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The Frugal Dog – The Cost of Dog Ownership

This is another guest post by Kathryn.  She is evaluating the potential cost of dog ownership.  Great timing as we’re also considering getting a dog in the future.

This is a spin off on Newborn Baby Expenses as pet ownership can also be pricey!

Brian and I both grew up with dogs but because of our transient lifestyle we haven’t considered a pet until recently. Lately our lives have settled into a pleasant routine. We have a house. I work from home. The kids are getting older. We’re wondering if this might be a good time to bring a dog into the family. We’re in the process of researching just how much this little pooch is going to cost us over his or her lifetime.

How much will a dog cost for the first year and beyond?

  1. Dog. To get a dog from the local humane society is $350 if they can find one that is good with kids. There is a long waiting list for these. Another dog we’ve been considering from a local reputable hobby breeder ~ $400.
  2. Spay / Neutering ~ $350 for a female
  3. Dog crate for medium sized dog ~ $60
  4. Food dishes ~ $20
  5. Chew toys & leash ~ $30
  6. Portable Rug Cleaner (Bissel Green Machine) ~ $90
  7. Dog training books ~ $0 Thanks to the local library!
  8. Dog obedience school ~ $250
  9. Food ~ $250 / yr $400/yr (thanks to the readers)
  10. Vaccinations and vet bills ~ $200 / yr on average
  11. City dog licensing ~ $30 / yr
  12. Boarding ~ $0 (We made an arrangement with someone else. We’d watch their dog when they go on holidays and they would watch ours.)
  13. Grooming ~ $20 / yr for a brush and shampoo. We’re only considering dogs that don’t need haircuts.

First year cost = $1650

Yearly costs = $650

For those of you who are dog owners, are these accurate figures? Have I missed anything?

How have you found ways to be a frugal pet owner without sacrificing the health or safety of your animal?

Which system do you use in your household?

Kathryn is a regular contributor on Million Dollar Journey and has a passion for personal finance. She volunteers her time as a money coach meeting with ordinary Canadians, teaching them the basics of budgeting, no fee banking, saving for the future and other basics of personal finance.

-> If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free newsletter service below (we will not spam you).

About the author: Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

{ 72 comments… add one }
  • S.Templar February 26, 2009, 8:34 am

    The cost on food is very low. A medium sized dog will eat more than $250.00 /yr. Add to this the costs of treats. Even if you make your own, as my wife does, it still adds up! A considering factor is whether you are buying the cheapest dog food as opposed to something with a little more nutritional value.

  • Money Minder February 26, 2009, 9:18 am

    Spaying/neutering can be cheaper if you go to the local humane society. Also, it is cheaper to neuter a male than to spay a female.

    We have only ever crated one dog, I don’t think most owners need crates (unless for travel). You can isolate your dog in a dog-proofed area of your house and accomplish the same thing.

    Food Dishes – I use old dishes that we have for our pets, I do not purchase them their own pet dishes.

    Obedience school – we’ve never done this. We have been able to teach our dog(s) basic manners – sit, stay, lay down, off, no jumping, no barking – on our own.

    $250 for food seems cheap. Your vet bills may be lower in the long term if you invest in good quality dog food up front. All dog foods are NOT created equal.

    Many municipalities will offer free licensing of your pet if it is spayed/neutered and has been micro-chipped (about $50).

    Pets are like people, you never know what kind of health issues a pet will have. Vet bills tend to be highest the first and last year of life, but some pets develop chronic issues (diabetes, thyroid disorders, allergies, arthritis etc.) and need ongoing medical care and medication. Some of my friends are big fans of pet health insurance (we have never had it) which I hear is cheap if you take out a policy while it is a puppy.

    We have always had female dogs. They have an acid in their urine that leaves dead patches of grass on the lawn. We have to factor in the costs to fix this on an ongoing basis.

    In our family pets are family members – the value we feel they add to our life outweighs the financial cost of keeping them healthy and happy.

  • KS February 26, 2009, 10:03 am

    My 50 lb dog eats about $90 a month… and the unexpected expenses are killer – need the vet to help your dog pass a sock? That’ll run you $1500 easy. (I’m going to become a vet in my next life – now there’s a license to print money!)

    I agree with Money Minder though – it’s not a matter of the dog or the money, you have to keep a family member healthy – it’s just sobering to see the numbers!

  • Mike February 26, 2009, 10:16 am

    If you are that concerned with the bottom line cost of getting a dog then my advice to you is don’t get a dog. Get a dog if you want companionship. You can not put a price on the love and devotion you will receive from a pet.

    A medium to large breed dog will eat more than $250 / year in food. Good dog food is also expensive. Expect to pay $50 / bag. You will need to 8-10 bags a year. Don’t buy the cheap stuff at Walmart. Got to a pet food store and spend the extra money. Good food is the easiest way to keep your dog healthy which will pay for itself in the long run.

    Also get pet insurance. You can not predict what will happen but in my experience most dogs will have unexpected visits to the vet. These trips are never cheap and the peace of mind that comes from having insurance outweighs the small monthly fee.

    Your estimates on chew toys is low too (depending on the breed). Most good dog toys are at least $15 and you will need several especially when the dog is young. If this seems like a lot to spend on something that will not last keep in mind is is cheaper than the $100+ to replace a good pair of shoes.

    FYI – I have two Labrador retrievers.

  • Ramona February 26, 2009, 10:31 am

    Along with the cost of dog ownership, do not overlook the amount of time and energy involved to raise a dog from puppydom to dog status. When we got our Jack Russell puppy, it put some severe stress on our marriage. Molly was just so high maintenance! 8 years later, she is an integral part of our family, but the first 6 months were incredibly busy and stressful. Even last summer, we had to cut our holiday short in order to come back and care for her, as she had gotten an infection in her chest. We have both cats and a dog, and while they are all important family members, the dog is so joyous and forgiving and present. Good luck!

  • QCash February 26, 2009, 10:44 am

    Our dog is just coming up on a year. He is a lot of work (Golden Retriever, male, with lots of energy).

