More Than a Best Friend: Include These Items in Your Dog Adoption Budget

man posing with dog
Timothy Moore adopted his best friend, Greyson, five years ago. Photo courtesy of Timothy Moore
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Adopting a new dog is not a financial endeavor to be taken lightly. For one of my dogs, I’ve spent roughly $10,000 over the course of its life and was admittedly not prepared for some of the expenses when I first rescued him when I was 21 years old.

If you are sure you can afford to adopt a new dog (beyond just the adoption fees) and you’ve found the perfect pooch for your family, you should purchase and stock a number of items in your house before picking up your new four-legged friend from the shelter.

But what all should you purchase? What things can you skip out on? And how much will it cost? I spoke with Phyllis Stewart, longtime volunteer at Franklin County Dog Shelter (FCDS) in Columbus, Ohio, to learn more.

Dog Crates

The most important item for a new dog is a crate,” Stewart says. “It can be purchased new, used or borrowed, as it may not be needed for a long time. A crate will aid in house-training, sleeping overnight, possible separation anxiety and keeping the dog and your house safe when you are not home.”

If borrowed, the crate would cost nothing. On the flip side, I spent $150 on a cage for my 150-pound Great Dane.

However, you don’t need to purchase a bed for the crate right away.

“I usually suggest that new adopters wait to purchase a dog bed until they know if the dog is a chewer or shredder,” says Stewart. “Use old towels and blankets in the crate until settled in.”

Total Cost: $0 – $150


dog licking her lips
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

You should also have food ready before bringing your new dog home. But there’s no sense in paying top dollar for the super fancy stuff.

Don’t buy cheap food, but expensive specialty food is not needed either, unless your veterinarian recommends for medical reasons,” says Stewart. “Buy a good mid-range food in a puppy variety if the dog is under eight months old.”

Food costs will depend on the size of the bag (the larger the bag, the more expensive, but also the more value per pound) and the brand. Daily Treat’s research on the best deals for mid-range grain-free dog food found that Purina Beneful Grain Free is the best deal. You’ll spend $14 for a 12.5-pound bag on Amazon.

You’ll also need bowls for eating and drinking.

“Heavy ceramic bowls are good for water because they don’t tip easily,” says Stewart.

A suitable set is available on Amazon for $22.

Stewart also says treats are great for training. Have a bag ready at your home for the first lesson. You can find this at your local pet store for around $5 (or just make your own at home).

Total Cost: $41

Pet Care

Stewart recommends having a grooming brush ready at home, as you’ll want to give your dog a bath soon after adoption.

She says soft bristles are good for short coats to massage the dog’s skin and distribute oils for a shiny coat, and brushes with long metal bristles are good for dogs with long coats, to prevent matting.You can find dog brushes on Amazon for under $10.

Other care items to have ready include nail clippers ($10 pair) and shampoo ($6 bottle). For clippers, Stewart recommends the scissor kind instead of the guillotine style, but if you’re uncomfortable doing the trimming yourself, anticipate a monthly or bimonthly cost of around $10 to $15 for a groomer to take care of it.

Total Cost: $26

Toys and Miscellaneous

hand giving a dog a ball
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Toys are important to welcome your dog into your home upon its arrival. Stewart recommends paying for quality here, as well-made toys last much longer and will save you in the long run. Suggested toys include Kongs for treat dispensing ($10), Nylabones ($9) and knotted rope toys ($9).

Use two balls to train during fetch: The dog only gets ball number two if it successfully retrieves and returns ball number one. No need to buy anything special: Just use tennis balls you likely have lying around the house.

As for the collar and leash, that might be one set of expenses you can avoid. Many shelters, such as the one at which Stewart volunteers, offer these with the adoption.

“I would recommend that an adopter ask their shelter if they need to provide one and what size is needed,” says Stewart.

If you do need to provide your own, you’ll spend roughly $20 on the set.

Total Cost: $28 – $48

Total Expenses — And Some Discounts

After the cost of the initial adoption, you will likely need to spend $95 to $265 to have your house ready for your new furry friend. Keep in mind, however, that the size of your dog (and whether it is a puppy or an adult) can either help cut costs — or raise them.

There are, however, other options to reduce your initial costs.

For example, Stewart also acts as a trustee at Friends of the Shelter, a nonprofit that raises funds for medical care of dogs at the shelter she volunteers at. This nonprofit organizes a Shelter Shop that sells donated items to new adopters at discounted prices — and donors can deduct those donations on their taxes. Ask your local shelters if they have similar programs.

You can also turn to friends and family (and other social media acquaintances) for hand-me-downs. Pet guardians are generally happy to pass along crates their dogs have outgrown or fresh bags of food their dog suddenly grew tired of.

Other Adoption Advice

a dog walking outside
Carmen Mandato/ The Penny Hoarder

Beyond a shopping list, Stewart offered some additional advice to first-time adopters welcoming a dog home.

Consider adopting at a time when someone will be home for the first day or two,” she says. “It will help them relax and get used to the home before being left alone.”

She adds, “Keep the first few weeks quiet, establish a routine and keep strangers to a minimum. Never allow unsupervised interactions with young children.”

This is especially true as you are getting to know the behaviors of your new dog.

If you have other pets, Stewart offers this advice: “Bring your pets to meet the new dog before adoption. Have someone help you take the dogs on a long walk together before entering the home. Allow a decompression period before allowing direct interactions in the home.”

Finally, she says, “Newly adopted dogs are often lost when they dash past you at the front door. Put the dog on a leash or in the crate when leaving or entering the house, and begin teaching the dog to ‘wait’ whenever the door is being opened.”

If you are not confident as a trainer, add classes to your expenses. Training is crucial to the safety of your dog and to ensuring good behavior throughout its lifetime.

Finally, schedule a vet appointment shortly after adoption. Call around to get price quotes, but more importantly, read reviews of local veterinarians. You’ll want an affordable one, but also one who will make you and your dog feel comfortable.

Timothy Moore is a proud doggy daddy to two rescues — Greyson and Clyde. When he is not cleaning out Greyson’s ears or playing tug-of-war with Clyde, Timothy is usually reading, writing, editing or drinking a beer.