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How much does a dog cost?

I got my mutt Ace for free.

His previous owner recognized she would be saving money for every day Ace was out of her life, so she did not accept the $50 I offered her. If she could see this post, then she would really know how much she’s saved!

But I wasn’t attracted to Ace because he was free. Instead, I adopted him because I knew he would fit well into my lifestyle. I admired his gentleness and athleticism. I knew he’d lived with cats and was used to spending time in a kennel.

“Re-homing fee” or not, I was well aware of what I would be spending on my “free” dog in the years ahead. I’m not so sure everyone who gets a dog thinks about what that dog will cost over the next 10 years.

It’s been 27 months now since I brought Ace home to my West Fargo apartment. I decided to add up everything I’ve ever spent on this mutt during the last two years and three months. The details are explained below.

Here are the numbers:

Total cost: $4,731

Yearly cost: $2,102.64


Free to good home

Here are the details:

Everything listed below are actual items or services I have paid for my dog. I have saved every single vet receipt and I keep a monthly budget, so most of the prices are accurate. For the rest, I had to guess. I spend very little on toys and treats (I use cat food) for my dog. But I make up for it through agility classes and other random dog stuff like dog boots and a dog backpack.

I broke up the spending into four categories:
1. Stuff the average dog owners buys
2. Stuff only some dog owners buy
3. Stuff only the crazy dog owners buy
4. Unique vet bills

Keep in mind my dog is 3 years old and 65 pounds. I multiplied certain prices to show per year or per month.

Stuff the average dog owner buys:

Leather leash ($20), initial vet checkup ($32), dog bowls ($16), nylon collar ($8), annual exam and vaccinations ($88 x 2), annual heartworm test ($29 x 3), Heart Guard for six months per year ($45 x 3), toys ($25 x 2), bones and chews ($50 x 2), treats ($12 x 3), food ($25 x 27, I use a mixture of Solid Gold lamb and rice and Purina One lamb and rice. You can save money on dog food by using

Total: $1,335

Stuff only some dog owners buy:

Oatmeal shampoo ($8), plastic Vari Kennel ($80), flea and tick prevention ($40 x 3), beginning obedience class ($45), dog bed ($40), boarding ($22), choke collar ($8), poop bags ($12 x 2), nail trimmer ($9)

Total: $356

Stuff only the crazy dog owners buy:

Dog backpack ($80), second dog bed ($30), second leather leash ($20), fold-up kennel ($25 at a garage sale), more obedience classes ($40 x 3), agility classes ($40 x 6), Gentle Leader ($20), pet fee at Solbakken Resort ($10 x 5), pet deposit for our townhome ($500), monthly “dog rent” ($40 x 19), chewed-up book ($20), chewed-up T-shirt ($25), prong collars ($14 x 3), dog boots ($18), tie-out stake and rope ($30), homemade weave poles ($20), kiddie pool ($8), Canine Good Citizen test ($20)

Total: $2,028

Unique vet bills:

Ear infections, antibiotics, drops and solutions ($528), Q-tips and cotton balls ($4), initial exams for polymyositis ($179), consultation with an eye specialist ($24), prednisone over six months ($161), cyst treatment ($116)

Total: $1012

And the total so far …


That’s $2,066.76 per year
($4,731/27 months= $175.22 per month x 12 = $2,102.64)

And let’s say the dog lives 10 years …

$2,066.76 x 10 years = $20,667.60

That’s one expensive mutt!

Now, if you’ve made it this far, keep in mind that there are a lot of things I have never spent money on, but a lot of dog owners do. Those things include:

Grooming, long-term boarding, daycare, pet sitting, dog walking, vitamins, supplements, pet insurance, spaying or neutering.

If you want a cheaper pet, then get a cat (or two) or a hamster. And, at least a dog’s cheaper than a child.

What do you spend on your dog? Do you think you spend more or less than I do?

If you would like some ideas for finding financial help for dog care or tips for re-homing your dog, see my post on I can’t afford my dog.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of March 2012

I guess it has a personalized engraved buckle, not a plate on the actual collar. So maybe that's not what you are looking for.

Rachael Taylor

Wednesday 28th of March 2012

Let's see, unique expenses?

We're looking into herding classes for Turkish to work with the sheep. The herding evaluation is $40 and then classes are $35 after that. They say it takes about 8 classes to train both the owner and the dog to work on their own. Luckily we won't have to pay to "rent" someone else's sheep for training :)

I've recently started giving Turkish antlers for his chew toy as his adult teeth come in. They're expensive at our pet food store, about $9.95 for a piece of antler for him...but it seems to be lasting.

I break fresh eggs on Turkish's food every Sunday but thankfully, those are courtesy of our free-ranging chickens. His organic worming stuff costs about $25/year.

As far as other items, I'm planning to splurge on a nice collar for him, with the plate attached to collar that you can engrave...minus that he's pretty low maintenance. So far of course.

Annnnnd way cheaper than our cats...but, I think we've just had a bum year when it comes to cat expenses. I mean really, $95 a month for ringworm medication! Not to mention the $500+ in vet bills it took me to get to that diagnosis. I digress :)

Rachael Taylor

Thursday 29th of March 2012

Ooohhh...actually that could be perfect! Thanks for sharing!

Rachael Taylor

Thursday 29th of March 2012

Where did you get it from? I'm having a hard time choosing.

Lindsay Stordahl

Thursday 29th of March 2012

Luckily, I have spent hardly anything on my cats. I hope yours are over their ringworm.

I just ordered Ace a nice collar with an engraved plate as well! Can't wait for it to get here.


Monday 9th of August 2010

Thanks! I've been trying to figure that one out.

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 9th of August 2010

We bought some of those white pipes (with the joints) from Home Depot. We hardly spent any money on this and they can come apart and be put back together in about two minutes and they fit in a duffel bag.


Monday 9th of August 2010

My dog is is probably the least expensive dog out there, if he's walked/biked and fed he's happy.

He doesn't need to go to a groomer, he doesn't have much hair and we clip his nails using the clipper my uncle has.(but usually only one of his nails needs to be clipped because the sidewalk wears them down) and we give him baths in our tub, which he doesn't enjoy but he tolerates.

He hasn't had any health problems yet, and was fixed before we got him.

Since he is small we got a dog bed for $20 and he uses an old blanket in his kennel.

I love training and my dog is a very fast learner, so I read a book I borrowed from a friend and trained him. When we adopted him he could sit and was housetrained.

He doesn't chew on something or scratch up anything unless we give it to him.

My dad works with someone who had an extra kennel so I paid $20 for it.

We've only bought 3 toys since we got him, 2 lasted 10 min and he lost interest in the other one so we don't buy them often. When I get a tennis ball that starts to stop bouncing I let him have it.

&how did you make your weave poles?