    We just got him neutred (or tutored as per the classic Far Side cartoon) and that cost us $315.

    I recommend finding a sensible vet. With our first dog, our first vet recommended an eye tuck for the dog as he had a droopy eye. She said this would prevent cataracts later on, but the puppy was only 4 months and he grew out of it as he got bigger.

    As my wife said, the first person to get cosmetic surgery in our house won’t be the dog :-)

    If you love dogs, the cost is outweighed by the unconditional love.

    I still don’t get why people get cats though :-)

  • dogatemyfinances February 26, 2009, 10:48 am

    The cost on the food is low, but the cost on the dog is high.

    Our humane society has puppies for a couple hundred regularly. I have a friend who couldn’t find a puppy at the DC pounds, so she went out to West Virginia. Maybe you just need to look a little more rural (or urban?).

    You’re also missing the catastrophic cost, like the dog breaks its leg or gets e coli or something. That’s $500. Not every year, but it’s important to have emergency cash for a dog.

    Oh, and all the stuff it will chew up/destroy.

  • Craig February 26, 2009, 11:18 am

    We have a low energy, small breed (Pug) dog who eats 20lbs of high quality dog food every 2 months. This equates to 1 cup of food per day. His consumption puts us around $250/year. For comparison, my brother’s dog (55-60lbs, high energy) eats 4 times that amount. I would estimate his annual food bill is closer to $1k. You could feed a lower quality food found at most supermarkets but expect your vet bills to go up. Not to mention your beloved family pet will live a shorter life and die a horrible death due to premature organ failure (I kid…well not really!).

    We had our dog neutered at a city run clinic for $150. FYI, most dogs purchased from the Humane Society come spay/neutered.

    Unless your dog has severe behavioural issues, I would drop the obedience school. Not worth it IMO.

  • Chuck February 26, 2009, 11:21 am

    Our cats paid back their years of expenses when we moved into a brand new house in 2003. The builder had left a hole in the garage wall and a family of mice had moved into the basement. Patching the hole was easy, but with small kids poisoned bait is not an answer and having worked in an environment with live traps I’m not convinced of their effectiveness.

    The one cat killed six mice in a two week period, and we haven’t seen a single one since. However, her sister just sat there and didn’t participate in the hunt.

    We self-insure our cats, though the one cat has had a $1200 surgery and now needs $450 of dental work. ING Direct is great for setting up multiple accounts for different “funds”.

  • Rmoose February 26, 2009, 11:22 am

    In about an hour I am taking one of my lab cross puppies(8 1/2 months) to the vet college to have surgery on his leg. He either tore a ligament or cartilage. They gave us an estimate of $2300 +/- $300. Plus the cost of the first two vet visits we will be over $3000…Yikes…That’s what you do for the little guys you love I guess.

  • Craig February 26, 2009, 11:24 am

    Money Minder
    “We have always had female dogs. They have an acid in their urine that leaves dead patches of grass on the lawn. We have to factor in the costs to fix this on an ongoing basis.”

    All dog urine will do this (male or female). The solution is to train you animal to go in a specific area/corner of the yard and forget about trying to fix it. Or, have them pee on your neighbours lawn.

  • BVK February 26, 2009, 12:00 pm

    your food for the YEAR is $250??
    what kind of dog are you getting?

  • Kathryn February 26, 2009, 12:15 pm

    Thanks for the input so far. I was clearly off on the dog food. We’re looking at a medium sized dog (springer spaniel size) and would like to get high quality dog food so I’ll up that to $750 a year. I had no idea how much they ate.

    I’m not so much ‘concerned’ with the price of a dog. I just want to know what we’re getting into and be able to budget accordingly. We would make him or her a member of our family.

    Great posts!

  • nobleea February 26, 2009, 12:25 pm

    we had two dogs growing up. never paid for obedience classes and they turned out great.

    I’ve never been a fan of pet insurance, but it may make sense for the first couple years of a dog’s life. That is when most of the trips to the vet happen.

    I believe that pure-breds tend to have more health issues, as well as being more expensive up front.

  • Curtis February 26, 2009, 12:26 pm

    It seems that this isn’t very frugal at all…here is my two cents…

    Spay / Neutering ~ $350 for a female – That seems VERY expensive – ours was $125 from a vet for laser spay

    Dog crate for medium sized dog ~ $60 – fair

    Food dishes ~ $20 – cheaper at dollar store

    Chew toys & leash ~ $30 – buy from the dollar store where every toy is $1.00 – maximum of $15/year

    Portable Rug Cleaner (Bissel Green Machine) ~ $90 – how about arm and hammer pet hair pet remover for carpets and using your own vacuum – $10/year

    Dog training books ~ $0 Thanks to the local library!

    Dog obedience school ~ $250 – most of the time if you are a good pet owner you don’t need obedience school – spend time and have patience with your pet – $0

    Food ~ $250 / yr – it is important not to skimp on this and get cheap junk…the better the food the more nutrients and the less they eat – although the initial costs may me more – a medium sized dog (10-30 pounds) would probably eat a bag of food every 2-3 months – at $50 a pop the $250 sounds accurate

    Vaccinations and vet bills ~ $200 / yr on average – shop around…should be about $100/year

    City dog licensing ~ $30 / yr

    Boarding ~ $0 (We made an arrangement with someone else. We’d watch their dog when they go on holidays and they would watch ours.)

    Grooming ~ $20 / yr for a brush and shampoo. We’re only considering dogs that don’t need haircuts.

    First year cost = $1500 NOW $640 + cost of dog

    Yearly costs = $500 NOW $425

    This is a high estimate as well. Similar to the post a while back about planning a wedding, I find it hard to understand some of the posts regarding the apparent frugality of these subjects when there is often much more that can be done. No offence intended.

