Budgeting for a new dog


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Adopting a new dog can be one of life’s more memorable days. Whether the pup is a big fluff ball or tiny tail wagger, a dog owner’s life is sure to change once their new best friend comes home.

Amidst the early excitement and all those puppy kisses, many first-time pooch parents aren’t fully prepared for the cost of owning a pet. New owners could be left wondering: “How much should I budget for a dog?”

Budgeting for a dog can be an important step in the pet adoption process. Coming up with a dog budget might even help a new owner prepare mentally and financially for caring for a pet in real life.

Related: How much is pet insurance?

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Costs to Prepare For

The first year of dog ownership could cost between $1,600 – $2,000. That amount, it’s worth recalling, doesn’t even include the initial adoption fee (which can run upwards of hundreds of dollars at many shelters or rescues).

Ready for a new four-legged pal? Here’s an overview of things owners may want to pet budget for.

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1. Adoption Costs

The initial cost of adopting a dog can vary greatly depending on if the dog comes from a shelter or purchased from a breeder. To name one example, Animal Humane Society sets its standard dog and puppy adoption fees between $118 to $667.

The fee cost varies, as some dogs (such as purebreds) are in higher demand and the organization needs to cover the the cost of caring for animals who may take longer to adopt out (such as older dogs).

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What Fees Cover

At many pet rescues, adoption fees also cover the cost of extra services, like a pet physical exam, deworming, spaying or neutering, or common vaccinations. Meanwhile, buying a Goldendoodle from a breeder costs an average of $2,100.

Purchasing a pet from private breeders, often, does not come with the extra services that some non-profit rescues cover. So, if an owner is considering the breeder route, the out-of-pocket cost of future medical visits, may be one more dollar sign to add to the eventual pet budget.

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2. Food and Treats

Some the tiniest puppies can morph, in just a few months or years, into heftier eating machines. Young puppies can grow quickly. And, all that fast growth can mean they’ll eat. … A lot.

So, food and treats can also play a significant role in a new dog budget. Individual dog budgets can vary based on the size of the pooch and type of food each owner opts to feed their pet. Food choices might include dry kibble, wet food, a raw food diet, or some mix of each.

What to feed a dog is all a personal choice between the owner and their veterinarian. However, if someone is looking to estimate the potential cost of feeding a new dog, the American Kennel Club estimates that pet parents can expect to spend between $100 to $500 a year on dog food.

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3. Toys

Toys may seem like a silly little add-on, but they can play an important role in puppy development and adult dogs’ mental stimulation.

Toys can help dogs fight boredom when they are left at home alone and comfort them if they’re agitated. (With toys to gnaw on, dogs may be less likely to turn to shoes for a midday distraction.) Absent pricey dog brands, a simple tennis ball will satisfy many dogs.

And, a dog owner can grab a can of three tennis balls on Amazon for about $6. However, the cost here can also depend on just how quickly an individual dog chews through the balls. So, a pet owner may want to budget in a small amount, say $50 a year or so, to buy their pooch some toys.

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4. Pet Sitters or Walkers

Traveling with a pet? It may be a good idea to consider a dog walker or pet sitter. This person can be a trusted friend or family member, a neighbor, a kid down the street, or a professional hired services.

Even if it’s a friend, a new pet owner may want to budget in a few dollars to pay this person. Doggie daycare can run $20 or more per day, so it can be helpful for owners to know how many days each month they might need a dog sitter.

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5. Incidentals

A lot of smaller expenses can come with owning a dog. Incidentals to budget for include things like, collars, leashes, dog beds, cleaning supplies, crates, pet bath products, and the all-important groomer.

Some may want to build in another cushion in a pet budget to cover the above-mentioned items, too. Pet I.D. tags and registering a pet with the city are extra costs to bear in mind. (For reference, it can cost between $8.50 and $34 a year to obtain a dog license in New York City.)

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6. Routine Medical Visits

Dogs, like humans, need regular medical check-ups. Just like a human exam, dogs need blood drawn to check for diseases, routine vaccinations to prevent disease, and a general physical exam once a year to make sure their health is in working order.

Some pet organizations estimate this visit can run a pet owner between $100 to $300, but it can vary greatly depending on where the person and the pup live (and the age or breed of the dog). Given that variation, it can be helpful to budget at the higher end of that range (just in case).

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Preventative Medicine

Beyond the vet visit, pet parents may also want to add in a budget for preventative medicine. Depending on where an owner lives, a veterinarian could recommend a monthly flea and tick medication, along with regular heartworm medication, to prevent the dog from becoming afflicted. 

Flea and tick meds can range from $100 to $200 a year while heartworm medication averages $180 a year.

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7. Pet Insurance

While pet insurance won’t cover routine veterinary visits, it could come in handy if an emergency occurs with the pup.

For example, a new dog could eat something that causes it to get sick—like, ingesting pieces of a chew-toy or snatching food with bones in it off an owner’s plate (or street).

Many pet insurance plans will cover a portion of medicines, treatments (including surgeries), and medical interventions that aren’t tied to a pre-existing condition.

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Pet Insurance Benefits

Paying monthly for pet insurance, while the dog is young, could save an owner hundreds or thousands of dollars as a dog continues to age as well. (Generally, pet insurance costs less when a dog is younger).

Pet insurance may cover things like ingesting harmful items or food, accidents, urgent care, and—in some cases—preventative medicine. The cost of pet insurance can vary by breed, age, and any other health history.

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8. Emergency Fund

Things just tend to happen with dogs around. They can accidentally knock things over with their tales, swallow objects. and need an emergency vet visit. Dogs can do a lot of damage in a short amount of time (ahem, chewed up leather shoes, ahem).

But, guess what? All that trouble can be worth it for a lick on the face, a little playtime, and coming home to a happy dog. Planning ahead for a pet budget can help new owners focus on those tail-wagging moments with Fido instead of stressing over canine costs.

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