Planning: The True Cost Of Owning A Dog

The Cost of Owning A Dog
If it is true that the dog is man’s best friend, then it is equally true that man’s best friend can be an expensive friend to have sometimes. Although you will never have a more effusive, more loyal buddy, the fact remains that dog ownership can definitely impact your bank account. There are the obvious costs—trips to the vet and food—but then there are also a myriad of hidden charges that you may not be thinking about when you bring a new canine into your home. In this comprehensive guide, we will examine what kind of financial effect you can expect when it comes to your new best friend.

Finding Fido: The First Expense

The first time you plunk down your credit card for a furry fellow, chances are that you will be at either the animal shelter or on a breeder’s website. If you’re adopting a dog, the shelter will usually charge you anywhere between $50 and $100 to address the costs of vaccinations, neutering and other procedures your dog may have had while at the shelter. Purchasing a precious puppy from a breeder will usually cost between $750 and $3,000—unless you’re buying a Tibetan mastiff. In that case, you can expect to shell out around two million dollars!

Making Things Legal

After you procure your new pet, the next step will be to make sure that he or she is a legal resident of your town. This is a step that many pet owners skip, but the fact remains that many cities require pets to be registered and licensed. This will usually cost in the neighborhood of $25 and $50 the first time you register Fido or Fifi. Some dog licenses will have to be renewed on an annual or biannual basis. If you choose to comply with the dog licensing law, assume that you’ll probably spend around $300 over the course of your dog’s lifetime.

Also, if you choose not to comply, be forewarned that you may incur penalties and tickets. Some cities will check dog registrations at the dog park, issuing tickets that usually run between $50 and $100 as a penalty for not following the law. Also, you will then have to register your pet anyway. This is a cost that is better dealt with upfront, so just pay the fee and ensure that your dog is not an illegal alien in his own town!

Feeding Fido: From Generic Supermarket Foods to Gourmet Dog Food

Of course, feeding your dog is one of the most obvious expenses. Depending upon what type of food you choose to purchase, it can certainly add up over the course of your dog’s lifetime. Generic supermarket brands will probably cost you between $20 and $75 a week, depending on the size of your dog. If you want to buy grain-free, organic dog food—or even raw or vegan food—your wallet will probably be $200 or so lighter each month. Food expenses add up over the years, and you’ll probably end up shelling out a total of $4,000 to $20,000 for your pet’s meals.

The Value of a Vet

Obviously, one of the first places that you will need to go with your new dog is the veterinarian’s office. Whether they’re a rescue pooch or they’re coming directly from the breeder, they’ll need a check-up from a professional. An annual check-up for your dog will usually cost in the neighborhood of $50, while vaccinations are usually around $25 a pop. Some vets will waive the first physical fee for shelter dogs who have been rescued. Keep in mind that dogs need to be vaccinated for rabies and distemper approximately once every three years, while those who attend daycare will need to be vaccinated for bordetella on an annual basis also.

If you live in certain areas of the United States, you’ll need to protect your dog from heartworm. Medications like Trifexis also prevent fleas and often cost around $30 a month. If your heartworm medication doesn’t guard against fleas, then you’ll need to invest in a flea collar or treatment like Frontline. A six-pack of Frontline will usually cost around $75 and last for approximately six months, which should cover you for all of the summer and autumn flea months.

Of course, life with dogs also demands that you plan for emergencies. Whether it’s a bite from an aggressive dog or a strange medical problem, you may find yourself in the doggy ER at some point during your dog’s life. From minor issues to major health problems, emergency trips to the vet can end up costing you several thousand dollars over the years.

Accessories Are Everything

Every dog needs a collar and leash for walks around the neighborhood, and obviously, your dog’s accessories will be a reflection of your own personal sense of style. Although some people may laugh at the concept of a dog wearing a sweater, some breeds—especially small breeds such as chihuahuas—may actually need a sweater or coat to keep warm during the cold winter months. Over the course of your dog’s lifetime, you will probably spend at least $250 on accessories such as halters, leashes, collars and assorted clothing items.

An Insidious Expense: Pet Deposits and Pet Rent

For people who aren’t homeowners, renting a place can be problematic—and pricey. Those who have a small dog under 25 pounds can usually get away with paying only a $250 deposit, but large dogs will sometimes cost a tenant up to $500 for the pet deposit. Many landlords use this fee almost as a penalty for pet ownership, which is why you shouldn’t expect to see it back when you leave. There have even been news stories about pet deposits in the range of $5,000—in addition to a pet rent fee.

