Have you been dreaming of having your very own puppy to play fetch with? Having a dog to cuddle, play with and pet brings a lot of joy into many people's lives – but before you adopt a pet or purchase one from a breeder, it's important that you know the costs of having a pet.

Knowing how much you'll need to spend before you commit to taking care of a dog will help you budget for one and will ensure that you feel less financial stress once Fido joins your household. We'll walk you through what you need to know about the costs of owning a dog and how to budget for them.

How much does it cost to own a dog?

You might think that it's simple to take care of a dog. All you need are a few toys and food, right? But the actual costs of having a dog add up!

Tara Alexander, healthcare and professional advisor at Scotia and proud owner of her own pup, says that the first thing you have to think about is the cost of the dog itself. Even if you adopt a dog, it usually costs between $50 to $150 – a fee which pays for vet examinations and some vaccinations. If you get a dog from a breeder, that might cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the breed. Then you have to think about the necessary medical care a puppy or older dog requires.

“Shots required if you're getting a puppy will be approximately $300 to $400 for the first round of vaccines, $250 to $350 for the second round and $250 to $350 for the third round of vaccines,” says Tara.

The cost of food can be highly variable as well, you will need to research what your pup needs (which you can talk about with your vet). You'll also need to buy a crate, leash, collar, bowls, toys, brushes, treats and positive reinforcement gifts, and cleaning supplies.

While there are some services that offer free spaying or neutering, these have long waiting lists. Tara put her dog Echo on one of these lists when she was 6 weeks old and didn't get a call until she was almost 2 years old. If you want to pay for it yourself, it will cost between $450 to $600 for female dog and $600 to $700 for a male dog.

You can also consider getting pet insurance to help you cover any unexpected medical costs. That can cost anywhere from $50 a month to over $100 a month depending on the level of coverage, your dog's breed, and other things like the deductible and percentage of coverage you choose.

Other expenses to consider are things like grooming, which can cost over $100 every time, dog training which can cost over $250 for each set of classes, a dog walker, which costs $20 to $30 per hour and boarding when you go on vacation, which can cost $50 to over $75 per night.

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The first year of having a pet is always the most expensive,” says Tara. “Beyond the first year, you have reoccurring expenses to ensure they're up to date on shots and other health needs.”

Building your budget for a dog

Once you add a new furry companion to your household, you will need to add them into your monthly and annual budget. That will include a monthly expense category for things like dog food, pet insurance, and medications, as well as a variable expenses category for things like grooming and toys. How much you will need to set aside each month or year will depend on your dog's needs. After all, a small dog will need far less food than a Great Dane.

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Do you research beforehand,” says Tara. “Learn about the breed and what their specific needs are. Your dog is now a necessity so if you're used to spending $150/month on your groceries you now need to budget the additional food costs for your pet into your budget. Sacrifices will be made on your part both financially and socially.”

Don't just buy things that you think your dog needs, says Tara. For example, some dogs need coats and booties for Canadian winters, but her dog's breed does not. A quick Google search can save you a significant amount of money.

Budgeting for a dog could mean cutting back in other areas in order to afford to take proper care of your dog. Or you could get creative about saving money on your dog's expenses.

Look for where you can save

Tara believes in being as creative as possible in finding ways to save money on your pet. For example, she suggests buying things in bulk – especially things like food and waste bags which you will need to buy consistently. 

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Do your research on websites and ask other dog owners. When you buy something practical and reliable once, it is unlikely you'll need to spend frequently later.”

This is particularly important for more expensive equipment but also for things like dog toys. The last thing you want is to buy a toy and have it ripped apart that same day.

Also, while you want to make sure that your dog has enough things to keep them occupied, remember that you don't need to spoil them. Buying every cute toy or dog outfit adds up and is unnecessary. There are better ways you can show your love for your dog.

It's worth it

Making sure you can afford a dog is important since the last thing you want is to get attached to a new furry companion and then realize that you aren't able to meet their needs within your budget. Despite the fact that pets are expensive, they're definitely worth it. After all, there's nothing better than how excited a dog is to see you when you get home.