Owning and raising a dog is a wonderful and fulfilling experience, but the costs associated with it can be very expensive. Starting from choosing your pup, choosing a veterinarian, feeding it, buying toys, training, and boarding for when you travel without your pet your costs can vary greatly. However, there are some simple strategies you can use to keep the costs of taking care of your dog in check without sacrificing spoiling your furry friend.
Choosing Your Dog
If you aren’t set on owning a specific breed your first stop should be the local shelter or ASPCA. Every year thousands of dogs are euthanized because they couldn’t find a home. Adopting a dog not only can give a good dog a home but can be very inexpensive. Some shelters charge as little as $25 to adopt and your pet will come vaccinated and spayed or neutered in most cases. Some shelters even run annual “adoptathons” where they waive the fees and you can take your new pup home for free.
If you do really want a specific breed of dog I recommend you first check with a breed specific rescue organization. For example, there is an overpopulation of coonhounds in the South that would love to be adopted in another region. There are rescue organizations for many breeds so do an internet search for your breed and the word “rescue” and you might be surprised to by how many organizations you find. The costs to adopt from a rescue are going to be a bit more than from a local shelter, but in many cases you can be sure that the dog you are adopting is pure bread.
You may not find the right dog from the options listed above, but you can still select an ethical breeder. Making sure that your breeder is responsible can save you headache, and heartache later if you happen to purchase a sick dog. Research the breeder online and go visit the breeder and look around before choosing your dog. Ask for references from owners who have purchased dogs and from vets who help the breeder care for the new puppies.
With so many types of dog food on the market you might be tempted to just choose the least expensive one, but this is likely not the best choice for your dog or your wallet! Low quality foods could cause gastro-intestinal issues in your dog that could result in a vet visit or two which will eclipse the savings you had from choosing less expensive food. Ask your vet for recommendations for reasonably priced food that will keep your dog healthy. By spending a few more dollars on food each month you can keep your dog healthier and give your per a longer life.
When you do select a food, check online or at your local warehouse store. Just like buying other items, buying in bulk can save you a bundle. There are a number of online stores that specialize in pet products that could get you a great deal so make sure you shop around!
Toys and Equipment
Dogs thrive when they have interesting toys to play with. Most dogs are bred to work and are naturally inquisitive. When your dog gets bored he will look for things to do to entertain himself, which may lead to negative behaviors like chewing on shoes or furniture. When buying new toys for your pet a great place to look are yard sales and your local Goodwill store. Many of the stuffed pet toys you can get at a pet store for $10-$20 are nearly identical to old stuffed animals you can find at a Goodwill for $1 a piece!
Please remember to check the new toy for small pieces like glass eyes or buttons that can be chewed off and swallowed by your pet. You can also regularly find dog crates, leashes, food and water bowls and other dog equipment at Goodwill and yard sales for much less than buying new.
Health and Veterinary Services
Taking care of your dog’s health through regular vet visits will help provide your dog with a healthier, happier and longer life. Vet visits can be quite expensive, which is why pet insurance has been steadily increasing in popularity. However, pet insurance doesn’t work the same as health insurance for humans. Many policies can be very complicated so make sure you shop around and read through the fine print before choosing a plan. If you trust your vet you can ask them for their recommendation for a plan that would fit your dog’s needs. Hopefully you can save some money over the long term by keeping a pet insurance plan and taking care of your animal.
You may also just want to ask your vet for a better rate. Many vets have flexibility in their pricing if you are willing to ask. They may also have preferential rates on different medications like heartworm pills or flea treatments. If you live near a university, ask if they have a veterinary care program. Many schools that have a veterinary training program will offer free or discounted vet visits to the public so their students can get hands on training under the close supervision of an experienced vet. This can be a great option if you are near a university and aren’t attached to seeing the same vet for every visit.
Finally, set aside some money for an emergency fund for your pet. It’s inevitable, you’re going to bake a fresh pan of brownies and leave them on the counter to cool and come back just a few minutes later to find your dog with a giant chocolate covered smile on his face. Knowing that chocolate is toxic to dogs, you rush him to the vet and are slammed with a few hundred dollars in bills, but thankfully your dog will live to see another day. This situation will happen at least a few times over your dog’s life so make sure you have some money put aside to cover the unexpected expenses for emergencies your dog may have.
Traveling and Kennels
At some point you’re going to want to go on a trip with your pet. With a little shopping around you may be surprised to find that many hotels will allow your pet to stay with you for free, or for a very reasonable fee. To get around that fee, you might want to consider camping with your pet instead of staying in a hotel.
If you do have to travel without your dog, kennels can be quite expensive. Shop around for good deals when possible, but make sure you do your research into the reputation of the kennel. Ensuring your dog is comfortable and safe can make your vacation or travel plans significantly less stressful. A better option may be to ask friends or family to stay at your house or apartment and take care of your dog for you. You probably have other friends who are dog lovers and would be happy to pitch in and take care of your pooch for a few days. You can also take advantage of pet sitters through websites like craigslist or rover.com who will take care of your dog in your own home or apartment for a reasonable fee.