Dog talk with Uncle Matty: What price love, literally?

By From page A4 | February 15, 2013

Over the years, I’ve asked the question “What price love?” many times and usually in a context in which the “price” paid is physical safety and emotional and psychological well-being. The threat of injury to loved ones, the stress of living in fear, the potential for lawsuits, loss of homeowners insurance and loss of the home itself are all “prices” some people pay because they cannot admit that their dog needs more help than they are equipped to give.

Not this time.

This time I’m talking actual dollars and cents. How much does it cost to bring a dog into your life?

I shared a story of a couple whose puppy suffered a serious medical trauma. Unbeknownst to them, the pup was napping behind the wheel of the husband’s van, which was parked in the driveway. When the man backed up, he ran over the pup. Multiple surgeries and two years’ worth of intensive time and therapy later, the dog was a happy, leaping, bounding furry miracle of modern medicine. But the costs were enormous.

This is an extreme example, but the reality is: Stuff happens. Be prepared.

The annual cost of caring for a dog varies according to size, breed and the individual dog. Smaller dogs eat less, so your food costs will be lower. Purebred dogs are known to have more health problems because of their narrower gene pool, which means you could end up spending more on medication and veterinary visits than you would with a Heinz 57. And you’re going to pay more to board a Newfoundland than you would to board a Yorkie.

Most canine professionals estimate the average annual costs of raising a dog to be:

• about $800 for a toy breed;
• about $1,200 for a small to medium-sized dog;
• about $1,500 for a large dog.

Multiply the appropriate number by 12 to 16 years (small dogs typically live longer than large dogs), and you have a good idea of what it will cost to share your life with a dog.

These averages include the real and enduring costs of food, recurring medical, toys and treats, licensing, grooming, health insurance and miscellaneous supplies such as food and water bowls, leashes, collars, crates and bedding, which do not necessarily require replacement annually.

Your dog’s first year will likely exceed the annual average, as this year brings the one-time initial costs of the adoption or the purchase price of the dog, plus the spay or neuter procedure, initial shots, microchipping, ID tags and training.

A few of these expenses can be eliminated with some good old-fashioned DIY. Bathe your dog at home, brush his coat and teeth regularly, and learn to clip his nails yourself, and you’ll save a pretty penny on grooming. Socialize your dog properly from an early age, and teach him good manners, and you’ll find he’s welcome at the homes of friends and family when you need to leave town. This could save you money on boarding and doggie day care costs.

Finally, health insurance is optional. There are pros and cons to buying health insurance for your dog. Do some research and discuss it with your vet to determine whether this is a necessary expense for you and your dog.

The good news: no college!

Keep these costs in mind when considering whether to get a dog and what kind. Most people bond with their dogs instantly, so you want to be sure you’re able to fully commit from day one. The difference between involved and committed is seen in the ham and eggs breakfast: The chicken was involved. The pig was committed.


Dog trainer Matthew “Uncle Matty” Margolis is the co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and the host of the PBS series “WOOF! It’s a Dog’s Life!” Read all of Uncle Matty’s columns at, and visit him at Send your questions to[email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.

Matthew Margolis

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