The kids have been begging for a puppy for six months, and you finally decide a dog might just complete your family. Plus, the canine may teach your kids a few things about responsibility and caring for others, right? Those are good reasons to get a dog, but before you bring Spot home, take a few minutes to consider the finances.
Don’t buy from a pet store or breeder
There are several good reasons to avoid pet stores and breeders when you’re seeking a new dog, perhaps the least of which is that you’ll save money. Some commercial pet businesses such as dog breeders have been accused of mistreating their animals, and sometimes pure-bred dogs — which is what pet stores and breeders typically sell — have more medical issues than mixed-breed dogs.
A much better place to get a new dog is a shelter or canine rescue organization. These non-profit organizations take in animals that are abandoned, neglected, or abused, and try to find new homes for them. Many of these animals make great pets. They’re not free — you probably will need to pay for the first round of shots and other veterinary care — but they will cost substantially less than the typical pure-bed puppy at Pet Palace.
Your kids will love the animal no matter where it came from, and a mixed-breed canine will provide essentially the same dog experience as any full-breed.
Skip the vet
One of the most shocking expenses new dog owners encounter is the fat bill from the vet. An urban pet owner will be lucky to walk out of a routine visit with a bill smaller than $300. It’s highly likely that you’ll want your dog spayed or neutered — figure $300-$500 extra for that surgery. Yikes! That’s some serious dough. There are, however, some ways around those expenses.
First, have your animal spayed or neutered at the Humane Society or other shelter — these places will do them at-cost, which is more in the range of $50 to $100. Then, get your shots through organizations such as Luv My Pet. These businesses set up mini-clinics at major pet stores and provide all the necessary immunizations for about a third of the cost of your typical vet. Search under “low cost pet immunizations” to find an organization near you.
But there’s a catch: Neither the Humane Society nor Luv My Pet provides regular veterinary attention. You may decide you’d like the comfort of having a regular vet check your pet, keep its records, advise you on diet, etc. You can still visit your vet for those things, even if you do the other things at a low-cost clinic. Your vet won’t be happy about it, but she’ll still welcome your business.
Skip the kennel
Another chunky bill pet owners face is boarding when they take a dog-less vacation. Depending on location and services, boarding can easily run $25-$75 per night. That week at grandma’s suddenly got more expensive! Dodge that expense by hiring a neighborhood kid or nearby relative to walk and feed your dog twice a day. Pay that person $10 per day and everyone will be happy.
Nutrition matters, but you can save money on food
Sure, the ads are compelling: XYZ Super Dog Food will make your dog’s coat sleek and keep the pep in his step. But less expensive dog food isn’t going to poison Barky — buy him the normal-level stuff and pocket the savings. But don’t try to compensate by giving your dog human food — it’s not good for her and it will make her into a slobbering, jumpy beggar.
Keep your dog “toys” simple
Let’s be honest: Does your dog really need the $25 pet toy in his stocking at Christmas? No, he’ll be delighted and amazed that everyone is home an extra day. Give him a few old socks tied into knots and his eyes will bug out with joy.
Skip obedience school
How obedient do you need your dog to be? You can easily spend $150 for a group class or $100 per hour for private classes — crazy, right? Teach your dog a few key basics, such has coming when you call her name and not jumping on visitors, and you’re good to go.
Any elementary dog training book from the library can help you teach your pet those tricks and dozens more. Yeah, if you have a problem dog that barks all night, you may need to shell out for professional help. But most families are pleased when Fluffy simply sits on command.
The bottom line
Dogs can be amazing companions that improve the lives of you and your children. But they can also be money drains. Apply the above tips and those expenses won’t get between you and your enjoyment of Snowball.