  • HIghlander February 26, 2009, 12:37 pm

    We have had 2 golden retrievers since they were puppies (8 yrs, 65 lbs, and 3.5 years, 80 lbs), and I just finished an overall expensing exercise for 2008, so I can give you a number for the dogs since they had their own category :-)

    This includes vet trips, food, and a few treats and toys (which are systematically destroyed :-). no boarding costs, but does include the occasional trip to doggy daycare. They both get high quality dry food, and are on revolution year round. We live in a city, so the vet charges more than if you were in the country ($60 to walk in the door per dog)

    I would say it was an average year, and we spent an average of $241 a month on the 2 dogs, so that’s $120 a month per dog or $1440 a year.

  • Kathryn February 26, 2009, 12:46 pm

    Curtis – No offense taken. The information you gave was exactly the kind of thing we’re looking for, ways to have a frugal dog without sacrificing it’s care or quality of food. Great ideas!

  • Oil Baron February 26, 2009, 12:53 pm

    We spend about $80/month for food on our large sized dog.

    Also, we took pet insurance for $25/month, and it has paid for itself. Our dog got sick with beaver fever, which lasted about 8 months and we got thousand (~4k) out of the insurance company before it was cured. Not to mention the time as a puppy she swallowed some plant that got stuck in her throat, costing about $600 to get it out. I would tend to be conservative with the vet bill column, since it is probably the most unpredictable it.

    Finally, when she was a puppy, we took her to doggie daycare a couple times a week, costing $20/day. We decided since she was going to be a large dog, she needed to be well socialized with other dogs. It worked out. It also served to give her extra exercise.

    As for chew toys, $30/year will cover it if your dog doesn’t destroy the toys. We buy a new Nylabone every few months, since our dog is a “powerful chewer”. She’s never destroyed anything, so I like to think the Nylabones are like insurance. She eats that instead of our couches.

  • The Tax Blogger February 26, 2009, 12:53 pm

    What kind of dog has $200/year vet bills?

    I had a fat cat that cost me $500 every time I went to the vet.

  • Geo February 26, 2009, 12:53 pm

    You forgot doggie daycare, doggie meditation, and eco-friendly biodegradable doggie litter bags.
    Don’t waste your time and money on a dog….give to a charity or volunteer at an organization that needs your help.
    On the other hand, dog lovers are amusing, especially walking around with bags of poop.

  • Chelsea February 26, 2009, 1:07 pm

    I would definitely recommend pet insurance. My dog died in September at the age of 14, but when he got sick the vet didn’t recommend spending $2500 on testing because we knew the dog wouldn’t live much longer anyways. Had we had pet insurance for him, those tests would have been covered, and we might have been able to prolong his life.

    We got a new puppy for Christmas, and we have already signed Mr. Muggles up for pet insurance.

    I would also say your estimated costs for vet bills is very low. The first follow-up for our puppy shots ran me $150, the second $100, and I’ve got another appointment this weekend for more shots and he’s only 5 months old.

  • Tom February 26, 2009, 1:07 pm

    Insurance, definitely insurance. $40 per month for a good plan. Very easy to dish out a lot of money. Our dog has IBD (intestinal problems) and a single overnight stay at an emergency vet in Toronto (it was the weekend when our regular vet was closed) cost us $1000!

    Finally, no real need for a carpet machine – just buy a good spot cleaner and make sure you have lots of Bounty (those really are better than no-name brand..). I recommend Prosolve -> that stuff cleans everything!
    Also for food, do you r dog a favor and buy him/her some good quality food, not some mainstream garbage (Purina, Iams, etc.) that is 3/4 corn, animal byproducts and preservatives, which are mostly pooped out rather than digested (eg. dogs can’t digest corn!). There are many healthier alternatives, ranging from pellet food to raw meat diets. These obviously cost money. Our small 25lb dog goes through a bag in 2 months and they’re $75 each, but it’s worth it because they digest more of it (less poop to scoop!) and they’re heathier. All our dog’s health problems cleared up as soon as we took them off a supposedly ‘premium’ food (Science Diet) and put them on a specialized healthy food (Wellness).

    They may have come from wolves, but domestic dogs don’t have anywhere near the hearty stomach their ancestors do! (of course there’re always exceptions – we had a dog growing up that ate the wax paper from in between raw hamburger patties and never had a single problem)..

  • Steve in Montreal February 26, 2009, 1:07 pm

    I find spending $30 on toys low. They’ll go through them quickly. Also, forget the “special” shampoo. I used Pantene for my Jack Russell. She loved it. Unfortunately she not with me anymore due to illness :(

  • Tom February 26, 2009, 1:17 pm

    Geo: Re your comment: “Don’t waste your time and money on a dog” I think you might get some backlash on that comment. People consider dogs as part of their families and treat them as such. To these people, it’s almost like saying “Don’t waste your time and money on having children”.

    It’s been proven by the way in many studies that having a pet can drastically reduce your stress levels and prolong your life. You can’t put a price on that..

  • Kathryn February 26, 2009, 1:18 pm

    I’m beginning to think pet insurance may be a good idea. I notice PC Financial offers it.

    Are there companies that you would recommend?

  • Oil Baron February 26, 2009, 1:22 pm

    We’ve been using PetPlan. Unfortunately they are just in the process of changing their plans, and increasing their monthly prices. It’s on my to-do list to pick which new plan.

  • Tom February 26, 2009, 1:56 pm

    The initial cost of a dog varies a lot. In my area you can find dogs (many of them trained already) being given away for free because their owners are moving or cannot afford them. Our local humane society sells dogs for around $75 (puppies are more) that have been spayed or neutered already. Black dogs are less popular so the humane society sells them for less than the other dogs.

  • CanadianFinance February 26, 2009, 2:34 pm

    This makes me want pets even less. I see you have the rug cleaner included, but unfortunately it’s hard to predict how else they might damage carpets, couches, things on counters, etc.

  • Julie February 26, 2009, 3:03 pm

    I am shocked at the price of the dog from the SPCA! We got our dog from a shelter near Barrie, ON and we only paid $100. There was no wait and he has proven to be the absolute best pet. I take him everywhere with me.