That’s right—just because you’ve plunked down a pet deposit doesn’t mean that you’re home free. Many landlords and management companies will tack on an additional fee for pet rent. This can cost anywhere between an extra $25 and $500 per month. Although many pet owners are fighting these policies, it seems as though it may take awhile before any significant changes are seen.

If you decide to rent an apartment with an average pet deposit and pet rent rates, the total cost will add up to approximately $5,000 extra over the course of your dog’s lifetime. This is why it is crucial to think about whether or not owning a dog is right for you. It is a lifetime commitment, and you should not abandon your dog due to an unfortunate or expensive living situation. Also, circumstances may change. For instance, you may be renting a pet-friendly apartment or house that doesn’t even charge an additional fee for your pet. In fact, there is one homeowner in North Hollywood, California who will only rent out to pet owners. However, this is certainly more the exception than the rule.

Even if you’re in a good living situation right now, you have to plan for a rainy day and assume that your circumstances may change at some point. For instance, if you’re in an apartment that accepts pets and then the apartment complex is sold, you may find that owning a pet is suddenly a greater expense than you thought it would be. Plan for these types of situations, and set aside some money so that your dog will be able to move with you anywhere you go.

Traveling with Your Dog

Although it’s common to see celebrities such as Ryan Gosling living the jet-set life with their pups, the reality of the situation is that it’s usually pretty expensive to travel with your dog. The airlines often impose weight restrictions on dogs who fly, which means that your pooch will have better luck becoming a frequent flyer if he or she is under 20 pounds.

Since some pets have experienced health problems—and even death—as a result of riding in the cargo area of a plane, realize that having your dog with you in the cabin is pretty much the only humane way to fly with them. Of course, if your dog happens to be a service animal, then it will be free for them to accompany you on your trip.

Although it can be tempting to fudge the rules and present your dog as a service animal—even if they really aren’t—be forewarned that airlines are now cracking down. For instance, if you say that Fido is an emotional support dog and the airline calls to get your psychiatrist’s information the day before your flight, the fib may impact your travel plans. Your dishonesty could end up costing you ticket change fees and more, so it’s best to simply follow the rules and not attempt anything clever.

Virgin America, which is probably the most pet-friendly airline in the United States, charges between $75 and $125 for each leg of your dog’s flight. Also, if you’re a first class flyer, realize that you may not be able to take your dog with you. Actress Andie MacDowell learned this lesson the hard way on an American Airlines flight, when she was demoted to economy class because she was flying with her dog.

When flying with a smaller dog, the airlines will want you to place them in a carrier. Since the required dimensions of the carrier are so specific, there are just a handful of carriers that can do the trick. The luxurious Sherpa bag is one of the most popular, winning over many pet owners who like to travel. However, it is an added expense at around $50 per bag.

Traveling with your pet can become so expensive that sometimes it almost seems as if it would be easier to buy a private jet and then schlep your dog around the world with you like Oprah. However, this is not a financial possibility for many people who don’t have the spare $50 million lying around to plunk down on a private jet.

After you’ve made arrangements to go out of town, you’ll also have to find a pet-friendly hotel or motel that will welcome Fido. The Four Seasons is known for being a dog-friendly chain, but you’ll want to call ahead and verify what the rules are—before you set off on your journey. Many hotels will require a pet deposit or extra fee when you bring Fido with you.

Traveling without Your Dog

Due to all of the aforementioned flying expenses, many people decide to make other plans for their dogs when they have to travel. Sometimes it is difficult to find a friend or family member to watch your pooch. After all, they will need to either have a pet-friendly place or stay at your house. Also, people who have full-time jobs with commutes may not be able to handle the added responsibility of caring for a dog.

For many owners, boarding becomes the only option at this point. Although rates vary across the country, dog boarding in cities like New York and Los Angeles can be an extremely expensive proposition. In fact, some of the best facilities charge between $60 and $75 a day. If you’re on vacation for a week, this means that you will probably end up paying around $500 for pet care. Let’s say that you go on your week long vacation every year; it will set you back approximately $6,000 over the course of your dog’s life.

Dealing with a Dog Who Has Separation Anxiety: Doggy Daycare as an Added Expense
Before you get a dog, you’ll also want to think long and hard about your work situation and whether or not you’re prepared to pay for doggy daycare. Some breeds are more prone to separation anxiety than others. This is when it can be good to adopt a dog who is being fostered and has a known history of being good while left at home alone. Puppies especially have a bad rap when it comes to being left alone. Many of them will bark and whine all day if they’re alone, so it may be in your best interest to inquire about doggy daycare.

