The cost of owning a dog: 4 big financial questions to consider

By Olivia Gee ·

If you’ve just brought a four-legged bundle of joy into your household, you might be too entranced by wet noses and fluffy ears to notice dog-related spending overtaking your bank account

Especially at the start of your human-canine relationship, costs can go through the kennel roof. In the first year alone, ASIC’s MoneySmart pet budget estimates doggo related costs hitting between $3,000 and $6,000. Then, the RSPCA reckons you’ll spend a minimum of $910 every following year, amounting to approximately $25,000 across your pooch’s lifetime. 

Beyond the more practical and fun items – food, treats, toys and cute doggy outfits – there’s a considerable list of other costs to address on any pup budget. Breed, size, age, health, temperament and even your pomeranian’s fairy floss coat will influence these not-so-adorable financial commitments, so remember these costs are variable. 

What are the costs of dog adoption vs buying a puppy?

Adopting
You’ll generally pay a fee when picking up a new pal from rescue groups like the RSPCA or PetRescue. Depending on age (spritely pups cost extra), budget for around $100-$500. Beyond helping these critter-saving organisations continue their work, it’ll often also cover basic vet care. This generally includes vaccinations, desexing, microchipping, and flea and worm treatments, all of which come at an additional price when you’re buying a doggo.

Buying
If you have your heart set on a hot-to-trot breed, the price will jump anywhere from $500 to a few thousand. You’ll also be paying all the extra vet costs if she’s a little one who needs all those kick-starter shots and procedures. If you do choose to buy through a breeder, always visit before committing to a purchase and ensure they’re treating the dog ethically. Legal requirements for breeders vary, so call your local council (or the council where your potential pup lives) to check what conditions they’ll need to meet.

How much will it cost to set up my puppy pad?

Dog accessories and kennel

This includes kennels, bedding, collars, car restraints, food bowls, treats and toys. This is where your budget can stay chihuahua-sized or grow larger than a great dane. The RSPCA estimates an average cost for all these bits and bobs bought new is around $600 from the get-go, with upkeep of around $30 each year

But if you want to pull in the spending reins, follow essential steps in the circular economy and borrow, mend, swap or choose pre-loved over buying brand new. For example, if you’re committing to an eight-week-old puppy, see if you can borrow pint-sized collars, leashes and winter coats so you don’t double or triple those costs when pup goes up a size. 

You’ll also need to register your furry family member with your local council which can cost between $30-$200 (there are often discounts for if you’re a pensioner or if you’ve adopted a rescue dog). Got a wild one? You may need to invest in good behaviour classes. These often run in courses over a series of weeks and can easily hit the $300 mark.

Are vet and health bills really that high for a dog?

The rumours are true: ongoing healthcare for dogs is expensive. If it’s not already sorted, you’ll need to tick off the essentials: microchipping ($60-$80), vaccinations for puppies ($170-$250), desexing ($200-$500), and flea, tick, worm and heartworm prevention ($120-$450). Don’t forget, dogs need regular medical and dental check-ups and treatments. Annual vet visits plus regular deworming and flea and tick medications could set you back around $90-$450 every following year.

If you want security for your happy hound’s health, consider taking out pet insurance to cover unexpected costs. Like human health insurance, it comes at varying premiums, but you’ll roughly be looking at $20-$60 a month

There are three main types of pet insurance to consider: accident, accident and illness, and comprehensive insurance. The first is solely for veterinarian care if your dog is involved in an accident like a car crash or snake bite. The second covers those scenarios plus illnesses and chronic conditions like skin infections or diabetes. Comprehensive pet insurance ticks both of these off and also helps cover the cost of routine care like dental checks and other high-cost medical extras like scans and physiotherapy.

Always check the product disclosure statement (PDS) of your policy to keep an eye out for anything which might affect your claim. There are often annual caps on payouts, and exclusions or conditions based on breed, age and pre-existing conditions.

How much will dog walking and minding cost me?Dog walking and minding

Even if your fury pal is an excellent office dog, they can’t necessarily attend every work event, social outing or family holiday. So, you’ll often need to seek out dog minding and walking services for longer stretches. These can be professional services, or less formal and more budget-friendly set-ups.

Jessica Janson says finding a convenient and affordable arrangement for her German shorthaired pointer Duke led her to create the neighbourhood social dog minding site Dogshare.

“We realised we needed extra assistance with our dog and the options available to us were both outside our budget and not particularly practical. I already drop our children off to two different locations each morning before work – adding a ‘dog drop off’ to this was unimaginable!”

The website connects dog owners and dog lovers within an area, providing puppy parents some extra dog walking and minding support while empty nesters get their daily doggo fix. It can also be used for dog and human playdates. And with a $29 registration fee and $9 annual fee, it’s a very cost-effective alternative to professional services.

“Dog walking can cost from $25-$60 per walk. If you can afford it, it’s a wonderful service as dog walkers are often qualified dog professionals and are incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to understanding dog behaviour,” says Janson.  

“Doggy daycare is similarly a great alternative, but Duke doesn’t thrive in busy environments due to his anxiety. In addition, it was way outside our family budget when we looked into it – some dog daycares are more expensive than childcare services as there is no government rebate! Expect to pay anywhere from $35-$100 per day.”

So, if you are after a more flexible dog support system that’ll bring extra joy to someone’s day, consider an arrangement like Dogshare.

Keen to keep saving money while supporting your community? Follow these seven steps to ethical savings.

Olivia Gee
Olivia Gee
Money writer

As one of Mozo’s money writers, Olivia Gee shares her research and insights across banking, insurance and property to help readers save. She loves getting stuck into a story, unveiling all the facts, breaking down stats and drawing on personal experiences - this is what drives her as a journalist. She has a double degree from the University of Wollongong, with a BA in Journalism as well as Media and Communications.