When people first look into getting a purebred puppy, it seems like one of the top concerns is the purchase price. As part of multiple dog-related groups on Facebook, I see this topic come up occasionally, with people asking what is the “appropriate” price to pay for a purebred puppy from a breeder, or if a specific price is too high. A debate then ensues about what is too high, what is too low, what it means about the type of breeder (reputable vs backyard vs puppy mill), etc. Eventually, someone will comment that it doesn’t matter if you pay $500 or $2,500 for your puppy, because the overall cost of owning a dog makes that initial number seem like pocket change.
And that is the truth.
Now, I’m not going to argue that a questionable breeder charging $10,000 for a “designer” dog is correct. But from what I’ve researched, a lot of puppies from breeders are in the $1,000–$2,000 range. Probably more like $1,500–$2,500 even. (Full disclosure: we paid $1,800 for Zara and $2,000 for Colombo.) And at the end of the day, paying an extra thousand dollars at the onset is something you’re not even going to think about two years in.
Dogs Are Expensive
Caring for dogs is expensive. Before we got Zara, our vizsla, Chris asked me to make a spreadsheet to estimate the one-time and yearly costs of having a dog. I wrote down the obvious items: purchase price, crate, bowls, leash, collar, training classes, toys. I looked at several different types of food and estimated the cost for a year of each. I had no idea how much to estimate for vet visits, so I wrote down $150. Total. Like the total we would spend for the life of the dog. What was I thinking?! More on that later.
I also didn’t add in dog walking, boarding, or daycare. Again, I don’t think I had faced the reality that both of us worked full-time jobs that kept us away from home 9–10 hours a day. At the time, Chris had some flexibility and was able to work from home a few days per week, so perhaps I was focusing on that and thought we’d figure out the rest later.
Our Dog Budget in 2015
My estimated costs were nothing compared to what we have spent on Zara and Colombo (our Rhodesian ridgeback) over the years. Until Zara was 2.5, we lived outside of Washington, DC and spent a minimum of $400 per month on Zara, or $3,600 a year.
The breakdown per month was as follows:
Food: $55 (average-priced high quality kibble)
Daycare: $140 ($35 per day, once a week)
Dog walking: $80 – $120 (once or twice per week)
Bully sticks: $70 (12″ sticks, one per day)
Heartworm/flea medicine: ~$12 (average cost per month)
Toys/treats/other: Whatever was left over ($3 – $43)
Maybe you’re thinking, does my dog really need daycare and dog walking? For us, the answer was yes. When we lived near DC, we were gone from 7:45am to 6pm on the days we had to go to our offices. That’s more than 10 hours a day. With a young, highly active dog, having her go to daycare once a week felt like a necessity. And I did not feel comfortable having her go without a pee break for 10+ hours on the other days. We were fortunate to be able to work from home 2–3 days a week between us. So our walking/daycare costs were not as high as they could have been. At the time, neither of worked close enough to make coming home at lunch to let Zara out feasible.
As for the bully sticks, Zara got one every night while we were eating dinner. A 12″ stick would buy us at least 20 minutes of peace and quiet. We were willing to pay for the privilege. Again, this was always after a trip to the dog park or a run. But on the days when she’d been alone for 10 hours, she wouldn’t settle down until it was practically time to go to bed.
As you can see, that $400 a month did not go too far. Any vet expenses were additional. We have had pet insurance since Zara was six months old, but there’s still a lot of out-of-pocket vet costs. We usually can’t leave the vet without spending less than $100 for an illness. So realistically, we probably spent on average $450 a month or $5,400 a year.
Our Dog Budget Now
Now that we have Colombo and live in Raleigh, our budget looks a little different. I feed a homemade raw meat diet to both of them, so our food costs are higher than they would be on a kibble diet. But we believe that’s best for them, so we choose to spend extra there. We also both work at home now, so our daycare/dog walking costs are much lower. However, we currently budget about $700 a month total ($350 on each dog) or $8,400 a year. This includes the vet costs for the most part. Our current budget has a little more wiggle room in it, but there aren’t many months where we have extra.
The Total Cost of Owning Our Dogs
Add all these numbers up and what do we get? We’ve probably spent at least $27,600 on Zara since we brought her home 6 years ago, and $10,500 on Colombo (he’s only 2.5). That is kind of crazy when you add it all up! I know that our experience is not representative of all dog owners. I’m presenting these numbers to give you an idea of how much you might spend on a dog since I found it hard to find this information when we first started thinking about getting a puppy. But believe me, its very, very easy to spend a lot more! I haven’t even mentioned the costs you might have if you have a performance dog. Specialized training classes, equipment, and entry fees all add up quickly.
So if you are looking at getting a new purebred puppy, please consider the lifetime costs in addition to the purchase price. And if there is $500 or $1,000 separating a questionable breeder from a responsible breeder who does health testing on his/her dogs, is committed to helping you for the lifetime of the dog, and is not breeding simply to make money, please go with the responsible breeder. Just as most things in life, you typically get what you pay for.
How much did your purebred puppy cost? Let me know in the comments.