Is Owning a Dog Expensive? What Should You Budget for?

is owning a dog expensive?

We’ve never really figured out how much of an expense our dogs are. We’re very lucky to be able to afford them. On the other hand maybe we’d rather not know 🙂 .

Owning a dog can be expensive. How expensive will depend on many variables such as the kind of dog, its age, where you live, your lifestyle and more. So, rather than stating specific dollar amounts (which will change over the years), I’ll focus on what you CAN expect to spend money on, and the different sources you can use to make them economically sound.

Initial Expenses

Cost for the dog

Free – If you’re being offered a dog for free, make sure you know the person you’re getting it from and the reason why they don’t want it anymore. If you find one, like we did years ago, locating the owner should be a priority. Then if nobody claims the dog, hopefully you can give him a good home.

From a shelter or a rescue – You’ll pay an adoption fee. Actual costs can vary from state to state, region to region, and country to country. Usually the fee covers the spaying/neutering, vaccinations and deworming if necessary. But again that can be different depending on where you live.

You can also search for a specific breed rescue, such as Golden Retriever or Labrador, etc. Just Google the breed’s name and rescue to find organizations near you.

From a breeder – If you intend to buy a purebred or a designer dog, you’ll find costs vary depending on the breed, the breeders, and of course the country and region you are located in. To find a breeder close to you, Google the breed’s name plus the area where you live.

The breeder must provide paperwork for the dog which must include the breed registration papers, a proof in writing from a veterinarian showing that the dog has had an examination as well as all the appropriate vaccinations and dewormings. 

A breeder is not allowed to sell or give away a dog who is under 8 weeks old. It is against the law.

From a pet store. Be extremely cautious if you purchase a dog from a pet store. You want to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable place and that it doesn’t sell dogs from puppy mills.

Dog Essentials

Food and water bowls – Stainless steel bowls are the best and will last for years. Check out this post on why and how to find the right bowls for your dog. You’ll need one for food and maybe one or two for water inside and outside.

Leash – Buy the appropriate size leash for your dog’s size. If you have a small dog, a retractable leash is fine. But retractable leashes aren’t suitable for medium or large size dogs. Instead, it’s best to use a strong, durable leash in order to maintain control while walking your pet.

Collar – All dogs need a collar with identification.

We got rid of the dangling tags and much prefer the embroidered or heat-sealed personalization dog collars with the dog’s name and our phone number.

In the photo, Happy the Beagle is wearing his new collar!

With tags, accidents can happen. They can get caught on floor heating vents or a cushion or a blanket.

personalized dog collar with name and phone number

Harness – We’ve had medium dogs for many many years and never did we ever consider buying a harness, until recently. While doing research on different harnesses for this blog, I came upon one style that seem easy to put on and the reviews were great.

I went ahead and bought one to share between the Chocolate Lab and the Husky. When we used a leash attached to the hook on the collar on our Lab, who is 13 years old, we often had to pull or we tried not to pull too much as he would resist and choke. He’s deaf and stubborn! With the new harness, it’s wonderful and so much better for all of us, even the Husky walks nicely.

Dog bed – Yes a dog needs a bed too 🙂 on the floor. Again you’ll find all kinds of styles and prices. I bought one at Costco which was not very expensive. We also have an old dog chair and an old foam mattress on the floor for the dogs.

Crate – If you get a puppy, you definitely need a crate to contain and train it properly. We’ve only ever had two puppies over the last 30 years. Our Chocolate Lab is still using his as his “house”, and he’s 13 years old. Find out how to choose a crate here. Our other dogs are rescues and older and afraid of the crate.

You can find good deals on second hand crates on Facebook Marketplace, Kijiji or Craigslist or local garage sales.

Toys – You can get overwhelmed by all the toys available for dogs! It’s better to buy one or two different ones initially to see what your dog likes. There are soft, hard, round or long toys, balls of all sizes, just to name a few.

Tennis balls are not recommended as dogs tend to rip the outer liner and ingest it which could cause a blockage. Also, not a good idea to get a squeaky toy because your dog might chew the toy enough to let the squeaky thing inside get out. If your dog decides to eat it, a visit to the vet will definitely be called for.


A brush: A dog will need to be brushed often. Some dog breeds required to be groomed professionally.

Shampoo: You’ll need if you’re giving your dog a bath yourself.

Nail clippers: You’ll save money if you can do it yourself and your dog let’s you do it. Otherwise, a groomer will offer that service, usually it’s pretty cheap. Sometimes, pet stores will offer it for free on a special day. Nails need to be trimmed about every 1 1/2 month or so.

