By Rachel Semple
After growing up with a family dog, it was difficult to go through four years of college without a little furry companion. When I finally graduated, I spent months looking at adorable dogs on the Humane Society’s website, vacillating over whether or not I was ready for one of my own. There’s a difference between a family dog and MY dog. I tried to think about it less emotionally and more logistically. So I asked myself: Did I want all of the vet bills, all of the responsibility, all of the early morning and late night potty trips? I already knew I wanted all of the cuddles, all of the playtime and all of the puppy love.
Having a pet is one of those things that is great in theory, but when you break it down, it’s a huge responsibility and it’s hard to know if it’s the right time for you to be a pet owner. For me, it kept coming back to “Am I ready for this?”
The first thing to take into consideration when you’re getting a dog or cat is the start up cost. If you’re planning far enough into the future, you can save up a little every month until you’re ready because the start up cost can be pretty steep, especially if you plan to buy from a breeder. Depending on whether you plan to adopt or buy from a breeder, there are a lot of financial costs to keep in mind.
The Adoption Fee
The adoption fee of a shelter dog typically includes the first year of vetting, a microchip, and a spay or neuter surgery. The adoption fees for an adult dog usually range from free, thanks to donations and sponsorships, to about $500 on average. My dachshund’s adoption fee was in the middle of that range - $250 at the Humane Society. Keep in mind that adopting a puppy or young dog from a shelter will typically be more expensive due to the rarity and desirability of younger dogs.
A brand new puppy straight from the breeder will be much more expensive than adopting a dog from a shelter. Depending on the breed, purebred puppies often cost between $500 to $1,000 when they are bought from a reputable breeder. Super specialized and rare breeds can be even more expensive, like the Dakota Sport Retriever puppy that my brother bought. On top of that, the cost to buy a purebred puppy does not include most vet care, so you’ll also have to take care of spaying or neutering, microchipping, and vaccinating your puppy all on your own. Ultimately, if you’re sold on owning a purebred dog you should have extra money saved up, as they’re an expensive investment.
Added Fees to Consider
The start-up cost of owning a dog also includes buying essentials. My first trip to PetSmart was quite the doozy. Dog food, treats, leash, harness, a bed and crate, plus a couple toys left me crying internally at the register when my bill totaled up to more than $250 - more than the adoption fee for my new dog, Brit!
Another thing take into consideration is your living situation as apartment complexes or rental houses frequently have pet security deposit fees, administration fees, and monthly “pet rent” to add into your total as well. More about monthly fees of dogs below.
Breaking Down the Costs
When it comes to the yearly cost of owning a pet after the initial investment, it varies depending on size and health of your furry friend. It can be as low as $500 yearly with necessities including routine vet care, treats, food, and toys, or significantly more for a larger dog or if you include emergency vet care, pet sitters, doggie daycare, a dog walker or grooming services. According to Kiplinger, mixed breed dogs around 10-20 pounds tend to be the least expensive.
After dividing the low end up of that range monthly, it’s good to budget at least $50 each month for your dog’s costs (not including monthly pet rent fees). Some months will cost more--when your dog has a vet visit or dental care--and some months may cost less. But it’s most important to think ahead: When you have a less expensive month, set aside $50 in a savings account for future vet bills or emergencies.
If your heart is set on adopting a dog, ultimately it’s most important to do your research first and to not make a rash decision that you may regret later on. Not only should you do research on the dog itself, but you should also figure out how much you will be spending both at the time of purchase and monthly/yearly. Though dogs are wonderful additions to add to your life, they are also an investment that can’t be taken lightly.