Often prospective Golden Retriever owners can rush into getting a dog without considering what that entails. But, unfortunately, one area that often gets overlooked is the cost of ownership – both in first-year and ongoing annual expenses.
Commonly the initial cost of the dog is considered, but annual expenses are an afterthought. All costs – including potential expenses for future health issues – need to be considered.
How Much Do Golden Retrievers Cost?
To purchase a Golden Retriever, expect to spend around $500 to $2000 (or more if registered and papered). Without pet insurance, the average cost of ownership is roughly $1300 per year. With pet insurance, the average cost of ownership is about $1900 per year. Keep in mind that prices can vary by geographic region.
Owning a Golden Retriever is a serious commitment. A medium to large Golden Retriever can live 10-12 years. While initial costs may not seem daunting, consider how those seemingly more minor monthly costs can add up over months and years.
Also, expect the unexpected.
Golden Retrievers can also be prone to severe and costly health issues. Costs for big-ticket health treatments or surgeries can be as high as $15,000. Therefore, it’s wise to get your Golden Retriever from a reputable breeder that screens for everyday health problems.
Over 10 to 12 years, a Golden Retriever’s cost can range from $13,000 to $16,000 without pet insurance and $19,000 to $22,000 with pet insurance.
The Cost of Owning A Golden Retriever
|Expense||First-Year Costs||Costs Each Year After|
|Adoption Fee (including spay or neutering)||($0)–500||N/A|
|Purebred: registered and papered||$2000 +||N/A|
|Food and Treats||$360–720||$360–720|
|Collars, Leashes, and Basic Grooming||$15–480||$0–480 (for grooming)|
|Bedding, Crate, Gates, or Playpen||$150–250||N/A*|
|Toys incl. chew Toys||$35–200||$0–200|
|Licensing and Registration, Microchipping||$10–75||$10–25|
|Spay and Neutering||$150–500||N/A|
|Vaccines & Routine Check-up||$100–350||$60–100|
|Heartworm and Parasite Prevention||$40–125||$40–125|
(includes the cost of purchasing a dog)
First-Year or Initial Costs
Adoption or Breeder Cost
Buying your Golden Retriever will probably be your most significant first-year expense. Suppose you’re fortunate to find a Golden Retriever at a shelter. In that case, it will typically cost you upwards of $500, but that typically includes spaying or neutering, vet examination, fees, and initial vaccinations.
However, it’s rare to find a purebred Golden at a shelter, so if you’re okay with a mixed breed to keep costs down, this could be an option.
Should you wish to purchase a purebred Golden Retriever, you should avail yourself of a reputable breeder. Do your research. Ask to visit the breeder beforehand and make a list of questions to ask. If a potential breeder does not allow you to visit or is evasive in answering questions, then move on.
Also, keep in mind that a registered Golden Retriever will typically cost more. A registered Golden Retriever, or one with “papers,” means that the dog was registered with one (or more) breeding registries, such as the American Kennel or Canadian Kennel Clubs, as examples.
Registries set the breed standard for size, temperament, coat, color, and other physical and behavioral characteristics. Registration also provides a breeding lineage of the dog’s parents, grandparents, and so forth.
A registered or papered Golden Retriever can be entered in dogs shows.
Suppose you have no intention of breeding your Golden Retriever, using it for hunting, or having it compete in shows. In that case, there is no need for a registered Golden Retriever. Registered Golden Retrievers with papers typically cost the most and charge upwards of $2000 (or more) based on their pedigree.
With some research, it is possible to find reputable breeders who breed purebred Golden Retrievers but do not register the dogs. These unregistered dogs are best suited to the typical family who wants a companion, not a show or competition dog.
Do your due diligence to ensure the breeder produces healthy dogs with a good temperament. Meeting the parents is essential.
Avoid supporting puppy mills (backyard breeders). The costs of a potentially unhealthy dog are not worth any upfront savings.
Common signs of puppy mills are
- They advertise on Craigslist or Kijiji (some reputable breeders do as well, though).
- Cannot provide proof of medical screening.
- Allow you to take a puppy before eight weeks of age (big flag).
- Evasive in answering questions.
- Don’t allow you to meet the parents or visit their site.
