Why Are Dogs So Expensive? – (5 Reasons Explained)

expensive dog being shown off

NotABully.org is reader-supported. We may earn a small commission through products purchased using links on this page.

Bringing a new dog home is a feeling like no other. For the rest of their life, you will have an abundance of special moments, wet kisses and couch snuggles. But you may notice that pet ownership has you lacking in another area: your bank account!

Pets come with a lot of costs and potential expenses. But why are dogs so expensive?

Dogs need regular veterinary care, daily feedings, and necessary gear and services to live happy, healthy lives. Due to these costs, the price for a responsibly bred puppy can be high, but shelters, rescues, and Facebooks group are great options for obtaining a wonderful dog for less.

How much a dog costs will vary depending on their breed, your location, your lifestyle, and other factors. Dogs will incur costs throughout their lifetime. Let’s look at the 5 main expenses of dogs, and examine just how much a dog can actually cost you.

Expense 1: The Initial Cost

The first expense you will incur when getting a new dog is the initial cost of the dog. In most situations, there is a cost to buy or adopt a dog. This cost is usually used to offset the money that the person or organization spent to care for the dog prior to your adoption or purchase.

The cost of a dog or puppy will vary depending on where you are located, what breed you are looking for, and where you are obtaining the dog. Let’s look at the various options available for when you’re looking to bring home your next best friend!

Option 1: Purchasing a Dog From A Breeder

There are many reasons someone may want to purchase a dog from a breeder. If you are looking for a specific breed for working a job, competing in sports or conformation shows, or just prefer something specific like a bully breed, purchasing a puppy from a responsible and reputable breeder may be the option you choose.

Purchasing from a breeder isn’t inherently a bad thing, but there are several factors to consider and research before you choose a breeder. Puppies from breeders are often more expensive and it can be difficult to find a breeder that matches your values and price point.

Choosing the Right Breeder

Not all breeders operate the same, and unfortunately there are far too many breeders that fail to provide all the necessary physical, medical and emotional support needed for a successful and ethical breeding program. It takes quite a bit time, experience and money to ensure that the puppies they are raising and their parents dogs are happy, healthy and raised with love!

Avoid Puppy Mills At All Costs!

A puppy mill is a “breeding program” (I use this term very loosely) that is designed for profit, not for the long term health and happiness of the dogs. According to the Humane Society’s January 2021 report, there are over 10,000 puppy mills in the US alone. Only about 2,500 of those are regulated by the Department of Agriculture, meaning over 7,000 illegal operations are producing puppies purely for profit. These puppy mills often sell to pet stores for distribution.

Puppy mills are notorious for their mistreatment of their dogs. In the Humane Society’s report mentioned above, over 500,000 dogs are kept in these puppy mills solely to be used for breeding. These dogs usually live their lives in cages, which is no life for a dog. They do not health test or socialize the parent dogs, so the puppies they produce may be born with genetic issues, be riddled with fleas or heartworms, and are often incredibly under-socialized.

You can clearly see the issues with supporting puppy mills, but it is possible to find a breeder that breeds puppies because they love their breed and want to ethically raise healthy pups!

Signs of a Responsible Breeder

Responsible breeders should be breeding for the joy and passion of their dogs, not for profit. While breeders do charge a seemingly large sum for their puppies, most do not make a large profit. For a responsible breeder, this does not matter. It is more important to them to produce dogs that will live long, happy lives.

A responsible breeder will always health check their potential pairs before breeding them, and they are knowledgeable in what their chosen breed should be tested for. These results should be available to potential puppy buyers so they can make educated decisions.

Responsible breeders should be open to you meeting their parent dogs, answer any questions you may have, and have an established program for early socialization for their puppies. Even though many breeders work out of their homes and might be hesitant to allow full tours, you should still be able to see where the dogs are living to ensure they have a good life.

The ASPCA has an excellent guide you can use to “sniff out” a good breeder for your puppy. Beware though, a well-bred puppy from a responsible breeder may take awhile to receive. Responsible breeders only have a few litters a year, have waiting lists, and spend the extra time it takes to match puppies perfectly with their new owners.

