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How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

Asking yourself, "How much does it cost to adopt a dog?" Expenses for adopting a dog go way beyond the initial adoption fee. Let’s take a closer look.

Sassafras Lowrey  |  Dec 18th 2018

How much does it cost to adopt a dog? Dogs are so cute that sometimes new pup parents don’t think beyond the initial adoption fees. Let’s look at some of the costs and issues to consider when asking, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?”

Why “Free Adoptions” Aren’t Truly Free

Sad dog in a cage or shelter. Photography © | Getty Images.

Free-adoption events are great … but no dog is truly “free.” Photography © | Getty Images.

When you think, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” you might immediately think of free-adoption events or Clear the Shelters-type events. These events are wonderful ways to get dogs adopted and make room for other deserving homeless pets at shelters. However, if the cost of adopting a dog is what’s stopping you from adopting a dog, it might mean you aren’t ready or able to make the financial sacrifices you’ll need in order to properly care for a dog. It’s not that adopting a dog isn’t a great thing to do — but it’s important to ensure that you’re financially ready to adopt a dog. From vet bills to food to training, caring for a dog properly isn’t cheap!

Rescuing a dog is an incredible way to add a new member to your family. Rescue dogs can also be full of surprises — and some of them are expensive. From unknown trauma to behavioral issues that will require life-long training and management, it’s important to ensure you’re financially prepared before welcoming a dog into your household.

For example, living in a high-density apartment proved too stressful for my rescue dog, and my partner and I had to sell our apartment and purchase a house for her. Although her adoption fee was only a few hundred dollars, my rescue dog is probably the most expensive dog I’ve ever shared my life with!

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog? First, the Initial Adoption Fees

The first expense that comes with adopting a dog is the adoption fee. This differs depending on a few factors like where you live, if you are adopting through a city shelter or if you’re adopting through a private rescue organization. Adoption fees can be free, relatively low or up to several hundred dollars. Many shelters and rescue groups charge steeper adoption fees for puppies, as well as for purebred dogs and small dogs.

Adoption fees might seem steep, but they are very little when compared to how much the shelter or rescue has paid to care for the dog you are adopting. Rescues and shelter organizations must provide food and veterinary care, as well as training and sometimes rehabilitation for dogs and puppies before they are adopted. The adoption fee usually also covers spaying or neutering the dog. Adoption fees also ensure that people adopting dogs are ready and able to take dog care seriously.

Dog Supplies

Another thing to consider when thinking, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” The supplies you’ll need for your dog! When you adopt a dog you’ll want to have basic supplies, including an appropriately sized crate, high-quality treats and food, toys, dog beds, dog bowls, sturdy leashes, harnesses, collars and ID tags.

Dog Food

Dog food is another major expense to keep in mind when wondering, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” While the costs of dog food vary, the good, general rule is that you should feed your dog the best dog food you can afford.

Dog Training

Training shouldn’t be considered an optional expense when adopting a dog. Some shelters and rescue organizations provide discounts for basic manners training classes, which are great places to start. Depending on where you live, dog training classes cost anywhere from $100 to $300 for a six-week classes.

Private training, which you may or may not need, is an additional cost — but often very worth it. Trained dogs are happy dogs, and trained dogs are able to function as much happier and safer members of families and communities. Sport classes like trick training, scent work and agility are all great ways to bond with your newly adopted dog, and great ways to build a dog’s confidence.

Dog Walking / Dog Sitting

Working at a 9-to-5 job? Planning a Fido-free vacation in the upcoming months? If you work away from home during the day, chances are you’ll need to look into a dog walker or doggie day care. And, if you want to travel without your dog, you’ll need to find, book and pay for a dog sitter. Prices for these services vary depending on where you live, but they can add up!

Vet Bills

Do you have an emergency vet on call if your dog has an accident?

Vet bills for dogs can add up. Photography by Fly_dragonfly/Thinkstock.

Another major cost to consider when thinking, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” Vet bills!

“Adoption fees themselves can range anywhere from $50 to $250, but that is not the only cost to consider when adopting a new dog,” explains Jordan Holliday, Brand Marketing Specialist with Embrace Pet Insurance. “The first thing that new pet parents should do when they adopt a new dog, is schedule a trip to the veterinarian to ensure their new pet is healthy. Their first vet visit may be up to $300 if the new pup needs ‘the works.’”

Vet bills are an ongoing expense for your new dog and you’ll likely make frequent vet visits if the dog that you adopt is young. “Pet parents that have adopted a puppy can plan on visiting the vet every few weeks until the puppy is about 16 weeks of age, which can add up quickly, and these are just the initial costs,” Jordan says. “The first year of dog ownership can be $1,000 or more, depending on the dog’s specific needs and size.”

You’ll also want to plan for the unexpected — surgeries for knee injuries (common in large active dogs) can easily be over $5,000, not to mention any hospitalization, or other major illnesses.

Pet Insurance

Expensive vet visits and unexpected vet bills are reasons why new dog parents may want to look into pet insurance plans. “Embrace policyholders can choose any vet in the country to take their new dog to, and Embrace will reimburse for any illness exam fees, prescription drugs, diagnostic testing, hospitalizations, surgeries and more,” Jordan advises. 

Ultimately, research different pet insurance companies to see if one is the right fit for you. Some pet insurance plans don’t cover dogs who have existing medical conditions, or dogs who you intend to train in sports like agility. Read the details of any pet health insurance plan before buying into it to ensure it is a good fit for your new dog, and will offer you the best amount of coverage. Pet health insurance plans work similar to human health insurance. You pay a small monthly premium in exchange for being able to have larger bills covered by the insurance.

Help With Vet Bills

Concerned about needing help with vet bills as you adopt a dog? One option is to begin setting aside money in your household budget to cover expected and unexpected expenses. Putting money aside each month in a doggy savings plan will help with covering everything from routine care to emergencies.

Still worried about how much money you can put aside each month? Look at pre-qualifying for a Care Credit Card. Care Credit is a credit card specifically designed to cover routine and emergency veterinary procedures. Here are a few more options for finding affordable vet care.

How to Save on Dog Supplies

If you know you want to adopt a dog soon, start purchasing dog supplies like leashes, collars, etc. items slowly and before you adopt. Watch for sales online or at local pet supply stores. 

The Bottom Line on, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?”

The answers to, “How much does it cost to adopt a dog?” depend on many different factors like your lifestyle and a dog’s age, health and any preexisting conditions. The best way to ensure you’re ready to adopt a dog financially is to take all factors into consideration and budget accordingly.   

Sassafras Lowrey is an award-winning author and Certified Trick Dog Instructor. Sassafras lives and writes in Brooklyn with her partner and a senior Chihuahua mix, rescued Cattle Dog mix, Newfoundland puppy, two bossy elder cats and a semi-feral cat. Learn more at

Thumbnail: Photography by wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.

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