Having a dog can bring so much joy to a home, especially as a first-time dog owner. It comes as no surprise that over 38% of American households own dogs. But as much joy as pets can bring, they also bring plenty of extra expenses. From the cost of food to regular veterinary care and everything in between, the first year of dog ownership can set you back thousands of dollars.
Before adopting your first dog, make sure you know the costs you should expect and how best to budget for them.
Common pet expenses a first-time dog owner should be aware of
Before buying your first dog, it’s important to understand what you’re signing up for. Not only is pet ownership a huge responsibility, but it can also be a costly one especially as a first-time dog owner.
The first year of pet ownership is often the most expensive. When you adopt a new dog, you take on one-time costs like adoption fees, spay or neuter fees, and more. According to the ASPCA, the average cost of owning a dog in the first year ranges from $1,471 to $2,008, depending on whether it’s a small or large dog.
Some of these expenses go away after the first year, but the annual cost can still certainly reach or exceed $1,000. And when you combine these annual expenses with irregular expenses and emergency vet bills, the average lifetime cost of owning a dog can range from $10,000 for a relatively healthy dog to more than $30,000 for a dog with serious health issues.
Depending on where you get your dog, there’s a good chance you’ll pay an adoption fee of some kind. Adoption fees can easily cost thousands of dollars from a breeder. Even if you get your dog from a shelter, you can expect to pay an adoption fee, which helps pay shelter staff and keep it up and running.
Spraying or neutering costs
When you adopt a new dog, your vet will likely recommend that you spay or neuter the animal. Shelters often take care of this before adopting an animal out to a family, but dogs that come from pet stores and breeders probably won’t already be spayed or neutered. According to the ASPCA, the cost to spay or neuter a dog ranges from $190 to $220.
A microchip is a small chip placed in a pet as a way of identifying its owner. Veterinarians use a needle to place these chips between a dog’s shoulders. These chips display a unique code that is registered to the owner. If your pet runs away or gets lost, a vet can use a microchip scanner to reunite you. Microchipping is relatively affordable — it costs roughly $50 and only needs to be done once.
Home supplies (Bed, crate, leash, collars etc)
When you bring home your new dog, there are plenty of startup supplies you’ll have to purchase. These include a dog bed, crate, leash, collar, dog bowls, toys, etc. You’ll likely have to replace these items over the years, but they’re most expensive in the beginning when you purchase them all at once. These costs can easily set you back hundreds of dollars.
Regular veterinary care
As a first-time dog owner, you have a responsibility to make sure your pet is getting proper veterinary care. You’ll likely pay for annual medical exams, vaccinations, and other preventative care. These visits aren’t terribly expensive but can add up over time.
In addition to the regular veterinary care your dog will need, you may also end up paying for emergency veterinary care at some point. Whether your dog eats something they shouldn’t have or suffers from another health problem, these vet visits can cost a lot of money. According to the ASPCA, pet owners should expect to incur at least one $2,000-$4,000 emergency vet bill during their pet’s life. And for some pets, you may end up spending a lot more.
Food and treats
Food for your pet will be one of the largest recurring expenses you’ll have over their lifetime. There’s a wide price range for pet food and treats, depending on how high-end you go. According to the ASPCA, the average annual cost of dog food ranges from $212 to $400 depending on how large of a dog you have, but you could easily spend more by purchasing high-end food.
Many homeowners decide to train their dogs at home, but you can also pay for a training class or individual training. This might be best for first-time down owners who aren’t familiar with dog training. According to the ASPCA, the average training class costs about $110.
Dog daycare or dog walking
If you work long hours outside the home or do any traveling, you might spend money on a doggie daycare, dog boarding, or dog walking services. These expenses are totally optional, but you might find that they fit your lifestyle well. Prices can vary depending on the services you’re paying for.
Depending on your dog’s breed, grooming could end up being a significant portion of your annual pet expenses. Certain breeds need to be groomed on a regular basis. Even if your dog doesn’t need regular haircuts, you might still spend the money on baths, nail trims, etc.
