Grade 3-5

How Much is that Doggy?

Updated: December 3 2018,
Author: Kent Steen

Students will investigate the concept of total cost of ownership. They will brainstorm the costs of owning a dog or a cat. Students will calculate the total cost of ownership to help determine which might be the best pet for them.


dogsBegin the lesson by asking your students if they remember the song ‘How Much is That Doggie in the Window?’ (see lyrics ) Discuss with your students the ides that while that cute puppy or kitten may have a set purchase price, there is a whole lot more to owning a pet than just buying one! They will need to consider the total cost of ownership, or what it will cost for things like food, trips to the vet, and much more. Some of these costs may be one-time deals, but pet owners will face most of them over and over, throughout the life of the pet. How much is that doggie (or kitty)? Your students might be surprised!

Learning Objectives

  • Explain the concept of total cost of ownership.
  • Identify costs associated with pet ownership.
  • Decide what pet, if any, they would purchase.
  • Recognize the importance of responsible pet ownership.

Resource List


catStudents will brainstorm as many costs of ownership as they can. The brainstorming could be conducted as an individual, small-group, or whole-class activity. Remember that these may be repeating costs, like the cost of food, or one-time costs, like the purchase price. Possible costs to include: pet beds, houses, travel crates, toys and other novelty items, carpet/furniture damage, boarding, training classes, litter boxes, litter-scoopers, spaying/neutering, heart worm pills or shots, flea pills or baths, licensing, etc.

Following the cost brainstorming, students will complete the pet price worksheet. They will calculate the total cost of ownership for a dog or a cat. Some students may wish to calculate the cost of another type of pet. Students can add additional costs to better determine the actual overall cost. You may also want students to use an online pet supply store like link to obtain prices of items or have students use print advertisements from pet supply stores. Allow students time to repeat the activity for another animal. Encourage them to try different variables such as various life spans and different monthly costs for items.

Have students compare and discuss the results of the pet price worksheet. How did the total cost vary when students changed the life span and the monthly cost of their pet? (You may also want to point out to students that the pet price worksheet does not take inflation into account, which could lead to an even higher total cost of ownership.) Which animal has the higher total cost of ownership? (This answer will vary.) Which student calculated the highest or lowest total cost of ownership and why? [Life span, varying monthly cost estimates, detailed vs. basic expense lists]

Where you live is very is important in choosing a pet. Pets need room to run and play. Determine what type of home will be best for different animals. Students can complete the interactive activity or print a copy and complete it at their desk.

NOTE: This interactive activity provides the opportunity for you to reinforce the use of graphic organizers with your students. The activity provides a venn diagram that the students will have to place images of animals in the correct section of the diagram. You should discuss the sections and how they overlap. Point out that some animals can be placed in more than one home. Have your students think of the home that the animals can live in and place them in the corresponding section. Provided below is a key for you to use as you help them make their decisions.

[Farm: duck, horse, pig, chicken, cow
Farm and House: collie
Farm, House and Apartment: bird, cat, fish, hamster, turtle, poodle]


View Interactive Activity

  1. What do these costs have to do with being a responsible pet owner? [The owner must be willing to pay for these costs over many years of the pet’s life.]
  2. What are some issues that need to be considered other than financial cost before buying a pet? [Some issues that need to be considered other than financial cost before buying a pet are: size of house or apartment, apartment rules regarding pets, size of pet, age of pet, health of pet, American Kennel Club breed recognition, age of children, health of owner, time needed to spend with pet, who will exercise the pet, are pets allowed?, etc.]

Extension Activity

For a fun language arts activity, complete the Animal Sayings worksheet.

Before you buy any pet, you may want to view the Animated Journeys site to learn more about pet ownership and care. Not all pets can live just anywhere!


dogsSo how much was that doggie or kitty in the window? Is your tail still wagging after seeing how much it might cost?

Take some time to think about what you’ve learned in this lesson.

View Interactive Activity

  1. What is meant by total cost of ownership?
    [Both the monetary and non-monetary costs of owning a pet, i.e. the opportunity cost.] 
  2. What costs are associated with pet ownership?
    [Answers will vary: Look for Time, Money (associated with costs of foods, purchase price, toys, dog houses, licensing etc.)]
  3. What type of pet, if any, would be the best match for you?
    [Answers will vary.]
  4. What are some ways in which you would be a responsible owner of your pet?
    [Answers will vary.] 

Be prepared to share your thoughts with your classmates.

catConduct a Think-Pair-Share to have students think about what they learned, share their learning with a partner, and then share as a whole group. You may want to extend the concept of total cost of ownership by asking students what other items they buy that have costs other than just the initial purchase price. Example: video game systems require games, special controllers, speakers, repair costs, etc. What are some items where total cost of ownership isn’t an issue? (Some debate may occur here) What are items their parents might purchase where total cost of ownership is a consideration? [Cars, computers, houses, farm equipment, etc.]