Usually costing between $20 and $40 a day, doggy daycare can make life much easier for you—and stop the neighbors from complaining. If you know that you’ll be using their services often, some doggy daycare centers will offer packages that are a bit more cost-efficient. Although it can seem like quite an expense, doggy daycare is still cheaper than having your dog wreck the entire house. Some breeds, such as Golden Retrievers and Labradors, can be the most adorable couch destroyers you’ve ever seen. If you’re in doubt about your dog’s ability to stay calm while home alone, you will definitely want to invest in daycare.

When His Bark Is Worse Than His Bite

Although owning a dog is usually one of the most pleasurable experiences that life can offer, there are times when it can be downright stressful. For instance, if you have a dog that barks often—and your neighbors complain—you may find yourself with a noise complaint. After several noise complaints, you will be issued a ticket that may be anywhere from $100 to $300, depending on where you live. Bark collars can help to alleviate the issue, emitting a high-pitched signal whenever your pooch barks too much. A good bark collar will usually run around $150. When your dog has a barking problem, one of the best uses of your time will be to enroll him or her in an obedience school to curb the issue.

Although obedience school can also be quite expensive, it will save you major headaches down the road. Not only will the dog trainers help your dog to become a good canine citizen, but it will also channel some of their energy in a constructive manner. A good trainer will usually charge between $40 and $150 an hour, depending on whether you choose to do private classes or enroll your dog in a group with other dogs.

How Furry Is Your Friend?

When considering what type of breed to buy, the length and amount of fur may seem like a small detail. However, when it comes to grooming, your dog’s fur can make a big difference when it comes time to pay. For a smaller dog with short hair, you will usually be charged around $30 for a grooming. When you have a larger dog who requires extensive brushing or intricate hair removal, you’ll probably end up paying around $80 or more for each grooming session. This size/fur discrepancy can make a big difference over the years, especially if you put your dog on a regular grooming schedule.

Summary

In short, owning a dog is quite a serious financial commitment. Expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $10,000 a year and plan for your dog to live at least fifteen years. That adds up to a total cost of roughly $22,500 to $150,000—not a small chunk of change. However, for those who truly love their dogs, it seems like a tiny price to pay for all of the wonderful memories they can make. The loyalty and affection that a dog can provide is said to be very healing for human beings, maybe even extending lifespans.

Because dogs are so loyal, however, it is important to return that sense of commitment by analyzing your financial situation to see if bringing a dog into your household is a good idea. Obviously, there are ways to make dog ownership less expensive—doing your own grooming and rescuing a dog instead of buying one can bring down costs, for instance. Every dog is different; some may generate astronomical vet bills and others may go through their lives with nary a major issue. However, it is important to keep a bit of money saved in case disaster strikes. Some dog owners even set up a separate emergency fund to use in case something happens.

Regardless of your strategy, it is crucial that you plan ahead when you own a dog. There’s a reason why people say that pets are like children; they can be very expensive! With their ingrained need for constant company and maintenance, dogs can be especially pricey. Make a list of the financial commitments you already have, and then see where a dog might fit into your priorities. If you decide it’s too much of a responsibility but you still want to spend time with dogs, you can always offer to volunteer at a shelter or head over to your local dog park to cuddle with some furry friends.

Owning a dog can be one of the most amazing experiences a human being can have, but it can also cause unnecessary heartache if you don’t plan properly. Be honest with yourself when evaluating your current schedule and financial picture. If you’re already struggling, bringing a dog into the mix certainly won’t help matters. Also, you don’t want to impose on others to help you with the dog. Unfortunately, animal shelters across the country are full of healthy dogs who are at risk for being euthanized because their owners didn’t plan properly.

Don’t put yourself—or a dog—in a bad spot because you didn’t consider his or her needs when pondering your financial future. Dogs have been bred to assist humans for thousands of years; with the amount of devotion they give to us, we owe them the best treatment possible. If you do decide to take a dog into your heart and home, do so only when you are armed with all of the necessary financial facts.

Sources

  1. Ralph McLaughlin, America’s Most Paw-some Rental Markets for Pet Owners, Trulia.com
  2. Amy Corral and Randy Mac, Soaring “Pet Rent,” Other Fees, Take Toll on Southern California Apartment Dwellers, NBCLosAngelas.com
  3. Tracy Miller, World’s most expensive dog? Tibetan mastiff puppy sells for $2 million, NYDailyNews
  4. Andie MacDowell slams airline on Twitter for demoting her from first class to ‘tourist class’ because of her dog, DailyMail.co.uk
  5. Annual Dog Care Costs, PetFinder.com
  6. Cesar Millan, Cesar’s best tips to stop dog barking, CesarsWay.com
  7. How Much Does Dog Grooming Cost?, CostHelper.com
  8. Steve Penhollow, The Pet Guide: Pet Care Cost, Care.com

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