What are unexpected costs for a small dog?

In Backpacking & Traveling by CarolineLeave a Comment

Before you consider getting yourself any pet, really, you should definitely think about the costs involved with it. For small dogs, it is even more important to think about the expenses. Many people think about getting themselves a small pup because they have the perception that a small dog will not be as much work as a big one, hence also less expenses.

There are the obvious costs, like for buying the dog in the first place, for food and the occasional vet appointment. But what about further unexpected costs that you didn’t consider?

In this post I would like to give you some indications of what to be prepared for. This way you can put some money aside for your pooch every month so you don’t get hit by any unexpected expenses.

Spoiler: a small dog will cost you about $116’000 during his whole life! I bet you didn’t think it would be that much, did you? Now let’s find out, where those costs come from exactly.

Obvious costs

Buying a small dog

The price to buy a small dog can vary drastically, depending on what kind you want. Should it be a purebred? Is a crossbreed fine or would you like to adopt a small dog?

Purebred dogs are certainly the most expensive ones. Their prices can range anywhere from $500 to $3’000, while toy breed puppies usually cost the most, since they only have small litter. Popular crossbreeds (e.g. Maltipoos, a mix between a Maltese and a Poodle) will usually cost between $500 to $2’000. To adopt a small dog from a shelter you should expect to pay a few hundred dollars, on average about $500, depending on the size and other aspects. The shelter will usually charge more for small dogs and also for puppies or generally purebred dogs.

Bare in mind that the majority of the costs charged by breeders or shelters are the actual expenses that they had.

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.


As a rule of thumb, a small active dog needs about 40 calories per pound per day. So if your doggy weighs 10 pounds (5 kilos) 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 on 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 (you should feel your dog’s rips easily when touching his rib cage without pressure. If you can’t feel them easily, your doggo probably has to much). More active dogs will need more than couch potatoes. Good dog food will cost you about $2 or $3 per pound. So if we add that up for an average dog that weighs 15lb (7.5 kg) your monthly costs for dog food will be around $20 to $40.

Dog bed, toys and treats

Of course, every pup needs his bed(s), toy(s) and regular treats. A regular dog bed costs about $50 to $100, toys about $5 to $10 per piece and treats 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.


As soon as you get your new family member, you will probably have to see the 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 around $500 aside. This is the best case scenario, where your dog is healthy and didn’t have any accident or any other health issues.

Unexpected costs


If you have a very active dog like my miniature poodle 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 is also a great way to potty train your puppy because dogs naturally don’t pee on their sleeping places, unless absolutely necessary. But bare in mind that you might not only need a crate for at home. If you can take your dog to work, it is 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 will also need a crate for your car since this is the only real safe way to transport your pooch.

So you should think of getting at least three crates. The ones for your home and the foldable ones will cost you about $80 each and the ones for your car cost about $200.


I know, many small dog owners think that training a small dog is unnecessary since they can do no harm whatsoever. Well, I have a very different opinion. Especially if you would like to go backpacking with your doggo or would like to bring him along on other adventures, some training is essential. Of course, the basic obedience can be trained by yourself but if this is your first dog, I highly recommend visiting a dog school in order to properly train your pupper. 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.

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 woollen items. And they will love the ones most that you love 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/woollen 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.

Daycare or care while on holiday

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 counts 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 bare 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 weekly costs for your dog.

Surgeries or other health issues

Surgery costs always depend 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 over his entire lifespan.

Expected lifespan

Also important to consider is a small 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. So it’s a good idea to calculate the annual costs for at least 15 years. The older your doggo gets, the more likely the occasional vet appointment will become.


All the costs listed above will most likely be faced by most small dog owners. If we add up all the costs, we end up at the following expenses for a expected lifespan of 15 years:

  • Buying a small dog: $2’000
  • Food: $5’400
  • Dog items: $4’000
  • Vet with a healthy dog: $7’500
  • Vet with a healthy dog: $7’500
  • Crates: $500
  • Training for 6 months: $700
  • Replacing your items: $1’000
  • Petsitter with a fulltime job: $90’000 ($30/day, 5 times a week, 40 weeks a year)
  • Surgeries: $ 5’000

This leads us to $116’100 for a full lifespan of 15 years for a small dog or $7’740 per year.

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 small dog!

Optional costs

Pet Health Insurance

A pet health insurance isn’t compulsory. In general it is probably also not worth your money. But if you have a dog that has chronic health issues, it can be a worthwhile investment. The average monthly costs for the insurance vary between $30 and $50.


Depending on your 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.

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