Pet insurance is totally optional, but many pet owners feel it’s worth it, especially in the first year or with dogs prone to health issues. According to the ASPCA, the average annual cost of pet insurance is $225.
Cleaning supplies or services
While cleaning expenses aren’t exactly pet expenses, you might find yourself spending more on cleaning products with a pet. Dogs trail dirt into the house. And when they’re puppies, they may have accidents on carpet and furniture. You may wish to pay for professional cleaning.
If you decide to take a vacation without your beloved doggie, you need to budget for boarding costs. The main thing to keep in mind is to research what type of boarding is best for your dog and ensure the place has a good reputation. Depending on what kind of boarding you choose can average $20-$50 per night. Keep in mind some sites may offer “add-ons” such as extra playtime, walks, etc.
However, sometimes it’s best to hire an in-home pet sitter. A new environment can cause your pup to have anxiety and stress. It’s actually around the same price for this option, thanks to sites such as Rover and Care. If you decide to take your puppy with you, keep in mind you have to find pet-friendly hotels, and they charge additional fees for animals.
Pet fees if you rent your home
An important cost to keep in mind as a first-time dog owner is pet fees if you rent a home or an apartment. Pet fee costs vary depending on your location. Deposits and fees can range from $100-$500 before you are allowed to move in. Another fee some landlords may charge is “pet rent.” This charge can range from $10-$100 per month.
You must build this into your budget to ensure you can afford the additional cost. Also, if there are damages caused by your dog and they exceed the deposit amount, you will be liable to pay those as well. However, a dog is one of the best roommates you can have, so they are totally worth it.
How to budget for pet expenses
As you can see, pets bring with them a lot of extra costs. There are two different ways you can budget for pet expenses. Both methods are better for different types of expenses, so I recommend using both.
Pet sinking fund
A sinking fund is a way to set aside money each month for annual expenses. For example, suppose you know you spend $1,200 per year on regular pet expenses. You would save $100 per month for your pet sinking fund, and then you’ll always have the money set aside when you need it for regular pet expenses.
Pet emergency fund
It’s to save and budget for regular pet expenses, but it’s impossible to plan ahead for medical emergencies. That’s why, in addition to your pet sinking fund, you can have a pet emergency fund for those unexpected costs. By having a pet emergency fund, you never have to worry about not being able to afford medical care to save your pet’s life.
Tips for the first-time dog owner
Do you research
It’s impossible to tell you exactly how much pet ownership will cost for you. That’s why it’s important to do your research upfront. You can research things like:
- Adoption costs as your local shelter
- Grooming and vet costs for the breed you want
- Daily costs at your local doggie daycare
- The best food brands and how much they cost
- Health problems common with the breed you want
Find a vet ahead of time
Veterinary costs will be some of the most important (and most expensive) parts of pet ownership. As a result, it’s worth doing the research to find a vet ahead of time. That way you can bring your new pup to the vet as soon as you adopt them and can build a relationship with a vet you trust.
Prepare your home
Having a pet in your home will definitely be a change. In addition to buying items for your new dog, you might also want to purchase items to protect your home. For example, if there are certain rooms where you don’t want your new dog to go, consider buying dog gates to place around your home.
Consider a microchip
You might think of skipping the microchip when you adopt a new pet, considering it just another unnecessary cost. But you may want to reconsider. A microchip can help reunite you with your pet in case it gets lost or runs away. And while having a dog tag with contact information could do the trick, it doesn’t help you if, for some reason, your dog’s collar comes off. The cost of a microchip is a small one in return for the extra security it provides.
The bottom line
Dog ownership is a huge responsibility. And while most people know that going in, many don’t think about the huge cost that also comes with it. Before you adopt a dog, be sure to research the costs you can expect. Have money set aside in your budget ahead of time so you can buy everything you need for your new pup without worry. Got a cat? Learn more about the specific expenses for first-time cat owners too!