Ready to adopt a dog? That is the question more and more millennials are asking themselves as job opportunities grow scarce, rent prices go up, and cultural norms shift. As a result, many are looking to dogs to fill that nurturing void.
According to a 2016 survey by the research agency Mintel, as many as 75% of American 30-somethings own a dog—that’s 25% more than the overall population. And if they’re not ditching kids altogether, nearly half of millennial pet owners see their fur children as starter kits for the real thing.
But raising a dog is no easy task. Puppies require a great deal of time and attention. Then, of course, there’s the challenge of leading a normal social life when all you want to do is hang out with your dog-child/best friend. So, if you have ample time and the desire to adopt a dog but are still wary of the costs, check out this breakdown of how much green you’ll realistically need.
Note: For super optimistic purposes, we’ve based our estimates on a dog who lives to 17 years of age. Also, just keep in mind that there's truly no limit to the amount of things you can buy for your pup. These are the biggest ticket items to keep in mind when making your decision.
Initial Costs: Free to $5,000
The cost of procuring a puppy ranges wildly depending on your source. Getting a purebred dog from a breeder can cost you thousands of dollars, while adoption fees at a shelter can be as low as $25. There’s always the option of finding a dog for free on Craigslist or through a friend. But, beware, a lack of paperwork could signal underlying health problems or shady breeding practices. (Disclaimer: I paid a $200 rehoming fee for my Craigslist pup and he’s the best thing that ever happened to me.)
Price recommendation: Check out a local shelter first. It will not only help a homeless pup find a new home, but will also save you a lot of money in the long run (and we promise you'll receive just as many puppy kisses either way).
Food: $1,500 to $7,000
When it comes to raising a healthy dog, food is easily your most common expense. Fancy bags of dog food can set you back $35 a month while buying store-brand kibble in bulk can reduce the cost to as little as $5 a month for a small to medium-sized dog. But be warned: Like people, dogs can suffer from allergies too and require special food. This will cost you extra, such as this Gastroenteric Fiber Balance Formula by Purina, which will cost you a cool $130 a bag. But hey, your dog will get all its complex carbs in each meal, so worth it.
Price recommendation: Ask your vet what's best. If your dog really, really needs grain-free food fine, but otherwise a great all-natural dog food will do just fine.
Housing: Free to $300
Most dogs don’t require extra space, and even many large dog breeds can find themselves happy in a small apartment—granted they get plenty of outdoor time and exercise. At most, you can expect to pay a couple hundred bucks for a dog bed (and even a few thousand for a fancy crate). But if you’re like most dog parents, they’ll probably end up in your bed anyway.
Price recommendation: Check out stores like Marshalls and TX Maxx. Both stores have amazing home goods sections and an incredible selection of not only dog beds, but treats and toys too, all at a fraction of the cost of a big box pet store.
Veterinary Care: $3,600 to $7,000
After the initial cost of getting your dog spayed or neutered, healthcare costs are pretty minimal with routine checkups setting you back about $200 a year at most. I’d also include flea medicine, which costs about $50 every three months, though there are “all-natural” alternatives you can check out, too, for not much more. You can opt for pet insurance if your dog is accident prone or chronically ill, and Consumer Reports has a good guide for figuring out whether it’s worth the cost.
Also key is to have a little cash set aside for emergencies. Take, for example, my own financial pain after a $3 Christmas elf chew toy turned into a $1,000 vet bill when my pup accidentally swallowed its felt scarf. Lesson learned: It's not what you plan for, it's what you don't plan for that can bust your pet budget.
Price recommendation: Check out a few pet insurance options. Most will set you back $20-$30 a month and will save you a lot of heartache and cash if something catastrophic happens. The peace of mind is well-worth the cost of a few cups of coffee a month.
Travel: Free to $85,000
Besides the occasional visit to the vet, dogs don’t really need to go anywhere. However, if you travel a lot and need to leave Fido with a sitter or decide to take him with you, expenses can rack up quickly. No dog should be left alone for too long. And if you work away from home all day, expect to pay a dog walker $15 to $30 to check in on your pup. For example, the figure above is what you’ll fork over in the long run if you require a $20 dog walker every weekday, 50 weeks a year, for 17 years.
Price recommendation: Try starting a dog exchange with a friend or two. When you all travel, you can swap babysitting responsibilities for free. If that doesn't work out sites like Rover can help you find the perfect sitter at the best price.
Education: Free to $600
While your dog might not be heading off to college any time soon, a little bit of training never hurt even the goodest of doggos. If you have the time and patience, it’s free to teach your dog the basics of sitting and staying. Or you could hit up your local pet store for some assistance. Petco, for instance, also offers dog training courses for dogs of any age and ability for $119. Consulting high-profile professionals for problem children—er, dogs—will set you back a bit more.
Price recommendation: Test out Petco first. It's a great first step for dog training and may be all you need. But if your pup needs more, splurge on the training.
Miscellaneous: $1,000 to Infinity
This is the fun part of owning a dog. From toys and treats to tiny Hawaiian shirts and biodegradable poop bags, there’s no limit to the ways you can spoil your dog. Especially during their puppy phase when toys are vital to their development, you really can’t have too many tennis balls and bones. Just be sure you pay the extra few bucks for high-quality chew toys (see note in veterinarian cost above).
In sum, a dog will require about $6,000 on the lower end to cover basic needs. If you depend on dog walkers during the week or opt for a purebred dog, expect that number to climb into the tens of thousands. As with human children, you can expect a few costly hiccups along the way as well. All of that being said, the costs feel marginal compared to that inexhaustible well of unconditional love.