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Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One?

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Table of Contents

Can You Afford a Big Dog? 

These are the complete results of the largest survey of big dog owners ever conducted.  This landmark research answers the following questions:

  • “What is the annual cost of owning a big dog?” 
  • “How much does a big dog cost?” And,
  • “Can I afford a big dog?” 

770 large and giant breed dog owners answered 48 questions about their expenses of big dog ownership such as purchase, healthcare, feeding, travel, home, and training.  

This data was collected and is shared here in aggregate as a summary of the key results and findings.  

Grab a cup of coffee and a comfortable seat and let’s dive in…


This post contains affiliate links from which I may receive a small compensation.  There is NO ADDED COST to you should you use these links.


Background and Objectives

As Simon Sinek so eloquently argues, we need to “Start With [our] Why.” 

First, data available on the annual cost of dog ownership is lacking across the board, not just as it relates to large and giant breed dogs.  

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.
Annual Cost Data from APPA Pet Industry Market Size and Ownership Statistics

For example, the Pet Industry Market Size and Ownership Statistics reported by the American Pet Products Association in the 2019-2020 APPA National Pet Owners Survey report basic annual expenses for dog and cat owners.  

While I am not here to discuss the merits or shortcomings of their research, the data that is being shared publicly is not even close to what I have experienced as a life-long big dog owner.

So my first objective of this research was to uncover the true cost of big dog ownership.  What we spend money on and why.  

My second reason was more subjective but no less important.

In How to Put an End To Dog Rescue: 10 Simple Solutions that CAN Work, I discussed the large percentage of large breed dogs who are relinquished to shelters purely due to their size and for financial reasons.  Two reasons that, in the majority of cases, are preventable by making a more informed decision about the dog they were buying or adopting. 

Here’s the point…

Mastiff Big Dogs in the Big Dog Mom Survey Results for the Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

Knowledge is power. 

There is no shame in admitting you are not financially ready or able to commit to the responsibility of owning a large or giant breed dog.  

However, acknowledging this requires buyers to have a clear understanding of the cost before they buy.  

This landmark research seeks to inform prospective large and giant breed puppy buyers.  

To help them budget and plan and make better financial decisions which, as a result, will reduce the number of big dogs relinquished into shelters or rehomed.  

If this sounds a little like Ms. America pledging to end world hunger or promote world peace, stick with me.  

There is no shame in admitting you are not financially ready or able to commit to the responsibility of owning a large or giant breed dog. Click to Tweet

Study Design and Methods 

This 48-question survey was shared online through email, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

770 big dog owners contributed during the 6 weeks in July and August 2019 before the survey closed, detailing specific dollar amounts for each question based on their actual spending, not assumed or estimated. 

Survey respondents were informed that a “big dog” was defined as a “dog who would be 50 pounds or more at maturity.” 

Only expenses for big dogs were included in the survey results. All expenses that could be attributed to any small or medium size dogs were excluded. Additionally, owners with more than one big dog were asked to answer some of the questions separately using Breed 1, Breed 2, Breed 3, and so on for each of their dogs to improve the accuracy of the results.

For brevity, I am including only the high-level results of the study and my conclusions in this post.

**If you would like to read the complete report with comprehensive survey data and analysis, click here.**


Demographics 

Number of Big Dogs in Home

770 big dog owners and 1,500 large and giant breed dogs were represented across the entire study population with an average of 2 big dogs per household.

43% (329) of the respondents reported having just one big dog.

Large and Giant Breed Dogs including in Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Survey.
Large and Giant Breeds Word Cloud, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

Breeds Represented

Respondents were asked to list each large or giant breed dog they have and identify them by specific breed or breed mix. 

If you are unfamiliar with how word clouds work, the larger the print, the more frequently that word was mentioned.  

Over 112 individual large or giant breeds or breed mixes were represented with over 1,500 individual dogs.   

Current Age of Big Dog 

As you can see in the graph below, 14% (209) of the big dogs included in this survey are less than a year old, while 62% (924) fell in the middle adult age bracket.  What is interesting and noteworthy is the number of older dogs (7+ years) represented, 24% (360).

Age Distribution of Big Dogs - Big Dog Mom Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Survey Results
Age Distribution of Big Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

Homes With Small and Medium Size Dogs

To be clear, the results of this survey and the data in this report are exclusive to large and giant breed dogs.  

However, I wanted to get a sense of how many additional dogs were living in the home that may play a role in the financial decisions dog owners make. 

A total of 27% (203) big dog owners reported that they also had one or more small or medium-sized dogs.  

Length of Time as a Big Dog Owner

From new owners to tenured breed experts, 573 respondents to this question collectively have 9,760 years of big dog ownership with an average of 17 years.  


Acquiring a Big Dog

The next few questions will relate directly to the purchase method and the costs of buying a big dog. 

Where to Buy or Adopt a Big Dog

Source of Large or Giant Breed Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey
Source of Large or Giant Breed Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey

Respondents were asked where they acquired each of their big dogs.  They were given the choice between a reputable purebred breeder, designer dog breeder, friend or neighbor, pet store, rescue/shelter, stray, or other.

