What is the lifetime cost of a dog? Probably more than you think

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lifetime cost of a dog

Chances are that you’re underestimating the lifetime cost of a dog!

Yep, that’s just the truth.

It happened to me too and apparently, we’re not alone. In fact, the majority of pet owners underestimate how their beloved furry friend will cost over a lifetime.

And that can have drastic consequences. Imagine being unable to pay your dog’s vet bill for a cancer treatment. Or even just for routine vaccinations…

I don’t want that to happen to any of you because this must be one of the most terrible feelings there are!

This is why I’m writing this article so that you’re prepared for the average lifetime cost of your dog.

So, here’s the quick answer: The average lifetime cost of a dog over an expected lifespan of 12 years is $26,540. If you include a petsitter, the lifetime cost for your dog can go up to $106,160. These expenses can vary largely on your dog’s breed, needs and behavioral issues.

What is the lifetime cost of a dog?

So, I’ll start by showing you the “normal” lifetime cost of a dog. That includes everything most soon-to-be dog parents normally expect.

Then I’ll go over some unexpected costs so that you can really take all of that into consideration.

How much does it cost to buy a dog?

The cost to buy a dog can vary drastically, depending on what kind you want. Purebreds are naturally more expensive than crossbreds. Adopting a dog is certainly the cheapest way to go.

Purebred or crossbred dogs

Prices for purebred dogs can range anywhere from $500 to $3,000, while toy breed puppies usually cost the most, since they only have small litter.

Some larger breeds can be very expensive, too, as you can see here. A Samoyed can cost up to $11,000! I paid $2,800 for my Miniature Poodle Baloo and I though that was expensive…

Popular crossbreeds like Maltipoos or Labradoodles will usually cost between $500 to $2,000.

Adopting from a shelter

When you adopt a dog from a shelter you should expect to pay a few hundred dollars.

The average is about $500, though it depends on the size, age and other aspects. The shelter will usually charge more for small dogs and also for puppies or generally purebred dogs.

Before you get yourself a new furry friend, be sure that they come from a good breeder or shelter where the dogs are properly taken care of. High costs don’t always equal high quality. So, a background check of the breeder or shelter is crucial!

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Dog food

The cost for dog food depends a lot on your dog’s size and the kind of food you feed him.

As a rule of thumb, a small active dog needs about 40 calories per pound per day. So, if your doggy weighs 10 pounds (4.5kg) he will need 400 calories, which equals about 3.5 oz (100g).

If he weighs 20 pounds (10 kilos) he will need 800 calories (about 7 oz or 200g).

This rule is applicable for a healthy, average-weighed adult dog.

If your pup is overweight, you shouldn’t use this rule as an indicator because it will only lead to him becoming even more overweight.

In order to find out if your dog is overweight, touch him on the sides. You should be able to feel your dog’s rips easily when touching his rib cage without pressure. If you can’t feel them easily, your doggo probably has too much.

Larger dogs need less, on average about 30 calories per pound. And of course, more active dogs will need more than couch potatoes. So, this is really just the average.

Good dog food will cost you about $2 or $3 per pound. So if we add that up for an average dog that weighs 55lb (25kg) your monthly costs for dog food will be around $60 to $90.

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Dog bed, toys and treats and crates

Of course, every pup needs his bed (or more than one!), toys and regular treats.

A regular dog bed costs about $50 to $100, toys are about $5 to $10 each and treats come to about $20 per month.

If you have a very destructive little one, you will probably have to replace some toys or beds, so these costs can become monthly costs instead of once-in-a-lifetime expenses.

In those cases a subscription model for dog treats and toys such as BoxDog could be a great option for you.

You only need to subscribe once and you get a box every 3 months delivered to your house. Definitely the easiest way to make your dog happy!

I particularly like BoxDog because of 3 reasons:

  1. They send their boxes quarterly, so you don’t get overwhelmed by piling treats and toys from receiving a box every month.
  2. Each box contains handmade cookies.
  3. You can build your own box, so you can choose exactly which toys your dog likes. How cool is that?

