There's no doubt that adding a furry companion to your family is one of the best life experiences for both you and your kids. Puppies bring so much joy to their families and no one can deny they're incredibly cute, fun, and offer unlimited amounts of love and entertainment. But puppies are also expensive and require a lot of work and patience if you want to get the most out of your relationship. So if you're looking to add an adorable new family member, how much does a puppy cost? Here's everything you need to know about bringing home your new addition.
This Saturday, March 23 is National Puppy Day and Rover.com has polled dog owners across the United States to see how much it cost them to bring their new puppy home in their official "Cost of Getting a Puppy" report. I also chatted with a couple of Rover.com experts to see what brand new puppy parents should really expect. Nicole Ellis is a Rover.com puppy lifestyle expert and AKC professional certified dog trainer, and Dr. Gary Richter is a Rover.com veterinary health expert — both want potential dog parents to understand the commitment it takes to help your pup live their best life.
First, the financial commitment is steep and ongoing (but totally worth it). If you're thinking about adding a puppy to your family, it's important to know what you're getting into financially so you can give your pup the best life possible. The break down of the report states that "early one-time expenses average to be $1,487," which includes a laundry list of one-time expenses like adoption fees, microchipping, spay or neuter surgery, a bed or crate, and puppy vaccinations among other things. Dr. Richter says that vaccinations begin at 8 weeks of age and getting your pup fully vaccinated is "critical to their health." While there may be some special "non-core" vaccinations that are required or suggested for your dog based on your geographic location, "all puppies should be vaccinated for distemper, parvo, and rabies," says Dr. Richter.
Keeping your new family member happy and healthy is going to cost you an average of $153 per month according to the report, which is way more than expected for most new dog owners. The things that will be added into your new monthly expenses are food, toys, flea and tick prevention, heartworm prevention, treats, poop bags and dental care chews. In order to keep those monthly expenses as low as possible, Ellis suggests setting up a "Puppy Zone" in your house and introducing your dog to it immediately upon arriving home. Your "Puppy Zone" should be set up with their crate (if you choose to use one), safe toys to play with, snuggly blankets, potty pads, chew toys, dog bed, and a baby gate to close off the area.
When it comes to food, keep in mind that your monthly cost could be more depending on the breed of dog. Dr. Richter points out that different breeds have different nutritional needs. "Small to medium breeds (less than 50 pounds as an adult) should be fed 'regular' puppy food. Dogs whose adult weight will be over 50 pounds should be specifically fed large breed puppy food" because of their fast growth rate.
In addition to your monthly pup expenses, you'll also have annual expenses that will cost you an average of $730 just to visit the vet for a healthy pet checkup and pet insurance. There's also potential additional expenses that will cost you an average of $1,000 which goes to grooming, dog training, a pet deposit for your apartment, emergency vet visits, teeth cleaning, a pet license (some states require a license to be able to own a dog), and pet sitting. Bringing you to an average total of $3,370 if you want to get a dog. Keep in mind, these are just average costs. If you live in a metropolitan area where the cost of living is already high, you can expect these numbers to be much, much higher. But as a dog owner myself, I can fully attest that these sweet companions are truly worth every penny.
And don't forget about some of the changes you will need to make in your lifestyle. As if the cost wasn't expensive enough, the report also states that "nearly 70% of pet parents spend half their day caring for their puppy in the first few weeks" and "one in five dog owners took time off work to help their puppy adjust." Ellis says, "you’ll want to consider the time commitment a puppy takes and how it will impact your lifestyle, travel schedule, and day-to-day plans." She explains that puppy parents will also need to be patient as both they and their puppy adjust and get to know each other. "If your work and life schedules allow, plan to take off at least one full day when you first bring your puppy home. If you can, work from home for a few days. Being there as much as possible in the beginning will help solidify your bond and you’ll be grateful for the time to help your puppy settle in," she says.
Another thing to consider before making the big leap is what type of breed will be a good match for your family and lifestyle. "When it comes to finding a good match, it’s important to consider your expectations and the dog’s individual needs," Ellis says. There are lots of compromise that go into raising a puppy well beyond financial cost and taking time off work. Ellis explains, "[puppies] also require a lot of training as well as [your] willingness to lose a shoe, cushion, or favorite heirloom to those developing puppy teeth, not to mention the lost sleep of managing all that energy." Just like having kids, right?
Not to fear though — these expert tips will help you feel confident and prepared when you take your furry friend home. "Spring or summer are the optimal seasons for adding a four-legged friend to your family, as warm months make housebreaking easier, and they give you the added benefit of longer and sunnier days for walks and playtime," Ellis says. Upon arriving home, she recommends taking your puppy to their "potty spot" right away and when they go, praise them immediately with lots of love and of course, a delicious treat. After, encourage them to go to their "potty spot" every two hours. Ellis says dogs can only hold their pee for one hour per one month of age so, a 3-month-old puppy should be encouraged to go potty every 3 hours. Remember, accidents are going to happen, so be prepared to clean up a few messes. (Add paper towels to your expense list.)
Keep in mind, coming to a new home is new and exciting for the puppy, too, so make sure their first day is quiet and stress-free. Ellis makes a good point when she says, "there’s plenty of time for visitors later." Getting through that first night may be a challenge, but Ellis suggests helping them feel safe by placing a familiar smell in their crate when it's time for bed. "On their first night away from mom, they’ll be overwhelmed by new smells. You can help make them feel at home by placing a mama-scented t-shirt or towel in their crate."
Raising a well adjusted dog is also important for both your family and your puppy. Dr. Richter says that socializing your dog with other friendly, healthy and fully vaccinated dogs is a great way to encourage positive social behavior, but the optimal social window is before 14 weeks of age so it's best not to wait too long. "Introducing puppies to new experiences at a young age expands their horizons and creates a better-adjusted dog," says Dr. Richter. He also advises against taking your unvaccinated pup to "dog parks, sidewalks, or anywhere there is dog traffic you are not in control of. The risks of disease are too great."
When it comes to introducing your new pup to the kids, Dr. Richter says to be patient and take things slow. Make sure your kids handle the puppy gently and give the pup lots of positive reassurance. "If you want your puppy to comfortably interact with children, they should meet [him] in a positive and reassuring manner," says Dr. Richter. Ellis wants to remind new dog parents not to be afraid to ask for help. "Having a puppy can be incredibly challenging. Puppies have a lot in common with human babies — they need company, activity, and lots of interaction. Sometimes they cry or have accidents as they learn how to be in the world," so don't be afraid to hire a recommended and qualified pet-sitter for at least three months, especially if you work full-time. If you need assistance or have extra questions, be sure to check out Rover.com's Puppy HQ.