Roughly 60% of big dog owners chose to acquire their dog(s) through the reputable breeder channel, with rescue (27%) and friends or neighbors (10%) coming in second and third respectively.  

Interestingly, this percentage breakdown stayed consistent regardless of whether someone had one big dog or four.

Purchase Price of a Big Dog

757 big dog owners revealed spending a combined nearly $1.5 million on acquiring their big dog(s).   

Purchase price of large and giant breed dogs based on Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Survey results
Purchase Price of Big Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

As you can see, the purchase price of a big dog ranged widely from $0 to well over $2000.  And while roughly 20%-25% of big dog owners spent over $2000 on acquiring their dog, the majority spent less than $1,500. 

Keep in mind that these averages include those who reportedly acquired their dog for free.


Healthcare Costs for Big Dogs

General Veterinary Costs for Big Dogs

This category encompassed a few questions regarding general veterinary healthcare for dogs including how often big dogs are taken to the vet and how much big dog owners spend per month on this preventive wellness care. 

General veterinary care included both integrative and holistic medicine, but excluded veterinary specialists. 

Out of the 1,342 big dogs represented in this sample, on average, only 26% (345 dogs) visit their veterinarian simply for an annual visit.  

For all others, they find themselves at the veterinarian three times a year (39%, 520), four times a year (15%, 207), or more than 6 times a year (8%, 101). 

Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

673 big dog owners spent an average of $1,477 per year on general veterinary expenses. 

Specialty Veterinary Costs for Big Dogs

Specialty veterinary care was defined as care for a specific medical condition such as a cardiologist, neurologist, orthopedist, chiropractor, etc.

Percentage of big dogs who see a veterinary specialist, Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Percentage of big dogs who see a veterinary specialist

When asked, 18.1% (126) of big dog owners regularly see a veterinary specialist for a specific medical condition while 81.9% said they did not. 

Of the big dog owners who reportedly saw a veterinary specialist, the average annual spending for big dog owners was $1,858 for veterinary specialty expenses, not including diagnostics, procedures, or pet medications.  

Surgical Procedures and Diagnostic Expenses for Big Dogs

To garner an accurate diagnosis or develop a treatment plan, diagnostics and procedures are often ordered in the course of normal veterinary medicine. 

Big dog owners were asked to provide the amount of money they spent in the prior 12 month period on any surgical or diagnostic procedures that were ordered outside of normal preventative care. For example, spay/neuter, x-rays, lump removal, biopsies, MRI,  urine and blood tests.

649 big dog owners spent an average of $1,294 annually on surgical or diagnostic procedures.

Interestingly, if we take the total spend on veterinary care for big dog owners we find that the percentage of surgical and diagnostic expenditures makes up a significant proportion of overall dollars spent by big dog owners.  

In fact, when all veterinary expenses are combined, diagnostics and surgeries account for 28% of the total spend.  

However, when specialty veterinary services are excluded and we only look at the averages for general veterinary expenses and surgeries and diagnostics, the latter make up roughly 47% of the total spend annually!

Monthly Cost for Pet Medications 

With the rising cost of prescription pet medications, this warranted a category of its own. 

Big dog owners were asked to provide their combined monthly spend on prescription pet medications they obtain through a veterinarian, retail pharmacy, or online (not including nutritional supplements). 

652 big dog owners spent a total of $105,997 on pet meds.  Of these, 25% (165) reported not having any prescription pet medications to purchase each month, while 21% (135) spent more than $200.   

The average monthly cost for pet medications was $163.  This equates to $1,956 per year for the average big dog owner.

Pet Health Insurance

In a sample of 755 big dog owners, 24.8% (187) answered yes, while 75.6% (571) answered no, they did not have pet health insurance for their big dogs. 

Percentage of big dog owners with pet health insurance, Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Survey Results
Percentage of big dog owners with pet health insurance, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

From those who responded that they had purchased pet health insurance for their dog(s), data was gathered about the timing of their purchase and the monthly cost for pet insurance premiums.

Not surprisingly, the majority of dog owners who purchased health insurance for their dog did so when their dog was a puppy (82.5%, 137).

According to this sample of big dog owners, the average monthly cost for pet health insurance was $108.15 per month with a total spend of $17,629. 

Keep in mind for many of these folks, they are covering multiple big dogs.  

The high for this sample group was $500 per month to cover 9 big dogs which work out to be a little over $55 per month.  The mode (the number that occurs most frequently) for this sample was $50.  

Remember that 17% of these owners purchased pet health insurance for their dog at an older age (past one year).  

Pet health insurance premiums for puppies will be significantly less expensive, which is why I recommend ALL large and giant breed puppy buyers get pet insurance when they pick up their puppy, not two years later!

Consider the following based on these data:

If the cost of a visit to the veterinarian is $300, assuming only one of these is an annual wellness visit and the others require diagnostics and testing, and a dog owner goes to the vet at least three times per year (50%-62% of big dog owners reported 3, 4, or 6+ visits)…

That is $900.  

