Thousands of dog owners would agree that owning a dog is one of the best life decisions you will make but the fact is, they are not cheap! There are many costs involved in dog ownership – let’s break down the costs and have a look at the cost of owning a dog.
Dogs are a big commitment
Let’s start by determining one thing: dogs are a long-term responsibility. They become members of the family. You don’t disassociate yourself with your family because it doesn’t fit your lifestyle any longer.
Remember to consider all aspects of pet ownership before making that emotional and financial commitment.
Benefits of owning a dog
Pets and other animals are excellent for children’s development. Physically, through exposure to dander, allergens, and germs, as well as genuinely exercising them, and also psychologically because they provide companionship, empathy, and the opportunity to take responsibility for caring for them. It may appear harsh at first, but learning about grief and the circle of life when pets die is also an important life lesson and opportunity for discussions about managing difficult emotions.
- Companionship for all family members
- Exercise opportunities with dog walking and play
- Life span increase – seriously! People who own dogs are statistically less likely to suffer from heart disease and other major health complications.
- Puppy/dog emotional therapy!
- Increased social opportunities
- Dogs teach shared responsibility – for family members and for those in a couple
- Improve psychological and physical developmental outcomes for children
- Dogs are natural family/home protectors
- Life long bonding with your animal
Drawbacks of dog ownership
- The cost of getting a new puppy can be thousands of dollars upfront, plus council registration, equipment and immediate medical costs.
- Ongoing living costs can easily exceed $1500 per year.
- Unexpected vet bills can be in excess of $10,000!
- The average life span of a dog is about 10 years, so be prepared for that commitment
- Potential of behavioral issues (such as digging, barking, chewing, aggression) if the dog is bored or unstimulated
- Wear and tear on your home, clothes, shoes!, furniture, carpet, rugs, etc
- Management of dogs that are not desexed – unwanted aggression, pregnancy etc
Getting a puppy
Aside from the initial cost of a puppy, there are additional dog costs such as:
- The cost of the puppy itself
- Good quality puppy food and treats
- Bedding and blankets
- Transport solutions
- Sleep crate
- Meal equipment and bowls
- Household fencing and doggy doors
- Toys for play and teething
- Dog leash, collar, muzzle and harness
- Council registration fee
- Microchipping and regular vaccinations
- Desexing cost
- Puppy preschool and training
- Pet sitter or doggie daycare for when you go away
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Ongoing Cost of Owning a Dog
The first years
Costs can add up in the first few years!
Cost of new puppy
Depending on the dog’s breed and whether you’re getting a pure bred or not, expect to pay anywhere between $500 – $10,000!
One-off equipment costs
Initial expenses for things you require up front:
- Dog bed: $50+
- Transport bag and/or sleep crate: $100+
- Food/water bowls: $10+
- Toys: $20+
- Treats for training: $20+
- Leash, collar, harness: $100+
- Kennel : $200
Depending on your home and your setup, you may or may not need fencing solutions, gates, doggy doors etc. This is optional and depends on your home, but it is a consideration and could cost thousands.
Total: $0 – $5000? +
You may need to replace toys that get worn out, leads, beds or collars they grow out of.
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This depends on the council and the area but costs for council registration can vary from $50 – $500.
Total: $50 – $500
This varies but is still necessary for all dogs. Microchipping, worming, vaccinations, flea treatments and desexing, as well as regular health checks are all vital and the costs add up! This can be $1200 up front and then routine vet visits can be $200 per visit. Don’t forget the unexpected emergency vet bills which can be HUGE!
Avoiding these costs can be detrimental to the health of your pet.
Total: $2800 ($1200 upfront on a plan plus $1600 ongoing)
Puppy pre-school is not vital, but it is a good idea for the socialisation and good training of your dog. Usually starts anywhere between 8 weeks, up to 16 weeks. Cost can be around $180 for 4 lessons, one hour each but this varies.
RSPCA suggests approx. $170 for about 10-12 half-hour classes, but expect to pay up to $250.
Total: $170 – $250
Wear and tear
This will be different for every dog and every household but puppies do destroy things! Shoes, walls!, rugs, toys, cords if you’re not careful, etc.
Total: $0- $500
The cost for food will vary a lot depending on whether you choose to cook for your dog yourself, buy premium food, supermarket food, or a mixture. Don’t forget the treats too!
There are online calculators that can estimate how much food they need based on their weight.
