How Much Does a Puppy Cost : A Rescue vs. Pet Store Pup Case Study

This post originally appeared on September 17th, 2012 and was updated August 3rd 2015.

Since tomorrow (August 4th 2015) makes one year to the day I brought my dog, Roo, home from the rescue farm, I thought it would be fun to update one of my most popular posts to-date. In 2012 (back when LBMT was barely four months old) I ran a post that broke down all the costs associated with my first dog, Murray, who died unexpectedly in Summer 2014.

Man, I loved that dog. He was my favorite thing on the whole planet and I was super sad for awhile after he was gone. Then Roo came into my life and made me smile again. They're both very different dogs, purchased (adopted?) under very different circumstances. I know when I first thought about getting a dog people warned me how expensive owning a pet could be. For everyone wondering, “How much does a puppy cost, really?” -here's a breakdown of the costs associated with buying vs. rescuing a pup, as well as an idea of the startup costs involved when you purchase a pet for the first time.

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How Much Does a Puppy Cost?

Murray: The Fancy Pet Store Pup

I bought Murray in 2012 on a whim as a lonely gal in NYC. It was one of my biggest, most expensive “impulse purchases,” that turned out to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life at that time.

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Don't cringe: I purchased Murray for $800.00 from a pet store in New York. He was a special daschund-shih-tzu hybrid, on sale from a whopping $1200.00 because he was almost four months old and about to age out of the puppy store. He was nine pounds of adorable softness and I knew the moment I held him I had to have him.

On top of the fancy pet store price tag, here's what I spent on supplies that first day, and in the first few weeks of owning a pet for the first time:

  • $263.26 – Supplies at the pet store where I bought him: Harness, Leash, Food (dry and wet), vitamins, Shampoo, Playpen, and a few toys.
  • $101.75- At Petco, a crate, wee-wee pads, a food and water bowl.
  • $123.00- His first vet's visit/physical (an 85.00 value) was covered by the pet store, but Murray had a parasite in his stool that required medicine, and I also had to pay for the last of his vaccines. I also bought his Heartworm medication at this time.
  • $130.00- to the Vet for Murray's neutering and a bath. I had this surgery done in small town Alabama and the price was a STEAL compared to the 350.00 my Vet in NYC was going to charge me for the surgery!

Here's a snapshot of my recurring (month-to-month) costs for Murray

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 11.13.02 AM

As you can see it cost close to $3700.00 for me to care for Murray during our 28 months together. Between food and supplies, vet bills, dog grooming, boarding when I was out of town, and medication the average came to around $131.00 per month.

Roo: The Scrappy Young Rescue

I'll be honest- I wasn't ready for another dog when Roo came into my life. I lost Murray in June 2014 and by August I was meeting a new pup. My Dad thought it would help me heal (he was so right!) but being honest, it was difficult at first. I adopted Roo from the fantastic Animal Rescue League of Northwest Georgia, a no-kill shelter just north of Atlanta.

He was a sweet dog, but it was obvious he'd been abused in his previous life. He didn't do well with the transition to my house. It could have been worse, but we've been working through issues together. He's a very sweet dog.

Roo Pup Day Collage

I've only had Roo for 12 months (remember, tomorrow is his ‘Pup Day!') but the monthly average comes to about $103. 

 

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 12.21.13 PM

The (Financial) Difference Between the Two

My Dad paid Roo's adoption fee. Still, rescuing a dog has been way more economical in a lot of ways. Due to being a specialty breed, Murray had a lot of digestive issues. This led to more vet visits and eventually having to be on a hypoallergenic diet with dog food that cost close to $61.00 per bag. Yikes.

Also, Murray was purchased in New York City, where things are inherently more expensive, but also given that Murray was my first, I purchased a lot of cutesy things for him that I've realized most dogs just don't need. A few good chew toys and perhaps a cold weather sweater for the smaller dogs and you're set. After Murray ran away for a night, I had him microchipped and purchased insurance.

The bulk of Roo's costs are from daycare, which my vet advocated he needed to help him socialize with other dogs. I don't know what type of breed he is (I suspect a terrier-poodle mix), but he needs to be groomed more often. Otherwise, he's a very low maintenance dog.