If the average cost of pet health insurance is $50 per month, that is $600 per year.  A $300 savings to those with pet insurance

Food for thought… 

Up to 90% back on Vet Bills - Embrace Pet InsuranceAnnual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Summary of Average Annual Cost for Veterinary Care for Big Dogs

General Veterinary Expenses$1,477
Specialty Veterinary Expenses$1,858
Surgical Procedures & Diagnostics$1,294
Pet Medications$1,956
Total $6,585
Pet Health Insurance$50-108/month
Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Feeding Expenses for a Big Dog

Type of Diet

Commercial kibble with or without small amounts of fresh food added was the most prevalent dietary choice by big dog owners.  Over two-thirds (67.3%, 436) selected this option when asked what they are feeding their big dog(s).  

Popular Diets for Big Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey Results for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog
Popular Diets for Big Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

The remaining dog owners had the choice between a 50/50 blend of commercial kibble and fresh food (21%, 136), 100% home-cooked (0.5%, 3), 100% commercial raw like Darwin’s, Dr. Harveys, Raw Paws Pet Food, etc (4%, 25), 100% home-prepared raw (7.6%, 49), and Veterinary Rx Diet (5.3%, 34). 

Monthly Cost to Feed a Big Dog

Big dog owners were asked how much they spend PER MONTH on food for their dog (s).  I asked them to Include here the cost of the food plus anything they added to the diet on a regular basis like eggs, coconut oil, probiotic-rich additions like yogurt or kefir, etc.

The average monthly cost of feeding big dogs according to this sample group was $187, or $2,244 per year.

While many of these dog owners are feeding more than one dog, many aren’t.  Consider that 43% (329) of the 770 initial respondents reported to only have one big dog.  

Monthly Cost for Nutritional Pet Supplements

Nutritional pet supplements such as vitamins, omega 3 fatty acids, glucosamine & chondroitin, probiotics, and immune system boosters are increasing in popularity for pet owners. 

In this survey, 641 big dog owners spent an average of $40 per month on nutritional pet supplements.

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Can You Afford a Big Dog Pinterest Pin 1

Monthly Cost for Commercial Dog Treats

In this sample group, big dog owners spent on average $22 per month ($264 annually) on commercial dog treats for their big dogs. 

Miscellaneous Dog Food Expenses  

Ancillary dog food-related expenses like dog bowls, containers or plastic bags for storing food need to be accounted for when it comes to the cost of feeding a large or giant breed dog. 

According to 643 big dog owners, the average annual spend was $88.  This works out to be roughly $7.33 per month.  

And while 30% (193) of these dog owners said they didn’t spend any money on ancillary food-related items in the last 12 months, 7% (46) reportedly spent more than $300.  

With a minimum of $0 and a maximum of $3,500, you might be asking why such a wide range? 

Consider that 14% of the big dog owners surveyed said they had a big dog less than a year old). In other words, these were new puppy owners.  

With many of these ancillary items being one time costs (food bowls, containers, maybe a freezer, etc), it is within reason to think the 7% (46) who spent $300 or more might be puppy owners who are buying these ancillary items for the first time. 

Summary of Average Annual Cost to Feed a Big Dog

Dog Food$2,244
Commercial Dog Treats$264
Nutritional Supplements$480
Miscellaneous Dog Food Items$88
Total $3,076

Behavior and Dog Training Expenses for Big Dogs 

Monthly Cost for Professional Dog Training 

Examples of professional dog training given were puppy socialization, obedience, CGC preparedness, nose work, agility, conformation handling, online dog training, etc.  Essentially any formal class big dog owners attend with their dog. 

619 big dog owners spent an average of $53 per month on behavior and training expenses or $636 per year.

Of these, 66% (408) said they spent $0 per month while 20% (122) spent more than $100 per month. 

There are a few key factors to take into consideration when it comes to this data.  

Big Dogs on the Bed - Big Dog Mom Survey Results for the Annual Cost of Owing a Big Dog
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

1. Many of the folks who responded identified themself as a dog trainer or “experienced” and therefore reported $0 for training expenses.  

  • “$0, I’m a dog trainer, so I do this myself”, 
  • “N/A, I’m a professional trainer” 
  • “Zero, I do it myself at home because of my experience.”

2. Many people commented that they had no expenses today, but had spent a great deal on behavior and training in the past for their dogs. 

This naturally skewed the results toward $0, which may not be reflective of the true financial impact of training a big dog.  

Here are a few of those responses: 

  • “$0, but in her lifetime have spent approximately $2K in training.” 
  • “Only when I have a puppy $75/month.” 
  • “Maintenance training at home no cost, but did spend a lot initially.”
  • “$100 when Breed 1 was a puppy.”

3. Quite a few respondents quote significant expenses for specialty training that were one time outlays, versus monthly expenses.  

For each of these, I divided the expense by 12 to get a monthly amount, however, this is not the most accurate way to look at this data. 