They currently even have a limited promotion going on where you get a free dog mat with your first box. Get your first box here.


Dog crate

If you have a very hyperactive dog like Baloo, a crate is essential!

As a puppy, I would only let him sleep in the crate because this was the only way for him to calm down. It’s also a great way to potty train your puppy because dogs naturally don’t pee on their sleeping places, unless absolutely necessary.

Related article: Your dog suddenly hates his crate? Do this!

But bare in mind that you might not only need a crate for at home.

If you can take your dog to work, it’s a great idea to have a foldable one that you can also use in other places (e.g. at a friend’s place if your dog has a really hard time calming down).

Further, you’ll also need a crate for your car since this is the only real safe way to transport your pooch. I talk more about this in my guide on traveling with a dog in a car.

So, you should think of getting at least three crates. Each crate will cost about $80.

Average cost of vet visit for a dog

Now, let’s talk about another very important expense: vet cost. In this section, I’m only talking about the average yearly cost of vet visits. Further down below, I’ll also go over unexpected vet costs.

As soon as you get your new family member, you’ll probably have to see your vet for vaccinations. The initial package will cost you around $200. For more detailed information, click here.

For the additional yearly refreshers and check-ups, you should set aside around $500. This is the best case scenario, where your dog is healthy and didn’t have any accident or any other health issues.

Also make sure to check out my article on how to pay vet bills, even in emergencies. Over there, I’ll be showing you ways to come up with money for vet bills if you don’t actually have it.

Plus, I’ve written a post with even more ways to save on vet bills.

Speaking of the vet: Have you ever thought about getting pet insurance for your dog? No? Then check out my article on the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?“. Or go straight to PetAssure for a cheap alternative to get 25% off each vet visit!

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Unexpected lifetime cost of a dog

Okay, so far, nothing has surprised you much, right?

Now, let’s look at some further lifetime cost of your dog you might not have taken into consideration.


Yep, dogs need training!

While you can do it yourself, I highly recommend you get some guidance. This can be a dog training class, a private dog trainer or an online dog training course.

Dog schools are also a great way for your dog to interact with other dogs and humans, learn to deal with unexpected objects or situations or manage all sorts of obstacles. It will generally help your dog to become an even-tempered little one.

If you take group classes, this will probably cost you about $30 per class and it can take up to 6 months until all the commands are settled.

In case your dog shows behavioral problems you might have to take additional private lessons. Private lessons will be at least $100 per hour.

However, you can easily start on something much cheaper!

I found a dog training course that is perfect to deal with all behavioral issues by providing enough mental stimulation. It’s called Braintraining4dogs and was created by dog trainer Adrienne Farricelli. At $47 this is a real bargain, since it’s absolutely value-packed!

This is the course I wish I had when I first got Baloo. Instead, I spent hundreds or even thousands of dollars on dog schools, training books and even private dog trainers! Well, I guess in retrospect, you’re always smarter…

If you teach basic commands like sit, down, stay etc. yourself, then this is by far the cheapest way to go!

Check it out here and impress your friends and family with your super well-behaved dog!

Your (leather) shoes/bags and other beloved items

Some dogs just looooove chewing and they especially can’t stop themselves if they smell animal products, such as leather or woolen items.

And they will love your favorites the most because they have a strong smell of you.

Most dogs stop chewing on your things if they have enough toys or bones for themselves to chew or when they reach a certain age.

But until then, be prepared to replace a couple of leather/woolen items or also just some other shoes, tables or whatever else your pupper likes to chew on. To be on the safe side, I would calculate at least $1,000 to replace some of your things.

Braintrain4dogs also addresses this issue. So, you might be able to stop that behavior much quicker by applying the right training techniques.

Daycare or care while on holiday

Now, this is a big one!

If you work full-time and can’t bring your furry friend along, you will probably need some kind of daycare, pet sitter or dog walker for him. The same goes for holidays or travels where you can’t bring for dog along.

