Let’s kick this off by saying, yes, canine companionship is priceless, and we can’t imagine our lives without our furry friends.
But, if you’re thinking of owning a dog, you probably want to know what you’re in for, in terms of monthly costs. In real, concrete terms (even if we can’t put a dollar value on their love).
Dogs are our friends, but they’re also our responsibility. We need to provide them with food, water, shelter, playtime, veterinary care, and companionship, and some of that doesn’t come cheap.
So, what is the average monthly cost of owning a dog? The short answer is “it depends”. The slightly longer answer is, between $100 and $500 a month. That’s a big range, so let’s dig into the details with the longer answer.
Initial Costs of Owning a Dog
Before you can spend a monthly amount of money to take care of your dog, you first need to own a dog. These initial costs will be much higher than your average monthly costs.
There’s a clear-cut difference between adopting, vs purchasing a pedigree-level dog. The latter can set you back around $500 to $3,500 based on the breed you decide on. Meanwhile, adopting costs notably less with an average of $200 to $450, sometimes even $0.
First, there are vaccinations that you’ll want and/or need to get, such as a rabies shot that is required by many cities.
You’ll also want to get flea and tick prevention. The medication costs about $40-$200. You’ll also want heartworm prevention medication, another $24-$120. Both prevention methods will need to be applied yearly or every six months. Other vaccinations can go for about $100 to $250. Overall, you might expect a total cost of $170 to $550.
While reputable breeders should provide medical records showing that your new puppy is in good health, this doesn’t always happen. Likewise, shelter dogs won’t have a complete medical history. So the initial vet visit is important to make sure your pup is happy and healthy (and is a good opportunity to ask any questions you might have about their diet or exercise needs).
While you’re at the vet, you can also get your pup microchipped for $40-80.
If you want to save money in the long-term, you can consider pet insurance. This will allow you to cover either emergencies, or regular visits, or both with a yearly fee. For a lot of pet owners, the cost equation ends up making financial sense. For more information, check out this post on types of pet insurance.
Home and Bed
Of course, you’ll want a warm welcome for your new family member. You’ll want something that’s easily washable so they can sleep in a bed that’s both cozy and clean.
Dog beds can run anywhere from $25 to $200. My top recommendation (what my dog sleeps in, and what I buy for friends and family) is this dog bed that costs about $60 for a labrador-sized dog.
If you want to get really fancy, we’ve got a post of bespoke dog beds for your dog to snooze in style.
Your dog will need to eat and drink so of course you’ll want food and water bowls (another $10-$50). To reduce the hassle of having two separate bowls, you can opt for a two-in-one food and water bowl.
After getting a dog, you’ll need to pay for their license. This cost can vary from state to state. The average licensing fee is $14.
As mentioned earlier, you can save money on vet costs by getting pet insurance. You can save money on other initial costs by shopping for deals, or by asking your friends and family for hand-me-down dog items.
No, not all hand-me-downs are a good idea–you don’t want anything in bad condition. But plenty of dog owners either upgrade their pup’s stuff, or have recently lost a pet, and would like to see the usable items go to a good home.
Average Monthly Costs of Owning a Dog
Now that we’ve talked about the initial costs, let’s look at the long-term. Here are the average monthly costs of raising a dog. All together, monthly dog ownership costs are about $100/month, with the caveat that there’s a lot of variation depending on your dog’s needs, and your lifestyle.
Food and Treats: $37/month
The first item on your purchasing list should be your dog’s food. Like most other products on this list, food expenses can go over or below the average cost based on a dog’s size and weight. A pocket-sized Chihuahua wouldn’t be fed the same as a towering Great Dane.
According to an Ameritrade study in 2020, food is the biggest expense of dog owners at about $442 a year total, or about $37 a month. With the rise of new dog food options delivered fresh to your door, this cost can vary wildly.
Of course, your pup is a very good boy or girl and deserves treats.
Vet Visits: $20/month
Going to the vet doesn’t necessarily amount to a monthly cost, since it’s mostly annual checkups. These visits can include flea, tick, and heartworm prevention medication as well.
The average yearly cost in the US is $241 a year, or $20 a month. However, this is very dog-dependent. Some breeds suffer from more medical issues than others, and some dogs (like their people) are more injury-prone.
If you find yourself spending more than the average, you should consider pet insurance to help lower your overall costs.
Americans spent an average of $122 on grooming per dog in 2020, or $10/month.
This is another area where the variation is hidden in the average: if you’ve got a Poodle, Afghan Hound, or other beautifully-groomed breed, you’re probably paying quite a bit for professional grooming services. Grooming sessions can cost $40-90 each time.
Other Supplies: $9/month
This category covers everything outside of food, such as:
- Dog food bowls
- Potty pads
- Kennels, beds, or other items
- Poop bags ?
Several of these items are longer-term purchases (such as a nice dog bed) that average out over several years.
All totaled, Americans spent an average of $109 per year on this, or $9 a month.
The next highest category of spending was not insurance, accessories, or training, but: gifts or “splurge” items. This might include toys or specialty treats.
Gift spending in 2020 averaged out to $5 a month, or $63 per year.
Pet insurance: $5/month
We’ve mentioned pet insurance a few times already. According to the Ameritrade survey, Americans spent nearly as much on pet insurance as they did on gifts per year: $62 a year, or $5/month.
Clothing and Accessories: $5/month
Higher quality can help spread out the costs over several years. Americans averaged $59/year on pet clothing and accessories, or just under $5/month.
Dog care: $8-9/month
This means dog boarding, dog walking, and training classes. While all these choices are optional, you should check the costs. You never know, an occasion might arise where you’re in need of a sitter.
If you board your dog for the night, it might cost around $35. A dog walking session might run up to $20 per 30 minutes. Meanwhile, training and obedience classes can cost $40 to $100 per class.
Survey respondents said they spent an average of $103 per year on this ($48 for kenneling and daycare, $38 for training, $17 for walking). This works out to about $8-9/month.
Monthly Cost Summary
What is the average monthly cost of owning a dog? The answer, on average, is $100 a month, or $1201 a year, according to the 2020 Ameritrade survey.
But average does not mean everyone, and you and your pet’s needs may vary. For example, you may spend less on dog training (and do it yourself) but spend more on grooming. Use the above information and adjust for your situation. If you know that you need more dog daycare than the average pet owner, factor that in before you take on the responsibility of a dog.
We hope that going through these costs in-depth has helped you understand the financial responsibility required for owning a dog. While costs can run high, it all depends on your dog’s size, breed, and individual needs.
Nevertheless, you can’t put a price on the amount of happiness a dog would bring to your life!