards of $11,000! My family has always been fans of Irish Terriers and paid $1,000 for their current 10-year-old dog. If you go the breeder route, just make sure they're reputable.

How do you find a reputable breeder?

  • Get them through a referral from someone you trust, such as your vet, behaviorist, or local shelter.
  • Or look through the American Kennel Club's Breeders of Merit listings.
  • Always visit their home to see how the puppies are raised.
  • Meet the dog's parents.
  • Get a pedigree and/or medical history of the dog's parents.

Whatever you do, don't buy a dog from a pet store or breeder who can't accommodate the above.

2. Spay/Neuter Surgery

Cost: $50-$400 (required)

If you adopt, the cost of spay or neuter surgery probably is included in your adoption fee. If it isn't, or if you get your dog through a breeder, expect to pay $50-$400 with spaying usually more expensive than neutering (due to the relative complexity of each surgery).

3. Microchipping

Cost: $40-$60 (optional but strongly encouraged)

Another cost usually included in your adoption fee, every dog should be microchipped. During this procedure, your vet implants a small RFID chip under your dog's skin. The chip is assigned a unique number and included in a national database. You register the chip, identifying that the dog is yours, and you're all set. Microchipping is important both in returning a lost dog and proving ownership.

I'll also lump dog tags in this category. It's always a good idea to make sure you dog has their name and your contact info on their collar. Depending on where you live, you may also need a rabies tag on your dog's collar.

microchipping a dog
Microchipping is covered in most shelter adoption fees and helps identify your dog in the event they get lose. (Source)

4. Licenses & Registration

Cost: $10-$20 per year (usually required)

Many cities, counties, states, or even whole countries require your dog be licensed and registered. The process, requirements, and costs are specific to where you live, so Google or call your local animal control office (or related governmental body).

5. Food & Treats

Cost: $250-$1,500 per year (required)

A dog's gotta eat!

Quantities (and costs) vary by your dog's size:

  • Small breeds like Boston Terriers eat about 1 cup of food each day.
  • Medium-to-large breeds like Labrador Retrievers eat about 3-4 cups each day.
  • Large or giant breeds like Great Danes eat 8-10 cups each day.

A typical bag of dog food weighs 25 lbs and costs $30-$60 (depending on the brand). Usually, you get about 4 cups per pound of dry food, so that 25 lb bag has about 100 cups of kibble. Let's do some math using $40 as a middle ground for a 25 lb bag:

  • Small: 1 cup per day x 365 days = 365 cups = 91 lbs = 3.65 bags = $146
  • Medium/large: 3.5 cups per day x 365 days = 1,275 cups = 319 lbs = 12.78 bags = $511
  • Large/giant: 9 cups per day x 365 days = 3,285 cups = 821 lbs = 32.85 bags = $1,314

And that's just the cost of food. (Learn how to choose the dog food.) What about all the snacks and training treats you buy for your dog? That's totally discretionary, but you can easily spend $20 per month on treats. (And far more for larger breeds.) Just remember to factor those treats into your dog's daily caloric intake and adjust their food portions appropriately.

dog food
Dog food is a major expense that varies wildly depending on the size of your dog. (Flickr)

6. Crate, Bed, Leashes, Collars & Harnesses

Cost: $100-$250 (required)

You don't need to go crazy with this stuff, but every dog needs these essentials.

(And in my opinion, the essentials include a properly-sized crate.)

You can find items at stores like Walmart or Target, and for most dogs those generic brands will be fine. But some dogs need more well-made and durable (read: pricier) stuff.

When we first got Olive, we tried to buy the cheap $10 dog bed at Walmart. She tore it up in 3 days. Instead, we needed to get a Kong brand chew-resistant crate pad, which set us back about $50.

And the harnesses. Oh my, how much we've spent on harnesses.

  • We tried walking Olive on a 6-foot leash attached to a standard dog collar. Epic fail.
  • We tried an Easy Walk harness that clips in the front. She's way too strong and it rubbed her armpits raw.
  • We tried a Gentle Leader that clips under the jaw. We have more control but it makes her reactive freak-outs worse.
  • Currently, we're using a mesh, front-clipping harness that hopefully prevents pulling and saves her armpits. The jury's still out.

All told, that's over $100 in harnesses. Our guide to the 9 types of harnesses can help you find the right one from the start.