  • “$2,500 for stay & train K9 off-leash training.” 
  • “$3,000 – one dog, board and train.” 
  • “$3,500 boot camp for both.”

Annual Cost for Dog Training Tools and Resources

Tools such as collars, leashes, harnesses, or other tools for dog training also cost money. 

The average annual spending was $75 with a range from $0 to $600 across the sample group. 

Annual Cost for Dog Sports 

The cost of participating in dog sports and activities must also be accounted for in determining the annual cost of owning a big dog.  

When I was showing Junior in conformation, the cost of both travel and entry fees added up fast.  

From a larger group of 571 big dog owners, only 12% (70) spent money ($116,114 combined) on dog show entry fees, professional handling fees, or registration fees for dog sport competitions or trials, in the preceding 12 months.  

As a full sample group, the average annual expenditure for dog shows and sports was $203. 

Breaking these numbers down, if 70 big dog owners spent a total of $116,114, that is an average of $1,659 per year or roughly $138 per month.  

These numbers are underestimated due to several comments like the following which did not correspond to a dollar value and, thus, were not included in the analysis.  

  • “Lol 😂 have nowhere to begin!!”
  • “No clue. A lot.”

Summary of Average Annual Cost for Training A Big Dog

Professional Dog Training$636
Dog Training Tools and Resources$75
Dog Sports$203 – $1,659
Total $914 – $2370

**If you would like to read the complete report with comprehensive survey data and analysis, click here.**


Travel Expenses for Big Dogs 

Best Cars for Big Dogs

The following word cloud shows the most common makes and models of vehicles this sample of 616 big dog owners use to transport their dogs. 

Vehicle popularity among big dog owners in Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Vehicle popularity among big dog owners

Remember that the larger the word, the more frequently it was mentioned.  

615 big dog owners went on to explain why they purchased the vehicle they use for transporting their big dogs. 

47.15% (290) of these owners said that their vehicle purchase was primarily for their big dogs, followed by another 14.47% (89) who shared that they needed a bigger car to have more space for their dogs and their children.  

Car Ramps or Steps for Big Dog Travel

One of the ancillary travel expenses for traveling with big dogs is a dog ramp, steps or some way of getting the dog into a larger vehicle. 

Percentage of big dog owners using dog ramps or steps for car, Big Dog Mom Survey Results - Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog
Percentage of big dog owners using dog ramps or steps for car

76% (469) of this sample group said they do not use some sort of steps or dog ramp, while 24% (148) do. 

And while a few of the dog owners spent little or no money on these products (“came with the car,” “bought used for $50”), the average amount spent was $172. 

Cost of Vehicle Maintenance with Big Dogs

Traveling with big dogs - Vehicle preference data in Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

With as dirty as my Navigator gets with Junior and Sulley, I know that maintaining a reasonably clean vehicle with big dogs takes a little work and money. 

I asked big dog owners how much they spent in the last 12 months maintaining their vehicle and keeping it clean.  This was to include only the expenses that directly relate to the dog mess in the car. For example, backseat covers, liners, interior cleaning, etc.

The average annual spend on vehicle cleaning was $143, or roughly $12 per month.  

Some big dog owners offered additional insight:  

  • “$500. I bought the Toyota mats for that make and model.” 
  • “700ish for the liners. cleaning was about $140” 

Or they took a more independent, carefree approach…

  • “I clean it myself and use their blankets”  
  • “$20, detail myself” 
  • “Haha! It’s never clean!”

Popularity of Travel-Related Services for Big Dogs 

The following six questions will dive deeper into each one of these categories to provide a true reflection of the annual cost of owning a big dog when it comes to travel-related expenses. 

Owner travel pet care choices for big dogs graph for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Owner travel pet care choices for big dogs

For the purposes of illustration, here is a graph depicting the relative weight of each category response relative to the others. 

Annual Cost for Dog Boarding

The average amount spent on dog boarding for 579 big dog owners was $190 over the last 12 months. 

And while 75% (434) big dog owners said they did not board their dog(s) in the last 12 months, 11% (66) spent more than $500, or $42 per month, on it. 

Some of the reasons for not spending money on dog boarding include, 

  • “$0, fearful dog.”
  • “Zero. My husband and I do not travel together because the 14 kids need to be kept in the style to which they are accustomed.”
  • “$0. I choose to stay at home with my dogs.”

Annual Cost for Professional Pet Sitting

Professional pet sitting is becoming more and more popular with apps like Rover.com which makes finding such services easier. 

In a sample group of 582 big dog owners, the total spend on professional pet sitting was $166,083 with an average of $285 spent annually. 

Like in other categories, some big dog owners offered additional feedback which is difficult to quantify in these results, but that should be noted. 

For example, the following illustrates the financial impact of big dog ownership without fully being captured in these data: 

  • “$0. My husband or I do it.  But we did build a $30,000 indoor/outdoor dog kennel for good weather days.”
  • “Over $4,000!”
  • “Thousands!”