- They do not have vaccination records.
- No screening of buyers – reputable breeders often require an application to ensure their dogs go to the best homes or at least want to meet the buyer beforehand.
- Dogs are kept isolated, in deplorable conditions, and are not socialized.
- Consider adopting an older Golden Retriever from a rescue organization or a shelter. Older dogs are not as sought after, so a person can purchase one for much cheaper, and you are giving a more senior Golden a second chance for a great life, so a win-win.
- Ensure that any breeder you are buying a Golden Retriever puppy from does medical screening for common health issues. Medical screening for inherited conditions can help mitigate some high costs down the road.
- Research to find reputable breeders that do not register or paper their dogs but still breed to high standards. Purebreds that are not registered and papered can cost hundreds less.
Food and Treats
Aside from purchasing your Golden Retriever, one of your highest costs will be food, including treats. Food costs can vary depending on the type of diet you choose for your Golden Retriever, e.g., natural food vs. a grocery store brand. Talk to your vet and ask for recommendations.
It would be best if you looked for nutritionally good dog food with the right ingredients, no fillers, and that meet your dog’s micro and macro nutrition requirements. The food does not need to be top of the line, nor should it be the cheapest brand on the shelf. Once you choose a specific brand, shop around.
You will also need treats for training and rewards for good behavior. Follow the same process with treats, including pizzles or bully sticks. Again, shop around for the best price.
You can also make your treats by boiling chicken and breaking it into bite-sized pieces.
- Check out various big box stores (e.g., Costco) and online retailers. You can often find your brand of dog food (or a good one) much cheaper than at a specialty pet store or your veterinarian.
- For commercial treats, cut them into halves, thirds, or quarters. It will extend the life of a bag and reduce the number of calories your Golden takes in.
- Look for sales and use coupons, and consider buying in bulk if you find a great deal.
- Consider purchasing with a friend who has a dog and splitting the food cost to take advantage of sales and buying in bulk.
Food and Water Bowls
Of course, your Golden Retriever will need bowls, one for water and one for food. Stainless steel or ceramic make good options, are durable and don’t break, and are dishwasher safe.
Depending on what type of bowl you choose, you can spend upwards of $50 for a set of two, but most bowls should not cost that much if you buy a standard bowl without any fancy wording or brand name.
If budget is not an issue for you, you might consider getting an additional bowl or two as a backup. This way, you can throw the dirty one in the dishwasher and have a clean bowl ready to go.
- Check out your local dollar or thrift store for discount dog bowls or cheap alternatives like mixing bowls.
- Look for gently used bowls for much cheaper than new ones.
- You can also consider using an old glass bowl or an old stainless steel pot or mixing bowl that you no longer need. Dogs don’t care.
- Have some old, large Tupperware lying around? Provided their large enough, they can make great food and water dishes.
Leashes, Collars, and Basic Grooming
You’ll need a collar to affix your dog’s tags on and to attach a leash. Collars and leashes are required for walking your dog and for training purposes. Consider getting three leashes: a six-foot for walks, and 20-30 foot for recall training, and another six-foot with the hand loop or grip cut off to use as a house line.
A harness can be useful as well. Often, big pullers find a harness more comfortable, and it is easier for the owner to control them on walks. However, a harness is optional. Some dogs do not like them.
You’ll also need a hairbrush and toothbrush for your Golden Retriever, at a minimum. Weekly hair and teeth brushing will help maintain good hygiene and avoid potentially costly health issues such as dental work or skin allergies. You’ll also need a nail trimmer and dog shampoo for occasional baths.
If you use a grooming service, according to HomeGuide.com, the average cost of grooming a Golden Retriever is $70. Golden Retrievers don’t need haircuts, so a basic package, including a bath, nail trim, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing, will cost about $40.
Avail your Golden Retriever to these services monthly, and basic grooming will run you just under $500 yearly.
- Check your local dollar or thrift store for leashes, collars, hairbrushes, dog shampoo, and toothbrushes. Most online retailers or pet stores charge significantly more than a dollar or thrift store.
- Gently used leashes are acceptable and often are only a few dollars or cents, but make sure they are not frayed and in good condition.
