31 Aug 1 Comment timbearden Breeder Education, Puppy Education

Annual Costs

I received an e-mail today in regards to the estimates of the annual cost of owning a golden retriever. People are often occupied with how much a puppy may cost initially and they forget the actual costs that occur over time. I appreciated the e-mail asking me for an estimate and I thought that many others might be interested in this as well. So I’ll try and explain many typical yearly costs as well as initial costs. In an effort to be quick, my annual estimate of owning a golden retriever is $1650. For visual people we put together an infographic guide below.


I’ll try and explain this in thourough. The number one cost of having a puppy is food. A puppy can’t survive without food can they?  Each of my golden retrievers eat about 1 bag of 30 lb dog food a month. Their weight alters how much they eat, but a rough estimate is about 1 full sized 30 lb bag a food a month. Everyone can opt to pay for cheap food from a store for around $25 a month. Only to have higher medical bills later in life that somehow may have been prevented with a higher quality food. We suggest something healthier, and hopefully down the road their will be less vet bills. I pay about $42 a month for dog food per dog. We use Taste of The Wild High Prairie and alternate to Canidae and other 5 star foods. Taste of the Wild is considered a five star dog food from most reviewers. I get at discount for $42 and it generally costs between $45-$50. You can pay up to $80-$90 a bag, but I personally don’t think it’s worth the price. Sometimes a puppy may not adjust to Taste of the Wild and need a different food. In those cases sometimes it may be necessary to move to a higher priced food. Most of the time that is not needed.

The next expensive cost is vet bills. If you have a dog that is always healthy it can be just a little amount per year. For me I vaccinate my dogs myself. So that’s about $6 a year for a 5 in 1 vaccine. By law I cannot vaccinate for rabies, so I do have to go into a vet for that. Many veterinarians are vaccinating with a rabies vaccine that lasts 3 years. That is something to consider. Lets say on average if I did a visit each year for a annual checkup it’s about $40 to the vet. Some vets charge more in more expensive areas such as the Bay Area. Vaccines generally cost roughly an additional $20 from a vet. That’s a healthy dog without any problems.

If you have flea and tick problems that could cost more, but not all that much. Generally flea, tick, and heart worm prevention can run about $15 a month. That’s if you were to use it on regular monthly intervals as prescribed by Frontline Plus. Lets face it though, I don’t know of anyone who uses Frontline that often.  If you are in a woody area where it may be tick infested, then indeed follow the directions more precisely.  It’s important to not forget heart worm treatments though.  We use Heartgard Plus during mosquito season, although we are looking into a new product.

Another veterinary cost to consider is when neutering or spaying your dog. We suggest waiting till their second year of life once their bones have fused and they are done growing.  This means in their second year of life you will have an additional cost of $50-$175 on average to have them fixed. I know in the bay area they do charge upwards of $200, but generally it isn’t that high.

Vet bills will get more expensive as they age. When they become older the chances of cancer, dysplasia, and other diseases rise. I’ve had animals through death and never had to worry about any extra veterinary costs. Although that is not always the case and at times problems do arise. Cancer treatments and dysplasia surgeries can cost in the thousands. Alternatives is to pay for dog insurance which is around $300-$500 a year. Anything that goes past a deductible is generally paid for. A recent estimate for our puppy Ember was $40 a month.  Her policy included a 80% reimbursement, and a $250 deductible. Paying $500 a year for the lifetime of a dog can cover the majority of costs accrued later. I think that is something everyone should consider. Our estimates of insurance is from Healthy Paws.

Another annual cost is for dog bones and toys. If I splurge I could pay up to $25 a month on them for that, sometimes more. Our dogs are spoiled. A good dog bone can cost $2.50 on up. Some dogs prefer one type of bone verses another. Some chew them faster than others.  Dog toys can be expensive, and sometimes they destroy them quickly.  If they do destroy them then they need to be discarded.  Dogs also need baths.  Grooming costs can be a lot.  I know many people pay about $45 a month to groom them.  I groom them myself while occasionally for shows I have a professional do it for me. When I do it myself it costs maybe a buck a two a month for soap.

If you also go on vacation and need to board your dog, then costs rise even further.  When I used to board my dogs it would be $35 a day per dog.  I received discounts with multiple dogs and generally spent $300-$400 for two dogs while on vacation.  This is an expense if you have no one to watch them for free.

I could also throw in other expenses.  A puppy may have accidents when potty training.  Some might opt for carpet cleaning once their puppy is trained.  Also, many people buy covers for their car seats to prevent them from getting dirty. Not everyone has an enclosed fence and need to buy a barrier of some sort.

Lastly we can’t forget about county taxes for owning a dog.  Most counties charge around $20 a year to license your dog.

I’d say a rough estimate if you paid for health insurance is that a dog costs about $1650 a year on a quality food. If you didn’t pay insurance, and had no problems it would be a lot less.

Initial Costs

There are initial costs as well. You’ll need a leash, dog bowls, bedding, crates if you crate train, etc. Occasionally you might have to replace something that gets chewed. Puppies do chew a lot when young.  I’d plan on around $200 for these things.

We also suggest dog training in their first year.  Prices for this can cost vary a little to a lot and depends on how much training you are wanting to do.   Years ago we paid about $120 for 3 stages of puppy training.  Of course that was a class with a bunch of other dogs.  Current estimates are $50-$125 for 4-8 weeks of one hour training.  Individual training costs more.  We now train our own, and the more investment of your own time the less money you will have to pay.


An AKC article estimates yearly costs at $3239 for large breed dogs.  Other google estimates for dogs are at $1270 a year.  These numbers are far different and I believe are different because the lesser number doesn’t consider insurance or grooming.  I’d put my estimate at around $1850 the first and second year, and around $1650 the years after.  Then the later senior years returning to a higher cost.  Assuming though you paid for insurance it should not go up that much.

My estimate is base on the following:

Food:  $540
Annual Vet Bills and Vaccines:  $60-$80
Flea, Tick and Heartworm:  $180
Pet Insurance: $480
Toys and Miscellaneous: $300
Licensing: $20
Optional Costs: $50-$150

Total: $1650

Now these numbers are indeed just estimates and will vary on location.  Many people may opt to not have pet insurance and save $500 a year and in the long run be fine.  Some may choose to pay it just in case.  Some may choose for a cheaper food, some more expensive.  In any event, I am hopeful this estimate is informative for those looking at getting their first fur member. Let us know what numbers you think you spend and costs we may have left out.

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