A daycare per dog will easily set you back between $30 to $50 per day. So, if you need daycare for five days a week, that can be up to $800 per month. If you only need a sitter for a few days a week, an hour-long walk will probably also do. This will generally cost you about $20 to $30.

These are probably the highest unexpected costs for soon-to-be dog owners. So, always keep your work situation in mind and try to figure out if you could bring your dog along to the office or if you have a family member or friend who could take care of him sometimes. This way you can drastically drop your monthly costs for your dog!

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Surgeries, health issues and pet insurance

Additionally to your “normal” yearly vet expenses, you also need to think about possible surgeries, other health issues or pet insurance.

Surgery costs always depends on the dog’s size and weight. So, you will usually end up paying a little less for a small dog. Regardless, even a small surgery will easily cost a couple thousand dollars.

The costs to spay or neuter your dog range from around $150 to $250. In case your dog ever has an accident or faces other health issues requiring surgery and medication, I would calculate at least $5,000 to $10,000 over his entire lifespan.

Related article: How much do dog x-rays cost at the vet?

As you can see, these expenses can quickly skyrocket. They can ruin you if you’re not prepared!

This is why I highly recommend you get a pet insurance as early as possible! The average monthly premium is between $40 and $50. Young, healthy dogs can get much cheaper rates, though.

Pet insurances cover up to 90% of your vet costs. So, this can literally be a life-saver for your dog in case he needs an expensive surgery.

In my article about the question “is it worth getting pet insurance for dogs?” I go more in-depth on this topic.

Of course you can also self-insure by simply putting money aside each month. Keep in mind that puppies often get themselves into trouble. So, you already need some savings when you get him.

If you chose this route, then I highly recommend you get PetAssure. You only pay about $7/month and get 25% off of every vet visit! No deductibles and no exceptions.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, check it out for yourself.


Depending on your dog’s breed you might have to see a groomer at least every 2 months. Some breeds don’t shed so you regularly have to get your dog groomed. This will cost $60 to $80 per session on average.

However, you can also do that yourself. That’s what I do with Baloo. So, you only have to get a brush, a clipper and scissors. All of that probably won’t get over $100.

Expected lifespan

One last important point that you need to consider is your dog’s expected lifespan.

Small dogs generally become older than their bigger brothers and sisters. The average lifespan for a small dog is about 13 to 15 years. Some breeds, such as Jack Russell Terriers, Toy Poodles and Chihuahuas, have an average lifespan of 16 to 17 years. There are reports of dogs becoming 20 years or even older.

Larger breeds don’t get quite as old, but 12 or 13 isn’t unusual for Labradors, Golden Retrievers or German Shepherds.

So it’s a good idea to calculate the annual cost for at least 12 years. The older your dog gets, the more likely the occasional vet appointment will become.


Okay, so now we’ve covered pretty much every kind of cost you might run into over the whole lifespan of your dog.

If we add up all the costs, we end up at the following expenses for a expected lifespan of 12 years:

  • Buying a dog: $500 to $2,000
  • Food: $8,640 to $12,960
  • Dog items: about $4,000
  • Vet with a healthy dog: about $6,000
  • Crates: $300
  • Training for 6 months: $700
  • Replacing your items: $1,000
  • Petsitter with a full-time job: $72,000 ($30/day, 5 times a week, 40 weeks a year)
  • Pet insurance: $5,760 to $7,200 (a cancer treatment can easily cost $10,000)

Now, obviously the pet sitter is by far the biggest expense. So, if you can take your dog to work or have a family member help you out, that cost can go to $0.

So, without the pet sitter and always considering the lower options, you end up with a lifetime cost of at least $26,540 for your dog!

On the other end of the spectrum, you can end up with $106,160 over an average lifespan of 12 years for your dog!

Bare in mind that these costs are estimated. If you set yourself a yearly budget of this amount aside, you should be on the safe side. Some dogs will cost less and some will cost even more. However, I recommend that you don’t calculate less than what is listed above before you get yourself a dog!

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