How to find – and afford – unconditional love. If you’re considering bringing home a new puppy, here’s how to do the math.

DThe property of og can reduce stress, help fight depression, and is associated with better outcomes for heart attack survivors. Despite the therapeutic benefits, a dog is not a tax-deductible medical expense. (Sounds unfair, doesn’t it?)

Before venturing out “just to look,” it’s a good idea to take a cold, serious look at the costs of owning a dog. No judgment if you get the steps a bit out of order. I did too.

Costs can vary wildly, and you have the most control before choosing your new companion.

Pets are full of surprise expenses. You might find that your new friend destroys couches or gnaws at baseboards when he’s bored and lonely. Yet there are predictable costs and often ways to save.

Housing issues

Check with your home or renter’s insurance to make sure your policy includes the breed or mix you want. Some have restrictions on breeds and/or weight, and owning a pet may require a non-refundable deposit and potentially higher monthly rent, says Kellye Pinkleton, director of pet public policy for the Humane Society of the United States.


It may be free if a shelter waives the fee, but normally you will pay something. If you are looking for a purebred puppy, you could pay thousands for it. Pinkleton says choosing a dog from a shelter or shelter can significantly reduce initial costs, since most pets are already microchipped and spayed or neutered. A shelter can also make recommendations based on an animal’s specific needs to help you choose an animal that’s a good fit for your family and activity level. Kelly DiCicco, Promotions Manager, ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) adoption center in New York.


You will need a collar, a leash and a bed at a minimum. You may need a jacket, brushes, harness, dog doors, gates, and maybe a fence. If you’ve ever had a dog, you may still have plenty of supplies. Most dogs need toys. It can be as simple as a tennis ball in a sock or it can be a subscription service that sends out toys every month. If floor cleaner isn’t on your list, maybe add it, along with an odor eliminator and pee pads. How to save: Check online marketplaces for items you can clean and sanitize. Friends whose dogs are too big for puppy crates may also be able to help.


Big dogs eat more than small dogs. Again, small dogs tend to live longer. According to the Canine Journal, you should expect to pay between $120 and $500 per year for dog food. How to save: Compare the prices of foods recommended by veterinarians. Mail order or store brands can save you money without compromising on quality.

Routine veterinary care

Wellness exams can cost between $20 and $85, according to Canine Journal, and that’s before preventive flea and tick treatments, fecal exams or vaccinations. Heartworm, flea and tick preventatives are expensive. Expect to pay over $300 a year for the Heartgard and Nexgard brands. The costs of both increase with the weight of the dog. How to save: The Humane Society has a list of proposals and potential resources. Don’t: Skip annual exams to save money, says ASPCA DiCicco.


Check if this is required in your region. It’s usually less than $30 per year if your dog is spayed or spayed. How to save: Check for discounts based on owner income or age.


If you’re home most of the time, or have a laid-back dog that can be left alone or long enough for work, you might not have to pay a dime. But if you are called back to the office, be prepared. Plan to spend around $25 per day or $15 per half day; another option is to hire a dog walker, but this may not save money.


Accommodations can range from living in a crate at the vet to a small room with a leather couch and TV. Costs can range from free to almost $100 per night. The economical option: A friend or relative who wants a dog and would jump at the chance to have temporary custody of yours.


While it’s possible you’ll get a dog with good manners, you’re more likely to have to teach it. There are many resources online, many of which are free. You can find low cost training at pet stores. Or, you can pay for house training or boot-camp type training where your dog goes on board for a week or more and comes back knowing the basic commands. These cost $1,000 or more. Although you can train your own dog for free, it takes commitment, consistency, and practice. And sweets. Make sure these are also within your budget.


Some dogs – looking at you poodles, doodles and huskies – require a lot of grooming. Hiring a professional every 6 weeks or so can get expensive – up to around $90 before tipping. You can save a little by choosing a breed that requires minimal grooming (hi, beagles and Italian greyhounds). Or, you can buy grooming equipment and learn how to do it yourself.

Emergency expenses

Dogs eat things they shouldn’t, injure themselves playing or fighting, or otherwise send you to the emergency clinic panicked and sweaty. The costs can be enormous. Pet insurance can help. I fixed the cost of insuring my young healthy 16 pound hybrid dog, and it was $22.30 per month with Healthy Paws. (If he had been 10, the rate would have been $45.72.) That was with a $250 deductible. If you decide not to insure yourself, it’s a good idea to have an emergency savings account.

Serious or hereditary disease

These can be expensive. Dogs can be treated for diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, glaucoma and more. Again, insurance can help. However, pet insurance doesn’t cover pre-existing conditions, so it’s a good idea to buy it while your dog is young and healthy.

The benefits of having a furry friend can be incalculable, but the costs along the way shouldn’t surprise you. And being prepared can help you make decisions with your dog’s well-being in mind. But ultimately, says the ASPCA’s DiCicco, “financial circumstances alone are not reliable indicators of a pet’s ability to love and care for.” You’ll need some money for the basics, but a love ability counts too.


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