The 6 Least Expensive Dog Breeds to Own

By Tim Lemke on 13 October 2014 9 comments

Pets can be a delightful addition to your household, but they aren't cheap, and dogs can be especially tough on families looking to save.

If you're looking to bring a canine into your life, there's a lot to consider from a financial perspective. There's the cost to buy the dog, of course. But then it's important to factor in the cost of ownership during the dog's lifetime. There's food, visits to the veterinarian, grooming sessions, and insurance, as well as dog walking, daycare, and other services you may need. This can add up to more than $1,000 annually, and can truly skyrocket if your dog has serious health problems.

The good news is that there are many dogs that, relatively speaking, can be bought and cared for without busting your household budget.

We've provided a list here of dog breeds that are considered relatively inexpensive to own. They have a number of things in common: They are smaller in size, relatively easy to groom, and are generally pretty healthy. (Note that this list applies to purebreds only — mixed breeds will be even less expensive.)

While many of these dogs are good-natured, they are also energetic and may give a beating to your carpets and furniture. So take that into account when factoring the cost of owning the dog.

We've given each dog a "Wags for Your Buck" score, based on a 10 point scale and reflecting the total cost of ownership of the dog. (The more wags, the better value.)

Rat Terrier

Cost to Acquire: May be had for as little as $200, but expect to pay between $400 and $600 in most cases.

Food: There are three sizes of rat terriers, but even the largest ones top out at under two feet tall and 35 pounds in weight. These dogs have no unique dietary needs, but some rat terriers do have allergies that may necessitate special food.

Grooming: Because of their short hair, rat terriers are among the easiest dogs when it comes to grooming. Just the occasional brushing to remove dead hair will suffice.

Health: These are generally healthy dogs and are not quite as susceptible to some of the genetic maladies that affect other smaller dogs. Some rat terriers have incorrect issues that may require surgery as dogs get older. Smaller Rat Terriers may be susceptible to hip dysplasia or dislocated kneecaps.

Wags for Your Buck: 7

Affenpinscher

Cost to Acquire: These dogs can be purchased for several hundred dollars from breeders or rescues, but prices did go up after an Affenpinscher won the Westminster dog show in 2013.

Food: These are some of the smallest dogs around, usually topping out at about 10 pounds, so they won't eat you out of house and home. Half a cup of dry dog food should do the trick each day.

Grooming: Because these are small dogs, grooming is not a major chore, but they do have coarse hair that you'll need to take care of from time to time.

Health: Affenpinschers are healthy canines, but they can be prone to fractures and other orthopedic problems. Affenpinschers generally live about 11 years, which is a shorter lifespan than many dogs.

Wags for Your Buck: 7

Australian Terrier

Cost to Acquire: These spirited dogs may not be easy to find unless you buy direct from a breeder. (I was unable to find any available to adopt in my area.) These are small dogs, but don't be surprised if you end up paying $750 or more for a puppy.

Food: Like Affenpinschers, these are small dogs that weigh in at less than 15 pounds.

Grooming: Petfinder.com suggests going in for a professional grooming about twice a year. Otherwise, trim around the feet and your dog should be in fine shape.

Health: Like other small dogs, Australian Terriers are generally healthy, but keep an eye out for fractures and hip dysplasia. These dogs live an average of about 11 years.

Wags for Your Buck: 8

Feist

Cost to Acquire: These small and energetic hunting dogs can be had for under $200, possibly less if you find one to adopt.

Food: Feist dogs rarely top 30 pounds, so they won't eat more than a moderate amount, though you may find that they'll eat more than expected due to their energetic nature.

Grooming: Unlike other smaller canines, feist dogs are not particularly hairy, and so grooming won't represent a major expense. Just brush them regularly and remove any dead hair.

Health: These are healthy dogs, but they are extremely active, and therefore more susceptible to injury than other breeds. Life span is about 11 years, which is average for a dog this size.

