Dog ownership is a big responsibility, but I still see people adopting or buying puppies that they can’t afford. I know what it’s like to stand before a litter of puppies and want to bring all of them home. I also know what it’s like to have to borrow money to pay an exorbitant hospital bill when one of them gets sick. If you’ve been reading Keep the Tail Wagging for a while, then you know about our story of Riley. For those who don’t know, Riley was a foster who became our third forever dog at the beginning of May. She arrived at our home with parvo (unbeknownst to us) and died 2-1/2 weeks later. Our bill was over $2,300.
We didn’t choose to adopt Riley as an impulse. Because these are living creatures (our fur babies), we put a lot of thought into our decision to adopt. I think most people do, but when you’re confronted with the true cost of pet ownership, it can be daunting.
I comprised the below list with a lot of help from professionals to give you an idea of the expenses you’ll encounter when you adopt a dog. This is not an exhausted list; please share more expenses in the comments below.
How Much Does a Puppy Cost?
When we adopted Sydney and Rodrigo, it cost $200 for each of them. Today, I see adoption fees that are between $400-$500, because more rescue groups are covering all of the puppy vaccinations, their spay/neuter surgery, and the microchip.
The first summer we had our puppies, we faced vaccinations (and boosters), spay and neuter surgery, and microchips for two puppies. Our veterinarian offered a puppy package. $350 (approximately) for each dog that covered everything they needed.
In the 2 years we’ve had our dogs, we’ve had visits for pulled muscles, arthritis, and ear checkups. Each time we walk into the vet, we walk out with an examination fee and possibly some medication.
Brooke Browne added Emergency Veterinarian Visits, which we experienced with our Riley.
Kristine Levine, pet lifestyle journalist, expert and author of “Pampered Pets on a Budget,” advises that pet owners set aside a budget of $20 or more per month in a special account or “doggy / kitty bank.” Pet owners can also opt for the increasingly popular pet health insurance, which generally covers unexpected expenses.
Jennifer Little reminded me that older dogs may require expensive medication.
Cost of Licensing Fees
Wendy A. Marano, a Media and Publich Relations Specialist for The Pennsylvania SPCA, reminded me that there are licensing fees depending up where you live. We live in the unincorporated section of our city, which means that we’re subject to county laws, but not always the city ordinances. But it’s always important to keep up to date with the laws; our vet is great about sharing the changes as they occur.
Dog Toys and Supplies
After we adopted our duo, we spent a few days at the pet store stocking up on supplies and toys. We were shocked by the prices of kennels/crates, dog beds, and leashes. So we began searching for deals. We shopped on Craigslist (be sure to wash everything with bleach – the only thing that will kill any lingering parvo), Goodwill, and Costco (great deal on dog beds).
A great place to save money on dog toys (and some supplies) is Ross Dress for Less. I know! I was able to get Kongs for a fraction of the price they are in the big pet stores.
And don’t forget the baby gates. Puppies are chewers and we had two. Plus Rodrigo felt compelled to pee whenever he was in a new area and both Sydney and Rodrigo couldn’t resist the cat food. Baby gates saved our area rugs, furniture, and the cats’ food.
Thanks for Keep the Tail Wagging, I’ve learned so much about pet food, but before KTW, I was trusting what the people at the pet store told me. They’re not lying to us, but a pet food representative may not know everything there is to know about the brand they’re marketing. After a couple of fails and a little more research, I discovered Life’s Abundance. A great site to visit to learn more about dog food is DogFoodAdvisor.com.
And you’ll need dishes for food and water. We need something sturdy for our dogs, because Sydney loves to tip the bowls over sometimes. We purchased a set of dishes that allow the dogs to eat without causing pain to their neck. Each set costs less than $26 at our local Jones & Pets.
If you’re bringing home a small dog or a dog with a light coat, you might want to provide clothing for the colder months. Our dogs don’t need clothing, but Rodrigo’s feet are sensitive to the snow, so we purchased Bag Balm salve for our dogs’ feet and Rodrigo gets to now wear booties.
Flea, Heartworm, Tick Medication
The spot treatments are expensive and we buy them at Costco to save money. But then in my research for Keep the Tail Wagging, I learned that they shorten our pets’ lives by 25% so now we use non-toxic treatments.