    Now – that said – the first couple of months were tough. He was house trained because he was 2 or 3 yrs old when we got him. But, he had some anxiety and when we were out one day he tore our new $2500 couch up into a zillion pieces.

    Grooming – you’ll want to get toe nail clippers too!!

    Shampoo: dish soap, white vinegar, water and a bit of baking soda actually works really well. This is also the *ONLY* way I’ve found to get rid of skunk smell if you are unlucky enough to have your dog sprayed by a skunk. It’s happened to us 3 times. :)

    I agree with the thought that you chew toys estimate is low. We bought a couple of high quality toys 4 years ago and still have them, but things like stuffed animals and other “treats” for our pet will definitely run us more than $30/year and we really don’t go overboard.

    Honestly – the first few months were tough – but getting a dog (and especially adopting one that had been abused and left alone in a field to fend for himself) has been such an enriching and wonderful thing.

    My Dad always says “put your dog and your wife in the trunk of the car for an hour and when you open it up see who is happy to see you”. Bad joke – but my dog is ALWAYS happy to see me. And that makes me smile on the worst days. GOOD LUCK.

  • shane February 26, 2009, 3:19 pm

    I have a large dog, and spend about $50 a month on food, because I feed premium food. I would say one cost you’ve left out is random vet visits for emergencies. Myself and my dog-loving friends have each had to make rushed visits to the vet for various reasons about once every couple years. Those visits are usually between a couple hundred, or a couple thousand dollars. Make sure you’re ready for that too!

  • REfinance February 26, 2009, 3:51 pm

    If you’re getting a spaniel sized dog, get a GOOD collar. The leash doesn’t matter as much but my 40lb terrier went through 8 collars in her first 14 months. Finally shelled out for a good one and she’s had it for almost 18 months now.

    Won’t beat a dead horse on the cost of dog food – but the upside is that dogs need to eat less of a good quality food. Doesn’t quite even out but it comes close.

  • Craig February 26, 2009, 4:31 pm

    We’ve had Pet Insurance and have recently cancelled.

    For one, the “lower-end” packages are quite limited in what coverage they actually provide. First time illness coverage is an example. Your dog gets Mange, Kennel cough, Beaver Fever, Ear or Eye infections (common) ect… it can only be claimed once in the life of the dog. You also pay a deductible each time you claim. For some of the small scale claims such as antibiotics you don’t even use the insurance because of the high deductibles. I’ve seen deductibles on cheaper insurance plans as much as $100. Premiums for these types of limited insurance package will generally run you in and around $20/month. More full service plans are twice that amount, $40-50/month

    We did use our Petcare.ca plan once, it saved us $550 meaning we essentially broke even after paying in for two years. Vaccines, vet checkups, consultations are not covered.

    My recommendation is to sign-up for Pet insurance when you first get the dog, when you’re sure you haven’t got a “lemon” on your hands, cancel the insurance and set aside that $20/month into a savings account. Use that “insurance” money should you require.

  • Up North February 26, 2009, 4:52 pm

    We just got a really great Husky/Separd cross from the humane society. He was $200 and came neutered, microchipped and with all his shots. Friends gave us an old crate that fits him perfect and I got doghouse from free out of the classifieds.

    Everyone we know has dogs so we don’t expect we’ll have to pay for kennel cost this year – we have a bit of an informal dogsitting co-op among our network of friends. We’ve built of lots of karma over the last 6 moths, dogsitting 3 different dogs for weeks at a time.

    When we started looking for dogs we knew we were looking for a mutt that was about a year old, and we got exactly that. I’ve always been a big fan of mutts for their long term health and balanced personality. We also couldn’t possibly justify paying so much money for purebread puppy when there were so many mutts up for adoption.

  • Jewel of Toronto February 26, 2009, 7:09 pm

    I spend about $70 a month on pet food, but I have a 90lb dog.

    You don’t need puppy school if you, as a family, agree on the rules ahead of time and consistently train your dog.

  • Curtis February 26, 2009, 7:34 pm

    My two cents on pet insurance…

    Instead of spending money on premiums every month (gets expensive if you want insurance that actually covers well – plus you normally have to pay a deductable)…take that money every month and instead of paying premiums for pet insurance, sock it away in a high interest savings account. That way, you earn interest on the money and it is still there in case your pet is ill. If your pet were to unfortunately die due to an accident where medical care was not needed, you would have that money you put away – almost like life insurance on your pet.

  • Kathryn February 26, 2009, 7:39 pm

    Curtis ~ love that idea! It makes so much more sense to self insure a pet.

  • PawDoc February 26, 2009, 8:19 pm

    I disagree with Curtis. I am a small animal veterinarian (and daily MDJ reader). I advise that everyone, esp the large breed dog owners to go with pet care insurance for the 1st year of life. Reasons are simple. Most plans exclude things if they are pre-existing…so if you get the insurance before they get those ear infections, chronic skin conditions you will be covered.

    My personal bias is http://www.purina.ca, http://www.petsecure.com and http://www.veterinsurance.com

    purina.ca if you are looking for a plan that covers spay/neuter (petsecure offers this as well on their petsecure4), petsecure is the free trial insurance from most of the SPCAs, veterinaryinsurance is by far the best for large breed i.e. golder retreivers.

    Vetinsurance – $20000 life time cap – trust me this would be pretty hard to max out, and no penalties for filiing claims. They do tend to have higher premiums.

    Let’s see – Examples in the last 2 months: 1. Rememberance Day poppy ingestion $1200 2. Fracture of the tibal crest (back leg) $2600, 3. Liver failure $1350, 4. Golf ball ingestion $2200.

    I do not work for any insurance companies, but honestly I worst part of my job is having to put down animals because a client cannot afford a procedure.

    MDJ feel free to email me if you would like me to write a guest segment on pet insurance.

    Paw Doc

  • rm February 26, 2009, 9:07 pm

    Too many responses for me to read, but 1) food looks WAY too low. My Husky is about 40-50/month in food.

