Future dog owner - how much should I budget?

My husband and I are looking to buy an Australian Shepherd puppy but I want to see what kind of expenses I should be budgeting for (bedsides the actual cost of buy the dog). 

Any help is appreciated!!

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  • Things you will need:

    Initial set up (or settling in): Bed, toys, toilet training materials, collar, tags, leash, poop bags, dog bowls

    Pet insurance

    Dog food. A puppy will have different food, the breeder will be able to tell you what to give it to start.

    Council fees/registration

    Dog training lessons

    Money needed to secure your backyard (if you have one) to prevent jailbreaks

    Fund to repair/replace household items

    Vet checkups and immunisations costs

  • Hey Purple Case ,

    I love this question and Fiona mentions a great number of expenses to keep in mind. To add on to them, I'd suggest keeping in mind that your puppy will have continuous needs (and expenses). You should budget for the initial cost of buying him or her, but also keep monthly expenses in mind.

    I have a husky who tends to eat his weight in food on a regular basis, so I budget $80 a month for him. We spend an average of $45 a month on food (if there's a brand your puppy likes, stock up when you see a sale!) and the other $35 carries over to cover vet care, toys, and other things that may pop up.

    It can get a little pricey with unexpected costs (said husky was actually abandoned as a puppy and had a pretty bad infection we had to clear up), but Rolling With The Punches can make the stickiest situations bareable and I promise you it's worth it! :)

    (And I'll include a picture of Loki for viewing pleasure!)

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  • We have two dogs, a Black Lab and a Siberian Husky.

    Our lab is almost 8 and the husky is almost 10.  The lab was a rescue (got her out of the bed of an abandoned pickup truck) and the husky we rescued from a backyard breeder.

    I would skip pet insurance.  Usually there are a lot of stipulations and fine print before you ever see a dime from them.  Instead, I'd set up a sinking fund or rainy day fund for their care.

    We spend $80 a month on Senior dog food.  Not a super expensive brand, but not a cheap brand either. My husky is not a big eater, but my lab never turns down food.

    Then, we contribute $200 a month to their Pet Care Sinking Fund.  On top of regular vaccines, heart worm preventative medication, and wellness checks, our dogs have had various health issues, eaten things they shouldn't have, seizures, and dental work.  

    This has increased since 2015 because that's when my lab started having malignant tumors that require surgery and biopsies and medications.  Now with the tumors and lumps my lab ends up getting, we spend around $2200/year.  I only expect this to increase as they age.

    I would start with a simple sinking fund of $75/month.  If you're getting a small dog, maybe $50/month.  

    Here's a picture of our babies after a swim in the beautiful Key West ocean and my husband about to be taken for a swim himself. :)

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  • It may also be worth your while to increase your dog's budget to include care for when you and your partner go on vacation. It's always nice to know rates of dog sitters and doggy daycares in your area in the event that friends or family are unavailable or unable to help out. 

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  • For an Aussie, be ready for a professional dog trainer. Or to replace furniture the dog destroyed in frustration. They are balls of energy. 

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  • For goodness sake!, don't get him his own credit card! This 2-minute dogumentary is a cautionary tale.

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      • HappyDance
      • YNABing consistently since 2014
      • HappyDance
      • 4 yrs ago
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      Joking aside, all the extra bells n' whistles that people like to buy for their pets are for their own benefit; the new animal companion is less materialistic. 🙂

      As a practical farm-raised person who has been through quite a few ups and downs with animals in my care, I would say that being financially prepared for emergencies and circle-of-life eventualities is a necessity. It provides you with options at times of great emotional distress so you can focus on your pet's needs versus your lack of funds.  Build an emergency fund with that in mind.

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  • Like Faness, we also accounted for yearly expenses within our "Pet" budget.  I added up all heartworm, flea/tick and supplies expenses we spent the first year, added in a years worth of food and then divided by 12 to get monthly budget.  Ours started as $120 per month.  Our pup is a border collie/black lab mix.  Don't forget to account for any Boarding if you travel!  That is where we initially under-budgeted.  It can cost up to $40 per night for a nice place.   My husband and I both work a 7:30 - 5:30 job so we currently budget around $200 per month for him because we travel often and occasionally hire a dog-walker when we both have to work late.

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  • Just chiming in to agree that pet insurance is generally scammy and has A LOT of fine print. It is almost never worth it and a sinking fund is a much better use of that money.

    If you're buying from a breeder, make sure to get the schedule of immunizations from them. Puppies need a lot of them and you will probably be responsible for a round or two. They can get pricey! Also, some vaccinations are region-specific or only for dogs who board. For example, my dog gets to skip the Bordatella because I never board her and only hire a pet sitter.

