The annual or monthly cost of owning a dog can vary depending on the level of care you want to provide to your pet. While it's possible to take care of a dog for less than $300 per year, they really won't receive the proper attention and treatment that they deserve without more spending.
Ultimately, if you can't afford to buy more than just the dog itself and food for it, you probably shouldn't own a pet quite yet. However, proper care really doesn't require a lot more money if you spend it wisely. I have some tips and suggestions to help reduce expenses to have a dog, while still ensuring that they're happy and healthy.
Cost of Owning a Dog
The cost of owning a dog is actually quite subjective. There are both cheap and expensive dogs, in addition to a wide range of food that can also have drastically varying prices. The level of care that you provide for your pet will also greatly affect how much you spend.
The real question is what level of care and attention do you want to provide? Basic food and essential veterinarian care to ensure that they remain healthy isn't overly expensive. However, if you want to spoil your pup with treats, clothing, regular doggy day care visits and more, you can easily end up spending excessively.
If your finances are already stretched thin, I highly recommend that you sit down and work out a budget. How much can you actually afford to spend on a dog each month? Once you know a number, you can then see if you can properly take care of a new pooch for that cost.
The cost to buy a dog is often the main price that is considered. Someone can adopt a puppy from the pound for under $100 and only provide them with food for less than $300 annually for most breeds. On the opposite end of the spectrum, someone could buy a show dog with a champion blood line for many thousands or even millions. In fact, a Tibetan mastiff puppy sold in 2014 for $2 million and is considered the most expensive dog in the world.
This one-time expense may seem like the largest cost to own a dog, but you will actually spend more caring for the animal long-term than it costs to buy. For this reason, it's important that you avoid focusing only on the initial purchase price. Yes, you do need to have enough up-front money to be able to afford this expense, but you really need to pay attention to the long-term costs to ensure that you'll be able to afford them as well.
Ultimately, unless you have a really special purpose in mind for your pup like showing or breeding, there's probably not a practical reason to spend a lot of money just to buy a dog. A mutt from a kill shelter will give you just as much love as a Siberian Samoyed that can cost you upwards of $15,000. In fact, the purebred will often have more health issues and a higher cost to take care of over time too.
Food & Minimal Care
At the very least, a pet dog needs food, water and shelter. One that will live in your house with you could potentially get by with only buying food for it, since you'll already have shelter and water. This basic level of care can cost $200 - $500 per year for most dog breeds, although much larger dogs can be even more expensive than that. The smaller their size, the less food they will eat, and the less money it will cost you to feed them.
Some people will only provide that level of care. While this can technically work, it's really not fair to your pet long-term. At a bare minimum, you should at least get your pet checked out by a veterinarian once a year just to ensure there aren't any health problems that need to be addressed.
As part of your vet checkups, you'll also be recommended some medication for your pooch that you really don't want to skip. Flea, tick and heartworm medication is essential for all dogs. It's not very expensive to provide this proactive treatment. However, a lack of this medication can result in very expensive treatments to save a dog's life.
For a small dog breed, I would estimate a minimal cost of ownership to be around $400-$500 per year. Medium sized dogs could be $600-800 and larger dogs will easily be $800 - $1,200 and potentially even more depending on how much they eat. Again, these are basic costs to keep your pet alive, fed and healthy. However, it doesn't account for additional, optional expenses or future health issues that could require more money for treatments.
Vets, Boarding, Grooming & Training
Beyond the basic costs to have a dog, there are other ways that many pet owners end up spending additional money. While I also include trips to the vet in the basic, essential costs, I've also included it here as a more frivolous expense too. It's very possible to go overboard on trips to the vet that can end up costing you a ton of money each year. You simply need to avoid doc visits unless it's a regular checkup or unless it is a serious emergency.
There are also a lot of additional services out there geared towards dogs and their owners. Boarding your animals while you're away on vacation or potentially even while you're at work. Dog walking services. Grooming and even training costs will add up quick.
In specific circumstances, you may not be able to avoid these extra costs, but you will need to plan for them if you foresee that as a possibility. For example, you may have no choice but to board your pet when you take a vacation across the country to visit your parents for the holidays each year. With others like grooming and training, learn how to do these things yourself to save a ton of cash. For the cost or just a couple of visits to the groomers, you can buy the tools you'd need to do a great job yourself. YouTube can be an excellent free tool to use for training purposes.
One final thing worth mentioning about the cost of owning a dog is insurance. Personally, I'm not a big fan of most types of insurance except for life, car and homeowners. Big costs that you're unlikely to be able to afford all at once are sometimes best covered by lower monthly insurance payments.
If you're on a tight budget, dog insurance could potentially work for you to ensure you won't run into a very large expense that you can't afford. However, pay close attention to the terms of your policy and really analyze the numbers given to you. Will it really save you money or actually cost you more in the long run?
In general, insurance companies make a profit on their policy payments. That means that statistically you would be better off without insurance and pay for the expenses yourself. However, if you happen to get unlucky and do have a big problem that would've been covered by insurance, you would've been better off with that coverage. This means it's ultimately a gamble to choose either way, so it's likely best to go with your gut instinct, personal preference, or simply base the decision on your budget.