To be clear, for the latter two responses I quantified them as $4,000 and $2,000 respectively.  This may or may not accurately reflect the true cost given the vague nature of the response. 

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Annual Cost for Pet Sitting by a Friend or Neighbor

With an average of $95 and a total spend of $54,642 for pet sitting by a friend or neighbor, an interesting note is how the numbers actually broke down.

72% (419) of big dog owners reported that they didn’t pay their friend or neighbor any money to watch their dogs.  A few respondents explained that they exchanged services with other dog owners: 

  • “We take turns watching each other’s animals.”

On the other hand, 12% (70) reportedly spent in excess of $300 per year for their friend or neighbor to watch their dog.  

Of note, these data do not take into account those who stated that they pay by the day without an accurate note of how many days of care were needed over the last 12 months.  

A couple of the respondents stated things like, “$30 per day,” without a defined number of days.  For these owners, I simply put the $30.  For this reason, the total spend (and average) may be under-representative of the true financial impact of this source of pet care. 

Dog Daycare Expenses for Big Dog Owners

Only a small fraction of big dog owners regularly utilize a dog daycare for their dog.  

As you can see from the chart below, 89.3% (518) reported that their dogs never went to daycare, while .3% (2) said they went daily.  

Frequency of big dogs going to dog daycare in Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Frequency of big dogs going to dog daycare

The entire study population of big dog owners spent an average of $17 per month on dog daycare expenses.  

However, if you are a big dog owner who has ever taken your dog to daycare then you know $17 is dramatically lower than even a single day charge for a big dog in most facilities in America today, so let’s break this down a little more to understand the data better. 

Included in the average is 91% (515) of big dog owners who reportedly spent $0 on daycare, while 7% (39) spent more than $50 per month ($600 annually). 

If we subtract the number of people who spent $0 from the total who responded (i.e. those with some daycare expenses) we get 54. 

Consider that 39 big dog owners spent more than $50 per month.  This represents 73% of the total (54) big dog owners who spend regularly for dog daycare.  

In a nutshell, that means if you plan to take your big dog to daycare, plan on spending more than $50 per month. 

Additionally, of those big dog owners who stated they spent $0 on dog daycare, several of them own a daycare, or that their costs are variable: 

  • “I run a doggie daycare I don’t have to pay.”
  • “$0, I run a daycare.”
  • “$0 – I own the daycare.”
  • “Depends on the month.”

Annual Cost for Pet-Friendly Hotel Stays

While many hotels are pet-friendly, they often charge a fee for this amenity. 

568 big dog owners spent a combined $23,230 annually on hotel pet charges.  The average for this sample group was $41.

And while 77% (439) of these dog owners said they didn’t spend any money on pet-friendly hotels, that is not to say they didn’t travel with their dogs and stay in a hotel. 

What was interesting in these results was the number of comments related to certain hotel chains that are frequented by big dog owners. 

La Quinta and Motel 6 were two that were both mentioned numerous times due to their favorable pet policy and not requiring extra charges for pets.  

  • “$0, LaQuinta is a no pet fee hotel.”
  • “$0 La Quinta doesn’t charge.”
  • “$0 / Motel 6 has no pet charges.”
  • “$0 – La Quinta has no fee.”
Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

For my list of the top pet-friendly hotels for large dogs, click here.

And a great resource for finding pet-friendly hotels for large dogs, check out the Bring Fido app!

Summary of Annual Travel Expenses for Big Dogs

Dog Ramp or Steps$172
Vehicle Maintenence$143
Dog Boarding $190
Pet Sitting $285
Friend or Neighbor$95
Dog Daycare$204
Hotel Pet Fees$41
Total $1,130
Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Annual Home Expenses – Living With Big Dogs

Spending on miscellaneous items such as crates and dog beds cannot be understated.  The importance of these items in a big dog home is critical for both the health and welfare of the dog.  

Play yards and gates are equally as useful in many homes, particularly with young puppies or in homes with multiple dogs. 

Percentage breakdown of home-related expenses for big dog homes for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Percentage breakdown of home-related expenses for big dog homes

The total combined spend for the following four categories of home products for dogs according to 561 respondents was $217,007 with an average of $387 per dog owner per year. 

Dog Crate or Kennel

521 big dog owners responded with a total combined spend on dog crates and kennels of $45,763.  The average for this sample group was $88.  

58% (304) of the dog owners in this group reported $0, so when they are excluded, the remaining 42% (217) spent an average of $211 in the last 12 months on dog crates and kennels

X-Pen or Play Yard 

443 big dog owners had a combined total of $11,348 spent on x-pens and play yards with an overall average of $26.

86% (379) of these big dog owners spent $0, so when they are excluded, the remaining 14% (64) spent an average of $177 in the recent 12 month period.

Dog Beds or Cots

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog - Big Dogs, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
© 2020 Big Dog Mom, LLC

540 big dog owners had a combined total spend on dog beds and cots of $109,167 with an average of $202. 

