Pet Dog Guide: What You Need To Know

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Updated: May 21, 2022

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Before Buying a Pet Dog

There are a lot of factors to consider before buying a pet dog. You want to make sure you’re prepared not only to purchase your dog now but also to continue to care for them and provide everything they’ll need for a happy, healthy life.

We’ll go into a lot more detail below, but the specific costs and care your new dog will need can vary depending on the specific breed you choose. Some purebred dogs can cost significantly more than rescue dogs, and certain dog breeds can be prone to different health conditions.

Before you bring home your pet dog, you should also make sure that your home is ready for them. This can be as involved as preparing your home for a new baby and eliminating any potential safety hazards or removing personal effects that you wouldn’t want a new dog or puppy to chew. You may also want to consider having a few baby gates ready to keep your dog out of certain areas of the home or keep them away from other pets while everyone gets to know one another.

How Much Does a Pet Dog Cost?

The cost to bring home a new puppy or dog can vary quite significantly. There is a huge difference in the price of purchasing a purebred dog from a breeder and adopting a mutt from a local animal shelter or rescue organization.

If you’re adopting a pet dog from a local organization, the adoption fees may vary some as well. Some places may waive the fees and offer free adoption, while others may charge a few hundred dollars. You may also be responsible for covering some medical bills for your dog’s care while at the shelter, such as a general health exam and the cost of spaying or neutering.

Purchasing a purebred dog will be much more expensive than bringing one home from a shelter. For example, Tibetan Mastiffs can cost up to $5,000 or more and Samoyeds from pristine bloodlines may cost $3,000 or more. Some less expensive purebred breeds include Manchester Terriers (with an average cost of $600) and Border Collies (with an average cost of $525).

In addition to the cost associated with purchasing a dog from a breeder or adopting one from a shelter, you’ll also need to consider the costs of owning and taking care of the dog throughout their life. Consider all of the things you’ll need to provide for your pup, from food, toys, bedding, and veterinary care.

These bills can add up. Pet parents typically spend between $650 and $2,000 on their dog each year, with the majority of owners spending closer to $1,000. Based on average lifespans and medical needs, here are the average approximate lifetime costs of owning a dog based on the breed size:

  • $15,000 for small breed dogs
  • $15,750 for medium breed dogs
  • $14,480 for large breed dogs

While it may appear that large breed dogs are cheaper than the others, keep in mind that these numbers are based on the average lifespan of the dog. So, while a large breed dog costs less, those costs are also spread out over fewer years, for a higher per-year cost.

New Owner Shopping List: What to Buy

Before you bring home a puppy or a new dog, you want to make sure your home is prepared for their arrival. Plan to order or go shopping for everything you’ll need well before they’ll be coming home.

You want to be able to take the first few days your pet is home with you to spend time and bond with them. You don’t want to be running out looking for last-minute supplies that you’ll need. Here is a list of what you’ll want to purchase and have ready for your new dog:

Ongoing Needs: What You Need to Care for Your Dog

In addition to all the necessities that you’ll need before you even bring your dog home, there are a few other items to start thinking about as well. Caring for your pup and keeping him happy and healthy is important. Here are a few additional items to purchase soon after you get your new pup (or even before they come home):

  • Food storage container: Find an airtight food storage container to keep your pup’s food fresh and prevent him or her from breaking into the food bag. Here are some great dog food containers we love.
  • Food mat: Placing a food mat under your dog’s bowls can help minimize the mess after they eat.
  • Toys: Don’t forget to pick up a few toys for your new dog or puppy to play with. Consider some chew toys that they can play with independently, as well as some balls for outdoor play together. Here are a few fun tug toys that dogs love!
  • Nail clippers: You’ll want to keep your dog’s nails trimmed to prevent them from getting too long, so don’t forget to grab nail clippers as well. We LOVE this nail trimmer for dogs!
  • Dog toothbrush and toothpaste: Brushing your dog’s teeth to remove plaque and tartar is as important as brushing your own teeth. Look for a doggie toothbrush and some poultry-flavored toothpaste.
  • Brush: Most dog breeds will require at least some brushing and grooming, so add a dog brush to your cart as well. Here are some great shedding brush options we’ve found.

Exercise and Ongoing Care

Dogs require a fair amount of attention. All dogs will need to go outside to take care of their business a few times and day and should be taken for a daily walk. The specific breed you purchase will dictate just how much daily exercise is needed. While some breeds only need less than an hour of exercise, more active breeds can require multiple hours of exercise and activity every day. If you’re not sure about the specific requirements of a dog you’re looking at, be sure to ask questions to make sure they’ll be a good fit with your schedule.

In addition to exercise, your new dog will also require regular veterinary check-ups. Aim to schedule at least one check up each year, or more if recommended by the veterinarian. If you are bringing home a puppy that hasn’t yet been spayed or neutered, talk with the vet about the best time to schedule this procedure.

The bathing and grooming needs of a dog will also vary quite significantly based on their breed. Some breeds, such as Bichon Frises, will require more regular grooming and hair trimming sessions, while other breeds, such as Beagles, have more minimal grooming requirements. Again, if you’re not sure about the specific needs of the breed you’re looking at, ask questions of the breeder, foster parent, or your veterinarian.