    Also, VERY important is co-pay insurance. Mine is 90% coverage (not incl vet exam) for $40/month.

  • rm February 26, 2009, 9:08 pm

    Oh, I have vetinsurance, FWIW…and you get the first month free when you get your first exam @ the vet (make sure you do it this way because insurance demands a physical).

    I did the math on the premiums vs saving it and putting in high interest savings…and it’s just much better to have the insurance in case even a single serious injury (or ingestion!) happens. And, once something bad happens, it becomes a pre-existing condition and you can’t get insurance for it! Too much risk, too little reward to go w/o insurance.

  • Wojciech Kulicki February 26, 2009, 10:41 pm

    I wrote something similar a few days ago, although my total ended up much higher: http://www.fiscalfizzle.com/2009/02/the-lifetime-cost-of-owning-a-dog/

    I guess it all depends on the quality of care, food, treats, accessories, etc. and how willing you are to find the best deals out there for your dog. I only spend about 25% of my estimate on my own dog, and she is happy as can be.

  • Detox February 26, 2009, 11:10 pm

    We have a BIG dog, he only eats four cups a day, but his food is about $80/mth. Feeding your dog good quality food can have big health benefits.

    We use a dog walker a couple of times a week, because sometimes we work late. Cost is typically $20 per walk (1 hour). Boarding will generally cost you around $30-$40 per night.

    Also, don’t forget cremation costs when they die ~$200.

    That being said having a dog is the BEST. It’s a great way to get to know your neighbors, get outside and exercise and they add a TON of much needed humor to any lifestyle.

    Also, don’t forget to factor in all the expensive things they will destroy while growing up (because they will). Couches, boots, table legs, flower gardens etc.

    Cheers,

    Detox

  • MMF February 26, 2009, 11:32 pm

    I don’t see collar or leash on the list, and depending on the breed and at what stage of life you’re getting it, you may need to replace these as the dog grows.

    We have a lab and spend ~$100/month on quality food ($80) and and treats ($20).

    If you have a bigger dog, be prepared to replace those chew toys frequently, our’s goes thru four or five sturdy toys in the run of a year.

    Vet bills – expect the unexpected – our dog got bit by another dog and the vet expenses for the first visit were $800+ and there were also follow-up visits.

    What about dental care for your dog?

    Many tell me we should have purchased pet insurance, and now I’m starting to believe it. Each of the three years we’ve had our dog vet bills have exceeded $1000, including regular annual visits/vaccinations.

  • Mis. Save Money February 27, 2009, 12:28 am

    It is very true! I had 2 dogs and so far I have probably spent on them so much more than I’ve ever spent on anyone else. Every time I go to the store I spend at least $200 on them. Taking them to the Vet and just maintaining them also takes a lot of time. But because I love them, it’s okay. For those thinking to get a pet (puppy), think again because you are in the long haul. It’s sad to have a pet and have to give it away when you realize you can’t take care of it.

  • Joel February 27, 2009, 11:55 am

    Don’t forget the cost of dealing with accidents/illness or insurance.

    Dogs get sick (parasites, viruses, etc) and they also have accidents (hit by a car/bike, swallow a rock or part of a toy/bone, etc).

    This can be a major expense. Cheap insurance is about $150/year, and ranges upward from there.

    I will always recommend pet insurance for young dogs (<4-5), and for first time dog owners.

  • Crystal Groves February 27, 2009, 1:36 pm

    Obedience and Training = $0 for me. Dogs really aren’t that hard to train.

    Dog dishes I use existing containers from around the house. Currently an old refrigerator drawer.

    Chew toys I don’t bother with as far as plastic ones that don’t last long. I opt for tennis balls on occasion and pigs legs that will last the lifetime of the dog (and he loves them).

    Leash you can find free from a relative, friend, or something like freecycle. Can’t say that I’ve ever bought a dog leash.

    I’ve also never bought a dog, I get strays and mixed breeds. The current one I got was dropped off at a Vet I used to work at, so there was no cost.

    Grooming is no cost for me because I do it myself with some shampoo for dogs that was given to me.

    Boarding I’ve no need for at all.

  • Crystal Groves February 27, 2009, 1:39 pm

    Oh and in response to Joel, Pet Insurance is really only worth it if you have a dog with a reoccurring illness:
    http://crystal.earth-byte.com/should-you-get-pet-insurance-is-it-worth-it/

    I’ve never had pet insurance either, and never wish I had it because I’ve never had to put a dog through surgery or treatments beyond neuter/spay. But if I -did- have a dog with diabetes or something, I would definitely invest in pet insurance.

  • Crystal Groves February 27, 2009, 1:43 pm

    TaxBlogger, I have a pittbull mix that I only take to the Vet for vaccination/checksups once a year. The two shots I get are Distemper and Lymes (we live in a wooded lot), since Rabies is a 3 year vaccination. Those two only cost about $50, and the Rabies would make the total cost around $75 on a year that Rabies is due.

    That’s probably how most people spend so little at a Vet a year. I always spend less than $100/year in Vet bills.

  • Chris Clark February 27, 2009, 2:25 pm

    We had this discussion at our house for a few months before finally getting a dog in November. I got her on Craigslist, she was free. Not always the best idea, I know, but she turned out to be fine except for a bad case of fleas. Anyway…

    Buy a heavy bowl for water so the dog can’t pick it up. Use and old bowl you have or look at the thrift store. Buy food and water bowls that are durable and will last the life of your dog (ie don’t buy a small bowl for now since he’s puppy, etc.).

    If you know people with dogs, ask if they have stuff. I ended up with a variety of smaller sized collars that we used until the dog grew into the size collar she would need as an adult. So, I only had to buy one collar. Same with the harness. Borrowed smaller, outgrown ones from friends until she grew into the adult size and then we bought the one we wanted her to have. We also got several toys that other dogs hadn’t enjoyed for whatever reason for her to chew on. We borrowed a crate until she was potty-trained and we knew she wouldn’t tear stuff up in the house if we went to the store. You can also look on craigslist or at garage sales and such for one.