Believe it or not, this fur mom to two cats and two dogs completely spaced on cleaning supplies. Mary Krause of Philadelphia, PA, reminded me that our fur kids have accidents and supplies are necessary. I use the Bio Deodorizer Spray from Life’s Abundance and Nature’s Miracle Advanced, which really knocks out kitty urine (believe it or not).
We also have a contract with a carpet cleaning who cleans our carpets 2-3 times a year. Although the cost is minimal, we’re considering switching one area to hardwoods; something we probably wouldn’t do if we didn’t have our dogs.
Skip King shared “Don’t laugh. With many breeds you’ll double your use of vacuum cleaner bags. Additionally, you need products to clean up ‘accidents.’”
We encountered many rescue groups who wouldn’t adopt out to a home without fencing. Our home has a yard for the dogs (it came that way). But fencing is a fortune. We have the equipment to do it ourselves, but it would still be a big expense. If you have to hire someone, then tack on labor too.
Jake Bennett suggested that people considering the expense of installing an electric fence. Many people made this recommendation to us and I was appalled. I’m not a fan of electric fences or invisible fences. We did some research on these options and walked away concerned about the stories of dogs being injured. I do know many dog owners who haven’t had a negative experience, but I wasn’t will to take a chance. Since we already had a fenced yard for them, it was easy for us to make the choice to not install an invisible fencing system.
Groomer / Grooming Supplies
Depending on your puppy’s coat and needs, it may be easier for you to go to the groomers. We do our grooming at home. We picked up a really nice set of clippers from Costco and we use Paul Mitchell Shampoo (I love the oatmeal). We use Millers Forge (plier style) clippers for their nails; these are much better than the guillotine style, which can cause a dog pain.
Our puppies would get ahold of something and destroy it. Fortunately for us, most of the destruction was their stuff; but we still found ourselves replacing leashes, harnesses, toys and dog beds until we got a handle on their destructive behavior, which was partly due to boredom (I swear they egged each other on) and training.
I love Mary Krause’s contribution, “Dogs have accidents. Dogs chew things. Sometimes they chew very expensive things.”
Jennifer Little of Parents Teach Kids shared “I’ve had puppies chew expensive wooden furniture and decorative pieces, dig up carpeting, permanently stain carpeting and wooden floors”
Pet Sitting / Boarding Services
This is one that I didn’t think of, because so far we’ve taken our dogs with us on vacation. We’re in the process of looking for a good pet kennel service in our area. We have a lot of recommendations, but it’s hard for me to believe that anyone can take care of my babies as well as we can.
Karen S. Musselman, The Bookmarks Store, advises us to “take time to visit the facilities, talk to the owners and especially to the people who will be caring for your pet while you’re away. You want to make sure they’re reputable and love animals.
Ask your vet for references; check with neighbors and other family members, but most importantly, make sure it’s an expense you can afford before adopting your pet or you may end up having to pass on overnight travels if you aren’t able to take your pet with you.”
I put doggy day care in its own section, because it’s a day to day opportunity to give our dogs some stimulus when we’re running errands or at work. What’s surprised me is that it’s not very expensive in our area. Gina Elliott shared that her doggy daycare facility is only $26 per day.
Not all doggy daycare facilities are created equal and I think Karen S. Musselman’s advice above would do us well when finding a facility for our family.
Contest Fees / Dog Training / Agility Classes
We hired a private dog trainer, because we had two puppies and it was easier than taking them to a class, especially since Rodrigo got sick on car rides longer than 5 miles. We still enroll them in one day classes with our trainer during the summer.
Teresa Bryan, Bryan Family Enterprises LLC, shared that for some, there are AKC conformation/championship fees too. This reminded me that we’d love to enroll our dogs into agility classes.
Time and Love and Attention
Two things that really should be at the top of the list are our valuable time and loads of love. Jaime Helgeson reminded me that our dogs are a full time job, “from the second I wake up until the last moment of my day.”
Scott Harris said “don’t forget ‘attention.’ I love my dog and enjoy giving him attention, but this can be an opportunity cost when other tasks (work, cleaning, etc.) demand my attention at the same time he needs it. He is so right and I can mention many times when something goes undone, because a tail wags in our house. I can’t resist an opportunity to keep the tails wagging.