In December of 2012 I was given a very kind end of the year bonus from my employer, instead of spending it on Christmas presents for the ones I loved, I bought myself a dog named Finlay.
Our sweet puppy would arrive on January 10th at the age of 10 weeks old. He had purebred papers, one ’round’ of shots and came with a baggie of dry food, a carrier, nylon collar, and leash. Everything else would be my responsibility.
In addition, in March of the same year (because we are insane human beings) we bought a second puppy, Tesla. At 8 weeks old, this backyard-accidental-litter-golden-retriever-fluff-ball came with no shots, no papers, just a naked puppy and a hand shake.
Obviously there was a price difference between acquiring these two family members, but purchase price aside, there are many factors in caring for a dog (or two) that people forget about. Just like owning a car, every pet has upkeep, maintenance, and hidden fees lurking just around the bend from your initial purchase. These follow up expenses are something we didn’t really think about when a waddling pack of fluff-balls ran towards us and one ‘picked’ me as their owner — but perhaps my expense tracking, once I regained my sanity, may help you decide if you have the time and money it takes to own a dog for the next 15+ years.
Below are the full disclosure financial statements for each of our dogs. Please note, that we recognize our data as being anecdotal and though we’ve done our best to keep full record of all purchases, some may have slipped through the cracks. I will add in extra notes where it seems important to justify spendings. Enjoy!
How much does it cost to buy a Puppy and Pay their Basic Vet Bills?
As I mentioned, I purchased Finn with my Christmas work bonus. He cost $1500.00 and had one round of shots. We decided not to neuter him, but he still managed to rack up $708.26 in standard puppy shots, exams, and flea/heartworm medication (If we had planned to get him neutered, you could add an extra $300.00 to the vet bills.)
Tesla on the other hand was a different can of worms (pun intended, and you’ll see why). We purchased her for $300. We thought we were getting a deal, however, Miss Tesla had worms…which she ended up giving to our healthy Beagle puppy as well. We spent $880.00 on Tesla’s basic shots, her spay, and her dewormer and other medications.
Overall, two healthy dogs for the most part.
Tesla on the left, Finlay is the larger bar on the right.
We spent $1180 on Tesla and $2208 on Finlay, for a total of $3,388.00 to purchase and give basic vet care to our two pups in their first year of life.
How much money do you need to have a Happy* Dog?
So this section I’m going to start by addressing the asterisk after Happy. What I define as happy and what you define as happy might vary. For my dogs to be happy they need the following things: food, toys, treats, a place to sleep, a bowl to eat out of, basic training and a person to walk them when I have to work long hours and cannot let them out to potty mid-day. You’re going to perhaps think we spent to little or too much in some categories, but here’s our chart:
In total, we spent $5,375 on keeping our dogs happy, well behaved, and peeing outside. Money, that in my opinion, was well spent.
How much did you pay to house your dog?
Like most young couples, at the time of purchasing our pets we rented an apartment. We were lucky enough to find a place that would allow not only a large dog, but multiple pets– but it came at a cost.
Between pet rent and deposits (and let’s be honest, you’re not going to get that deposit back if you’re raising a puppy in an apartment) we spent $1,312
Did the dogs destroy anything?
Sigh… these two monsters! Oh yeah. They destroyed a load of stuff, most of which happened during the teething phase, and when our lifestyles changed (like the week we let someone stay in our master bedroom, and we slept on the couch… so the dogs ate the couch, and a pair of my shoes, and a hole in the carpet under said shoes).
When people ask me what it’s like to own a puppy I always tell people to visualize their favorite, most prized possession… maybe it’s a really nice pair of heels, or an expensive one-of-a-kind coat… and then imagine coming home after a very long day at work, just the worst day… you open the door, and there’s your prized possession ripped to pieces, in a pile of pee, and your seemingly adorable fur-ball is wagging at you, completely unaware of the irreparable damage they have done — and they need a walk outside, and it’s raining. That’s owning a puppy.
In their first year of tender, sweet, thank-god-you’re-cute-or-I-would’ve-drowned-you-by-now life our dogs created $1405 pile of destruction, displayed in this lovely pie chart. I broke it down by instance, so you could truly appreciate the amount of times I came home to see collector’s edition books ripped to pieces all over the floor.
What does it cost to cleanup after your dog?
So finally, the last expense category for us: poop, pee and barf cleanup. This isn’t an expensive category, per say, but an important one. Your dog is going to be disgusting, it’s just a fact. They’re just figuring out the rules, and they won’t know that they’re not supposed to drink a ton of sea water at the beach, or that they shouldn’t puke it up everywhere once they get back inside.
Responsible dog owners need three things to conquer this category: Nature’s Miracle, Rags/Paper Towels, and Poop Bags.
I really should write an entire post about why you should always carry a small container of Nature’s Miracle with you as a pet owner, but let me just tell you, this stuff is the only thing I recommend to clean up pet messes. Doesn’t matter what they have an accident on (Finlay once peed all over my shirt in his sleep while we were watching the Super Bowl at my in-laws) you’ll need it to get rid of the odor and any stain, and it helps remove the pheromones animal waste leaves on surfaces (scents that puppies use as a guideline for where they should go). It’s great stuff, we still have it around under the counter for the occasional oopsie, or a new doggy playmate who may get confused about where it’s okay to pee.
In total, we spent $180 in poop bags, and Nature’s Miracle for the first year (which means we went through A LOT of it).
So All Together, What Did We Spend on Our Dogs in their 1st Year?
When I saw this number I was in shock: We spent $11,268 on our two puppies.
Was it worth it? Yes.
Were we ready? No.
Would we do it again? Not right now.
So there’s all the facts. Take ’em or leave ’em.
You may notice some expenses were not on here, for example, we didn’t go on any vacations in the 1st year, so we never had to board our dogs (a cost we now know to be ~$60 a day). We also have dogs that do not need to be groomed, but many breeds need frequent trips to the groomers.
Also, as I mentioned before, our dogs were very healthy and our vet bill were as bare bones as we could possibly make them, without skipping any of the important vaccinations or medications for living a long healthy doggy life.
One Last Note on Purchasing a Puppy
I wrote this piece not to discourage people, but to empower them with the information needed to make an informed decision. Puppies are adorable, but they are a HUGE expense, and need a lot of time and attention to turn into good dogs. As most of us know, there are a TON of lovely dogs who end up in the pound because owners purchase an adorable puppy and do not understand the commitment they are making. A much younger me had to surrender a dog to the humane society and it is something I am still incredibly guilty about.
Please make sure this is a commitment you can take on for 15-20 years. If you can’t promise a dog that much time, either don’t purchase one, or adopt a senior dog.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I hope this post will help you find the right answers for your own unique situation.
-Kris, Brendan and the Furry Children