Why Do Breeders Charge So Much?

Prices for well-bred puppies may seem extreme, but it’s because breeding puppies is not easy or cheap work. As you read above, breeding quality dogs requires quite a bit of knowledge, time and preparations that can add up in costs.

Championship Lineages

While every pet dog doesn’t need to have show champion parents, a puppy with this lineage is descended from the best of the best of the breed. This is, of course, especially important to owners that are looking to show their dogs in a conformation ring, but pet parent owners may also prefer to opt for this to ensure their dog is of the utmost quality.

This exclusivity comes with a cost, of course. Showing dogs takes time and money, and often does not include cash rewards for winners. Breeders of champion show or sport dogs put a lot of effort into achieving success, and this will increase the cost for one of the very-desired puppies they breed.

Breeding Prices

Breeding is an intricate and costly process. You should always choose a responsible breeder, but the quality of the program comes at a cost. Health tests for both parents, stud fees, health clearances, pregnancy vet visits, ultrasounds, puppies vaccines, and dewormers or even emergency c-sections are all potential costs, and they add up quite quickly.

Whelping puppies is no easy task, either. The breeder will be constantly busy for at least 8 weeks watching after fragile, then curious, then rowdy puppies. Knowledge and experience are invaluable, and good breeders deserve to be paid for the hard work that goes in raising healthy puppies.

Breeders shouldn’t cut corners when it comes to the responsibilities of purposefully breeding a pair of dogs. Following an ethical path comes with a good amount of work and expenses, meaning the cost for puppies is passed off the buyers.

Supply and demand

While you want to avoid breeders that are price gouging just because they can, there are certain breeds that are more in demand than others. These breeds often cost more, but it’s not necessarily because the breeder wants to increase profits.

If it is a rare breed, there are very few dogs even available for breeding, so travel is necessary and stud fees are higher. Or there may be very few breeders in the breed, so they must charge more to be able to go full-time to meet demand. Certain breeds have small litters and simply cannot keep up with their list of buyers. There are also breeds that tend to have more medical expenses or are difficult to breed successfully.

For example, the breeds in the video below are the top ten most expensive. The breeds and reasons may surprising. Even our beloved Rottweilers are on it!

There are many reasons that the demand for a certain breed or line is higher than the supply available, but as a result it almost always increase the price of the puppy.

COVID 19 Effects

Demand has increased, vet care is more expensive, stay at home workers, more backyard breeders have popped up to try to make more money from home.

COVID-19 had a lot of unexpected affects on many different industries. A direct result was the closing of office building, resulting in many people working from home. While at home, people started to long for more companionship, and what better companionship than a new dog?

The American Pet’s Product Association’s National Pet Owners Survey of 2021-2022 showed that 70% of households in the US now own a pet, an all time high. Unfortunately, this demand has also encouraged people to begin “backyard breeding” their dogs to make extra money, and not following the proper protocol to produce happy and healthy dogs. Be sure to thoroughly research a breeder before purchasing one of their puppies.

Cost for Common Breeds

Puppy prices vary depending on the breed and your location. PetBudget.com recently compiled over 48,000 puppy ads for various breeds to find the average price of 151 breeds. They found that over 80% of puppies cost between $500 and $2500. Below are the average prices found for these common breeds:

  • Boxers: $900
  • German Shepherd: $800
  • Great Dane: $1000
  • Labrador Retrievers: $800
  • Golden Retriever: $1000
  • English Bulldogs: $2500
  • American Staffordshire Terrier: $750
  • Great Pyrenees: $550

As you can see, there is a wide range of prices of puppies that come from breeders. It’s important to keep in mind that those prices likely include breeders that don’t follow all the protocols that responsible breeder should, possibly lowering the average price when compared to a well-bred pup.

