The cost of rehoming a dog
April is National Pet Month, a great excuse to celebrate our furry friends while raising awareness around responsible pet ownership.
Here at the Cotswolds Dogs & Cats Home, there’s nothing we love to see more than one of our dogs going to their perfect forever home, but it’s important that prospective owners are aware of the costs involved in rehoming a dog - both up front, and on an ongoing basis.
Below we’ve compiled a handy guide to how much you can expect to spend on rehoming an animal and their ongoing care. This is key in deciding whether you can offer a rescue dog a home.
Dogs: a guide to rehoming costs
Rehoming fee / donation
There are many reasons why you should consider rehoming a shelter dog rather than buying a new pet: it tends to be cheaper; you’d be giving a home to a dog in need; it doesn’t fund the puppy farming industry, and most shelters carry out home checks to make sure that you’re a perfect match for your dog. Many shelters are charities which run on donations, and rehoming fees are a vital part of this income.
In fact, our £300 rehoming fee barely covers the real costs of rescuing and caring for a dog, especially when you factor in vaccinations, neutering, flea/worm treatment and vet care. Last year, over 50% of our animals came to us via RSPCA inspectors, which sadly means they may have experienced more severe neglect or abuse which often results in more costly vet bills. If you include day to day overheads of staff, heating, lighting and food, then you can see how the cost quickly mounts up.
Expected cost: £300
Food and treats
The next thing to consider is how much it will cost to feed your dog: all the running and playing they’ll be doing in their new homes will need to be fueled by the right nutrients!
This cost varies significantly depending on your dog’s size and activity level, and there is also a huge range of brands available. Beware of cheaper options which can often be bulked out with fillers like oats, whereas more expensive options tend to contain more meat which can be very tasty, but too rich for some dogs. You should expect to spend around £25 a month on feeding your dog, but make sure you always check the ingredients so you know what you’re paying for and to make sure there’s nothing in the food that your dog is sensitive to.
Treats are also an important part of your dog’s diet, especially when training, but should never make up more than roughly 10% of their daily food intake. There are lots of different options available, including hard, crunchy treats which make great everyday rewards; soft, chewy treats which are useful for training, and freeze dried treats such as meats, liver or poultry, which have a very strong flavour that your dog will love, but should be fed in moderation. Some dogs may also enjoy dental chews, bones and rawhide - but they should always be supervised with these in case of choking. Small pieces of fresh human foods like carrots, apples, lean meat, poultry or seafood can also make great occasional treats, but be sure to stay clear of anything that contains seasonings or sauces, grapes, raisins or onions.
Treats are generally inexpensive, starting from £1 a packet, and it may be that you spend more in the beginning as you experiment and find what your dog likes. You may even want to experiment with making homemade treats!
Expected cost: £25-30 monthly
A comfy bed
Your new dog will need somewhere comfy to sleep, but with so many different types of dog bed available it can be difficult to know what the right choice is! It might be worth getting something cheap and cheerful while your dog settles in, and once you have a good idea on how they like to sleep you can pick something that’s perfectly tailored to them.
One of the most popular options is a mattress or ‘standard’ dog bed, which is a cushion or pillow without an edge or rim. They are available in many sizes, shapes, materials and colours and they are good for most breeds, plus most have removable, washable covers which can be handy for cleaning.
Nest beds have raised edges, which can be ideal if your dog likes to curl up or lean back when they sleep. Hard plastic beds can be a sturdier option for dogs who have a tendency to chew, but make sure they’re comfy by putting blankets, a padded cushion or an old duvet inside. Orthopedic beds, made from high-quality thick foam, provide extra support for dogs with arthritis or other orthopedic problems, which can be ideal for seniors and very thin dogs such as Greyhounds and Whippets, to prevent pressure sores and calluses.
The cost can vary hugely depending on style and size, and whether you’re looking at something basic or more deluxe, but you can get a quality dog bed from £10-25 for a small dog, and £20-50 for a medium or large breed.
Expected cost: £10-50
Collar, lead, harness and other accessories
A good collar and lead aren’t hugely expensive and should last your dog a long time. They come in a whole host of different shapes and sizes and are made from three main materials: cotton web (this is lightweight and inexpensive so often used for training puppies, but will show wear and isn’t the strongest), nylon (strong, versatile and very hard-wearing) and leather (strong, durable and very long lasting).
Whichever you choose, your dog’s collar should sit high on your pet’s neck rather than hanging down near their shoulder blades. Larger, stronger dogs (like Rottweilers or Mastiffs) will need a thicker, wider collar and smaller dogs (like Dachshunds or Pugs) might be more comfortable in a more lightweight collar. Aside from that, there are so many collars on the market that you can choose one that suits your taste and the look of your dog - just make sure to include an identification tag on the collar with your current contact details.
Small cotton web or nylon collars start from as little as £5, going up to around £20 for large or XL dogs. Leather collars range from £10-£40. A personalised dog tag should cost between £5-10.