Wags for Your Buck: 7

Beagle

Cost to Acquire: $500 to $850, though you may find one for less from rescues.

Food: Beagles are a bit larger than some of the other dogs on this list, but can still be fed for less than $10 a week. They stand anywhere from 13 to 15 inches, weighing in at 22 to 25 pounds.

Grooming: Beagles have short and smooth coats, so they don't require heavy grooming. They do shed, but that can be handled by brushing the dog at home a few times a week.

Health: Beagles are healthy dogs, but have been known to get some forms of cancer, and some do suffer from heart arrhythmia. Life expectancy is good, between 12 and 15 years.

Wags for Your Buck: 6

Foxhound

Cost to Acquire: English or American Foxhounds can be bought for as little as $200, and may even be available from shelters and rescues.

Food: These hounds are larger dogs, coming in at between 65 and 75 pounds. So they will eat more than the small dogs listed here. However, they still can be fed for less than $25 a week.

Grooming: These are short-haired canines, for the most part. Frequent brushing will be needed, but fancy grooming isn't required.

Health: These are healthy dogs and are free from many of the genetic maladies that plague some pure breeds.

Wags for Your Buck: 6

What's your favorite breed or mix? How many wags for your buck does your dog give you?

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Guest's picture
HB

On what planet do you make a list like this and not include "adopt a mixed-breed dog from your local shelter" on the list. Lord. (The answer is "a planet with websites I don't intend on continuing to read.")

Guest's picture
Joy

Hey, did you know it's actually pretty difficult to adopt a dog you like from a shelter? I've tried a couple of times, and it's just too much trouble. By the time they approve you, you could probably save the money and buy a new dog. It's sad, but true. Now, it might be easier, if you're willing to take any dog...I don't know. The shelters would probably be empty if they would just lighten up a bit. I think something like background checks for animal abuse would be good, but other than that...if you'd like a dog from the shelter, you should be able to go down there, pick one up and go home. I mean, they're eventually going to be put down, so you're basically saving whatever dog you take.

Guest's picture
Rebecca B. A. R.

Small, very mixed breed dogs, with short hair, that are spayed or neutered, and are adopted from a shelter are the least expensive dogs to own. Always give them their heartworm and flea/parasite medicine and feed them the appropriately amount of healthy food for their weight. Most of all love them!

Guest's picture
Dairy Maid

If you want a specific breed, contact your local rescue group who handles that particular breed. Then you are getting a dog who is matched to you and your needs, and not just the dog the breeder hands you.

The adoption fee is far less than buying from a breeder and you don't perpetuate the bad practices of most dog breeders. Typically your dog from a rescue group will already be spayed/neutered, be up to date on shots, and the rescue group will know the dog well and be able to give you lots of info about his/her personality.

If you go to a breeder, be very careful. If the person selling you a dog doesn't ask you a lot of questions about you and your lifestyle, and make you sign a contract, if the only info they want is your credit card number, then run the other way! They are only in it for money.

Guest's picture

Mr. Lemke, did you do zero research before making this list?

Cocker Spaniels are one of THE most EXPENSIVE breeds to ever own.

Not only do they require grain free, chicken free food/treats (which is costly to get a higher quality food), they have chronic medical issues:

Cataracts (often as early as fourteen months of age) - surgery can be up to $2,800 per eye

Glaucoma (can come on literally overnight, as young as two years of age) - opthalmologist ($185) eye pressure test ($55) anti-glaucoma meds ($100 a month), rececks and monitoring the eye pressure is another $135 and needs to be done every few weeks in the beginning, the gradually down to every few months. Eventually the eye may need to be removed ($1200 for eye enucliation surgery)

Distichia (can be born with this) - opthalmologist, laser surgery (can be $1000 or more)

Cherry Eye (can come up at any time, at any age) - cherry eye tuck surgery can be $500 per eye or more