21% (111) of these big dog owners reportedly spent $0 on a dog bed or cot in the recent 12 month period.  When these owners are excluded, the remaining 79% (429) spent an average of $254 on dog beds and cots in the last year.  

Dog Gate or Pet Barrier

472 big dog owners responded with total combined spend on dog gates and barriers of $50,729.  The average for this sample group was $107.  

63% (299) of the dog owners in this group reported $0, so when they are excluded, the remaining 37% (173) spent an average of $293 in the last 12 months on dog gates and barriers.  

Annual Cost for Big Dog-Related Home Repairs 

Life with large and giant breed dogs has taught me one thing – never be too attached to material possessions.  Because as soon as you are, they get chewed up or peed on.  

It is for this reason I asked big dog owners to quantify how much they had spent in the last 12 months on home repairs directly attributed to their dog(s).  For example, replaced carpet due to pet stains, replaced table due to dog chewing it, painting or repairing walls, etc.

Home repair, as you will see, is a source of significant expense for some big dog owners.  

558 big dog owners spent a combined total of $144,101 on home repairs they said were directly attributed to their big dogs.  

The average spends for this large sample group was $258 in the last year.

Interestingly, while 58% (321) said they didn’t spend any money on home repairs caused by their dogs, 19% of the sample group spent $300 or more.  

The following were a few of the comments that illustrate the impact of the cost of home repairs for these big dog owners: 

  • “$400 for carpet and vacuum.” 
  • “Haha!  $600!”
  • “$0, but we have to replace a table and chairs along with fixing the wall.”
  • “$50 on sheetrock repair and paint.”
  • “Carpet, molding, table and chairs. $2500.00.”
  • “$0, she doesn’t destroy stuff, only my cat!”

Summary of Annual Home Expenses

Crates, Gates, and Other Home Expenses$387
Home Repair $258
Total $645

Miscellaneous Annual Expenses for Big Dogs 

I consider this section the “fine print” of big dog ownership. 

You know, the small print at the bottom of the contract. The items that individually are not expensive, but can add up over time.

While not all possible items are accounted for, the following 9 categories are common purchases among big dog owners.  

The total combined spend for all of the items according to 574 respondents was $205,190 with an average of $357 per dog owner per year.  Professional dog grooming expenses are reported separately below. 

Respondents were asked to leave blank the items they did not spend money on, but many people indicated that with a $0 as well. 

While I am reporting data for the entire study population here, in the full report I calculate averages with and without those who spent $0 to get a more accurate view of actual dollars spent on these products.

**If you would like to read the complete report with comprehensive survey data and analysis, click here.**

I consider THIS section the “fine print” of big dog ownership. You know, the items that individually are not expensive, but can add up over time. Click to Tweet
Average Annual Cost of Miscellaneous Items for Big Dogs for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog; Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Average Annual Cost of Miscellaneous Items for Big Dogs

Dog Toys

The area of significant annual cost for big dog owners is spending on toys for their big dog.  

565 big dog owners responded with a total combined spend of $101,065, the average for this sample group was $179.  

Grooming Supplies

Another area of significant annual cost for big dog owners is in grooming supplies.  

541 big dog owners responded with a total combined spend of $52,294 with an average of $97.  

Dog Ear Solutions, Toothpaste, Elbow or Paw Salves

503 big dog owners had a combined total spend on ear solutions, tooth, elbow and paw-related healthcare items of $19,515 with an average of $39. 

Professional Pet Photography

466 big dog owners spent a combined $9,880 and an average of $21 annually on professional photos of their pets

Drool Cloths

473 big dog owners had a combined total spend on drool cloths of $6,579 with an average of $14. 

Cooling Coat

458 big dog owners responded with a total combined spend of $4,729 on cooling coats for their dogs with an average for this sample group of $10.  

Dog Leggs or Other Therapeutic Pads

447 big dog owners spent a combined total of $4,164 and an average of $9 on Dog Leggs and therapeutic pads for dogs.

Life Vest or Swim Jacket

453 big dog owners had a combined total spend of $6,579 for life vests with an average of $8. 

Dog Socks, Booties, Paw Protection for Big Dogs 

449 big dog owners spent a combined $3,458 on paw protection with an average of $8 annually.

Monthly Cost for Professional Dog Grooming

For some big dog owners, professional grooming can represent a significant monthly expense.  For others, it is not.  

Annual Cost of Big Dog Ownership- Can you afford a big dog? Pinterest Pin 3

Let’s break down what the data shows. 

With a combined total for all 554 dog owners of $18,542, the average monthly cost for professional dog grooming was $33, or just under $400 annually.

Out of 554 big dog owners, 68% (377) do not spend any money on professional dog grooming. 

However, to get a more accurate idea of the true cost of professional dog grooming for big dog owners, we need to exclude those who reported $0 spent on it.  

32% (177) of this large sample group utilized the services of a professional dog groomer.  They spent an average of $105 per month or $1,260 annually. 

A few caveats about this data:

1. Many of the dog owners in this response group were groomers themselves or said they groomed their own dogs so they did not have any grooming expenses for their dogs. 