Option 2: Adopt a Dog

Okay, so good breeders can be expensively, and it seems rightfully so. But not everyone can afford the luxury of spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a dog, even if we love our furry companions. Thankfully, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives! Adopting a dog in need is not only cheaper, but it also saves a life.

Let’s look at all the are the best places to look for a new dog or puppy, but first let’s address the myth that adopted dogs are “damaged goods.”

Cheaper, Not Lesser

An unfortunate thought about dogs not obtained from breeders is that they are available for adoption because of some fault they have. This is not always the case! While it’s true that some dogs are relinquished for behavior issues, this study shows that only about 10% of owner relinquishes blamed behavior of the dog.

The top three reasons were too many animals, housing issues and personal issues, meaning the dogs were relinquished at not fault of their own! The dogs available in rehoming groups, shelters and rescues can be amazing dogs, and deserve a chance to show you how much love they have to give.

Adopt From a Shelter

The best way to help keep pet population down and save a life is to adopt a dog from your local shelter. Shelters often have many adult dogs and puppies available, meaning your chances of find the perfect fit are high. Adult dogs adopted from the shelter are already spayed or neutered, treated. for any past illness or injury and may even have some training experience from their former owners.

Many shelters also offer a foster program, in which you care for a dog in your home and the shelter pays for their vet cafe and sometimes other expenses like food. This lets you find out if a potential dog is a good fit for your home. It often leads to a “foster fail” situation, where the foster dog becomes a permanent pup!

Shelters are an excellent place to start your search for a dog or puppy, especially if you are looking to save some money. According to the Animal Humane Society, their shelters charge anywhere from $129-$767 for dog and puppy adoptions, but shelters often host low cost or even free adoption events!

Work With a Rescue

Similar to shelters, rescues are a second chance for dogs relinquished by owners. Rescues not only take-in owner surrenders, but they often pull dogs from various shelters or other rescues to give them a better chance at adoption. Rescues are sometimes breed specific and have been known to transport dogs hundreds or even thousands of miles to save them!

Rescues tend to charge a similar price to shelters, ranging from $0-$500 on average, and often hold free or low-cost adoption events. A rescue’s adoption process is often more intensive than a shelters may be.  They spend a little extra time trying to match the dog with a perfect owner, and can look at many different shelters to find your perfect dog.

Social Media

It’s likely that you’ve scrolled through Facebook long enough to run into a pet rehoming post, especially if you’re in any kind of community group. Owners needing to find a place for their pets may turn to social media the nearby shelters or rescues are full, or if they want to vet the candidate themselves. More than likely, you’ve  even seen one of your friends or acquaintances rehoming a pet!

People looking to rehome a pet often charge a rehoming fee to deter people with ill intentions, but these fees are often under $100. If you are willing to travel, you can often find dogs that are a perfect match for your lifestyle at a low price.

Places to Avoid When Adopting

There are many places that you can find dogs to adopt, but some places and people are untrustworthy and should be avoided. To be sure that you do not fall victim to these unsavory practices. let’s review how to avoid them.

Retail Pet Stores

Retail pet stores are almost always supplied by puppy mills. These puppies come from parents with little to no health testing, and they often live miserable lives. The puppies also tend to be sick, get minimal veterinary care or socialization. In 2019, The Humane Society investigated 8 random Petland stores, and found extremely sick animals at all 8 stores.

Even though you may feel like you’re saving the puppy, buying them from a pet store is directly supporting the puppy mill. Not to mention that pet store prices are usually outrageously high! Puppies cost anywhere from $2,500-$10,000 depending on the breed! In the long run, these puppies tend to have health issues that can cost you much more down the road.

Avoid Scams

You want to avoid scams that take advantage of people that fall for the cute puppy photos online. Scams can be found on Craigslist, Facebook posts or even false websites. To avoid scams, do not send any money until you see the puppy or can confirm its existence. A “rescue” that requires you to pay to put in an application is also likely a scam.

But What If I Want a Desired Purebred?

