Do you love your dog as much as £16,000?

When you add it all up, that’s what a puppy could cost you over its lifetime. But you can bring that cost down.

We love dogs in the UK, but they cost us a fortune. Last year I found that a cat could cost you £4,000 over 15 years – but they might be the cheap option compared with their canine counterparts.

I really want a dog – ideally a ‘sprocker’, which is a cocker and a springer spaniel cross. I even know what I’m going to call him – Sir Harry Flashman, or Flashy for short.

But my husband says that a dog is a big expense. I thought I’d look at exactly how much my planned puppy might cost – and whether I could cut that down.

The cost of the puppy

The price of a dog varies massively depending on breed. A Chihuahua can cost between £600 and £700, while a staffie puppy can sell for as little as £75.

Looking at sprockers on a few classifieds websites, I found an average price of around £400. Some pups were as low as £275, but the breeder couldn’t show me both parents.

Cutting the cost
One way to keep the cost down is to take on a dog from a rescue, where you’re likely to pay a fee of around £150 for a puppy, or £125 or less for an older dog.

I could save money that way or, as I am set on a sprocker, buy an older animal that needs a second chance. I spotted a one year old for £80, although I was a bit put off by the warning that it needs a lot of training.

Of course, getting the right dog is essential – you don’t want to take the cheapest one you can find only to discover it’s unhealthy or problematic. According to the RSPCA, a fifth of the people who get a dog don’t have it two years later, which must be heartbreaking for the pets in question

Getting it neutered

As I don’t want a puppy to hump my toddler or unexpected extra puppies, I’ll follow RSPCA advice and get it neutered.

The Dogs’ Trust says that the price can vary depending on the size and breed. It tends to cost between £60 and £100 but can be much more for larger dogs.

Cutting the cost
By buying an older dog or taking one on from the RSPCA, I can find one that has already been neutered, which is yet another saving.

If you don’t think you can afford to neuter your puppy, you might be able to get help. The Dogs’ Trust, the Blue Cross and some RSPCA centres run subsidised neutering schemes, so it’s worth contacting them for help.

Microchipping the dog

Responsible pet owners get their animals microchipped so that they can be returned to them if they stray.

I would definitely want my puppy microchipped, which costs £20-£30, according to the Dogs Trust. Again, some organisations offer help, for example the Dogs Trust provides free microchipping at its rehoming centres.

Dogs from shelters will almost always be microchipped.

Feeding the dog

The average dog lives 12 to 14 years, according to the RSPCA, but that varies hugely between breeds.

Sainsbury’s Finance estimates the average pet dog costs £399 a year to feed, and that excludes treats. If my spaniel lived to be 13, that would be £5,187. Wow. That’s already more than the four grand a cat could cost for everything.

Cutting the cost
I wouldn’t be willing to risk my dog’s health by cutting back on the most nutritious pet food, so this is one cost I can’t see coming down.

Perhaps the only way to reduce this bill is to opt for a smaller dog. After all, a terrier is going to eat a lot less than a Great Dane.

Vet visits

Tesco Bank reckons the average price of an annual vaccination booster for a dog is £35. So, if a dog were to live 13 years, it would cost me £455 in jabs.

But of course, most dogs will need extra veterinary help during their lives, whether for something small like kennel cough or major like a slipped disc.

Sainsbury’s estimates the average annual vet fee spend will be £177. Over 13 years, that’s £2,301.

Of course, if your dog develops a serious or lifelong problem then it can be much, much higher.

Cutting the cost
It’s recommended that dog owners have pet insurance in place. I’d definitely want cover, to avoid having to make a difficult decision if my dog needed expensive treatment.

Policies will pay out to cover any medical emergencies, although it won’t pay for routine veterinary care. Be aware that some insurance policies have very limited cover, others only run until a dog turns a certain age (typically 10), so look for a policy that provides whole-of-life cover for your pet.

Extras

Grooming costs, treats, toys, pet sitters and kennels… There are plenty of additional costs associated with owning a dog and it can be hard to think of the costs in advance.

Sainsbury’s has estimated an annual cost of £607 for those extras - £121 on toys and treats, £126 on pet sitters, £244 on grooming and £116 on kennels. That’s £7,891 over 13 years!

Cutting the cost
Fortunately, I wouldn’t need a dog sitter as I work from home. I’ve already agreed to avoid the cost of kennels by packing a dog off to my mother when we go on holiday.

But even if you can make some savings like that, the cost of grooming, treats and toys can really add up.

The total cost of a dog

So, £400 for a puppy, £100 to get it neutered, £30 to get it microchipped, £5,187 on food, £2,301 on vets fees and £7,891 on extras. My dog could cost a potential £15,909. Or £23.50 a week, averaged out across its lifetime. Maybe my husband has a point.

Whichever way you look at it, a dog is not a cheap addition to your home. Even if dog walks mean you can cancel your gym subscription, your pet will cost you a lot of money.

But you can’t put a price on the companionship, affection and a thousand other positive things a dog can add to your life  – and that means for millions of Britons the financial costs are more than worth it, myself included.