While these were all recorded as $0, there would still be expenses for shampoo, conditioner and other products and tools that are unaccounted for here. 

  • “$0, I’m a groomer.”
  • “None, I have my own grooming shop.” 
  • “$0, I groom her myself.”
  • “$0, we do our own grooming.”

2. Several big dog owners reported going to the groomer less frequently than monthly.  

These data were calculated on a per month basis for this analysis, but the frequency may be relevant to some new puppy buyers as they plan for the cost of big dog ownership. 

  • “$140 every three months.”
  • “$140 each visit.”
  • “We don’t go monthly, about $700 per year.”
  • “$100 / quarterly.”

3. A few big dog owners said they invested in grooming equipment rather than spending monthly to take their dog to a professional dog groomer. These responses were recorded at $0 for this analysis. 

  • “I bought a professional blower and bath for $500ish.”

Summary of Average Annual Miscellaneous Expenses for Big Dogs

Miscellaneous Expenses
(Dog Toys, Grooming Supplies, etc)
$357
Professional Dog Grooming$396
Total$753

Subscription Boxes for Big Dogs

In the end, for most big dog owners, the monthly cost of a subscription box is simply an expense that is unnecessary.  A nice-to-have versus a must-have.

Percentage of Big Dog Owners who Purchase Monthly Pet Subscription Boxes for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Percentage of Big Dog Owners who Purchase Monthly Pet Subscription Boxes

That said, I have splurged a time or two for a few boxes for my boys, so I wanted to find out how many other big dog owners had found a subscription box they like.  

Examples of popular subscription boxes include Barkbox, Real Dog Box, Bullymake Box, Super Chewer, etc.

Out of 572 big dog owners, 88.5% (506) said they were not paying for a monthly subscription box while 11.5% (66) said they were. 

The chart below illustrates the breakdown of which subscription boxes are most popular among big dog owners. 

Barkbox was the overwhelming favorite among 65 big dog owners, with 58.5% (38) of them preferring that subscription box to the others on the market.  This was followed by Bullymake Box (13.8%, 9), SuperChewer Barkbox (9.2%, 6), and Real Dog Box (4.6%, 3) rounding out the top four choices. 

Breakdown of Popular Pet Subscription Boxes for Big Dogs for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Breakdown of Popular Pet Subscription Boxes for Big Dogs

Monthly Cost for Pet Subscription Boxes for Big Dogs 

The 66 big dog owners who belonged to a monthly subscription box spent a combined total of $2,058 per month, with an average of $31.  

Annualized this equates to a total of $24,696 collectively and an average of $372 per big dog owner per year spent on monthly subscription boxes.

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Summary of Annual Cost for Pet Subscription Box for Big Dogs

Annual Cost for Pet Subscription Box for Big Dogs$372
Total$372
Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog: Can You Afford One? Big dog owners were asked how much they spent in the last 12 months for all of their big dogs on general veterinary expenses (not including diagnostics, procedures or pet medications). I asked them to include the cost of the visit plus any preventative ancillary expenses (nail trim, heartworm test, preventative urine or blood tests, etc.

Interesting Facts About the Big Dog Mom Audience

Perhaps a little self-serving, the following two questions were asked to learn more about big dog owners’ familiarity with Big Dog Mom™ and how best to serve them in the future. 

The first was, “How would you describe your experience with Big Dog Mom™ blog and brand?”

The result with 575 responses was a pretty even split between those very familiar with Big Dog Mom (37%, 210) and those new to my blog and brand (41%, 236).  

Familiarity with Big Dog Mom blog for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Familiarity with Big Dog Mom blog

22% (129) of big dog owners shared that they were looking for information outside of written content which leads nicely into the next question. 

“How do you prefer to consume information about big dogs?”

The graph below shows the preferences of 117 big dog owners relative to where and how they prefer to obtain big dog-related information. 

Big dog owners' preferred method of getting information about big dogs for Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog, Big Dog Mom Survey Results
Big dog owners’ preferred method of getting information about big dogs

For this sample group, Facebook was preferred by 82% (96) of big dog owners.  

Keeping in mind that respondents could select more than one option, Google came in second (44%, 52) followed by YouTube (34%, 40). 


Discussion

To immediately address my critics, I will address the potential shortfalls of this data before sharing some brief final thoughts. 

While not an exhaustive list of possible issues, I will limit my commentary to the following three critiques:

1. Given the nature of how this survey was shared online, it is possible that certain breeds are overrepresented while others are under-represented. 

With 112 large and giant breed dogs and breed mixes, I did have a broad sample of big dogs, however, I know there were more Mastiffs, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, Great Danes and other large and giant breeds than certain other breeds.   

This potential imbalance may skew some of the expenses but overall should not have a huge impact given the sample size and number of breeds represented. 

2. While most common expenses for big dog owners are included in the survey results, it is not an exhaustive list of all possible expenses.  

For example, costs associated with breeding dogs.  For the 4% (28) of big dog owners who identify as dog breeders, these costs are likely a significant portion of their budget which, for them, need to be factored in. 