- Purchase an adjustable collar, which you can continually adjust as your dog grows and negates the need to buy multiple collars.
- Check the Wish.com shopping app, where you can get leashes and other dog accessories for cheap.
- Consider grooming your dog yourself at a self-service facility for about a third to half the cost.
Bedding, Crate, Gates, or Playpen
Crates are a handy tool for potty training and containment devices. Most dogs, if introduced properly, will love a crate. It provides them a place to go to feel safe and a secure place to rest.
A common mistake among dog owners is allowing their puppies too much freedom. Supervision and training are much easier early on when you can limit your dog’s space to a small, contained area. Crates serve this purpose, as well as many more.
Crate use is optional, of course (not everyone likes them). However, if you decide to forgo the crate, consider gates or a playpen as a means of containing your dog when you cannot supervise it, e.g., when you are cooking a meal.
If you decide on a crate for your Golden Retriever, I’d suggest getting one that will accommodate it as a full-grown adult dog. A good dog crate will include dividers so you can initially make the crate smaller for your puppy then expand it as it grows.
Some owners suggest getting a smaller crate first for your puppy, then a larger one as it grows. Doing that seems like an unnecessary expense if your dog crate is expandable. We’ve used our one dog crate for all our puppies, including smaller dogs like our sheltie right through to a larger Labrador/Irish setter mix.
We just adjusted the size as required, and all our dogs loved it.
Of course, you will also need bedding. Forgo any fancy beds or ensure your mattress has a washable cover. Dogs, especially puppies, have accidents.
Bedding can be expensive if you opt for memory foam or high-end fancy beds. Our Golden has four beds, and he still prefers sleeping on an old blanket we tossed on the floor or in his crate where he again has an old blanket.
- Check Kijiji, eBay, or Craigslist, or garage sales. Typically you can get a used crate for a third (or less) versus new.
- Consider a playpen, which can be much less costly than a good dog crate.
- Gates can be quite expensive. You can build your own if you’re handy or use furniture or other household items like plywood to block off an area in a pinch.
- Make your own dog bed if you’re handy. You can use old blankets as bedding or use an inexpensive futon mattress if you can find one that is gently used. They make great dog beds.
- Ask friends or family if they have old dog crates or beds. You might get them for pennies on the dollar or for free.
Toys are essential for your Golden Retriever. Dogs need mental and physical stimulation, and playtime helps work both their bodies and minds. Toys are also valuable in training and socialization.
Initially, you will also need some chew toys. Puppies bite while teething and chew toys not only give them something to help make their gums feel better, but it’s a distraction from your hands. After the permanent teeth come in, dogs still need to chew.
Dogs don’t have hands, so they experience much of their worlds through their mouths.
Goldens Retrievers often chew to occupy their minds, calm themselves, and relieve anxiety and boredom. However, suppose they do not have adequate outlets for chewing. In that case, they may turn to shoes, furniture, or anything else available to them.
- Consider buying a Kong. It can cut down on costs by being a chew toy, training aid, and a feeder instead of a food bowl.
- Use old socks, t-shirts, or other strong garments as cheap tug toys. Most puppies love to tug, and it’s a great game for learning proper gameplay and rules.
- Look around the house for DIY toys. Plastic coffee lids make good frisbee’s and old balls make good fetch toys. Be creative.
Licensing and Registration
You should register and license your dog. Most municipalities require this for control and tracking, and if your dog is picked up and not licensed, expect a fine.
Most importantly, if your dog is lost and picked up, any agency or shelter can access your contact information to return your dog.
Also, consider microchipping your dog. Microchips are small computers that are implanted quickly under a dog’s skin. Microchips contain an owner’s contact information that an electronic reader can scan.
Microchipping offers many benefits compared to dog tags; including:
- Permanent. Tags can be lost, break off, or become unreadable.
- Evidence of ownership if your dog is lost or stolen and there is a dispute in ownership rights.
- A greater likelihood your dog will be returned to you if picked up by a shelter or by-law officer.
- Pets can be more easily reunited with their owners when separated in emergencies such as tornadoes and hurricanes.
- Peace of mind knowing that you have taken a permanent step to ensure a greater chance that your pet will be returned if lost or stolen.