Tooth brush and paste: It’s important to regularly brush their teeth. Not easy sometimes, but the dog tooth paste usually taste good to them.

First Aid: Hot spot spray, ear cleaner, wound antiseptic, bandages

Pooper scooper and Poop bags – A scooper is used to pick up poop in your yard at the end of the day or every other day. With three dogs using our backyard as their bathroom, my husband does the round once a day. You’ll need bags when you walk your dog on the street. We bought those at the dollar store because they’re cheap.

Recurring Costs


You should discuss vaccinations with your vet to decide which ones are best for your dog. The one required by law is for rabies which is given in two occasions when the dog is a puppy and then every 3 years (here in Quebec, Canada, but could be different where you live.)

If your dog will go to a kennel, will attend group training, or will go to dog daycare, it most likely be a requirement that the dog has received his vaccin against Bordetella .


Heart worm and flea/tick medicines are given as preventative and it’s up to the owner to decide whether or not to administer. Ask your vet for advice.


Dogs should eat twice a day, one meal in the morning and one at dinner time. There are many food options to choose from. Dry dog food comes in different bag sizes. You’ll find ingredients, quality and prices will vary. Canned dog food can be expensive depending on the size of your dog. We use both, adding only a little bit of canned food with sauce on top of the dry food.

We buy a big bag of kibble (25 lb) for the Husky and the Beagle, as they both eat the same and this bag will usually last about three weeks. We buy special more expensive food (from the vet) for our Chocolate Lab who suffers from a kidney disease.

The expense for the food will largely depend on how many dogs you have and the size of the dog(s).

Some dog owners opt to give raw food or cook human food, which will be more costly.


You’ll need some kind of treats, especially if your dog needs training. You’ll find cookies (of all sizes) and chewy stuff. You can buy those at your grocery store or a pet store.

Pet Insurance

Yes pet insurance is available and it’s not cheap. Some swear by it as it helped pay for very expensive surgeries. Like any kind of insurance, it’s up to you to choose that option or not. It’s a good idea to get quotes from different companies and compare prices.

Extra Expenses

Unexpected vet bills

You can never foresee what might happen to your dog: broken leg, herniated disk, an obstruction because of what the dog ate, kidney or liver problems, or minor problems that still require a visit to the vet.

Dog walker

If you work all day, you’ll need to pay for a dog walker to come in, usually twice a day.

The recommended length of time a dog can be left alone depends on its age: puppies: maximum 2 hours a day, 18 months and over: 4 to 6 hours a day, and a senior dog: 2 to 5 hours a day.

Doggie Day Care

The other option if you work all day is to find a doggie day care close to you where the dog will enjoy the company of other dogs and play with toys all day or half days. Yes, just like a toddler’s day care!

Dog babysitter

Will you be travelling? Or go on vacations once or twice a year? You have a choice of boarding in a kennel or a dog sitter either in your house or at their house.

We used a kennel only once, for our first dog, a Golden Retriever, while we went on vacation. When we came back, she had lost weight as she had refused to eat. She was not used to being locked in an enclosure. Never again did we use a kennel.

For years, we sent all our dogs, all three of them, to a lady who took care of them in her house and her huge fenced backyard. It was fantastic.

But for the last three years, because our senior Lab is more comfortable in his own stuff, we have someone living here while we’re gone. We’ve known her for a long time and trust her completely. She posts pictures and videos of our dogs on her Facebook page while we’re away so we can check up on them.

Fenced yard

Of course that’s not an expense everyone will consider. We did so when our daughter was two years old and we bought our Golden Retriever puppy. It was not only for the dog but for my daughter as well. We felt it was safer having a fence so she could also play outside with the dog.

Furniture repair

A puppy or a chewer could do damage to your furniture and it will cost to either replace it or having it repaired. You might want to restrict access to specific rooms. In our house, the dogs are not allowed in the dining room or the living room.

Carpet cleaning

Carpets are not very convenient when you have pets. Dogs are bound to have accidents and carpets are hard to clean manually and very expensive by professionals. The smell of pee might remain for a while.

Bottom Line

To answer the question “Is Owning a Dog Expensive?” as you can see, it can be expensive. Although, as mentioned above, the amount of money you’ll need to spend will vary depending on the many factors listed.

If you don’t think you can afford a dog at the moment, you might want to consider another pet for the time being.

*Top Featured Image: Pixie – Thank you Marya