You can spend hundreds on your pup on just food in the first few months.
Total: $1000 (1 dog for the first 2 years)
The Cost of an Adult dog (2y-10y)
Costs tend to stabilise when the dog reaches adulthood. This can be approx $1000 per year per dog during these adult years.
- Regular food costs – $500 per year. (This cost can reduce with multiple dogs)
- Annual vet checks – $400+
- Toys: $100 per year
- Annual council fee: $40-200
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The golden years (10y+)
Things start to slow down in the Golden years! Less energy, more sleep, bones get weaker and usually more health complications.
Usually, vet bills cost more, and there may be less food consumed as they are less energetic, but you may spend more on luxuries – bedding, comfort etc.
Increasing veterinary costs
Dogs vet bills usually increase as they age. More frequent checks, specialist dog food, dental care, medication, emergency surgery etc.
Total: $2000 p year
Total lifespan costs of a dog
Based on my experience, I have estimated:
- $3000 per year (0-2 years)
- $1000 per year (2-10 years)
- $1800 per year (10y +)
Based on a lifespan of 15 years, this is a total cost of around $23,000 each, or about $1500 per year.
Just expect the unexpected, however! In my own and my friend’s experiences, emergency surgery can cost more than $10,000 for one procedure! Just ensure you consider emergency costs in your budget!
The cost of adoption
Stray or abandoned animals are taken in by charities and shelters like the RSPCA, which provide treatment to stray, surrendered, seized, and abandoned dogs. Rescue shelters seek to find a good home for these dogs who may otherwise be put down.
You may help to break the cycle and limit animal cruelty and damage by adopting a rescue dog.
Only donations from the general public, government funding, and volunteer workers and veterinarians are enough to keep shelters open. Unfortunately, the less financial support they receive, the more animals are euthanized as a result of a lack of space, food, or other resources to care for them.
The average adoption fee is $500, according to sources such as the RSPCA and PetRescue.com, with puppy costs exceeding adult dogs. The cost of adopting a rescue dog ranges from $500 to $1000.
One disadvantage of adopting a dog is the psychological trauma it may have endured. They might have been maltreated and there’s no way to know their history. This means it’ll take longer to establish trust and develop a solid friendship, as well as minor ‘teething’ difficulties like a fear of collars or leads or aggression toward other dogs.
The cost of fostering a dog
For those who wish to contribute their time, energy, and resources to the opportunity of having a dog in their own home, fostering may be the answer. I believe fostering dogs is a respectable cause that can also be a cost-effective method to have a four-legged companion at home.
Every organisation has their own procedures but usually:
- You acquire the dog and agree to give him or her basic care and attention, such as exercise, playtime, and training.
- You agree to pay for the dog’s food, but you often get free bags of or subsided pet foods from sponsored pet stores or straight from the shelter.
- The fosterer or shelter reimburses the dog’s registration and medical expenses.
- A foster home or shelter might give you with a mattress, a leash, a collar, and a couple of toys as well as some essential items like a bed.
- Sometimes, depending on the age of the dog and any stress or trauma it has experienced, the shelter may cover puppy classes or specialized dog training or rehabilitation sessions.
- The Fostering period is usually a few months whilst the dog is advertised for its ‘fur’ever home.
- Many shelters and rescue groups offer ‘Foster-to-Adopt’ programs, which means you may generally adopt your new furry companion for free if they suit in well with your family and you fall in love.
Average: $500 per year (pet food, toys, bed etc)
Pet Health Insurance; is it worth it?
Pet insurance is a type of “private health insurance” for your dog that covers emergency costs. Pet insurance premiums vary depending on your coverage level, deductible, and excess. It can be between $800 – $1200 per year.
Usually, you can claim back about 80% of your vet bills under these insurance schemes but usually, you need to pay upfront, then claim it back. There’s an excess to consider as well.
We crunched the numbers and decided it wasn’t worth it in our family. We opted to self-insure based on our total costs, elapsed number of ‘dog-years’ (i.e. the time we’ve had our dogs), and risk tolerance.
In my opinion, it’s best to have an emergency fund of $10,000+ to cover these kinds of emergencies. Pet insurance can mean you end up spending more than you usually would, but this is very individual.
Summary – Cost of owning a dog
Dogs are fantastic. I believe that the value and richness they add to your life and family (particularly your children) greatly outweigh any monetary expenditure necessary to keep them.
For pet owners though, the expense is significant.
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