- Many regions provide a discount for dogs that are neutered and spayed.
- Consider having your Golden Retriever microchipped while it is being spayed or neutered. It reduces costs by combining multiple procedures.
Obedience training is a good idea, even if you know how to train your dog. Obedience training provides your dog with the necessary foundation of commands. It also introduces a socialization component as your Golden Retriever gets to interact with other dogs and people in a controlled environment.
Obedience classes will run about $150.00 plus.
- If you have the time, you can train your own Golden Retriever. There are many good, inexpensive books and YouTube videos.
- Consider online instructional training options, which are much cheaper than in-person classes. I review some popular training programs (including the one I use and recommend) on my Gold Bar Products and Gear page if you’re interested.
- Check out your public library for dog training books. Some libraries charge a minimal yearly fee or no fee for a library card.
- Consider buying any training books in PDF download or via an e-reader such as a Kindle. They’re typically cheaper than paper books.
Spaying and Neutering
If you’re not considering breeding your Golden Retriever, then you should spay or neuter your dog. It helps control the unwanted dog population, among other benefits. Talk to your veterinarian about the pros and cons if you have questions or concerns.
Fortunately, spaying or neutering is a one-time cost, so there is no need for a recurring expense. However, spaying or neutering can run upwards of $500.00.
Benefits of spaying or neutering your Golden Retriever include:
- Dogs are less likely to escape or roam far from home.
- It prevents females from coming into heat.
- It decreases aggressive behavior.
- Other procedures can be done at the same time, such as microchipping and dental work. Combining procedures saves costs and reduces stress on your dog from multiple procedures.
- It prevents unwanted pregnancies.
- It helps the community, controls overpopulation, and saves the lives of unwanted dogs.
Hold up. I wrote two articles detailing what is involved in spaying and neutering your Golden Retriever. In each, I cover the procedure, aftercare, the cost, the best age to have the procedure done to ensure the best health outcomes, and much more. You can find those articles here:
- The ASPCA and PetSmart Charities offer a database for low or no-cost spay and neutering programs. You can search the database to see if there are programs offered in your region.
- Talk to your local animal shelter and ask about low-cost options. Many will provide you with this service at a reduced cost due to the importance of controlling the animal population.
- Call around to different vet clinics in the area. Some may offer the service at a reduced cost or as a community program. Check smaller towns in the area – often they provide cheaper services than larger cities.
Routine Veterinary Exams and Parasite Prevention
Suppose you are getting a Golden Retriever puppy from a breeder. In that case, the breeder should include the first vaccinations and a routine vet check in your dog’s price. If they do not, chances are you are dealing with a backyard breeder or puppy mill, and move on.
After initial vaccinations, you will still need to have your puppy taken in for the remaining vaccinations, as well as heartworm testing and prevention.
- Look to animal welfare groups like the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and local animal shelters for lower-cost care. These organizations will often provide low-cost veterinarian care; however, their hours are often limited, so call ahead.
- Contact various veterinarian clinics for prices as there can be differences, so shop around.
- Consider smaller towns with veterinarians as they often charge less than their big-city counterparts.
- Call a veterinarian college if there is one in your area. Students will perform the services, but it is supervised by a vet and typically much cheaper than a vet clinic.
The likelihood of your dog getting dysplasia and cancer in the first year is very low. However, if your dog is unfortunate to encounter a big health issue, treatments can be expensive and run into thousands of dollars.
If you are comfortable with the risk, you can forgo health insurance for your Golden Retriever in year one. However, as your Golden Retriever ages, the likelihood increases for potential big-ticket issues.
Medical screening from a reputable breeder will also lessen the possibility of any problems.
However, life happens, and your Golden can get sick or injured, and pet insurance can be well worth the cost in those cases. Pet insurance is a costly expense, and it will depend solely on your comfort level for risk and budget.
If you’re interested in reading about some of the most severe and costly health issues in Golden Retrievers, check out this post:
- Start setting aside a little money each month specifically for vet bills. The earlier you start, the quicker your savings will grow.
- Take in your empty bottles and cans to your local recycling depot and set that money aside for vet bills each month.