    I posted a wanted ad on freecycle for any dog stuff/kennel and also local vet recommendations. I didn’t end up with any stuff, but I did get some good recommendations for vets to try out.

    We do not have pet insurance, but we set aside at least $75 a month into the dog account. This goes for food, and toys but also keeps building up so we have money for vet visits.

    Invest in some bitter apple spray. I sprayed every single furniture leg, low cabinet handle, drawer knob etc. *before* my dog came home and she has never chewed anything of the furniture. Keep toys, socks, shoes, etc. picked up and out of the way and a few chew toys available at all times so the dog can find something to chew on without a problem.

    Find a good butcher and buy soup bones if you have a chewer. We spent $5 (50 cents a pound) on beef soup bones, cut to any size we wanted, and our dog loves them. They keep her very busy when new and are still interesting when she has worked most of the marrow, etc. out as well. Those and a kong are the main toys our dog enjoys. We bought her stuffed toys which she ripped apart and ate the insides (she’s a lab) so, we quit buying them for her. Also, look at the sale racks after holidays. Petsmart and others often sell holiday themed chew toys and stuff and you can get them at 50% off or more right after the holiday. My dog doesn’t care if her toy looks Christmas-y!

    I think the best frugal plan though is just to keep putting money aside every month, even before the dog comes home. Then, when something does come up, it’s not a catastrophic expense.

  • Chris Clark February 27, 2009, 2:27 pm

    Oh, and we did sign up for obedience training for our dog, not so much because we couldn’t do it ourselves, but for a socialization time for our dog and a learning environment that is more challenging than at home. We are enjoying it, and we had the money put aside from the beginning so it wasn’t a big expense.

  • Curtis February 27, 2009, 2:51 pm

    Paw Doc,

    I hear what you are saying. Truthfully, I got pet insurance from the day we got our puppy. I actually just realized the savings technique last month – that being said, I actually have the pet insurance until the end of tomorrow (28th)…puppy is now two years old and I feel like I have thrown hundreds of dollars away. Not only did I have a $100 deductable, but there were so many “restrictions” to begin with.

    At one point our puppy had a bacterial infection or something of that nature – we had to do a vet visit, medication, and a few other things including boarding for observation. Total bill was $109. Even if it was covered (which is wasn’t), we would have got back a grand total of 80% of $9 – so approximately $7 and change – doesn’t seem worth it. As of March 1 we are taking that premium we would have paid and putting it in the high interest account. If we need to use it, then fine. If not, it keeps accumulating in our savings. If a major illness in the thousands happens, that is something that we would have to deal with and I guess you could say it is the risk we are taking. To me that risk is worth it though as throwing money away on premiums for something so restrictive doesn’t seem to be beneficial.

  • WestCoast FP February 27, 2009, 5:20 pm

    I think you also have to consider the behavioural aspects of pet ownership as well as the hard costs. Pets can help you to lead a fuller and more active life. Studies show that a happy life is a more heathly life….

  • financePHI February 27, 2009, 8:51 pm

    Having a dog is like having children. If you’re ready for it, it’s a big commitment, but you’ll soon stop considering the cost of owning a dog as you spend to make the dog as happy as possible.

    It’s a great experience, so definitely go for it!

  • Davina February 28, 2009, 4:21 am

    Before my husband and I bought our dog, we saved up $2000 and put it in a high interest savings account. This is our doggie emergency fund, in case anything were ever to happen to our dog and we needed a huge sum of money. Her food, regular vet visits, etc. are planned for in our monthly budgets. I truly believe everyone should have both a ‘doggie emergency fund’, and a regular emergency fund with at least 6 months of expenses before they even think of getting a dog. And everyone should be able to do it, too- my husband and I are both only 24, he works an entry level job and I work part time, so it isn’t like we’re made of money! But we both agreed that we needed to have our finances in order before we introduced a new member to our family.

  • rm February 28, 2009, 9:45 am

    Curtis…you get the insurance for the $2000 vet bill, not the $100 one. Your 20/month savings won’t come close to covering that sort of charge.

  • Kevin February 28, 2009, 12:11 pm

    We just spent $2,200 on our 3-year old mixed breed to repair a torn ACL. Not sure how you account for that other than praying it doesn’t happen!

    The other costs look pretty good though. As always, you can spend as much or as little as you want depending on what quality stuff you buy. I’d say look on craigslist or similar for used dog crates, etc since sometimes the dogs outgrow them.

    Tthe $350 to adopt looks extremely high. We got ours for $100 from the local shelter. The spaying was free with that also – around here (MO) most shelters automatically spay or neuter before adopting out their pets.

  • Chris Clark February 28, 2009, 12:31 pm

    Just FYI for those thinking the shelter costs seem high, it’s the same at my local shelter. And rescue organizations are similar. It costs around $300-$350 to adopt a puppy (6 months or less), $250-$300 to adopt anything from 6 months to a year and then 1-7 years is $175, over 7 years is $75.
    It depends on where you live. I live in an urban area so the prices are high. If I drive an hour or two out into the country, I can adopt any dog from the shelter for $60 to $100.

    Yes, the dogs from the shelter here in town come with all their shots, a spay/neuter coupon, etc. But, I got my dog for free from craigslist and even with catching up her shots and her spay I’m spending less than I would’ve at the shelter.

  • Ryan February 28, 2009, 2:44 pm

    I am a new dog owner. I am one year into ownership. Two points of advice: 1) Chew toys should be treated as a disposable item because their longevity is minimal. I have a small 12 pound ShihTzu (I can never spell it). He rips up or destroys at least a few toys a month probably one a week. The expense for chew toys is probably $10 a month or less if you shop at dollar stores for chew toys. 2) Obedience training is not necessary. I have never owned a dog in my life before my current one. I am a 22 year old full time worker and full time college student and I have managed to house train my dog and he is pretty obedient. I recommend cage training as well. It has really helped with his obedience training. The only command I haven’t been able to teach is STAY. We are still working on that.