A retractable leash will set you back $20-$25 and you'll definitely need a short Nylon leash ($10-$15).

7. Toys

Cost: $50-$100 for basic toys (required) but can be hundreds more

A bored dog is an annoying and destructive dog.

You don't need to break the bank buying new, expensive toys every week, but you definitely need to get your dog 2-3 toys to keep them busy. A squeaky ball, a plush toy, and a tug-of-war rope is a good starter kit.

I'd also recommend at least one puzzle toy like those made by Kong to keep your dog mentally stimulated.

But sometimes the bare minimum barely scratches the surface. We're still trying to figure out what kinds of toys to buy Olive that will keep her occupied without being destroyed in 10 minutes.

If you're really looking to pamper your pup, or need a constant supply of new chew-things to be eviscerated, check out BarkBox. Their monthly boxes start at $22 per month ($264 per year) and include a combination of toys and treats to keep your dog busy and you sane.

For big-time chewers like Olive, BarkBox has a Super Chewers box that sends you 2 durable, fluff-free toys each month plus 2 full-size treat bags and 2 meaty treats. Olive's box costs $29 per month if you commit to a full year or $45 per month for their "cancel anytime" plan.

barbox super chewer subscription
BarkBox's Super Chewers subscription sends you 2 fluff-free toys, 2 full bags of treats, and 2 meaty treats every month.

8. Grooming

Cost: $30-$45 if you do it yourself (required) or $660+ per year if you hire a groomer

There are two angles to this one:

  • Buying grooming tools and doing it yourself
  • Having your dog professionally groomed

Some things are best left to the professionals, like shearing or grooming your dog's coat (if necessary). That runs around $50 but can be more or less depending on the size of your dog and the groomer you choose.

The rest easily can be done at home. What goes into general dog maintenance?

  • Clipping nails (every 2-4 weeks): $5-$10 for clippers + $5 for styptic powder in case of bleeding
  • Baths (monthly): $7-$10 for a bottle of shampoo
  • Coat brushing (every few days): $10-$15 for a brush
  • Toothbrushing (2-3 times per week): $7-$10 for toothbrush and toothpaste

All together, that's $30-$45 for the necessary tools, some of which need to be replaced.

Let's look at the cost of the same services at Petco (ignoring brushing):

  • Clipping nails: $10
  • Bath: $35 (medium-sized dog)
  • Toothbrushing: $10

That's $55 each month or $660 per year!

Just buy some nail clippers and learn how to avoid the quick.

petco grooming prices
Petco's grooming prices are affordable but way more expensive than pampering your pup yourself. (Source)

9. Vet Visits, Vaccinations & Routine Medical Care

Cost: $50-$250 (required)

Annual vet visits are important to monitor your dog's weight, teeth, blood work, and general health. Most cost around $50 for a basic visit but can range higher if other services are needed. Age-appropriate vaccines usually are included in adoption fees, but you may need to get your dog additional shots (including boosters) as they get older.

  • Puppy vaccines*: $75-$100
  • Rabies: $15-20
  • Bordetella: $20-$45

*Routine puppy vaccinations include Distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Adenovirus, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza.

10. Monthly Flea, Tick & Heartworm Prevention

Cost: $125-$300 per year (required)

These are vital and shouldn't be skipped. After all, prevention is a lot less expensive than treatment. Costs vary, as always, based on the brand of medication and your dog's size. Here are costs for a medium-sized dog (around 50-60 lbs):

  • Flea & Tick Prevention: $120 per year for Frontline Plus through 1-800-PetMeds
  • Heartworm Prevention: $80 per year for Heartgard Plus through 1-800-PetMeds

All together, that's $200 per year or $16.67 per month (with free shipping).

For comparison, it costs $400-$800 to treat heartworms, and your dog has to be kept quiet with minimal exercise for several months to prevent fatal complications.

Did you know that the average heartworm lives for 6 years, can grow to 12 inches in length, and your dog can have upwards of 250 in their system at once?

Buy the preventative medication.

flea and tick prevention 1-800-petmeds
1-800-PetMeds has great prices (and usually free shipping) on everything your pet needs to stay healthy.