Even if you are looking for a purebred dog, adoption is still a viable option. Breed specific rescues and Facebook rehoming groups can help you find the breed you are wanting. They often even have puppies available, especially if you are willing to travel.

Even shelters have purebreds available, about 25% as of January 2021 according to the Humane Society. Some shelters even have programs that help match purebreds to new owners looking for them. You simply sign up with the breed you desire and the shelter calls you if one is surrendered or available for adoption.

Expense 2: Vet Visits and Medical Care

Establishing a strong connection with a vet is essential in keeping your dog safe for the entirety of their life. Whether it be routine care or a health issue, a relationship with a vet is important, but quality care comes with a price.

Puppy Care

Puppies need to visit the vet regularly until they are around 16 weeks old when their first series of vaccines is complete. The average cost for the vaccines is $75-$100. plus the cost of the exam and any other tests your vet may suggest. Low cost vaccine clinics may be available in your area, but it is still advised to have your pup checked out by a vet.

Young dogs will also need spayed or neutered within the first few years of their life. Neutering a male dog is less invasive and less expensive, but still runs anywhere from $75-$300 dollars. A spay is more expensive, running $200-$500, depending on your area. Other costs like bloodwork, medication and complications can add to that bill.

Routine Care

Throughout their life, dogs will need yearly vet visits to ensure they are staying healthy and fit. Most regular vaccines are done yearly, and cost anywhere from $50-$100, although some have been developed recently that are said to last three years before needing a booster. Most adult dogs need only routine vet care unless injured or diagnosed with a chronic illness.

Senior Dogs

Senior dogs are great to adopt, as most of the simply want to snuggle and watch TV with you. Even your young puppy will be a senior dog someday. They can incur expenses, and sometimes quite a lot of expenses. Senior dogs may develop things like arthritis, cancer or other chronic issues as they age.

They may need surgeries to repair joints, medications to treat health conditions and a special lifestyle or diet to accommodate their aging body. The expenses can add up, but it is all worth it for a long life with your best friend.

Emergencies and Health Conditions

Dogs can get sick or injured like people, and those vet bills can be an unexpected expense for pet owners. Some of these illnesses or injuries are chronic, meaning long term. The dog will need ongoing care for the rest of its life, and some of those treatments can end up costing a pretty penny.

Other issues may need to have surgery or even hospitalization to treat. Planned surgeries, like an ACL repair or mass removal, can cost anywhere from $500-$6,000, according to pet health insurance company Lemonade. For emergency surgeries, like a foreign body removal, it can cost up to $7,000. This doesn’t include any of the diagnostic costs, like ultrasounds, MRIs or bloodwork.

Lemonades states that when surveyed, 36% of dog owners have had their dog undergo surgery in the past 12 months! You can avoid some major health issues by being diligent and observant pet parents, but not all. It’s best to have some sort of savings put back specifically for vet bills in case of an unexpected emergency or health issue.

Expense 3: Food, Toys and Gear

When we bring a dog into our lives, we are committing to give them the best life that we can. Domestic dogs can’t care for themselves, and rely on us meet all their nutritional, physical, and psychological needs. Of course, the items needed to do this come with a cost.

Food

A healthy diet is the bare minimum a dog owner must provide. Dog food comes in many shapes and sizes, and the amount and kind you will need varies by your dog. Small dogs eat much less than large dogs, and dogs with certain allergies or a sensitive stomach may need a special diet. Not all food has the best nutritional value, so compare the foods in your price range.

A study by veterinary students examined the costs of the various pet foods available, both wet and dry. They found that dog owners paid anywhere from $201-$883 a year on dry food. If your dog needs wet food, expect to spend anywhere from $1,084-$3,292! You can see how food costs can add up quickly for dog owners.

Necessary Gear

Food may cover the nutritional needs of your dog, but that alone doesn’t make for a happy, healthy pup! All dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation, some breeds more than others. These activities require gear, as well as the necessary tools need to keep your dog safe and comfortable.