    I hope this helps you out.

  • Gypsie February 28, 2009, 6:26 pm

    Our dog was $35 from the local humane society and that included her spay.

  • Vicki March 1, 2009, 11:51 am

    My dog, Chelsea, was $60 from the shelter, 14+ years ago – which included the fee for spaying. Over the course of her lifetime, she has cost approximately $20,000. She has had ear infections too numerous to count, resulting in a surgery three years ago to remove her ear drum and ear canal (which, interestingly, did not cure the ear infections – they just moved to the remaining ear which had never had problems before). She has been treated for bacterial skin infections due to allergies. We’ve done allergy testing (inconclusive), food changes, etc., to no avail. She’s had x-rays after the puppy scared her and she fell off the bed, x-rays for a persistent cough that didn’t clear up for the longest time (even with a bordatella vaccine). She boards frequently because I travel frequently for work. Emergency treatment for numerous wasp stings when she and her two companion dogs stumbled into a nest of ground wasps. She’s been through five obedience courses, including agility training, in her lifetime, but not because she is disobedient – because she enjoys “school” that much and I enjoy watching her have so much fun. That said, every penny I’ve spent on her has been spent willingly and without hesitation. The companionship and love this dog has given me over the course of her lifetime is immense, and no amount of money can be placed on her value. When she finally leaves me (and at 14+, every day is a blessing), unrecoverable pieces of both my heart and soul will go with her.

    That said, start off with as much money saved in a pet emergency fund as you can. You never know when you’ll need it, and the fund will take care of expenses that pet insurance may not cover. Buy the absolute best food you can afford – which goes a long way in preventing food allergies. And then add an additional 20% to all your estimates. Go into pet ownership with your eyes wide open, but do go into it. The love of a companion pet is priceless!

    Good luck!

  • teaspoon March 1, 2009, 12:35 pm

    The $350 cost for a dog from the humane society does seem really high. If you’re making that much for the dog, I’d bet that she’ll already be spayed, so you won’t have to pay for that. In addition to the humane society, check out the local animal shelters, which are usually much cheaper and the dogs need homes even more desperately. Also, I think someone mentioned this above, but check Craigslist, particularly if you live in a college town. There are always irresponsible people who discovered that they can’t actually commit, and are giving away their dogs (often trained, spayed, etc) for free.

  • Diane March 1, 2009, 1:51 pm

    I will repeat what many have said – Use a TOP quality dog food from a pet store. The best brands are not available at Wal-Mart or the grocery store. Do some research on this. This will save a lot of money in Vet bills over the years. Budget more for this.

    Chew toys & other toys – my English Cocker Spaniel puppy (just a bit smaller than a Springer Spaniel) goes through lots of chew toys. She’s a heavy chewer for a small to medium sized dog. She’s 7 mos old and we’ve never lost a shoe or had anything else damaged. I recommend “bully sticks” – you can order them from websites cheaper than buying in a pet store. Also balls, stuffed toys, Kongs etc. to retrieve and play with. Keeping the puppy busy will prevent behavior problems. Don’t buy too much until you see what your dog likes. Budget more for this.

    Obedience classes – I’m trained & shown dogs for obedience competition & taught obedience classes, so I’ve done some training on my own with this puppy, but I will still be taking her to obedience classes. They are worth the money. It is not impossible to train a dog on your own, but unless you’re experienced you will learn a lot from the classes and its an investment in enjoying the long-term companionship of a well-trained dog.

    Crates – every dog should have one! They help with housebreaking, keep the dog (and the house) safe when you’re away, make it easier to travel with your pet. We’ve had to evacuate with our dog & cat and it is much easier to deal with if the dog is accustomed to a crate. I would NEVER leave a dog alone in a hotel room, no matter how well trained. If a maid opens your door the dog can escape – I know people who’ve had this happen. If crate trained when young, the dog will regard the crate as a den, and will like it.

    Grooming – definitely want to do this yourself. You may need more than budgeted for shampoo & grooming equipment. Keep in mind that short-haired dogs shed much more than long haired ones, so do some research on the breed before deciding. The time you save on grooming will be spent vacuuming and cleaning your furniture & clothes.

    You might want to get a dog bed for use in the family room/LR especially if you don’t want the dog on furniture. We let our puppy get on the sofa with us in the evening, but she has a bed and a mat to sleep on during the day while we’re working (we work at home). It gives her a place she’s familiar with when we say “go lay down” and she does.

    Dog breed (or mix of breeds) – Do some research on what you’re getting. Dog behavior is greatly influenced by breed – tendency to bark excessively, activity level, tolerance of children, etc. Breeds were developed for specific functions and their behavior in the home will reflect those functions. If you want a specific breed you can find those at a humane society (sometimes) or through specific breed rescue organizations. Take your time in finding the right match for your family.

    Good luck! Hope you find a dog that will give you many years of enjoyment and companionship as ours have.

  • Isabelle March 2, 2009, 4:37 am

    Some dog breeds are more prone to health issues than others, worth doing a bit of research.

    We chose a dog that would fit in with our lifestyle – we were not able to do the two miles a day that many dogs need to get rid of their energy! We got a Yorkshire Terrier, a healthy and long lived breed that belie their small and delicate look. We are on our second Yorkie and love them. They are cheap to feed even the quality stuffand although require haircuts that means they don’t spread hair around the house. A brush doesn’t have to be expensive, ours is a supermarket job.

    Insurance is an expense, but gives a freedom from the worry of sudden bills – or decisions about having the dog euthanased. He has a sleeping/travelling box – is this the equivalent of a crate? All the kit was either ‘thrifted’ or has lasted. This one had a new collar, a nice fabricy black number that was cheap, but uses the same lead as the first. He doesn’t eat much and loves a few leftovers and raw carrots.

    He’s sitting on my knee now, helping me type, lovely!

  • Dr Judy March 2, 2009, 10:52 am

    Your initial purchase price will vary according to your choices. Neutering is not necessarily expensive…certainly less expensive than a litter of unplanned pups!

