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.

34 thoughts on “How much does a dog cost?”

  1. I have to admit, I spend more! I have all your average, and most of your crazy owner items, plus prescription dog food and vet visits every 3 months for blood tests for a liver enzyme problem. But the biggie is: Agility!
    I have cut back on agility lessons for my budget’s sake, but I used to do 6 weeks of classes for $80.00 year round.
    Also I go to 6-7 agility trials every year, they average about 200.00 if I can drive there, and more if I have to stay at a motel. Also I have bought and built quite a bit of agility equipment for my backyard.
    It is a big addiction, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
    Stewie has 3 crates, his regular big crate in the living room, a plastic vari-kennel, and a folding wire crate that lives in my car. He has numerous bed, and mats, bowls, leashes, etc, etc.
    But he is girl’s best friend!

  2. Well, being that I have a very high maintenance guy, I can say that I definitely spend more on Gus. He’s had quite a bit of vet care so far for two chronic infections that he came with. (We’ve spent at least $1500 alone on the vet in the past few months.) In addition, a 120-lb dog with sensitive skin and a sensitive tummy costs a bit to maintain as far as food and grooming goes. He doesn’t exactly like to be washed at home and refuses to let us clip his nails so $50 a month on a groomer is well spent. He has a special diet which is not only pricey but takes time. Don’t forget dog daycare and the fact that we have trendy boutiques around here that I just had to get a nice harness, collar, and leash for him. I have the receipts somewhere. Whatever the cost, Gussie is the best and I’d never change a thing! The price of caring for Gus is much less than the return I get when the big, goofy guy wants to be hugged.

  3. Wow – this is really interesting to see! Having never had a dog (as an adult) I had no idea the cost! I believe that cats are MUCH cheaper to care for. This is a good post for anyone considering getting a dog! It’s a big responsibility – and not only money-wise! Thanks for sharing this info!

  4. Yikes!

    Ace is one costly Dog. Somehow I don’t spend that on all three. Well, I like to think I don’t. There is no way I am going to do the math. I think it would be too depressing.

    Maybe whenever we go out with our Dogs they should have a little advert for our Dog blogs on them. It may bring in some new advertisers to help pay for them. That or start making them earn their keep. How they would do that is anyones guess though.

    Faye is pretty good at gathering firewood. The only problem is that she will then eat it the next day.

    Tammy, as for Cats….Well, I have one called Naruto and yes they are cheaper. They also perform a good service. At least here anyway. eh eats snakes and mice. Shame he is so annoying the rest of the time!!! I have never had an animal that can make so much noise if his food is one split second late. I guess some Cat training may be in order but I simply have no idea where to start with an animal that is so obviously far superior to my meagre intellect.

    Sorry, rant over.

    1. My friend did in deed find a puppy to adopt using the adopt a pet website. In fact, she found two puppies that had been abandoned and where looking for a home together. She ended up saving two lives rather than one.

  5. Well, I’m one of those crazy dog people. Then again we also have FOUR big dogs. Food alone is almost $200 when I restock. Which seems to be every 6-8 weeks. Plus toys and bones. Finding indestructible toys is impossible. And treats. Oh good lord we spoil them with treats.

    If I’d lost my job we would have cut back on treats and toys and of course grooming. For now they’re still being spoiled. 🙂 I’m sure my inner cheap self would be horrified at how much we really spend.

  6. So sorry to be one more, but my landlord was going to ‘dump’ two dogs if he couldn’t find them a home, so we took them. And we already had a golden. The chihuahua mix was great…healthy, easy, a model pet. The Berner, though- he has horrible, horrible allergies. We spend $100 a month on prescription food just for him. He goes through about $40 worth of Prednizone a month, and he has to take Prozac with it because it makes him kind of crazy (another $30 a month). We also do a vial of immunotherapy (allergy shots) which run about $150 every four months. Our golden and he are about the same size, so we spend around $30 a month on their flea & tick, plus an additional $30 a month on the heartworm preventative for them both. Our Chihuahua runs around $30 a month for the duo. Our golden is also on prescription food for an issue with metabolizing creatinine, which is around $80 a month. And she’s arthritic, but can’t take an anti-inflammatory for it. So we pay $150 every three months for her injectable joint-fluid prescription. If I sat down with the calculator, I honestly think I would cry. But, they’re my guys. I can’t imagine my life without them, even though the Berner essentially has to live in one of those lampshade collars because he chews his feet to shreds otherwise. I want to think I’m giving them all the best life possible. Would somebody else be trying so hard to make the Berner comfortable? Probably not. So its worth it to me, because I can’t imagine any of them suffering. I don’t know why I felt the need to tell you all this…I guess I needed to reassure myself I was doing the right things for them.