11. Pet Insurance

Cost: $35-$100 per month (optional)

Insurance is a necessary evil. Plans run from $35-$100 per month with rates depending on your dog's breed and the covered services. Some plans cover only catastrophic events. Others include annual vet visits and flea, tick, and heartworm treatment.

Should you get pet insurance? Let me tell you a story.

My friend has an 8-month-old Lab/Pit Bull mix named Bailey (go Pit Bulls!) that eats everything. One of the first nights they had her, she ate a huge piece of towel. They had to take her to an emergency vet to make sure there wasn't a blockage. Surgery was on the table, but Bailey ended up passing the towel naturally. The bill? $1,300 with a $7,000 estimate if surgery was needed.

The moral of the story? Invest in pet insurance.

12. Professional Training

Cost: $20-$50 per hour for group, $50-$100 per hour for individual (optional)

Professional group training is awesome for young pups, especially if you're a first-time dog owner.

  • For your dog, it provides structure and socialization, which are crucial for proper development.
  • For you, it's a great way to learn how to set your dog up for success.

Typically, puppy group training includes 6 sessions over 6 weeks, so $120-$150 for the entire session at budget places like PetSmart or Petco.

Some dogs, like Olive, need intense, individual training to help them through their issues. This is especially true of shelter dogs, and you should be aware of this risk before you adopt a dog.

These types of training programs are highly dog-specific, but Olive's trainer recommended a robust package due to her severe anxiety and leash reactivity:

  • 6 full-day boarding sessions at $200 each
  • 3 one-hour private sessions with Olive, us, and her trainer at $100 each
  • Continued individual or group training as needed at $100 per hour

The first two items there cost us $1,500. Yikes. And it could have been more had the COVID-19 pandemic not shut down individual or group training for months.

Online training is another option with sites like Fenzi Dog Sports Academy offering instructor-led classes that take place in a virtual classroom.

  • You sign up for a class, which runs 6 weeks and starts on the 1st of every month.
  • There's a weekly syllabus with videos and an actual trainer assigned to you and your dog.
  • You can ask questions directly to your instructor or in a forum, and you can even send your instructor videos for tips and guidance.

They have different enrollment levels for these classes that include some/all of the above. I I wanted to give Fenzi Dog Sports Academy a try and signed Olive up for an intro-level course: "BH150: Management for Reactive Dogs." We're auditing the course for $65, which means no interaction with the instructor and no forum access, but we still get the weekly videos, assignments, and supplemental materials for just over $10 per week.

fenzi dog sports academy costs
Fenzi Dog Sports Academy has 3 different enrollment plans from audit only (Bronze) to complete immersion (Gold).

What's cool about Fenzi is they don't just do behavioral classes. In fact, their sweet spot is right in their name: "Dog Sports." They offer the following classes:

  • AG110: Intro To Agility - Handling Basics
  • AG200: Foundation Jumping for All Sports
  • EL140: Mindset Training For Dog Sports
  • FE370: ALL THE SPORTS: Foundation For The Cross-training Canine

Those just sound amazing and are a great way to bond with your dog!

13. Dog Walkers

Cost: $1 per minute for 20-40 minutes per day (optional)

Puppies, young adult dogs, and high-energy breeds need a lot of exercise. If you're gone all day, you may need a dog walker to help your dog be their happiest, healthiest, least destructive self.

Expect to pay about $1 per minute with dogs needing 20-40 minutes across 1-2 walks per day. Rover is a great place to find dog walkers.

14. Boarding

Cost: $40-$80 per night (optional)

One thing I really like about cats: You can go out of town for a few days and your cats will be fine eating and drinking from big bowls. Dog owners don't have that luxury.

Boarding costs are highly location and facility-specific, but expect to pay $40-$80 per night to have someone look after your dog. You can even use services like Rover and DogVacay to find dogsitters at similar rates.

Final Thoughts On Dog Ownership

Dogs aren't cheap. Between food, entertainment, and regular care, they can run the average dog owner anywhere from $475 per year for small dogs to nearly $2,000 per year for large or giant breeds (and that's just the bare minimums).

It's important you know these costs and budget for them before jumping headfirst into dog ownership. While your intentions may be good when you bring your new rescue dog home, it isn't fair to either you or the dog if you aren't able to provide them with the care they need (and that goes double for shelter dogs with behavioral problems).

But is it worth it? If you can make the money work, the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"