    You should also be prepared to buy heartworm medication and flea/tick medication - both are generally monthly medications for your dog that you can buy in 3-6 month packets. Every dog needs them! Trust me, you'd much rather pay for prevention than the cure when it comes to heartworms. (Plus, it's really gross because you have to see the worms come out through their stool! >_<)

    Make sure you also budget for a microchip implant as well - they are vitally important just in case your dog ever gets lost. Collars and tags get lost. One caveat here is that you usually only need to pay the upfront implant and registration fee for the microchip and it is registered forever. Many microchip companies will ask you to "renew your membership" and will kind of phrase it in a way that makes it sound like your microchip will go dead if you don't have a membership, but that is not true! The membership is usually for so-called "search help" if your dog does get lost. In my opinion, this is just a way to scam people out of money and to pad their bottom line. Your microchip will continue to work so long as you have properly had it implanted at a vet and finished the registration process. (But do make sure to update your contact information as needed.)

    Finally, if you're planning on spay/neuter, that can also run you a good chunk of change, but if you're patient, you can sometimes find free or reduced cost clinics depending on your city!

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  • We have a golden retriever. We spent $1500 total this year, and $1600 total last year. That amount includes dog food, vet expenses and the normal monthly heart worm and flea and tick meds, new leashes and collars, poop bags, etc. So I budget $125 a month.

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  • I budget for food, meds (heartworm/fleas), and vet -- all separate categories with goals. It comes out to about $80 per month, but I know that will go up as he gets older.

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  • I am based in the UK, rather than the US, so I won't comment on specific prices, but I will include my personal advice: Make sure you have pet insurance! (or at least expect the unexpected.)

    We adopted a puppy from a rescue last March and he came with 4 weeks free insurance as a marketing agreement with the shelter, and on day 15 of having him home in a freak accident, Charlie broke his hind leg. He spent the next 17 days in the vet having 4 operations ending with the amputation of his leg due to an infection. He was 12 weeks old when his leg was removed. (While he was at the vet we had to "upgrade" his insurance to normal cover.) When we got the statement back from the insurance company they had paid out over £3500 and within the following 4 months, we have saved more than the annual cost of the pet insurance in both issues relating to Charlie being a tri-pawed and others. Had he had the accident before we had insurance, nothing related to the leg would be covered as it would be classed as a "pre-existing condition".

    I don't know what way pet insurance works in the US, but for us in the UK, we pay £30.85 per month and we have up to £7,000 of cover a year and it covers almost everything bar his "prevention" treatments, so flea/worming (about £15 for both every 3 months) and his annual injections (not sure of the price as he is only 11 months, so due his boosters them in the next few months) Although as people have suggested as long as you have a seperate fund, you should be ok. (I have heard that pet insurance in the US is much more awkward than ours.) But the 17 days Charlie was away was the hardest time of my life, and I dread to think how I could have coped if I had to try to find the money to pay for his treatment, not even knowing if they could save his leg or his life at one point!

    I agree with Michelle about most things being materialistic and for the owner's benefit. We bought a small puppy bed that was on sale for Charlie and still by about night 5 he went to bed with an old towel in the bottom of his crate cuz he was chewing every other blanket/bed we gave him and I wasn't letting him destroy them! I also bought all our supplies online as they were much cheaper than in stores - even right town to chew toys and food!

    (I also don't want to come across like I am preaching, but please do your research on your breeders to try to end puppy farming and puppy mills - we think Charlie might have been from a dodgy breeder who then dumped the 10 pups while they were very sick at less than 6 weeks old rather than have them treated at a vet.)

    Best of luck with the new addition to your family! xx

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  • I have an expensive dog--one of those that always show up at the top of the "most expensive to own" lists, mainly because of vet bills. She is now 8 and I've had her four years. Here are some things that have come up as expenses (in addition to most of the stuff already mentioned):

    • $1,000 - $1,500 every year for some major medical issue (dental work, a torn ACL, a routine corrective surgery) 
    • Single-source-everything, the-fish-you're-eating-was-named-Fred food that she needs because of allergies
    • Meds for everything from OTC stuff like Cosequin (normal aging) to specially compounded eye drops
    • Chew toys and a regular re-supply of these
    • Dog treats
    • Travel supplies--car seat covers, portable water bowls
    • Dog towels and blankets, which wear out over time
    • Enzymatic cleaner
    • Poop bags; back yard fencing because she will just. not. learn. to go in one area
    • Leashes, harnesses, and raincoats (it's not that she wears them out, but the first choice isn't always the best one)
    • Doggie play-dates and meet-ups at the indoor dog park or the fancy dog park
    • In-home dog sitter for vacations and work trips (she hates other dogs, so I can't board her)
    • Dog walker for late work evenings or day time checks when she's sick

    I got her before I started YNAB, so I didn't track "start up costs" like training, food bowls, a crate, a bed, fees to the rescue.

    All in, including food, medical, supplies, toys, everything, I've spent an average of $407/month since I started YNAB (about three years). This drops to $239/month without any pet sitting or dog walking. Her non-medical costs are only about $75/month, but this isn't a good figure to get in your head, even for a dog with fewer issues. She is the least athletic dog you'll meet, but she still tore her ACL. Like any dog, she eats things she shouldn't when I'm not looking, she needs vaccines and flea meds, she's aging. 

    Insurance is a tough call with dogs. Some insurance is terrible and covers almost nothing. I might have come out ahead with the right insurance and who know what the next couple of years holds as she gets older.