Except for that time he ate two fun-size Hershey bars and I had to call the Pet Poison Control hotline. (It costs $35.99 to get an answer by the way…)

A few tips on how you can save $$ on a pet of your own:

  • Adoption is always cheaper than buying, and there are so many dogs who need good homes. Roo also came neutered and with his shots, which many stores don't do.
  • When figuring up how much a puppy costs don't forget that some smaller dogs absolutely NEED grooming (look up anal gland expression and you'll see why I outsource). Even the bigger dogs will need their nails trimmed every once in awhile. You can always pick up the tools and learn how to groom yourself.
  • You will need to go out of town and will not be able to bring your dog with you. Find a great boarding facility, or pay a family member. Rover.com also offers pet sitting. You can pet sit or find a great one near you. My friends Donna and Ken pet sit via Rover. They then use the earnings to pay for their own pet's care while they are away.
  • To lower puppy start-up costs, many friends may have supplies their dogs have outgrown or no longer need. I was gifted a lot of fantastic leash and harness sets from friends when I first brought Murray home. Avoid specialty pet stores and try Amazon or Ebay for other supplies as well!

In Conclusion

This list may seem exhaustive, but I wanted to give those considering pet ownership a true picture of the costs, or perhaps provide a benchmark for other pet owners.

Even though being a “fur-mom” costs a considerable amount of change each month (hey, $100 dollars as a line item in your budget is significant!), owning a pet is so, so very worth it. I've been lucky to have two amazing dogs, even if my time with one was much too brief.

And just as an FYI: there was never a time when I didn't think the money I spent was a waste or that I didn't willingly want to part with it. If anything, I just want to impress upon potential pet owners that taking care of a pet is an investment, commitment and responsibility– and should be treated as such. Yet, I can say with absolutely certainty that, unlike some other experiences in life, owning a pet always keeps giving back, and you get out of it a million times over what you put in.

Asking yourself "how much does a puppy cost" is ESSENTIAL before you get a furry friend. I've broken down the costs of purchasing a store puppy vs. a rescue, as well as the monthly costs of dog ownership so you can know what to expect!

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  • Financial Goalie
    April 22, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    I’m surprised of the difference of the amount! What cute dogs that you have, Lauren! I can’t wait to get mine when I pay off all my credit cards debt and have purchased my first rental property in the future. I’m slowly building up my puppy savings. I probably won’t get a puppy, but an adult dog from either the rescue or shelter because of my schedule and also I prefer a dog that is ready to go for a long adventure easily. I’m probably going to get a dog that is a mutt like myself. 😀

  • Pippi Detman
    August 8, 2015 at 8:11 pm

    NEVER, ever purchase a dog or cat from a pet store! The animals come from puppy mills and every time you buy a dog or cat, you are telling the “breeders” that it is ok for them to earn money from dogs that are kept in small cages, bred until they’re almost dead, kept in filthy conditions and horribly mistreated. Many of the dogs rescued from puppy mills have never felt grass, they are not well cared for and lack basic veterinary care.

    If you must have a purebred dog or cat, find a local breeder, they’re easy to find and a reputable breeder will allow you to meet the parents and see the property’s conditions.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Thanks for commenting Pippi!

  • Clarisse @ Make Money Your Way
    August 7, 2015 at 10:51 pm

    I was very sad because my German shepherd dog suddenly died yesterday. 🙁 I’m planning to get a new puppy next month.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 9, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      Man, Clarisse, I am so so sorry. I know how hard that is to lose a pet unexpectedly. I am thinking of you!

  • Heather @ Simply Save
    August 6, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    They are well worth the cost aren’t they? 🙂 My dog Max is a low maintenance rescue. The main costs are vet bills, food, and nail trims. I’m usually able to find coupons for the food and would do the nail trims myself, but he doesn’t like his paws touched, so I leave it to a pro. Luckily we have a lot of dog friends that take him when I’m out of town or have play dates for socialization. He’s the best little dude. 🙂

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

      I could never do Roo’s nails on my own. He wiggles too much and I’m too attached, I’d worry if I’m hurting him or not. Some things are just best left outsourced in my opinion.

  • Brittany
    August 6, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Our annual spending for our 55lb black lab mix is as follows (approximate):
    Vet: $350 (including HeartGard and NexGard; sometimes cheaper, as $40 rabies is only every 3 years)
    Food: $360 (buying 30lb bags every 6-8 weeks)
    Grooming/Supplies: $35 (we mostly do it ourselves)
    Other: < $50 (toys, etc…)
    Average: <$67/mo

    Just a note: be careful if you are a multi-species household. We switched my dog to NexGard to replace the tick stuff that you have to apply to their skin. I thought I'd gotten rid of the remaining vials of the old stuff, but I was wrong. When I applied the medicine to my cat for his June treatment, I accidentally used the dog's meds! My 14.5lb cat got a 50+lb dog treatment. In just the few hours before we noticed, a lot of damage was done. In addition to the size difference, the dog's medicine is highly toxic to the cat. I spent $1,000 in 3 days to deal with the neurological effects (muscle tremors that graduated to seizures). The original estimate was $2,500 – $2,700 (but our 911 vet is awesome and will work to find something in your budget). I could have paid all of my dog's expenses for a year with that! Luckily, my cat is only 7, came out of it strong and hopefully still has many years left to enjoy!