- Have family members throw their loose change in a jar throughout each month. Combined with tip 1 and 2, this can accumulate quickly, so you have a nice little nest egg saved after a few years.
- Keeping your Golden at a healthy weight and exercising it daily are two of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy dog.
- Avoid costly Cadillac pet insurance plans and shop around. You can find pet insurance for $40-50 per month or less that provides adequate coverage.
Annual Costs – Expenses Each Year After the First
As you can see from the pie chart below, the largest expenses year after year is food, insurance, grooming, and parasite protection (heartworm tests and treatment, fleas and ticks).
Pet insurance is optional, so forgoing insurance can significantly reduce expenses. Still, it would help if you considered costly future surgeries or medical treatments.
Grooming, somewhat surprisingly, can be quite costly if you opt for nail trimming, teeth brushing, ear cleaning, and bathing services versus doing it yourself.
Food and Treats
Next to pet insurance, food and treats will be your most significant yearly expense. However, as your dog gets past the puppy stage, the amount of food you need to give it declines.
Because of their rapid growth stages, puppies and adolescents typically eat more. However, once they move into adulthood, their food requirements reduce slightly.
You can still expect to spend $40 to $60 per month on food and treats (including chew bones like pizzles or bully sticks as treats). You can also consider using fruits and vegetables as treats. Either as an alternative or as a supplement to commercial treats.
If you’re interested, check out these articles on which fruits and vegetables are best for your Golden Retriever:
- Dry food typically costs less than wet. Opt for a mid-brand, good dog food versus a more costly grain-free or raw food brand.
- Adjust food to accommodate snacks. Snacks should constitute no more than 10% of your dog’s diet. Reduce dog food to accommodate the extra calories for snacks and to reduce costs.
- Consider an auto-ship subscription (such as Amazon) as they typically give you a 5% savings, and you can cancel at any time if you find a better deal that month.
- Look for free loyalty programs at pet stores where you save a percent on each purchase and may also qualify for a free bag of food after your ninth or tenth purchase.
- Consider fruits and vegetables as alternatives to expensive commercial treats.
Grooming should not be a large recurring expense unless you opt for professional grooming services, including baths, nail clipping, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing. Grooming costs can easily run about $40 per month for a basic grooming package.
If you do it yourself, then hairbrushes should last for a dog’s lifetime, but you will need to replace toothbrushes regularly, possibly nail clippers and dog shampoo when you run out.
- Skip the groomer or dog wash facilities that charge for water. Use the bathtub or garden hose in the summer, brush your dog’s hair and teeth yourself, and learn to clip your dog’s nails – it’s not complicated.
- If you’re squeamish about cutting nails, then ask experienced friends or families if they’d do it. You may be able to get the service for a reduced fee or in exchange for a favor such as watching their dog or kids. Barter.
- Consider nail clipping as a standalone service and do the brushing, bathing, and brushing yourself. Without any additional grooming services, nail clipping will cost about $10 per month.
Depending on how aggressive your dog is for chewing, you may need to replace toys routinely. Plus, toys are essential to keep your dog mentally engaged and to ensure play is a big part of its everyday life.
A Golden Retriever should always have toys available that it enjoys.
Small toys suitable for a puppy may now be too small for a large Golden Retriever, so time to donate or throw them out if they’re in poor condition.
Depending on how many toys your dog chews through or how much you like to spoil your pup, you can expect to spend upwards of $350 per year on toys.
- Shop around for sales. Make a wishlist on Amazon and take advantage of deals. Buy in bulk to take advantage of free shipping.
- Items such as frisbees and tennis balls make great inexpensive toys (check your dollar store for these), and they can also be used in brain training games.
- You can use household items like plastic bottles in a sock and milk jugs. Dogs like to chase and chew on them but be sure to replace them when they become destroyed.
- Canvas bags, shirts, socks, or old denim make great tug toys.
- Tie a rope with a toy on one end to a stick, and you have a make-shift flirt pole.
- Google DIY ideas for dog toys to reduce toy costs significantly.
- Check out my post: Boredom Busters: 21 Great Activities for Your Golden Retriever for some inexpensive ways to entertain your Golden Retriever.