Measuring a collar: find out the size of your dog’s neck by wrapping a measuring tape around their neck between the ears and collar bone. Add two inches to the measurement, which should give your dog’s collar a nice snug fit: you should be able to slip two fingers underneath, between your dog's neck and the collar. This will mean that it won't slip over your dog's head, but will be loose enough so that it won’t choke your dog.
It’s also important to choose a lead that suits your dog’s needs. Standard leads can be made from nylon or leather and can be used for basic training and everyday walks, but if your dog doesn’t pull too much and likes to roam on walks they might prefer a retractable lead, which lets them explore further. Leads range from around £10 up to £30-50.
If your dog pulls excessively or has problems with their respiratory system, you may want to consider a harness, which goes around the chest and shoulders and relieves pressure on the dog’s throat. Front-clip harnesses are great for discouraging pulling, whereas dogs tend to get tangled less in back-clip harnesses. Step-in harnesses are best for dogs who don’t like having a harness put on over their head. Depending on which style and brand you choose, expect to pay £10 or more for a harness for a small dog, and anything from £25-30 for large breeds.
There are also a few other accessories that you’ll need to consider buying, such as a brush and shampoo, and poo bags to take with you on walks. Make sure you buy products that are suitable for your dog and don’t aggravate any allergies they have, and biodegradable bags if you can. You’ll need to budget around £20-25 for these initially, but you should only require occasional replacements.
Expected cost: £50-150
Food and water bowls
While choosing bowls may seem relatively straightforward, there are lots of options available so it may be worth giving it some extra thought. Traditional ceramic dog bowls are easy to clean and weigh more than most other bowls, which means they’re great for pups that tend to push their bowl around the floor while they eat. However they’re also easily broken, and will need to be replaced if any cracks appear, as this can allow bacteria to grow. Plastic bowls are much more durable, but be sure to choose one that is free of toxic chemicals like BPA, which can leach into your pet's food. This isn’t an issue with stainless steel bowls which are also the most durable option, and particularly good for dogs who could easily ruin a plastic bowl by chewing it. Both plastic and stainless steel bowls often have rubber on the bottom to prevent them from slipping.
There are also a few more specialist options available. Slow feeders are bowls with designs built into the bottom which slow down quick gobblers, and if your dog has back problems, you might want to consider an elevated feeder which raises their bowl off the floor so they don’t need to bend down as far to reach their dinner. You can also get bowls for long-eared dogs, which have high sides which narrow towards the top, ensuring that your dog's ears stay outside the bowl and free from mess.
If you’re planning to take your dog out and about with you, it might also be worth getting a collapsible silicone bowl, which conveniently folds down to fit in your car, bag or pocket, and is suitable for providing your pooch with food or water whilst on-the-go.
Whichever style you choose, make sure your dog’s bowl is big enough for them to comfortably use, and that they always have access to fresh, clean water. You can expect to pay anything from a few quid for a plastic or stainless steel bowl, and around £10 for a ceramic bowl, slow or raised feeder.
Expected cost: £5-20 for two
Toys are a fun and safe way for your dog to explore their natural instincts, bond with you through play, and are great for keeping them occupied while you’re busy. It’s worth trying out a few different styles to find out what your dog likes, but there is no need to build up a house full!
Dogs who love to fetch are likely to enjoy playing with a ball - make sure you buy one that is large enough for your dog to carry without accidentally swallowing it, but small enough to comfortably hold in the mouth. Discs and other retrieval toys can also be a great alternative.
Some dogs love plush toys, which they can carry around or play with. Make sure you always supervise your dog when playing with plush toys to keep them from swallowing stuffing or squeakers, and it might be worth considering an extra tough version if your dog is a big chewer.
Squeaky toys can be great fun for dogs, and there are plenty with silent squeakers, which are at a high pitch so that your dog can hear them but you barely can.
Rope and tug toys allow humans to bond with their dogs by playing fetch and tug-of-war. Many dogs love this interaction and chewing rope toys can also be great for keeping their teeth clean - but be careful that they don’t ingest any pieces.
Finally, food and dispensing toys can be great for offering mental stimulation. They come in various shapes and sizes, from the relatively simple rubber or plastic Kong which you can fill with treats or food paste, to more elaborate electronic versions. Either option can provide hours of fun for your dog, and can also help distract them when you leave the house.
Dog toys are inexpensive and you can easily kit your dog out with a range of fun things to play with for less than £20. There are also lots of options available to reduce costs: you could try looking for toys in charity shops, or asking family and friends if they have any that their dogs don’t use.
A final tip: if you do find yourself with a heap of unused toys, you can donate these to a local shelter who will put them to good use. Alternatively, you could try putting old toys away for a while before reintroducing them, so they’re like new toys for your dog!
Expected cost: £20
It’s a great idea to get insurance for your dog, as it can be very helpful in covering the costs of accidents and illness, and it will also provide you with peace of mind. This is especially important in the beginning when you might not know what behaviour to expect from your dog, and their medical history.
