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Dogs are awesome. It’s really hard to argue that dogs bring their owners mountains of joy and fun. Heck, a dog can brighten your day and make you laugh even if it’s not yours.
Right now I’m writing this article from my couch with one dog, Sadie, laying next to me on a pillow and the other, Gregg, is snuggling up to a blanket on our other couch. I stinking love my dogs. They’re loyal, forgiving, and are always excited to see me when I get home.
The thing is, I wasn’t always a dog person.
I grew up with two cats and adored them. They were great snugglers and awesome companions to grow up with.
I always envisioned getting cats once I got through college and started living on my own, but it wasn’t meant to be. My wife LOVES dogs and totally converted me into a dog person. And while I still love cats, my dogs are incredible and I couldn’t imagine our life without them.
However, dogs definitely come with a price tag and it’s hard to avoid dropping a big chunk of change even if you’re not buying a pure bred dog.
If you have a dog, you already know it’s an expensive undertaking, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. And if you’re in the market to get a dog, this article will be right up your alley.
I’m going to break down the costs of not only buying a dog, but the ongoing expenses once you bring Fido home. You’ll also get a look into our lives and see how much owning dogs has affected our budget.
Plus you’ll get to see a ridiculous amount of pictures of our amazing dogs Gregg and Sadie. Trust me, that alone will be worth it if you’re a dog lover.
The Joy of Owning a Dog
Before I jump into the cost and benefit analysis of owning a dog, I want to throw a shout out to all the reasons dogs are amazing.
1. Free Entertainment: dogs do goofy things all the time. They chase their tails, chew on each others feet (at least mine do), slide and run into things when we play fetch in the house, or just roll around playing with their toys. We started calling it “Dog TV” because we just sit around and watch them and laugh.
2. Force You to Exercise: if you don’t walk your dogs or get them running, they will drive you crazy. The best behaved dogs are well exercised, and sometimes it’s easier to exercise with them. Dogs have a natural tendency to get us out of the house and get our bodies moving, which is a darn good thing.
3. Snuggles for Days: this is a major reason my wife wanted a dog and why we can never have a “no dogs on the furniture” rule. Dogs are warm, cuddly, and will love you forever, so snuggles are just a part of the game. Enjoy it!
4. You Can Teach Them Fun Tricks: this is honestly one of my favorite parts of owning dogs. I’ve learned that I can teach our dogs to do pretty much everything with enough time, patience, and of course treats. My favorite trick we taught our dogs is to bark when we start a sentence with “Say…” I love it because we can tell them to say “I love you, goodbye, goodnight, give me food, dad is cooler than mom”, and anything else when we prompt them.
5. They Will Love You Forever: dogs are the most loyal and forgiving animals. It doesn’t matter if you had to yell at them for chewing on the furniture or if you had a bad day. Your dog will greet you with its tail wagging and want to jump all over you. Their love knows no bounds.
I was actually really nervous when we brought our first dog Sadie home. We adopted her in June 2016, about three weeks after buying our house. Like I said, I grew up with cats so I knew nothing about training dogs and the realities of living with them.
Luckily my wife is an expert dog trainer and I’m pretty sure she could run a very lucrative side hustle as a dog trainer. She led the charge and taught me everything she knew.
Costs to Adopt a New Dog
Before we bought our house, we rented an apartment that didn’t allow pets. That pretty much broke my wife’s heart for two years because she was made to be a dog mom.
But when we were in the final weeks of closing on our house, getting a dog was inching closer and we wanted to get ready in case we found the perfect dog. We saved up a few hundred dollars so we could pull the trigger and buy our dream dog if we found it.
If you’re thinking about buying a dog, there are a few things to consider. It’s smart to look at all of the one time expenses, like the adoption fee or purchase price, but also remember to think about the ongoing, monthly costs of your furry friend.
Buying a Dog: How Much Do You Need at the Time of Purchase?
First is the upfront adoption or purchase price. This will vary widely depending on where you live, the type of dog you’re getting, and whether you adopt or buy a puppy. We live in Minnesota, and in our neck of the woods it’s hard to adopt a pet for less than $250, and that usually doesn’t include the taxes, licensing, or vaccinations.