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:14 am

      WOW. I am not a multi-species household, but I had never thought about that being a concern. Thanks for sharing your comment so other people can be aware.

      • Brittany
        August 11, 2015 at 11:43 am

        Never would have occurred to me either. I’ve had pets for most of the last 28 years and it was never an issue. However, we used the same company for the both the dog and the cat. The only difference between the tubes once they were out of the box (which I got rid of to save space) was that one had a “no dogs” symbol and one had a “no cats” symbol. In the dim light, I didn’t see the slash across the cat, just the cat.

  • Christina Scalera
    August 5, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    A small and large animal vet I worked for taught me this money-saving trick. I spend less than $5/year on deworming meds for my dogs and have for years. As a lawyer and a horse person, it’s my opinion that dog owners are getting ripped off by big pharma and small animal vets when it comes to de-worming (and I think the disclaimer on the equine de-wormers has to do with patents, not the health of the animal as claimed.) The active ingredient in dog de-wormer aka heart worm and other meds are exactly the same thing horses get (fenbendazole and ivermectin). If you buy a tube of panacur (fenbendazole) and a tube of Zimectrin (ivermectin), you can give your dogs a little tiny amount each month (put the paste on the roof of their mouth with your finger). Depending on the size of your dog, these should last you 1.5-2 years. It’s not pretty and it’s not tasty for your canines, but it keeps them worm free and it’s way cheaper. I’ve never had a stool test come back positive in about five years of doing this. And from what I’ve read, it’s really, really hard to overdose your horse on de-wormer so I’m assuming the same is true for dogs.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Love this money saving tip, Christina! I spend close to $20 per month on flea, tick, and worm all in ones for my dog. Maybe it is time to switch.

  • Hello Pre Nurse
    August 5, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Dogs are so expensive! I have 3 dogs right now (yikes! I know) and 1 cat. I don’t think I spend nearly that much per month on them though. I don’t pay for daycare or boarding when I go out of town (my parents watch them) and I don’t pay for grooming as I DIY it. The most expensive thing I pay for each month is food and when it’s time for a vet visit it’s pretty expensive as they all go at the same time. -Kayla

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:15 am

      Think about how much kids cost 🙂 I’m kidding.

  • Michelle
    August 5, 2015 at 8:14 am

    I’ve never had a dog and have often wondered about the cost. While a pet isn’t really for me at this point in my life because I like to travel for long stretches of time I can see how a pet becomes a beloved member of the family.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:16 am

      Thankfully my parents took Roo for me for two whole weeks when I went to NYC, but I would like to do more traveling in the future. Once I sell my house, the only concern is who would take care of Roo in my absence. I love owning a pet, but it does come with lifestyle considerations and trade offs, for sure.

  • Madeline Anderson-Balmer
    August 3, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Many veterinary hospitals sell well dog insurance. It allows you to pay a set amount monthly and not only pays for routine shots and all, but also covers those unexpected expenses when your pet has a run in with another dog, or steps on a nail, or develops an illness that requires significant tests and medications/treatments. It’s slightly more expensive than the actual standard treatment, but being able to spread payments out AND having that additional cushion for emergencies is HUGE~! I had a small dog who was diagnosed with leukemia. We negotiated with an oncologist who treated her for free through two separate cycles of chemo, and then provided supporting care in between (acupuncture, dietitian, pain meds, etc). She lived 5 years longer rather than the 4 – 6 months they’d given her initially and enjoyed herself to the ripe old age of 16! But if we’d had to pay for all that care, we would have had to take out a second mortgage. And she was a rescue! Better to be prepared for the worst and take out that additional insurance if you can.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

      I have been looking into insurance for Roo. I think it’s the right thing to do for those “just in case” times.

  • Ali
    August 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm

    Great info! I would love to get a dog and one of the things holding me back is the money. I would be able to save by grooming at home and having my parents watch the dog when I go out of town, but it would still add quite a bit to my budget!

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:17 am

      The up front costs are the biggest budget busters, after you get the dog and get him settled in your home and potty trained, the costs become much more manageable.