    I had to break down my yearly pet expenses as an exercise on business budgeting (while in school). My sum was $1500 a year. I planned for one emergency visit during the year. If I didn’t use the entire amount, all the better.

  • Jamie March 3, 2009, 7:20 am

    We adopted both of our dogs from the animal shelter for less than $100…The first one we adopted was $45 (that was almost 20 years ago, she lived a very long and happy life) and the one we adopted last March was $98. Alot of shelters don’t let animals leave until they are spayed or neutered so that may be a better road to go.

  • rm March 4, 2009, 11:04 am

    I strongly disagree on a “TOP” quality food from the vet…those are horribly marked up. It’s like buying designer jeans vs some no-name…when they’re the same product made in the same factory, with different labels. Sure the vet food will be a little bit better, but they’re selling you largely the illusion of vastly superior quality.

    I may be wrong, but I doubt it. It’s a good racket.

  • Alex March 5, 2009, 8:43 pm

    Ok, this seems incredibly obvious to me, so apologies if someone already mentioned it, and I missed it, but the largest cost of dog ownership is the cost of a dog walker.

    Before any country bumpkins that live in hickville and have large backyards start in, living in an urban area and having both the husband and wife work for 10 hours a day, a dog walker is an absolute necessity. A dog cannot make it 10 hours a day without peeing, so its either a dog walker or a pee pad, and the latter is not a good idea as it encourages the dog to go to bathroom inside the house.

    I pay my dog walker $10 a day, so it runs like $220 a month or so.

  • Tamara March 10, 2009, 6:42 pm

    For me, these costs are WAY out of line.

    How much will a dog cost for the first year and beyond?

    1. Dog. we got ours at the humane society for 130.00 (200.00 savings)
    2. Spay / Neutering ~ there is a local program where the costs are shared 3 ways with the city, vet, and owner if it is a humane society pet, so we only paid 60.00 (290.00 savings)
    3. Dog crate for medium sized dog ~ we don’t ever crate our dog. He wanders around the upstairs all day, and when we travel he rides in the back seat of our car. we did buy a baby gate to keep him out of the basement though for about 30.00 (30.00 savings)
    4. Food dishes ~ We used what we had (20.00 savings)
    5. Chew toys & leash ~ $30 This is about accurate for us
    6. Portable Rug Cleaner (Bissel Green Machine) ~ We did not purchase anything like this. we scrub the carpet if there are ever accidents, but it has only happened a couple of times, and one bottle of cleaner and a brush have done the job 15.00 for those items (75.00 savings)
    7. Dog training books ~ $0 Thanks to the local library!
    8. Dog obedience school ~ We did not take our dog to obedience school. He is well behaved, and learned well from us (250.00 savings)
    9. Food ~ I think we spend about 400.00 or so on food in a year (150.00 additional)
    10. Vaccinations and vet bills ~ $200 / yr on average
    11. City dog licensing ~ $30 / yr
    12. Boarding ~ $0 (We made an arrangement with someone else. We’d watch their dog when they go on holidays and they would watch ours.)
    13. Grooming ~ $20 / yr for a brush and shampoo. We’re only considering dogs that don’t need haircuts.

    It cost us about $715.00 less in the first year than you are budgeting.

  • rm March 12, 2009, 12:34 am

    Tamara…his costs aren’t “way” out of line…you just chose to cut a lot of corners that aren’t open to everyone, nor are they standard choices.

  • Bill McCollam March 15, 2009, 8:48 pm

    heh… on the comment on the need (or not) of obedience school. The obedience school is all about teaching the new owners – not the dog. (But it is a great investment if you don’t have experience – a well trained dog will be much more economical than one that isn’t).

  • Liza October 20, 2009, 3:51 pm

    I don’t know where you live, but the cost to adopt a puppy under 6 months in my hometown, Indianapolis, is only like $150, kittens, cats, and older dogs are much cheaper (like $50) first shots and fixing totals $68.50 as well.

  • Jen January 8, 2010, 2:11 pm

    Check with breed specific rescue organizations for dogs needing homes. We were able to get a 5 month old Lab from the Ontario Lab Rescue org. for $300 with first shots. Not only was he already housebroken but he had been fostered with a family who spent a couple of weeks determining what his personality was! We brought our dog home and he has been an immeasurable help in reducing anxiety levels in our children and providing companionship and protection (big bark, used selectively). This experience was akin to putting on your favourite pair of broken in shoes! Felt comfortable from the very beginning!

  • susan January 12, 2010, 2:43 pm

    I know this is very late is relation to the original post but I have to pipe in on the insurance issue. We had a German Shepherd years ago and got insurance since I never wanted to have to make a choice not to treat the dog just because of money. We went with PetPlan because at the time it was the only one. When we got the dog we have now, I thought like Curtis, I will just put the money aside and use that for any issues. I was thinking of one time accidents or old age issues. Then my dog had its first seizure! We weren’t sure what was happening but when the 2nd one happened I got pet insurance fast before any pre-existing conditions could be documented. The medicine for controlling the seizures is about equal to the premiums ($70 every 2 months). We went with vet insurance this time as it is much simpler and there are no deductibles or per incident limits. That said, this past weekend my labradoodle who is a sockeater, apparently was unable to pass the sock. We were waiting it out but in the meantime he became severely dehydrated and could have died. He is only just 4 so there is no concept of putting him down like you might with a very old dog. Anyway, he needed intravenous liquids, xrays and surgery. All together the cost was just over $2600. My portion is 10% or $260. That is a reasonable amount to deal with. $2600 would have been a major problem. And if we were with Pet plan, there would have been a $2000 limit on the expenses. As someone said earlier, the $20K lifetime maximum is reasonable for all but the most extreme situations. Assuming a 13 year life span, you would need to spend about $1500 every single year of the dogs life before reaching the maximum. And in that case, your premiums would have been way less than the $20K out of pocket.

    Also, just wondering, what dog food does everyone recommend. I find it all very confusing.

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