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How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

Interested in adopting a dog? You are not alone. 

As people learn about the horrors of puppy mills, dog adoptions are becoming the preferred method of getting a dog.  

This is good news to the more than 127,000 dogs currently looking for a home on

But even as more people choose to adopt, they don’t know the cost to adopt a dog prior to starting the process.

So, we decided to sort through the adoption posts on to find out the cost to adopt a dog?’

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?

After looking through 100’s of posts on, we found that the cost to adopt a puppy ranged from $61 to $1,750 with most costs falling between $200 and $500. The cost to adopt an adult dog ranged from $50 to $1,200 with most costs falling between $100 and $350.

As you might expect, the cost to adopt a dog varied based on a few factors; age, geographic location, interest and organization type all had an effect on the cost to adopt.

Across the board puppies fetched a higher price than adult dogs. Senior dogs and special needs dogs were at the lower end of costs. 

Meet Malcolm. Malcolm is a 2 month old Labrador Retriever mix. He is located in Wakefield, RI. Malcolm’s adoption fee is $585

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?  Malcolm is a 2 month old Labrador Retriever mix.

How Do These Factors Affect The Cost?


The age of the dog has a big impact on the cost to adopt that dog. Puppies have always been in high demand and many people are willing to pay a higher price to get one.

People tend to believe that it is easier to train and bond with a dog if you get them as a puppy. But this means you need to know how to train a puppy.

People tend to under estimate the amount of time it takes to train a puppy. At the very least they need to have the time to take them to a training class.

You also need time to reinforce what you have both learned at home. The lack of training can result in a dog being returned to the shelter due to behavioral problems.

This brings me to the other reason puppies are more expensive to adopt. Puppyhood only lasts for a few months. Because of this, there are fewer puppies available to adopt compared to older dogs.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog? - Three Golden Retriever  puppies

These Golden Retriever puppies are in Bath, Ohio for $500 each.

Geographic Location

Where a dog is available for adoption will have a big effect on the cost to adopt. Locations with a higher cost of living like cities and northern suburbs tend to have higher adoption costs.

This is partially due to the higher cost for medical care, dog food, and housing. It is also due to the fact that these populations tend to have more disposable income to spend on the dog they want.

Meet Harry. Harry is a purebred Golden Retriever located in Westchester County, NY. He is estimated to be between 1 to 2 years old. Harry’s adoption fee is $1,200.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?  Harry is a purebred Golden Retriever

We see the opposite in locations with a lower cost of living. These areas will generally have lower adoption costs due to the lower cost of care and have less people willing to pay a premium for a dog.

However, there are exceptions to this. It has become a common practice to transport dogs from lower cost areas in the south to higher cost areas in the north. In these cases the adoption costs may also reflect the cost of transport. How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog?  Ross is a Golden Retriever and Rottweiler mix

Meet Ross. Ross is a Golden Retriever and Rottweiler mix in Rogers, Arkansas. At the time of writing he was being held by the City of Rogers – Animal Services. Ross’s adoption fee is just $61.


Most government run shelters and some rescues charge a flat fee based on age. But some rescues will base the cost of adoption on the demand for a particular dog. Dogs in high demand tend to be purebred or mixed breed “designer” dogs.

Rescues justify the extra fees by stating it helps pay the medical expenses of a dog in need. Sometimes it states that the extra costs goes towards the general care of less adoptable dogs.

Pur is a 5 month old Aussiedoodle in Elk Grove, CA. Her adoption fee is $1,000

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog? 5 month old Aussiedoodle

Non-designer mixed-bred dogs tend to have lower adoption fees.

Earl Grey is believed to be a Labrador Retriever and White Shepherd Mix

Earl Grey is believed to be a Labrador Retriever and White Shepherd Mix in Berea, Kentucky. He is up to date on his vaccinations and is neutered. His adoption fee is $200

Organization type

The type of organization will have an effect on the cost of adoption. City run shelters that are looking to free up space to take in new dogs tend to keep adoption fees low.

That was our experience when we adopted Charlie, a Golden Retriever rescue from a local city shelter. I can’t remember the exact cost to adopt him but it was low.

Of course that many years ago. But the cost of adoption at a city shelter is still low today when compared to rescue groups.

You can still adopt dogs from local government shelters but you may be competing with local rescue groups.