  • Debt Camel
    August 3, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    I’ve just got my second dog – he’s a 15 week old English Springer. One way to save money with a dog is to switch to BARF – not only is the food cheaper but your dog will end up with great teeth, saving money on vet bills as well.

    I have to say never ever buy from a pet shop – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvT6XTMv1ag for why. And I would avoid the fashionable crosses – reputable breeders with good lines want to see them carry on and would never let one of their dogs be used for a cross. The dogs that are bred will not necessarily have the best health records, you may well end up with a dog which has the worst health problems of both breeds.

    • Lauren Bee
      August 11, 2015 at 10:13 am

      Never knew that about breeders. Thanks for the tip!

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar
    September 20, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Is Murray a Jack Russell Terrier? I had Sadie, my JRT for 14 years and just lost her this past January. We sure had some fun, but she was expensive. That dog was too smart for her own good and should have been named Houdini. I had her before my husband or daughter and we moved across the country a couple of times. I miss her lots. We have had up to four dogs at a time, but are down to 2 now and that is a good number. I probably won’t ever get a purebred dog again because I have worked so long with the humane society here and usually pick the ones no one else wants. I can’t see that I’d ever be without at least one or two dogs.

  • mrsplungedindebt
    September 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    Also, your dog is ridiculously cute 🙂

  • mrsplungedindebt
    September 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Ugh I know exactly how you feel. We have a cat. A cat with IBD (irritable bowl disease). We bought her 2 years ago for like $100.00 and in the 12 months that followed, ended up spending close to $3000 in vet visits for her diagnosis/treatments (she was on a 1.5-2month cycle of vomiting/diarrhea/not eating/getting dehydrated). She’s on a special vet prescribed diet that *seems* to be working (4.5months without symptoms, longest yet). I would NEVER get another animal (cat or dog) without pet insurance. Huge importance.

  • Holly@ClubThrifty
    September 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    What a cute puppy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Melissa
    September 18, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    Seriously love this! A lot of people don’t know what they are getting themselves into {like my sister for example… can not handle it, my parents now have two pups}. When we got our first dog we were in shock {at first… but we would never of adopted her unless we knew that we could afford it in the long run}. I do wish there would have been something like this posted when I was looking around, just so that we would have had a better understanding {& maybe so my sister would have listened to me **or I should say, listen to you**}
    <3 Melissa

  • Kyle
    September 18, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    I want a puppy! Only thing stopping me is the fact that I don’t have a yard for her to run around in and I don’t feel like I’m home nearly enough to be fair to the dog. That and they can be super expensive. My ex had a dog with food allergies and apparently his prescription food was insanely expensive. Cute dog, though.

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 7:18 pm

      haha. Thanks Kyle! You can come visit mine anytime you want 🙂

      • Kyle
        September 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

        Can I borrow him and take him to the park to help me meet women?

        • Kyle
          September 18, 2012 at 9:37 pm

          Deal! I’ve actually thought about starting some sort of business where you can rent cute puppies at the park in order to meet women but then I thought hmmmm, psychopaths with unsupervised access to puppies = no bueno. What kind of a world do we live in where you can’t even trust people with adorable puppies?

  • Em
    September 18, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    What a cutie! If I saw that little face, I wouldn’t be able to resist, either.

    Both of our dogs are rescue dogs…one of them was rescued from a kill shelter where she was just about to be put down, and she is THE sweetest little thing you will ever see. Definitely don’t overlook the possibility of rescuing/adoption…even older dogs. Our dogs were 5 and 7 when we got them, which was good for us because my husband had never owned a dog and we didn’t have to go through the stress of puppy training. (We still had to do some basic training, but they were much quicker to learn and less rambunctious than a puppy would be.)

    I have to admit I spoil my dogs like crazy. They’re my babies, and if I have a choice between a plain gray winter coat for Little Dog or a snazzy hound’s tooth Martha Stewart coat, I’m gonna go Martha Stewart. But we save on other things. Little Dog needs grooming because of her breed, but Big Dog we can get away with Furminating ourselves every week. (The Furminator is the best invention ever if your dog is a shedder.) We tried nail trimming at home, but our pups are too jumpy, so paying $10 at PetSmart is worth it rather than me potentially mutilating their poor paws. It’s all about tradeoffs…what’s worth splurging on for you, and what you’re OK cutting back on.

    Good luck to you and Murray as he settles into his new home!

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Thanks for stopping by Em! We originally spent so much on a little dog bc we wanted him to STAY little since our original plan was to stay in NYC in a teeny, tiny little apartment. There are definitely some things Ill do differently next time, but I wouldn’t trade Murray for anything!