    A friend who's had her dog since she was a puppy says she's come out ahead every year, and last year the dog needed an MRI! She has insurance from Embrace, says they've been good, and online reviews support this. She had the dog cleared for a couple of things like hip displaysia when she first got her, so now if she has those problems it's covered. 


    Congrats on the puppy and have fun!

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  • We just got an Aussie puppy a few months ago. In addition to her cost, we've been paying about $75 a month for shots (for 3  rounds) and we'll continue saving about $100/mo for the next three months to get her spayed this summer. Obedience classes are between $100-200 for each round of 6 weeks in our area. Her supplies (leash, crate, bed, toys, treats, food, gate, etc) were maybe $200 or 300 over the first month or two, but now we just spend $10 or $20 on food and fun things. We also put $75 a month into an emergency fund for her. So I would say to tack on an extra $1000 to whatever you're saving for the puppy to cover the first 3 or 4 months of puppyhood when you need a bunch of supplies, vet visits, and classes, then just add to your emergency fund monthly and factor in food, a yearly exam, and some basic supplies like heartworm meds to your normal budget. Anything leftover from that $1000 can just go into her emergency fund once your expenses level off. Good luck! We love our sweet Aussie.

  • We have two dogs, one pincher and one pit bull / boxer mix. So far, I have been surprised by mainly two costs:

    1/ Take an insurance for your pets. After having our second dog (the pit bull) as a puppy, she had to go under surgery because of a birth defect. That amounted to more than $2000 in bills! I was so glad we had insurance. Plus, the day they need a life threatening surgery to be performed, you do not want to be faced with the heart breaking choice of paying and risking your financial future vs. letting your dog die... Take an insurance and never have to face this.

    2/ Training costs. I had no idea this was so expensive. We had to pay for a trainer $100 per session for 6 sessions and then participate to group trainings every week for a few months.... We ended up stopping when the dogs were manageable but before the end of the program to cut the costs short. Let's say that it was very very expensive. We do not regret though, we now have tools to control our dogs and make sure they are good citizens. And we'll be able to teach our future dogs too. 

  • Others have chimed in with the basics so I have nothing to add except: Pet insurance can be iffy - if you get it read the fine print & what it covers - you may be better off just building up the vet category. (I never used it, but a close friend did & it was worth it for her.) And also check your with your vet - if they are affiliated with VCA or other large pet hospital, they might have a "Care Club" where for a reasonable annual fee, they cover lots of basic care and reduce the cost of other preventive care. Also: I can recommend chewy.com - they have great prices on food and treats.

  • Coming from an emergency room veterinarian, I recommend pet insurance. I have a policy for my pets and encourage everybody with animals to get one. 


    The average estimate for a sick pet is $2500-$3500, and that estimate can easily be much more depending on what is wrong. A 5 year old dog walked out of our hospital the other day with a $25K bill. 


    Trupanion, Petplan, HealthyPaws and Nationwide are reputable companies. Our clients with insurance don’t typically have a problem with those companies. 


    Good luck from an ER veterinarian and fellow Aussie owner 

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  • I have Healthy Paws and it worked out very well for us. They pay on time. You have to call once in a while when they miss covering an item, but they are very professional and mistakes get resolved very quick.

  • Another plug for pet insurance.  I use Embrace and love it. Haven’t had any issues with claims, plus for the past few years I paid for wellness plans on 2 of my pets. For 195 spread out in monthly payments I had 250 to use towards shots, microchipping, flea prevention etc. it was a way to ensure I scheduled their yearly checkups and shots and always had the money to pay for it plus an extra 50.  Each year you don’t need to file on the insurance they reduce the deductible by $50.


    now that I’m on a budget I may drop the wellness plan and just  plan for it in my true expenses but for the first year with the booster shots, neutering  etc is was a huge help for someone who didn’t have much of anything in savings

  • I bought a puppy a few months ago (pre YNAB) and am still feeling the sting.  He's a pedigree/purebred that's known for respiratory and joint issues so comprehensive pet insurance is a necessity.  

    Three weeks after we got him he spent four nights in intensive care after he developed an adverse reaction to vaccinations.  Even though the waiting period for the insurance to kick in wasn't over, it's an emergency like that I wouldn't have been able to cope with and wouldn't have saved enough for in the three weeks we'd had him.  As it is, my partner covered the cost of his care ($1500).

    I plan on keeping the insurance.  At $900 a year that wouldn't come close to covering some of the issues he might develop later in life and I have an annual $15,000 cap that should cover most of the worst: tracheal surgery, cruciate ligament damage, arthritis and there's cover for routine care.

    Obviously, I didn't purchase the dog based on the cost of care over his lifetime.  Instead I chose him for temperament and size that suits our family and lifestyle.  I consider the insurance a necessity as I'd hate to have to ask for him to be put to sleep because I couldn't afford an operation.

    For food, toys, worming and consumables etc I highly recommend PetCircle (if you're in Australia).  

    Pre purchase, budget for obedience, registration, collars and food.

    Here's a pic of our baby, Bowie (named obviously due to the heterochromium iridium he has in common  with rock Legend, David Bowie.)

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