3. Finally, I use the term “annual” in this report as a descriptive term.  It is not meant to convey a recurring expense in all cases.  

Most of the survey questions asked for the total amount spent in the preceding 12 months, versus the amount spent yearly.  This is because so many of the one-time costs of big dog ownership are front-loaded during the first year when the dog is a puppy.  

Demographic information like the dog’s age was gathered in order to put the expenses into perspective. 


Conclusions

This is where I channel my inner Ms. America to end poverty and promote world peace…

I took this massive project on to give a voice to the marginalized in the dog world; big dogs and big dog owners. 

Big dogs are not average dogs.  And they are not for average owners.  

Most dog-related information out there simply does not apply to us… until now!  

For the first time ever we have the answers to How much does a big dog cost?” and “What is the annual cost of owning a big dog?”  

This knowledge IS power if you share it.  

Annual Cost of Owning a Big Dog Infographic, Big Dog Mom Survey Results

Which brings me to my second point…

On behalf of my beloved big dogs, I want to address your future benefactor. 

At the end of the day, each person reading this post needs to decide one thing:

Can YOU afford a big dog?  

Only YOU can answer that question.  

If the only thing standing in the way of you getting the drooly of your dreams is money, be patient.  

My prayer is that this post serves you well in your financial planning and empowers you to be smart and realistic before you commit to a large or giant breed dog.   

You have no greater champion than Big Dog Mom.  I want you to make this decision out of abundance, not sacrifice.  

Size matters as much with dogs as it does the contents of our wallet.  

There is no shame in that.  Only potential.

And lastly, this post would not be complete without a thank you from the bottom of my heart to the 770 big dog owners who so generously donated their time and attention to this profoundly important research.  

I hope you will proudly share your contribution with the world.


**If you would like to read the complete report with comprehensive survey data and analysis, click here.**

I took this massive project on to give a voice to the marginalized in the dog world; big dogs and big dog owners. Big dogs are not average dogs. And they are not for average owners. Click to Tweet

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6 Comments

  1. I am one of the respondents, and I just want to say thank you for taking on this task!

    When I got the first of my two big guys, Saints, I never even thought about what it would cost during that first year. I wish I had! LOL I still would have brought him into my life, but having information like this would have been invaluable.

    Getting him a brother when he was 2 years old, I was much more prepared, financially.

    Sadly, he died from Hemangiosarcoma on February 10. Final expenses are also something we need to plan for. I chose to have a vet come to my home, that way his brothers and I would all be with him. The cost for the euthanasia (we didn’t end up needing as he died in my arms a few hours before the vet was scheduled to arrive) and cremation came to about $550. Needing only the partitioned cremation, the cost was $200.

    1. Oh, Topher, I am so, so sorry about your boy. Hemangiosarcoma is devastating for dog and owner to go through – my heart and prayers are with you. Thank you so much for your contribution to this research. I could not have completed it without amazing big dog owners like yourself. What a great point you bring up about end of life care and expenses. I really appreciate you offering some of your own numbers for those who read through these comments. I’m sure it will help someone!

  2. I love big dogs, Saint Bernards, more than anything!! I can no longer afford one. Totally heartbroken.. sad sad truth!!
    I will always treasure the memories of the joy I had with my big beautiful funny loving fur babies!!! Always carry very special place in my heart!!

    1. I love them too, Kyla! You are a wonderful dog mom that I know will one day have a Saint that will fill your heart. The fact that you recognize the financial position you are in and that it is not ideal for a big dog proves it. I hope you read the end of this post and that you found my comments empowering and inspirational. Hugs, my friend!

  3. Pamela Shaw says:

    I just wanted to add that if your big dog is a Standard Poodle ( okay, how many are rolling your eyes, LOL ?….my just turned 9 mo old is about 65 lbs already ) you will either have to add a significant amount for grooming or learn to do it yourself. In the Seattle area, a groomer is $100-120 before tip. Depending on how long you want his coat, about every 6 weeks is a medium coat length. And he will need his face, feet, tail cleanup every 2-3 weeks. So I grumble that if I couldn’t groom him myself, I could buy another Spoo puppy each year for what the grooming costs 🙂 And if you choose to not feed kibble, (which I don’t) you can just imagine how much that adds to the cost of pure love.
    I’m 70 and have back issues, so I divide his grooming up into a couple of days. Otherwise, my fibromyalgia sidelines me ! I am not a groomer.
    I showed ( small dog ) Westies for years (nationally ) and was taught by a groomer from Scotland, brought here for a famous Westie breeder. So it was fun to learn how to groom my Spoo boy, but that was 15 yrs ago, LOL. So my new pup is more challenging, to say the least, but it’s a learning process. I’m happy to try to help or encourage anyone if I can. We have to help each other, right ? ps…before my Westie binge, I had the most marvelous Great Dane 🙂

  4. De Hufford says:

    Fascinating how much can be spent on a dog! Certainly something to plan for. Also, so worth it!

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