What does it really cost to adopt a dog?
Header photo courtesy of Rachel Eve Photography

Puppy season is upon us! 

You've probably noticed an influx of your Facebook friends posting their brand new pups over the last couple months. Maybe you're even considering adopting one of your own! It's hard to resist those adorable puppy dog eyes. You might have even created a pros and cons list for that sweet, wiggly dog you met at an event last week (we've been there). It can be difficult to prepare for a new furry family member and set your expectations for what impact this little creature will have on your life. 

Cooper and a previous foster puppy snuggling up

Cooper and a previous foster puppy snuggling up

The truth is, your commitment to adopting a dog doesn't end with the adoption contract. 

It can be easy to get wrapped up in the process. You see the pup. You sign the papers. You pay the adoption donation and then, BOOM. You have a dog! It's pretty much how we ended up with Cooper. But once we got her home, we realized there was a lot more we needed to get in order than we thought. 

There's some links at the bottom of this article if you're interested! All these numbers are based on adopting a dog in NYC*

1. The startup costs


We were NOT prepared. We got approved for Cooper 1 hour before we picked her up. I remember vividly buying the cheapest leash and back clip harness (I cringe thinking about it now) from a pet store on our way to Bideawee's shelter. If we didn't pick her up that day, they said, she'd be going to another home. So we scrambled. We had no way of getting her home, so we walked this brand new-to-us dog 5 miles home, from 38th and the FDR in Manhattan, across the Williamsburg bridge, all the way to Greenpoint.

Once we got there, we realized we didn't even have food for her! It was a Sunday and we had work the next day so we hurried to our local pet store and grabbed the first box of food they recommended, a bed, and a couple toys. We had to order her crate on Amazon with the rest of her supplies. We didn't even have a dog walker set up! Needless to say, it was a mess. And one we could've avoided had we planned appropriately. 

Here's a brief list of the Start Up Costs most people will end up buying for their pup the first week they have them:

  1. Food ($20-$80 a bag)
  2. Bed (~$30)
  3. Crate ($30-$60 depending on size)
  4. Toys ($5-$15 each)
  5. Chews ($2-$15 each)
  6. Leash & Collar/Harness ($15-$80 depending on how fancy you are)
  7. Dog Walker ($10-$30 a day depending on your needs)
  8. Bowls ($10-$40)
  9. Initial Vet Visit (~$100 depending on shots/ medical needed)

That's, on the low end, about $300 on top of your adoption deposit... and you don't even know this dog yet! I think most people expect this to be the end of the expenses but the truth is, it's really just the tip of the iceberg. 

Cooper shaved + bandaged during her ICU stay at Blue Pearl 

Cooper shaved + bandaged during her ICU stay at Blue Pearl 

2. Pet Insurance


I know what you're thinking. I just got this dog! I don't need pet insurance. You're nuts. Look how healthy and spunky he is! We thought that exact thing when we adopted Cooper but decided to play it safe and get the policy earlier than later – just in case. We had no clue how valuable it'd be for us. There are SO many different options for pet insurance out there. Major Medical, Emergency, Wellness. It can be overwhelming. Each of them have varying price tags and coverages.

Because we got Cooper at just 1 year old and healthy, we chose to go with Nationwide's WholePet+Wellness plan. The premium was doable, and the deductible was relatively low. It costs us about $60 a month and reimburses 90% of all vet bills. Everything. Vaccines, checkups, that time she got a stick lodged in her gums. Prescription diet if we need it. It seemed like the best option for us, and when Cooper got ill it proved to be the best $60 a month we've ever spent. 

Cooper got unexpectedly ill in November of 2017 and was hospitalized for 9 days with no diagnosis. She declined rapidly. The vet bills increased even more rapidly. Eventually the amazing vets at Blue Pearl were able to diagnose her (Bartonella, a rare tick borne illness) but that came along with 6 months of equally expensive antibiotics. Long story short, we spent over $35,000 on vet bills and were reimbursed 90% of it. The only reason we were able to keep Cooper alive was knowing we would be reimbursed that money. Pet Insurance can save your pet's life. 

I'm not saying you HAVE to get pet insurance, but I am saying accidents can happen and it's nice to have a plan. Whether it's an emergency fund or an insurance plan, consider it as you're thinking about adding a pet to your family. 

3. Training

Up to $200 a session for private training. Around $200 for a set of puppy or basic obedience group classes.

Regardless of the age or type of dog you adopt, training is ALWAYS a good idea, and something you should likely plan on spending time, money and energy on. We encourage the adopters of all of our fosters to enroll their new pup in an obedience class ASAP. There's a few reasons we suggest this.

Training is a great way to bond with your pup and it creates clear expectations from you-and your dog. We've found that basic training techniques set you and your dog up for success, so the sooner the better!

But it's not just that. Transitions can be really challenging for pups. We've had fosters that ended up being totally house trained, but had countless accidents the first few days we had them while they decompressed and adjusted. Conversely, we've had dogs that were totally silent the first few weeks with us, but ended up being regular howlers after they got more comfortable. Training can be a great way for nervous or shy dogs to gain the confidence they need to open up, and it can help your dog look to you for direction rather than trying to solve problems on their own. 

We generally think it's always a great time to start training, but it's even better to start before you need it. So many dogs get returned because the owners aren't willing to spend the time and money to help their dog adjust to their new home. I don't like to sound blunt, but if you think you would return a dog that had ended up having an issue (housebreaking, crate training, leash reactivity- ALL very common and solvable) before working with a professional, you should think twice about adopting a dog. 

Having a blast at Eva's PlayPups while we were on vacation

Having a blast at Eva's PlayPups while we were on vacation

4. Boarding, Daycare, and Dogwalking

Boarding: ~$50 a night. Daycare: ~$30 a day. Walker: ~$20/30 minutes

We'd all love to take our pup with us everywhere but unfortunately we have to go to work sometimes- and even on vacation! It can definitely add up- especially if you need a walker daily or have a 2 week long vacation planned. Make sure you find a company or person that you know you can trust, and is bonded and insured. We avoid Wag Walkers and Rover after so many dogs have been lost through them, and rely on local companies and personal recommendations. If you're in Brooklyn and need some tips, let us know! 

Cooper and her dad 

Cooper and her dad 

5. Time, Effort and Love.

Dogs are more and more becoming like children to us. Just like kids, they require infinite patience, time, and love. There will likely be days you're late to work because your pup had an upset stomach and you're cleaning up puke from your favorite rug. There will be late night potty walks from time to time. There will be barking at scary new things, even if it's just a mailbox. Your new dog will need you to spend the time and effort helping them adjust to the world. They'll need you not to give up at the first sign of struggle. You'll be rewarded with an unparalleled loving bond. All they require is a little helping hand. Just like any relationship, the more you put in, the more you'll get out.

Does all of this sound doable to you?
Congratulations! You're ready. Go get that pup!

There are so many deserving pups out there looking for their forever homes. If you adopt a new one this summer, tag us on Instagram and show them off! We'd love to share. 

*Links to items we've mentioned in our Starter Kit section: