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Which is More Expensive: A Robot Dog or a Regular Dog?


We’ve all seen the viral robot pups that bark, wag their tails, and even eat “treats.” The Sony Aibo robot dog is one such technological wonder – it knows how to play with children, has the ability to recognize humans, and even has a “personality” tailored to its owners.

The Aibo robot dog is one of the most realistic animatronic dog models to date. It’s programmed to behave very much like a real dog, without the constant maintenance needed. That’s also why it can seem more expensive than the real thing – the price tag is just a hundred dollars shy of $3,000. When you compare it to the initial costs of adopting a real dog, the robot pet is much more expensive.

However, a real pup can actually cost just as much, if not more than many other affordable robot pet models. Apart from the starting expenses, you’ll have to consider future costs – food, veterinary bills, spay or neuter costs, monthly medications, and much more.

In this blog, we talk about the differences between taking care of a real dog vs. a robotic dog, which one is more expensive, and why.

How Much Is a Real-Life Robot Dog?

A robotic dog can cost anywhere from $75,000 to $20 depending on its use. The most expensive robotic dog is Spot from Boston Dynamics, which is a robotic dog used in hospitals, architecture firms, agriculture, and more. 

That means Spot isn’t a dog that normally plays with children or begs for belly rubs. It’s one that is meant to assist humans at work. It can be used to move boxes, transport heavy materials from one end to another, scope out dangerous terrain, and so on. 

A less expensive robotic pet would be Aibo, the Japanese robotic dog from Sony. Aibo is the more traditional man’s best friend. Even the name implies it –  ‘Aibo’ is the Japanese word for companion. The name AIBO also doubles as a shortcut for artificial intelligence bot, since AI is what makes AIBO function like a real live pet. 

The artificial intelligence of AIBO is what gives it the ability to respond quickly to its environment. AIBO uses an Open-R modular platform that helps it use a realistic and lifelike interface, with features like voice recognition, stimulus-response, machine learning, and more. This means Aibo is able to play with kids and adults alike, though Aibo is very much different from the robo-toys we’ve all enjoyed as kids. Aibo also has a physicality that makes it similar to a real pet. It responds to commands like “Aibo, juggle!” or “Aibo, sit.” Aibo even whimpers when you stop playing with it – much like a real dog. 

Aibo also functions as a security camera. By connecting Aibo to your home WiFi, you’ll be able to gain access to the video feed from its camera no matter where you are. Aibo also comes with its own Aibo app which gives you access to the maps it creates and labels them.

So, with all of these amazing benefits that Aibo has, we can expect costs to be higher than your typical animatronic toy. At almost $3,000, Aibo seems like a splurge most people wouldn’t want to make. But when you compare the cost of owning a real animal to buying an Aibo, including future expenses, the latter will start to make financial sense.

A writer at Refinery29 who reviewed Aibo after spending time with it for a week said, “What type of adult consumer is this meant to appeal to? Though everyone in my office wanted Aibo, no one was willing to throw down three grand for him. Even the coworker who asked if she could keep him.” 

A Sony representative then told the online magazine through an email: “Whether a person is simply enamored by advanced technology, has an interest in experiencing AI/robotics in action, or if they are looking to add pet companionship to a lifestyle that otherwise wouldn’t allow for it, we believe Aibo serves as a vehicle to inspire joy and provide entertainment in people’s day to day lives.”

A key factor here is that those who opt for a robot pet are usually those people whose lifestyle doesn’t allow for a real dog. For some, owning a real dog is too physically demanding. Others aren’t allowed a real dog in their apartment complex, while others lack the financial capacity to take care of a real dog. 

The final factor is incredibly important. If you want to provide adequate care for a real dog, the costs of owning one should always be considered, so make sure you have the financial capacity to feed, house, and seek medical care whenever your pet needs it. 

If you’re undecided about which type of pet to buy, we break down the typical costs of a real dog vs. a robotic pet to give you an idea of what to expect when you’re browsing for options online or looking for a puppy to adopt at a shelter.

Are Robot Dogs Better Than Real Dogs?

There are plenty of benefits to having robotic fur friends that many pet owners may not realize. One of them is fewer costs.

In general, you’ll only need to pay for a robotic pet once: when you buy it the first time. If you bought one with non-rechargeable batteries, then you’ll have to add the cost of batteries every so often to your ongoing costs list. But in most cases, that’s about all you need if you want to take care of a robotic pet.

On the other hand, you’ll need to dish out an initial $50-$150 if you want to adopt a real dog. That’s cheaper than a lot of realistic robotic dogs out there. But keep in mind that a real dog requires ongoing costs – trips to the vet, neutering, medication, toys, and so on.

Below, we do an in-depth comparison of why a real dog may cost more in the long run and why a robotic pet is an ideal choice for many people. 