  7. That is crazy, $2100 a year? My neighbor has 3 dogs, all labs and he treats them like they are his kids. He must be spending a small fortune on them. Although they are fairly healthy so I don’t think he spends as much as you at the vet (His wife is a vet).

    I’m glad I have cats now 🙂

  8. Lindsay Stordahl

    Thanks, everyone, for your input. Yes, cats are so much cheaper. Although, my cats have destroyed my couch, so there’s $1,000 for a new couch. I guess I won’t be buying any new furniture while I have these two around…

    Three Dog, my cat Beamer sounds just like your cat. He harasses us with his loud meows whenever we are in the kitchen. So annoying!! I also don’t know how to train cats.

    Amy, your Bernese is very lucky to have you.

    Nancy, I can see how agility trials or shows would add up. I didn’t even think of that.

    Apryl, I know what you mean about Gus being well worth the cost! Although, those cute collars and harnesses are more for your sake than his. I don’t think Gus cares!

    Megan, the cost is a big reason why i don’t have a second dog right now.

  9. I do volunteer work with a rescue group and i am astounded at the people who think they can get a dog “for free” just because they are willing to provide a home. if they are unwilling to pay a few dollars to get it, we know they would return it when they see these costs. I think I’ll print this out. It should keep dogs from being returned when reality hits.

  10. Stella is about to reach 5260.00 in vet bills alone. That includes two knee surgeries but w/o them it’s still 860. in less than a year. I don’t want to know the food/collar/ toy/accessory figure, yikes. I had no idea either but wouldn’t consider giving her up.

  11. Lindsay Stordahl

    Go for it Jan. The more informed people are, the better. it’s so upsetting to me when dogs are returned.

    Susan, i know what you mean about those costs. my old golden retriever had knee surgery and that was only on one knee. I hope Stella has recovered OK.

  12. Yep – you busted me – the fashionable collars, leashes, and tags are definitely for me. Gus would walk around covered in dirt with no collar or anything if he had his way.

    His new stuff is so cool though, I’ll have to take some pics!

  13. Stella has recovered well form the first surgery. Unfortunately, she blew out the other knee during her rehab and is scheduled for a second, next Wednesday. I’m hoping for a little break after that. Left you some blog love over on Stella’s page today.

  14. Lindsay Stordahl

    Thanks, Ty.

    Aw, poor Stella. That sounds so painful! Thanks for the link.

    Can’t wait to see Gus’s new collars!

  15. We have spent WAY too much on Fresca already this year. Over $600 on food, chews, training and the vet. I haven’t factored in the 3 dog beds she ate because those were hand-me-downs from our previous dog. Or the price of the perennials she dug out of my garden or the lawn she has killed 🙂

  16. Pickles was a “give away” dog, give away to us, that is. I’ve not kept a complete record, but I know we spent close to $600 on her the first month we had her. If you care for a dog, then there is no such thing as a free one.

  17. Lindsay Stordahl

    ha! good point. i didn’t even mention the grass Ace has killed. there have also been a few blankets i’ve just thrown away rather than wash because they were that disgusting from a certain black mutt.

  18. Lindsay Stordahl

    Valdese Blogger, you are right. So much for “free.” But good dog owners know and expect to pay a lot for their dogs’ needs.

  19. After reading this I am having trouble understanding why you are buying cat food for your dog. While dog food may be more expensive up front it will help you save money in the long run with other health costs.

  20. Lindsay Stordahl

    Sorry I wasn’t very clear. I do not feed my dog cat food. He eats Purina One Lamb and Rice for dogs and Solid Gold lamb and rice for dogs. I use my cats’ kibble for training my dog because he loves it and it’s less expensive than buying tons of treats, and I have it on hand at all times. Cat food isn’t cheaper than dog food anyway, cats just eat less of it.

  21. Well… I just got a Great Dane… and boy… I still have three days until I get him… and I have already spent $300 in basics… food, toys, leash, bowls, bedding, and I still need a crate!!! I am looking into insurance since they are known to have problems…

    It doesn’t matter… I’ve always wanted a Great Dane… and now I have one and willing to spend as much as need be to keep him healthy!!

  22. 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?

  23. Lindsay Stordahl

    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.

  24. 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 🙂

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      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.

  25. Lindsay Stordahl

    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.

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