Ear problems - ear problems can generally be prevented through pro-active care, weekly ear cleanings, and being super diligent about not feeding any grains or chicken (so the expense saved on vet bills is being spent on the higher quality food/treats)

If a pet owner does not stay on top of the ears and keep them clean and avoid the food allergens, a dog as young as five years of age can be looking at ear ablation surgery ($3000 per ear) and this is an incredibly painful surgery and post op (and the dog then loses its hearing)

Cockers are also prone to luxating patella, hip dysplasia and disc disease. The most common age for disc disease is eight to nine years of age, that surgery plus an MRI can easily cost more than $6,000 (a cocker can live up to 16 years, so getting the surgery makes sense for only an eight year old dog)

Cockers are prone to chronic allergies and skin problems - much of it can be prevented through a grain free, chicken free high quality food but pet owners looking for the least expensive breed will not want to spend the money to keep their cockers healthy.

Grooming a cocker spaniel is a lot of work and not many pet owners are up for learning how to do it. Cockers need brushing out on a regular basis and groomed every three to four weeks (and a hair cut every eight to twelve weeks). Cocker grooming can cost up to $85 at some places, so this is one of the most expensive dogs to ever get groomed.

Cockers who get high quality nutrition, good care, plenty of daily exercise, can live to be fourteen to sixteen years of age, however there is a cocker on record that lived to be twenty two years of age (Uno, a cocker spaniel featured on Dogs 101, on the Animal Planet)

Cockers are not for families with small children, in fact, they are the worse breed for a home with toddlers. Even the most friendly of cockers are not durable enough to handle the grabbing at by small children. Cockers are always on every list of the breed most likely to bite a child.

Cockers are not cheap to get from a rescue. Any legitimate ethical rescue organization is spending a LOT of money to rehab cockers rescued from shelters.

On average, our cocker rescue organization is spending $800 per dog we rescue. That means one our of every four dogs we rescue is costing us a lot of medical funds. It is not uncommon for us to spend $10,000 a month just on medical bills. (and some months are double that if we get several cockers with unexpected medical bills)

Please be responsible and update your blog post to reflect that you perhaps did not fully research the cocker spaniel breed and if anything, it should be number one on the list of the MOST expensive breeds to ever own.

It would be unfortunate if a bunch of future dog owners were to read your blog post, and go and get a cocker spaniel thinking it is an appropriate dog for someone on a budget.

Cathy Stanley
Camp Cocker Rescue, founder
CampCocker.com

Tim Lemke's picture

Ms. Stanley-

Thank you for offering your insight here. You raise some good points regarding the health of cocker spaniels. While I did acknowledge the potential for health issues in this article, I'll agree that perhaps I did not fully explain the array of medical costs that an owner could encounter. Certainly, Cocker Spaniels may be inexpensive to buy, but that's not always the case. And for many owners, the total cost of caring for the dog could be higher than I conveyed here.

We'll be replacing the entry on Cocker Spaniels with another dog.

Thanks.
-Tim Lemke

Guest's picture

Yeah, not a great post since it ignored the personal and financial benefits of adopting a dog from a local rescue, shelter, or breed rescue.

What's worse are the accompanying google ads that promote internet dog sales from puppy mills. Puppy mill animals bring a high personal cost to the people who buy their "products" as well as the high social costs the businesses bring to their neighborhood.

Perhaps you can research a future post sharing the cost-saving benefits of adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue?

Guest's picture
Guest

I have to agree with the person who commented on the difficulty in persuading rescue organization to part with their dogs. We tried, filled in a 5 page questionnaire including questions about what our backyard fence was made of. We were turned down because we both worked. (as teachers, who have better vacation times than some). It helps to have employment to pay for your pet costs. Ultimately, we bought our purebred dog from a private breeder for not much more than the Rescue organization was asking. I understand that some sort of checking out is required but a call to our vet would have confirmed that our dog and cat are well cared for.

Guest's picture
Greg

I get where you are coming from but sometimes you can't put a price on love! :)