This is due to rescue groups can may take these dogs from the shelter before anyone else has a chance to adopt them. Before you get upset, let me tell you why rescue groups are doing us all a favor.

How Much Does It Cost to Adopt a Dog? Goldendoodle puppy

Shelly appears to be a goldendoodle puppy, but the ad states they do not know what her breeding is. She was being held at the Fort Wayne Animal Control in Fort Wayne, In. Her adoption cost is $125.

Rescue Groups

Every time a rescue group takes a dog from a shelter they are opening up space for another dog.

Unlike many rescue groups, government run shelters have a limited amount of space to work with. Rescue groups on the other hand often utilize fosters volunteers which allow them to hold onto a dog until they find them a home.

Some rescue groups are breed specific, meaning they only deal with one type of dog, like a doodle rescue. Others will take in any dogs in need of a home.

As more people choose to adopt the demand for rescue dogs has increased. This allows rescue groups to be more selective in who they adopt to. Having gone through the process already we provide you with the tips and tricks you need to find a rescue dog in Rescue Dogs: Tips on How to Get One

Rescue groups serve another purpose. They will often vet the dogs before putting them up for adoption.

Since rescue groups use foster homes to house their dogs, the host gets a chance to see what the dog is really like to live with. This allows the rescue group to deal with any medical or behavioral issues before placing the dog for adoption.

German Shepherd Puppy

Ember was rescued from a kill shelter in Texas. She was brought to a foster in Virginia to hopefully be adopted. She is listed as a German Shepherd Puppy. Embers adoption fee is $325

Cash’s mom was abandoned and had her puppies under a barn. Cash and his siblings needed to be bottle fed by their foster mom. Cash is located in Nahunta, Ga. The adoption fees at this rescue ranges between $100 and $200.

What’s included in the Adoption fee?

Adoption fees are often a bargain once you realize what it covers. Although it can vary most cover: 

  • Medical check-up
  • All required age appropriate shoots
  • Heartworm testing, prevention and treatment when necessary
  • De-worming for puppies
  • Spay or neuter
  • Cost to board or foster the dog.
    • This includes items like food, treats, pee pads, toys etc.
  • Microchip
 Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle mix

Brady is a Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle mix in Tampa, Fl. His is approximately 4 years old and was rescued from a local shelter. He needed to be shaved down due to the extensive matting and comes with free training. His adoption fee is $250.

Some places also include in their fees:

  • Dog License
  • Collars
  • Identification tags
  • Flea and Tick Prevention
  • Dental Checkup
  • Training Classes
  • Grooming

These days there are so many places where you can go to adopt a dog. Which one should you choose? We look at the pros and cons of each and touch on where you should not go for your dog adoption in Dog Adoption – Finding Your Perfect Pup

Additional Fees

Application fees

In addition to the cost of the adoption fee some rescue groups require that you pay a non-refundable application fee in order to have your application processed. This fee is to pay for the processing of the application. Fees typically ranged between $10 and $25 per application.

Transportation costs

Some rescue groups will ship the dog to you for an additional cost. The transportation costs we saw ranged from $50 to $500 for ground transportation. 

If the rescue routinely transports dogs to a certain area they may include the cost to the adoption fee rather than charge it separately.

This beautiful boy is Landon. His mom was a town stray in Reform, Alabama. He is offered for adoption in Connecticut but will reside in Alabama until he has found a home. Landon’s adoption fee is $499 which includes the cost of transportation to Connecticut.

Spay or Neuter Deposits

Rescue groups are now offering allowing puppies to be adopted prior to being spayed or neutered. But they still want all dogs to be fixed.

So rescues and shelters are now requiring a refundable deposit at the time of adoption to ensure that the dogs are fixed. The deposit request we saw ranged between $75 and $250 dollars.

What is a Benefactor Dog?

A benefactor dog is generally a purebred or designer dog that people are willing to pay a higher adoption fee to get. The idea behind benefactor dogs is that the high fees help support dogs that need medical attention or for the care of dogs that are harder to place.  The adoption fees vary for benefactor dogs but are always higher than the standard fees for the rescue.

Dutch Lucky is a French Bulldog puppy in Indiana. His adoption fee is $1,750. It is noted in his profile that his adoption fee “will be used to cover veterinarian expenses of other dogs in need “

French Bulldog puppy

How We Determined the Typical Cost to Adopt a Dog

To find the typical cost to adopt a dog we took a sampling of the thousands of dogs that were available across the US on at the time of writing.

