Dog Ownership: Follow Your Nose, Not Your Wallet

At the recommendation of a regular reader, I’ve decided to start including a quick abstract at the top for people who don’t want to plow through all my BS commentary, haha.  Okay, those are my words not his, but to get on with it, this post is about how much a dog costs you.  At a minimum, not doing anything fancy, nor having a really unhealthy and/or poorly behaved dog, you’ll probably spend about $17,000 over ten years, so make sure you’re ready… we already have too many dogs at the pound as is!


dog on beach


Last fall I went to see one of my favorite musicians in concert, Bonnie Prince Billy (Will Oldham, Palace Brothers, Palace, Palace Music, etc.).  I really like this guy, as a dude and especially as a musician, but I felt a little conflicted in the middle of the set when he started casually chiding dog owners.

dog on mountain
cognitive dissonance on mt jefferson

His exact words were something like, “you mean, you have kids, grandparents, and a family, and you’re going to spend money on what?!”  The point is that dogs shouldn’t be considered more valuable than your close friends and family, although if questioned, I think he might have gone even further than that.  And I think he has a point.

Based on my numbers, a dog will cost almost $17,000 over 10 years.  You could do a lot of good things with that money, both for your family and for strangers.  For example, if you donated that money to one of the most effective charities in the world, The Against Malaria Foundation, it would save 5 children’s lives.  Or that could pay for over two years of in-state college tuition for one of your kids/nieces/nephews.

All that being said, however, I love my dog and wouldn’t trade her for any of that.  The money we spend on her is well worth it, and this is a reflection of our values.  That might not be the same conclusion that other people, such as Will Oldham, make, which is fine.  Our differences make the world go ’round 🙂

dog and starfish
“why is will oldham such a wet blanket??”

I know first hand that there are some very real benefits to owning a dog.  A host of studies have shown that dogs improve health, both psychological and physical (exercise, better immunity, less depression, meet more people, etc.).  On top of that, owning a dog, at least for me is simply pleasurable in-and-of-itself.  They are such entertaining and companionable creatures.

The Analysis

So I didn’t model any of the intangible benefits mentioned above, mostly because they are hard to quantify, but also because I wanted to see some of the more direct costs of dog ownership.  It is very possible that the health benefits of having a dog outweigh the direct costs, but it is hard to say.  There are also some other indirect type costs that I didn’t model either, things like maybe buying or renting a house with more yard space for your dog.  Or increased driving to dog parks, hikes, swimming holes, the vet, etc.

I’ll add a little more commentary below, but for now, here are the numbers for not owning a dog:

  • 10 Year NPV: $16,887
  • 10 Year ROI: 278%
  • 10 Year Payback: 0.2 years

As mentioned above, by my estimates, the cost of owning a dog is nearly $17,000 over 10 years, which is equivalent to forgoing about $700 in passive income every year for the rest of your life.

Does this make me feel any different about our sweet girl that my wife affectionately refers to as pepper flake and/or butterbean?  Not at all, but it is good to know, especially since we’ve considered getting dog #2 a few times.

dog in tent
“i’m not enough for you??!”

It should be noted that the cost estimates come directly from our well-documented spending history.  Similar to kids, there are wildly different ways to raise a dog, some of which will be much more expensive than others.

We take a pretty minimalist approach and still spent about $1,500 per year in the first three years.  However, our spending went down to $1,000 this year.  My assumption is that as our dog gets older, she will probably start getting more expensive again because of health problems and increased vet visits.  So the average spend over 10 years is estimated at about $1,350 per year.

What goes into this number?  It really boils down to some vet visits, a few boarding and/or pet sitting expenses, basic supplies like leash and dog bowls, and food.  We don’t ever take her to the groomer (we do most of that ourselves), and in terms of vet visits, she is very healthy (one of the benefits of a mutt).  We don’t buy any fancy toys or a ton of tennis balls or spend on anything really extraneous.  She also doesn’t destroy any of our stuff.  So these numbers should be considered almost the bare minimum dog ownership costs.

dog at mt hood
don’t look down, it’s pretty … expensive!

The last thing I will mention is that I added some intangible revenues and costs in there, but they both cancel each other out (I needed some level of cost to get the ROI to be less than infinity…).  Specifically, I assumed about 10 minutes a day of cuddle time made up for the 10 minutes per day that you might have to do something you don’t particularly want to do at that point in time (take the dog for a morning walk when you’re already running late for work, pooperscoop, etc).


The costs of dog ownership certainly do add up, even when paring things down to just the basics.  Most people that do own dogs, however, would probably say it’s still worth it even after seeing the numbers, and I’d have to agree.


  • Average yearly dog costs = $1,350
  • Higher costs at beginning and end, lower in the middle
  • 10 minutes per day doing something you don’t like at $10 per hour
  • 10 minutes per day cuddling or doing something you do like at $10 per hour

More About Our Regal Lady

regal dog
oh you fancy, huh?

Our dog Lottie is a shepherd/lab mix that we got from the Humane Society in the Dalles, OR.  I think she has English shepherd in her, but it is hard to say.  She was the only female of her litter and was named after her mom, Talks a Lot.

When we first met she was extremely timid, so much so that she was too nervous to stand up and walk over to us, but instead had to scoot across the floor on her belly, leaving a little trail of puppy dribble behind her.

puppy lottie
love at first sight (dribble)

She’s not nearly as timid today at 3, mostly just extremely sweet and eager to please.  She loves people, especially kids, and particularly enjoys romping around outdoors and in shallow river banks looking for fish.  Her normal boarding kennel insists that we won the puppy lottery, and we’d have to agree.  She’s worth every penny.

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