A Real Dog Requires Constant Maintenance

Let’s put the cost aside for a minute and say it isn’t a problem. Even if you are financially prepared to set a big budget for your dog, the cost is only one factor in the equation of owning a live animal.

You’ll still need to be able to lend time in caring for your new pup. Many new fur parents disregard the physicality required to take care of a real dog. Keep in mind that you can’t just feed them and leave them alone like cats. A dog will require company a lot of the time; you’ll have to teach it tricks, walk it, clean up its mess, and so on.

This is called the “time cost,” because you’re not actually spending money, but time and energy. The time cost is a big reason many older adults are incapable of taking care of new animals. There’s also the physical cost to consider – many people aren’t used to owning animals and are surprised at how physically draining it can be. 

It can also depend on the living situation. Are there plenty of kids to take care of at home? Do you plan on moving elsewhere in the near future, and will that area allow owning a pet?

They Need Food

This is one of the more obvious differences between owning real vs. robotic animals. Obviously, a kid’s toy would not need food to stay alive, but the case is different when you’re dealing with a live animal. US News puts the yearly cost of food for a pet at not less than $200 a year, depending on the size and variation.

Ongoing Costs

Finally, owning a live animal means ongoing costs. These are the things you pay for after the initial costs, including food, medication, supplies, etc.

US News puts initial costs at $430-$970, including:

  • Adoption fees
  • Spaying/neutering
  • Initial vet costs
  • Microchipping costs

Adopting is cheaper because centers often include spaying, neutering, and initial veterinary costs in their adoption fee. They may also include microchipping costs. Other initial expenses include litter boxes, toys, a fish tank, and other supplies you’ll need to make your puppy feel at home instantly.

Ongoing costs are what differentiates the experience of owning a real animal vs a kids’ toy; a kid’s toy doesn’t have ongoing costs (except for batteries if needed). Sources show that owning a pet means you’ll need to set aside at least $1,000 for ongoing expenses yearly. This includes:

  • Food (Can cost more depending on quality)
  • Ongoing veterinary costs 
  • Monthly medications

When you add end-of-life costs into the mix, you’ll need to add up to $300. That makes a total of $1,730 at least and around $2,270 at most – for just a year. Take note that dogs can live up to 13 years.

Why Are Robotic Pets Better Than Real Pets?

Whether you’re looking for a high-end robotic companion like Aibo or just want a simple kids’ toy for your kids to have fun with, robotic animals cost less. Here are its benefits:


While the Aibo may be a bit clingy and playful, it’s definitely not as physically demanding as owning the real thing. After all, if you get tired of the Aibo or your Joy For All companion, or even any kid’s toy – all you have to do is shut it off.

No Food Needed

As we saw above, one of the largest ongoing expenses in owning a real animal is food cost. If we go by the average cost of $200-$700 a year for a lifespan of 13 years, it would cost us a total of $2,600 – $9,100.

To compare with one of the most expensive robots, Aibo, which has a retail cost of less than $3,000, you can see why many prefer owning a robot – the cost of keeping a real animal alive eventually adds up, and it will keep adding up in the future.

No Ongoing Expenses

Here’s the largest advantage of owning a robotic pup over a real one – there are zero to minimal recurring expenses. No food cost, vet cost, or medicine cost. You don’t even need to buy playthings for it, but they typically don’t cost much, especially if you’re buying a kid’s toy.

Let’s use Aibo as an example once more. The initial cost of an Aibo is around $3,000 and it includes:

  • Aibo First Litter Edition
  • Charging Station
  • Years of subscription to Sony’s AI cloud service
  • Accessories, including a pink ball, “Aibone,” and paw pads

The charging station is pretty self-explanatory. You’ll also get free access to the Aibo cloud service. The cloud service helps Aibo store data like environment maps, video, and memories. According to the website, the cloud service “enables your Aibo to connect with a dedicated server for data-exchange purposes, store its memories of things that it’s seen and heard, and develop its unique personality.”

Final Note

It’s important to have foresight if you’re deciding between a robotic pup and a real one. Both have their advantages, and there are things that an animatron will never be able to replace in a real pet. 

But when it comes to cost, there’s a clear winner – the robotic pup. It may cost more at first, but you’ll be able to save more in the long run.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is Spot the robot dog?

Spot can be bought for $75,000. However, it is not meant to be a companion, but rather a high-end machine for transporting goods and navigating dangerous terrain.

Sota Takahashi

Sota Takahashi is a Japanese-born electrical engineer. At the age of 18, he moved to Seattle and completed his Electrical Engineering degree at the University of Washington, Seattle. Being a fan of all things tech, he channels his geeky side through this website, and with his wife Linda, shares knowledge about robot pets and how they can be lifelong and advantageous companions for both children and the elderly.

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