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How much does it cost to own a dog?

19TH APRIL 2024


Images of a border terrier dog

It’s a classic tale: she, a dog person, me, a cat lover. At first, neither of us were keen to switch teams. But then lockdown hit, what was ‘normal’ totally changed and we welcomed Mac, a lively border terrier, into our home.

Before we got him though, we did talk about logistics. What would happen when we went away? What would it be like looking after a dog and a baby in the future? And the question often overlooked: how much would owning a dog cost?

That last question was tricky to answer before we actually got Mac, but now that he’s four, I’m much more clued up.

Here’s what we spent on our dog Mac in a month:

Dog food£42
Dog treats£5
Pet insurance£11
Poo bags£5
Total £63

And here’s what we spend over the year on one-off costs:

Vaccinations (annual booster jabs)£60
Vet bills (visits and repeat prescriptions)£120
Toys and presents£25
Grooming and nail clipping£130
Dog sitting (Thank you presents for friends and family)£50

What I wish I knew then…

Even if you don’t think you will, you quickly become besotted with your dog. They instantly become part of your family. And you treat them with the same standards you treat everyone else! You want the best for your dog, which is why it’s so easy to get caught up hunting out the most premium version of everything before you really know and understand your dog.

For example, before Mac arrived, we bought a brand new dog cage. We thought this would be his bed for the night, every night. This just didn’t work out. He hated it from the get go and never settled in it. He's quite an anxious dog, he always has been, and likes to be able to see us at night. Before getting him, we didn’t understand this could be the case, and just expected him to settle in a cage, as other dogs do.

People also gave us toys and a whole load of dog jumpers – but he just isn’t that kind of dog. Most of it sits in a cupboard leaving us feeling guilty. So, before you carry out a full trolley dash at your local pet store, spend time getting to know your dog. Try different toys (soft or hard), research different types of food (dry, wet or a combination), and learn what treats they like before buying a large amount of anything.

If you do make this mistake, remember there will always be someone looking for the things you don’t want – no two dogs are the same and one dog's trash could be another dog's treasure. You could take advantage of resale apps like Vinted and Gumtree and sell on the equipment you don’t use.

One thing all dogs have in common is their need for food. We decided to follow a recommendation from a friend and joined a subscription package, which initially came with low costs and various offers. Of course, as dogs grow, so does their appetite, meaning that you may end up spending more than you expected at the start. This is what happened to us, especially when the offers ran out.

Luckily, Mac isn’t fussy and eats anything put in front of him. So we decided to shop around and found we were able to save 30% by switching to a different food, without compromising on the quality. By this stage, we also knew how much food he needs as an adult dog, which helped us work out what to go for. Our swap means that we either have to go out and buy it or order it each month, instead of it being on autopilot, but it’s worth the saving. Convenience can really cost!

Vet bills are also a big part of a dog’s life. From routine check ups, major surgery to ear cleaning, you could be faced with bills that range from the hundreds to the thousands, which is why we set up pet insurance from day one.

We also put aside a little each month into a Space in our Starling joint account to cover the excess we’d need to pay if we get a big vet bill. And we top this up with loose change whenever we spend from the joint account by using Round Ups. (Starling customers can use Spaces to separate money from their main balance for a particular purpose, such as a pet. Spaces can be topped up through the Round Ups feature – if you spend £3.70 on something, 30p will automatically go into a Space of your choice).

What I know now…

It’s a real privilege to own a dog of any kind, and the responsibility should never be taken lightly. Like us, dogs are all unique, they have different personalities and traits – no dog is perfect. Don’t expect your dog to be the same as the one next door or the ones you see on your social media feed. And before bringing a dog, or any pet into your life, take time to understand both the financial and emotional cost of doing so.

Make sure you have enough each month to cover the regular costs (food, treats, insurance etc.) and try to be prepared for the bigger, more irregular costs. If you’re getting a dog as a couple, I also recommend sharing the load of managing these costs so it doesn't all fall on one person. It’s why any costs related to Mac come out of our joint account, which has all the tools we need to plan ahead and keep track of how much we’re spending on ‘one-off’ treats.

Take it from me: it’s almost impossible to say no when your dog gives you ‘that look’. And sadly, there’s no app feature to help me with that…