You may also want to look into training and socializing your dog. Reading online articles and other training resources can be helpful, or you may decide to enroll your dog in a local obedience school.

Some other ongoing care needs to consider include nail trimming, ear cleaning, and regular tooth brushing. Your dog will also do best when they are provided plenty of love and attention.

Taking your dog to the local dog park is a great way to make sure they get the exercise they need and can spend time socializing with other dogs. Check out the best dog parks in:

Feeding Your Dog

Because dogs come in all different sizes and have different energy levels, there is no set amount of food to feed them. You’ll need to consult with your veterinarian or the feeding chart included on most bags of dog food. Be sure to choose a high-quality dog food that offers the nutrients your dog needs to remain healthy. Again, your veterinarian can be a good resource for this.

In general, most dogs should be fed twice each day. Since many dogs do not self-regulate and may overeat if given the opportunity, it is typically not advised to leave food out for self-feeding.

If you’re bringing home a new puppy, keep in mind that they have a much smaller stomach than an adult dog. Because of this, they are unable to eat large meals. Rather, they will need to be fed multiple smaller meals throughout the day. Consult with your veterinarian based on the specific breed you adopt, but most puppies should eat three to four times a day.

Be sure to search a-z-animals.com for the best dog food tailored to your dog’s specific needs. We have information on the best dog foods for various breeds — from Pomeranians to Pitbulls — as well as foods for specific needs your dog may have. For example, here is the best dog food for weight control, and here is the best organic dog food. So look around and find the best food for your particular dog.

How Long Will Your Dog Live?

Lifespan is another thing that can vary greatly from one dog breed to the next. Lifespan is correlated with the breed size, with smaller breeds typically living longer than larger breeds.

The average lifespan of a small breed dog is between 10 and 15 years, but some dogs may live closer to 18 years. Medium dog breeds have an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. Large dog breeds have an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years (with giant breeds being closer to the lower end of the range).

Read more about how long dogs live here. And here are 10 dog breeds with the longest lifespans.

Common Health Issues for Dog

Again, with all the different types of dog breeds, the health concerns can vary from one breed to the next. It is a good idea to talk with your veterinarian or breeder about the specific health concerns for the dog you’re brining home with you so you are prepared and know what to look out for.

Here are some general health issues that may impact your new dog:

  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Food or skin allergies
  • Dental disease
  • Tumors
  • Ear infections
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Fleas, ticks, and other external parasites
  • Heartworms, hookworms, and other internal parasites

Where to Buy Your Dog

The best place to buy a dog will depend on the area where you live and the type of dog you’re looking to get. If you want to purchase a purebred dog, you’ll want to look for a breeder in your area that offers the specific breed you’re looking for. Depending on how rare the breed is that you want to purchase, you may need to search in neighboring states to find what you want.

If you want to adopt a rescue dog, look for a local organization or shelter that helps dogs find a new home. There are also some websites that can help you search multiple local groups at the same time.

When you go to adopt or purchase your dog, make sure to bring your ID, credit card, and a leash and collar for the pup.

Special Considerations with Dogs

Before bringing home a new dog, keep in mind that dogs are a serious commitment. As we shared above, some dogs can live for up to 18 years, and you’ll need to be prepared to offer them the care, love, and attention they need throughout their entire life.

Unlike fish that you sprinkle food, walk away, and forget about them for a few days, dogs will require daily care. From feeding them twice a day, taking them out for multiple walks, and finding time to play together, you’ll need to have the time to commit to caring for your pup.

If you travel a lot for work or plan to take a family vacation, remember that you’ll need to arrange care for your dog during these trips as well. This could be in the form of hiring a pet sitter to come and stay at your home or finding a boarding kennel that will take care of your dog when you’re away. If you work long hours, you may also want to look into hiring a dog walker during the day.

About the Author

AZ Animals is a growing team of animals experts, researchers, farmers, conservationists, writers, editors, and -- of course -- pet owners who have come together to help you better understand the animal kingdom and how we interact.

Pet Dog Guide: What You Need To Know FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What is the best way to buy a dog?

The best way to buy a dog will depend on the type of dog you want to purchase. Adopting through a local rescue organization or shelter can help keep the pet population under control and give a home to a dog in need. However, if you want a purebred dog, you’ll need to look for a breeder that specializes in that dog breed.

What is a good price to buy a dog?

The right price to buy a dog will vary depending on whether you are looking to purchase a purebred dog or to adopt one from a rescue organization. Rescue organizations typically charge around $200 to $300 to cover adoption fees, medical care, and spaying/neutering, though these numbers can vary.

Prepare to spend a good deal more to purchase a purebred dog. Though, the amount can also vary a lot depending on the breed/bloodline. Some purebred dogs may only cost a few hundred dollars, while others can cost thousands.

Is it OK to buy a 3-month-old puppy?

Yes, a 3 month old puppy should be old enough to safely adopt. In general, puppies are ready to go to a new home between the ages of 8 and 12 weeks.

What is the easiest dog to train?

Some of the easiest to train dog breeds include Poodles, German Shepherds, Border Collies, Labrador Retrievers, Bearded Collies, Papillons, Golden Retrievers, and Miniature Schnauzers.