Since rescue groups and shelters are free to charge what they want, the “typical” cost may change. 

In order to make the comparisons between the different regions, ages, health and organization type we concentrated on a few breed types.

This included mixed breed dogs and the 5 most popular dog breeds; the German Shepherd, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, French Bull Dog, Poodle and Poodle mix.   

Beyond the Initial Cost to Adopt a Dog

So far we have focused on the cost to adopt a dog from a rescue. But the cost of dog ownership doesn’t end there.

There are basic items you will need in order to take care of your new dog. Things like food bowls, food, collar, leash and toys to name a few.

Annual visits to the veterinarian will be needed to ensure your pup is healthy and up to date with all their vaccines. Taking care of your pup will be an ongoing expense, so make sure you know what the costs are before you adopt and that you have the means to cover them.

If you are a new dog parent you may be wondering what you need to take care of a puppy. In What You Need for a New Puppy we go over the essential items you must get for any dog.

I hope you now have a better idea of what it will cost to adopt a dog

A Word about the Dogs in this Post

All the dogs shown in this post were available for adoption on at the time of writing. Most of them will hopefully be adopted by the time you read this, but there are many more just like these who are looking for a home. Please consider opening your heart and your home to one of them

Other related posts you may like:

Jana Rade

Monday 11th of May 2020

The costs make perfect sense to me. I do wish, though, that in puppies and young dogs, spay/neuter was optional for responsible owners. Because there are some serious health disadvantages of early spay/neuter, particularly in large breed dogs.


Monday 11th of May 2020

Yes, I agree that it would be better if shelters and rescues did not require early spay and neutering. Though I completely understand why they do it. The good news is that at least some rescues are now requiring a spay/neuter deposit in lieu of spaying a young dog. Once you spay or neuter your dog at the appropriate age you can collect your deposit. Hopefully more rescues and breeders will do the same.


Monday 11th of May 2020

I think most of us who ever adopted a dog agree that it is the best money we ever spent! It is interesting to see how the prices vary, and I think this explanation will help people understand why some dogs are so much more expensive than others. I hope all these dogs find good homes soon!


Monday 11th of May 2020

I couldn’t agree more. Also I believe they were all adopted before I ever finished the post.

Ruth Epstein

Sunday 10th of May 2020

I only adopt and will not pay a breeder and I love mutts the best LOL, Yes it can be costly getting one from a shelter or rescue but I look at the bigger picture of I am helping them also to be able save another dog and I feel people should not complain about the costs as there are so many prepared to pay thousands for pure bred dogs and even there there are pure bred dog rescues. I found Layla on PetHarbor at the time which is a great site.


Monday 11th of May 2020

I agree. I find dog adoptions to be very satisfying. Plus if you go to a county shelter the prices can’t be beat.

Angela Schneider

Saturday 9th of May 2020

A Corgi breeder near me charges $3,000 for puppies and a Shiba Inu breeder near me charges $4,500. Can you imagine? Bella came from a very reputable breeder on the West Coast and she was $900. I chose right, didn't I? A lot of rescues do charge several hundred dollars and I'm so glad you gave a rundown of the "includeds" in the fees. Adopters need to know that they're getting a well-cared-for dog and the rescues need to know that the dogs in which they've invested their time, love and funds are going to be well cared for.


Saturday 9th of May 2020


Yes, it's surprising how much purebred dogs cost these days. When we were looking for a doodle, the cost range was $3,000 and up. And they are not even a purebred. In the end we chose a rescue and we couldn't be happier. Not only was the cost much less but we knew she was healthy since the rescue was part of a vet's office.

Thanks for stopping by, Bonnie

Michelle & The Paw Pack

Friday 8th of May 2020

Very interesting post! I think it's really important to look beyond just the adoption fees too, which you did mention a bit. My dogs are 11 and 4 and I don't even want to think about how much money I've spent on them over time. My older boy especially, as he's gotten older he's started to need vet care more often for various things which adds up quickly. They are totally worth all the money spent, of course, but something for people to think about if they're on a strict budget.


Saturday 9th of May 2020


Thanks. When we first looked at adopting a dog, we were surprised at the cost. But once you factor in all they do, it really is a bargain.

Thanks for visiting! Bonnie