  • Jordann @ My Alternate Life
    September 18, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    My top ways to save money on pets are to groom and train at home. I do my pup’s own brushing, baths and nails, it’s a hassle but it’s worth saving the money. I also skip the yoga classes and take her for a walk instead. That way I save money and stay fit at the same time.

  • Greg@ClubThrifty
    September 18, 2012 at 11:32 am

    When we were single, we pampered our dog a lot more than we do now. However, once we had children, the pampering stopped. Still, that’s a lot of money L. Bee, but hey, it is yours to spend:) Like Mrs. Pop said, I’d start doing your grooming at home.

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      Thanks Greg! I’ll probably never but a “pet store” animal again, I simply cannot afford it!

  • jgriss
    September 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

    I agree it can seem ridiculous to buy organic dog food, but then after watching our last old dog become allergic to pretty much everything in cheap dog foods and seeing the skin problems and muscle problems it can cause, I would seriously advocate spending the few extra dollars for the good food without artificial preservatives and with actual meat as the first ingredient. It’s worth the few dollars now to keep your pet healthier, especially with puppies or older dogs.

    my puppy is spoiled with his food, but then most of his toys are $1.17 towels and dollar chew ropes from walmart. no reason to spend on things he will just destroy anyway.

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 1:02 am

      OMG I had never thought of buying murray a towel to destroy. Genius!

  • My Money Design
    September 18, 2012 at 12:28 am

    Can you really put a price on a face like that? Your dog is so cute!

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

      Haha. Thank you so much! Ironically for 800 he was on sale, because every in NYC wants the french bulldogs. It’s hard to discipline him with that face, he’s a bit of a wild child. Glad someone understands 🙂

  • Janine
    September 17, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    I love puppies, I’m a sucker for them. I’m looking at getting one in the New Year now that i’ve moved out of home and had to leave my puppy with my family. As expensive as pets can be, I think they are worth every dollar.

    Your dog is adorable!

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 1:02 am

      Thanks Janine-I have never regretted getting Murray, but I want to make sure everyone knows what they are getting themselves into with the costs. Let me know when you finally get one-I wanna see pics 🙂

  • John S @ Frugal Rules
    September 17, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    Wow, that is a lot. I would agree with trying to do what you can at home. We have a cat and he got a urinary infection a few years ago…the result is having to buy some insanely expensive food that we can only buy at one of a few places in town. I’ve looked online to try and find it cheaper, but no such luck.

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 1:00 am

      I heard about that problem with cats-it has something to do with build up in the kidneys. Murray only eats dry organic food-but we weaned him off the “wet” food, so there are some savings there now.

  • DC @ Young Adult Money
    September 17, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    We are looking at getting a dog in a couple months and probably the biggest savings will be from getting a shelter dog instead of one at a pet store. We will probably only have to pay $300 to adopt, and that is after they have been examined by a vet.

    I suppose there are going to be vet, grooming, and food costs no matter what…. Maybe pass on the PUGGZ? haha 😉

    • L Bee
      September 18, 2012 at 12:59 am

      I wrote this some time ago and decided to repost since I now have more of an audience. Murray hated the PUGZ-he chewed them off his feet every time we put them on.

  • Michelle
    September 17, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Wow that’s a lot of money! I’m all for adopting/rescuing.

  • Michelle
    September 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    Ermahgerd…I love him!!! Right now, we are taking your friend Anonymous Kayla’s advice and not buying a dog–sigh. I really want one, though! We have hermit crabs to make the boys happy, but I don’t really even like them. They’re…kind of cute in a creepy slimy way. I prefer a fluffy furball to cuddle!

    • L Bee
      September 17, 2012 at 4:03 pm

      Puppies are a lot of work-kindof like a baby in the fact that they may now sleep through the night the first couple of weeks. But they’re worth it-if you are ready, and you get the money back in cuddles. 🙂

  • Mrs. Pop @ Planting Our Pennies
    September 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    Wow, those numbers are a little ridiculous. We spend about $20/month on Kitty PoP – and he is one happy cat.
    For cost savings, I would say learn how to do basic grooming on your pet. Kitty PoP’s nails need to be trimmed about once a week – and it’s $8 to take him to the vet or a groomer for a quick nail trim. But a $15 dog nail clipper has been doing the job for more than 3 years now at home – and our vet always compliments us on how good his nails look when he goes in for yearly visits.

  • Kayla Renae Bly
    May 10, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Thanks for the shout out. You know me SO well! Can’t wait to see you in EIGHT DAYS!!!

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