Licensing and Registration
Licensing and registration is a necessary ongoing expense, but fortunately not an expensive one. Almost all municipalities require dogs to be licensed and registered.
- Consider saving and taking your empty bottles and cans in for recycling, which will cover the cost of your annually licensing fee.
- Inquire if your town or city offers multi-year licensing. It is typically provided at a discounted price versus licensing on a year-by-year basis.
- A fine for an unlicensed dog can be quite expensive and often more than the cost to license your dog over its lifetime.
Some form of obedience training should continue for the life of your Golden. Obedience benefits your Golden Retriever in many ways and should continue well beyond puppyhood.
Dogs typically become more fearful and anxious as they age, so having a lifelong training routine can help mitigate behavioral issues before becoming ingrained and overly problematic.
- Consider subscribing to online training instruction covering all stages of a dog’s life, including games and common behavior problems. Check out my Gold Bar Products and Gear for an excellent recommendation and the program I personally use.
- Search YouTube for on going training ideas and tips. Zak George has a popular and great channel. YouTube is free,and usually covers any topic you might have.
Routine Veterinary Exams and Parasite Prevention
It would help if you took your dog in for a yearly examination. Doing so ensures your dog is kept in good health. In addition, annual examinations can often identify potential health issues early before they become severe and costly to treat.
Certain vaccinations will need a booster every few years. In addition, heartworm and other preventive measures such as tick and flea control are also essential maintenance items. Expect $50 to $500 per year for these critical and necessary maintenance items.
- Keep your dog in good health – a healthy dog is a lower-cost dog.
- Practicing regular hygiene, including teeth brushing and ear cleaning, helps avoid dental problems or ear infections.
- Don’t overfeed your Golden Retriever; ensure it gets plenty of exercise, socialization, and play and keep it at a healthy weight.
- Consider cheaper topicals or tablets for parasite protection versus more expensive injections.
- Call around to veterinarian clinics to compare prices. Prices do differ from clinic to clinic, so it pays to shop around.
- Look into animal welfare groups like the Humane Society, the ASPCA, and local animal shelters for lower-cost veterinarian care.
Golden Retrievers often suffer from specific health issues. The likelihood of health issues increases with age, especially if they have not been screened medically, to reduce the possibility of inherited conditions.
Cancer, eye conditions, hip dysplasia, skin conditions such as ichthyosis are common for Golden Retrievers. Costs can run from as low as $200 for treating a mild skin allergy to as high as $15,000 for treating diseases such as cancer.
Be prepared, however, that unexpected emergencies can happen. Should you forgo pet insurance and get caught with a big-ticket health expense that you cannot cover, review the cost-saving tips below for emergency options.
- Talk to your vet if their clinic has donors or angels who contribute to a yearly fund for those who cannot afford expensive treatments.
- If your Golden Retriever requires emergency veterinary care, including surgeries, and you cannot afford treatment, contact nearby veterinary colleges. Some colleges offer programs for low-income families.
- Talk to your vet for payment plans or ways to reduce costs.
- Consider using Waggle, a pet-dedicated crowdfunding solution that channels funds directly to verified veterinarians for a pet’s care.
Owning a Golden Retriever is not inexpensive. However, the return on your investment in joy and unconditional love is well worth the price. Still, a potential dog owner should consider the Golden Retriever’s cost over those 10 to 12 years to ensure they can afford it.
To reduce costs, shop sales and use coupons. Opt for healthy dog food, but avoid Cadillac brands or trendy raw food and other fad items. Instead, compare vet clinics and contact local shelters for low-cost veterinarian services.
Craigslist, eBay, and Kijiji, along with dollar and thrift stores, are great ways to get low-cost dog accessories.
Stick with a healthy mid-level dry dog food as recommended by your vet. 80% of your dog’s health will come from combining good dog food with regular hygiene and exercise and keeping your Golden Retriever’s weight at a healthy level.
You can reduce costs by employing the cost-saving tips discussed and researching other ways to mitigate yearly expenses. It’s not unreasonable to be able to save hundreds of dollars a year by utilizing cost-saving measures and being mindful of where and how you spend your dollars.
With some work, due diligence, and research, it is possible to keep annual costs for your Golden Retriever on the lower side of the cost spectrum.