A leash and harness for walks, a collar for ID tags, a crate to keep them out of trouble and bed for them to lay on are all expenses you can expect when bringing home a dog. You may also need a pet carrier, a car seatbelt system, brushes and food bowls. While the prices of these items vary wildly, and some pet parents are more aesthetic than others, a dog’s gear adds up financially.

The Spoils!

Most pet owners got their dogs for company, so we are naturally inclined to spoil them! We usually do this not only with love, but with toys and treats! The fastest way to a dog’s heart is through their stomach, and treat prices add up after awhile. Toys can also be a major expense, especially if you have a destructive dog who’s favorite game is to tear the stuffing out.

Expense 4: Pet Services

Like kids, pets need regular supervision and attention to their hygiene or physical needs. The amount spent in this aspect will depend on your dog’s breed and size, as well as your lifestyle.

Grooming

All dogs need grooming in some way. Short hair dogs need the occasional bath to keep their fur shiny and clean, and longer haired dogs will need regular grooming to prevent mats and tangles. Baths start at $20, and for a full service groom you can expect to pay a minimum of $50 for small dogs and over $100 for large breeds. All dog need their nails trimmed, and you check out the average cost for that here.

Training

Training your dog is important, but not every dog owner will need a trainer. Depending on their skill and experience level, some dog owners can train their own dogs. But if you don’t know how or feel overwhelmed, investing in a professional trainer can be invaluable to setting your dog up for a lifetime of success. A professional trainer costs $30-$80 per class, and most classes last 6-8 weeks.

Walking Services or Daycare

High energy breeds, young dogs, or dogs that struggle with separation anxiety can be a big struggle for dog owners that may work or go to school full-time. For these pooches, they may need an extra set or two of hands to fulfill their needs and keep them safe. A walking service or dog daycare is a luxury for pet owners, and starts at anywhere from $15-$40 a day, depending on location. But for some dog owners, these services are a need for their dog to be healthy and happy!

Boarding Facilities or Pet Sitters

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed everywhere we go. Sometimes we must leave our dogs in the care of a trusted sitter or boarding facility during work trips, holidays or weekends away. Often, we can outsource this job for a discount to family members, friends or neighbors.

But if you have a dog that may need extra attention, has a medical history or can be a challenge, a professional pet sitter or boarding facility may be essential. These places are not only trained in dig behavior and prepared for every situation, but they should also be insured, protecting them, you, and your dog. The cost of a good pet sitter can be invaluable.

Expense 5: Potential Damage

puppies especially can be destructive af, potential issues like separation anxiety, housebreaking issues, chewing on clothes or shoes, investing in other things like daycare or training can help prevent damage, damage to the gear they use

One often overlooked expense of bringing home a new dog is the potential damage to your home they may do, whether intentional or not. Puppies, dog with separation anxiety, and dogs that don’t get their needs met can be especially destructive. They may take out their frustration on your new kitchen table legs, or their curious nose leads them to tip over the trash can… again.

Dogs that aren’t housebroken also have potential to damage flooring, furniture and walls. Even the best behaved dogs can cause minor damage unintentionally, such as scratching hardwood floors with their nails. While there are plenty of ways to prevent damage, pet owners should be aware of the possibility that they may have to replace or repair things as a result of their new dog.

Will Pet Health Insurance Save Me Money?

Although pet insurance has been around for decades, many pet owners have just started to look into the service. Pet insurance, just like to human health insurance, comes with a monthly payment, but covers a portion of veterinary expenses for your dog. How much it covers will vary on your dog, their medical history, their breed, the insurance company and variety of other factors.

So will pet insurance save me money? According to Forbes, yes! The magazine reports that the best pet insurance plans cost anywhere from $34-$56 a month. The best pet insurance plans cover 70% to 90% of the bill, depending on the plan you opt for. Some even cover up to 100%!

Conclusion

Being a dog owner is more than just welcoming a furry critter into your home. Dogs take time, commitment, and money. While pet parenthood is definitely something to carefully consider, anyone that has ever owned a dog can tell you that they are 100% worth every penny!