Other upfront costs to think about are:
- Dog kennels
- Food and water dishes
- Treats for training (trust me, you want your dog to be able to follow commands)
- Poop bags
- Dog bed
- Tags for their collars
When we adopted Gregg, his total adoption costs, including all the extras I just mentioned was $500. And he was a cheap unknown mix. If you’re looking at a purebred, the cost will be at least $1,000 more.
Monthly Budget for Your New Dog
Once you bring your furry best friend home, the monthly costs keep coming. Your pup will need its own space in your monthly budget. When we just had one dog, we budgeted $50 a month to cover the ongoing expenses. Here are a few of the ongoing costs you’ll pay every month, or pretty close to it anyway.
- Dog food, obviously
- Treats for training. It’s one of the best investments you can make
- General care: nail trimming, hair cuts, shampoo
- Toys to chew on so they don’t eat your couch
- Vet Bills: annual check ups, vaccinations, and emergencies
- Ongoing Monthly Medications
You can absolutely save money on a few of these items. Like trimming your dog’s nails yourself. You’ll save $10-15 a month, but it can be tricky if you cut to short or your dog is bigger than you. After cutting too short a few times our dog became too spastic for us and wouldn’t stay still. And Gregg is too big to hold him down.
Once we brought home dog number 2, our monthly costs doubled to $100. Our second dog is much bigger and eats more, so we burn through food faster, but we buy toys that last longer so we don’t have to buy them as often.
Unfortunately, some months break our $100 budget and we have no choice but to pony up the dough. Every June we take our pups in for their annual check up and vaccination renewal. This year that was a separate $215 bill in our monthly budget.
Another hidden cost to owning a dog is flea and tick prevention. We never did this until this year when our dogs got fleas. After deep cleaning our house and being on high flea alert for a week, I wish we would’ve spent the money on prevention instead of reaction. Most flea and tick prevention kits run from $30-50 for a month’s supply.
And lastly, it’s good to keep a little extra money in your emergency fund incase your pup needs medical attention. Last year Sadie ate a bowl of rotten hard boiled eggs we hadn’t quite thrown out yet. She jumped up onto the counter and needed to go to the ER Vet, which was about $500. NOT COOL SADIE!
You can totally buy pet insurance for your dog too. We haven’t gone down that road, at least not yet, but here’s a good article outlining the costs, benefits, and strategies to DIY your pet insurance.
Opportunity Cost of Owning Dogs
I’m a Social Studies teacher so I couldn’t turn down a chance to talk about opportunity cost! I teach it to my middle schoolers, so why not my readers too!
Since adopting Sadie in 2016, we’ve both loved being dog owners, but it hasn’t been cheap. In the last two and half years we’ve spent nearly $4,000 on our dogs, including adoption fees, upfront costs, and all the monthly expenses, and vet bills.
When I look at that number, I can’t help but think how we could use that money if we didn’t have dogs. What other goals could we have accomplished by now? We definitely would’ve been debt free sooner, and we’d for sure have enough money to buy a minivan. But then again, a huge reason we are upgrading to a minivan is to create more room to travel with our dogs. Kind of a catch-22 there.
This chart shows our expenses so far this year. Luckily our dogs are pretty healthy, so we stick to $100 a month for food, toys, treats, and clipping their nails. You can also see we spent over $300 on vet bills too. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s going to be close to $1,500 by the end of the year. What other financial goals could you accomplish with $1,500 in a year?
Sometimes we think of all the goals we could reach without dogs, and get frustrated by how much money we have to spend on them. But we also have to balance that with the how much Sadie and Gregg enrich our lives. That’s a lot harder to put a price tag on, and I’m guessing most pet owners would argue the same.
We love them way too much to give them up, especially since they’re both rescues and were abandoned at one point. We couldn’t do that to them again.
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What kind of dog do you have and what do you love about him/her? How much do you budget for your dog every month?
Our budget and goals changed our lives and it can change yours too.
Our budget and goals changed our lives and it can change yours too.
As an Educator and Personal Finance Blogger, Jamie has helped hundreds of families learn how to budget, save money, and pay off debt (go here to subscribe and start your debt free journey). Read our debt free story, “How We Paid Off $73,000 of Debt in Less Than Four Years”.