There are lots of different options available and you may want to use a comparison website to compare different plans. It’s a good idea to consider lifetime coverage, which can be the only way to insure pets who develop illnesses later on, and also be aware that with most plans you’ll still be required to pay an excess when you claim on your insurance (although this is likely to be less than the full cost of treatment). Research by Which? found the average cost of a lifetime policy for a dog is £472 a year, but this can be cheaper for younger dogs with fewer health problems.
Expected cost: £180-500 annually
No matter how hard we try to look after our dogs, they’re likely to need to see a vet on occasion. This will be less of a problem if your dog is insured, as without insurance it can quickly become very expensive. Surgery for broken limbs costs on average £1,500, while more significant treatments, like chemotherapy, can be as much as £5,000. The costs of long-term illnesses, like diabetes, can build up quickly, and even common problems can be very expensive to treat: treatment for hip dysplasia, a regular issue with popular larger dogs like German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labradors, can cost around £500.
If you choose to rehome your dog from a rescue shelter, the costs for neutering, microchipping and initial vaccinations will likely be covered for you, which can save you between £180-£250 depending on the breed and size. You will need to factor in costs for annual booster vaccinations, though, which cost about £50 a go.
Another thing to consider is flea and worming treatments, which are likely to cost around £10 a month.
Many Vet practices offer a health club for a monthly fee so you can budget and spread the cost of routine care across the year. You can often save money on other treatments and services and costs in the region of £16 per month. Please note: this is not an alternative to pet insurance as only covers the basic health care needs that you would not claim through insurance.
Expected cost: Varies hugely - from £15 monthly up to thousands of pounds! In general, pet insurance is advised as emergency treatment is costly. Spreading the cost of basic health care through your Vet can offer piece of mind.
All new dogs, not just puppies, will need training - especially if they have had a difficult start in life. It’s important to make sure your dog is well socialised, so they’re comfortable being around people and other dogs. Teaching your dog good recall and basic training skills will also strengthen your relationship, and allow you to enjoy your walks, confident in the knowledge that they will walk politely on the lead and not get distressed. Some dogs, particularly high energy breeds, will benefit hugely from advanced training, agility or other specific activities, which will give them the mental stimulation they need and help prevent unwanted and undesirable behaviours.
It’s possible to train your dog yourself, in which case you will need to have done plenty of research, stock up on lots of treats, and ensure the methods used are fun and positive for both you and your dog. However, you may feel more comfortable booking formal training sessions. Always choose a qualified behaviourist - a good one may charge £50-80 per hour for one to one training sessions, and around £15-30 per hour for group classes.
Expected cost: the DIY approach is free, professional help costs between £15-80 per hour.
And finally, there are a few costs to consider if you want to take your dog out and about in the car, on holiday, or if you need someone to look after them for you.
In an ideal world, every dog owner would have reliable and trustworthy family and friends to care for the dog when you go away, but if you need to consider alternative options, kennels cost around £17 a day, and pet sitters around £25 a day.
There are many companies who offer dog walking services if your dog is left at home during the day, and these cost on average around £10 for an hour’s walk - but can vary a lot depending on the service you choose. It’s important to choose a company or individual whose abilities you’re confident in - always make sure that they’re insured and have good reviews.
If you’re planning to take your dog in the car with you, it’s important to get a car restraint to keep them under control and safe whilst travelling, and to also prevent distractions for the driver. This should cost around £5-10. You may also want to purchase a seat cover to protect your car from dog hair, wet and muddy paws, and scratches. There are lots of options available but these generally cost £15-30.
If you want to take your dog on holiday with you, a pet passport will cost between £150 and £250, by the time you factor in the extra jabs required. You’ll also need to make sure your pet insurance covers you for trips abroad.
Grooming your dog regularly is also essential for their health and happiness, and depending on the breed it may be helpful to get a professional to do it for you. The average cost of a full groom (shampoo, blow dry, nail clip and hand stripping or clipping) is around £40, but it’s cheaper for small dogs such as Jack Russells and Chihuahuas, and more expensive for large breeds like Poodles and Newfoundlands.
Expected cost: varies hugely depending on the activity.
So there you have it - an initial guide to how much it costs to rehome a dog! It’s so easy to let your heart make these decisions for you, but it’s vital to ensure that you’re able to continue giving your new dog a loving and responsible home, long after the initial rehoming.
If you do decide to go ahead and you’re worried about costs, you can get lots of these items cheaply by visiting charity shops, asking friends and family, and checking sites like Facebook Marketplace. Where possible, it’s also great to support local charities and businesses by choosing products from them. Some well-established pet shops also have ‘pay it forward’ schemes where they donate to charity on your behalf, so check those out too! Why not print out our handy checklist to make sure you’ve got everything covered?
Stay tuned for our guide on the costs of rehoming a cat, which will be hitting your inboxes in the next couple of weeks.