Gen Y Dogma: The Unexpected Costs Of Being An Urban Pet Parent

Christina Peden
by Christina Peden

Living in a bustling urban center can have its advantages. But it also comes with a host of costly extras you may have never had suspected… especially when it comes to having a dog. Christina Peden recounts her experiences about the hidden and expensive surprises that come along with being a pet parent in the city.

Pets come with all kinds of added expenses. Most people take this into account before they bring home a dog. But what about the unexpected expenses – ones that never crossed your mind? (I assure you, they exist.) There will be all kinds of things that crop up that you never would have even considered; I know this was true for us. That’s what this week’s column is all about: the unexpected costs of having a dog, especially when you live in the city.

Dog Walker

If you live in the city and don’t have a backyard, you’re going to have to walk your dog daily (multiple times) instead of just letting them tear around the backyard. And sometimes that means paying a dog walker to take your dog out during the day. Ryan and I never in a million years thought we would do something as “pretentious” as hiring a dog walker, but the reality is that Matilda is a Border Collie-Lab mix. She’ll always have a ton of energy, and there’s no way we’re going to leave her cooped up all day with no outlet for that, so we’ve enlisted the help of a dog walking service.

It’s not cheap — you can expect to pay between $15-20 per group walk, so it definitely adds up. Some people may scoff or think it’s crazy to hire a dog walker, but for us it’s a lifesaver (albeit an expensive one). And it’s not that we don’t walk Matilda ourselves — that would be absurd — but there are nights when both of us have had long, exhausting days at work and we just don’t have it in us to go for an hour-long walk. Plus, Matilda loves going out with her “pack” in the afternoon — she’s with the same dogs and dog walker every day, so they’re all her buddies now. It’s a great way for her to have fun and be social.


Again, living in the city, we never really considered buying a car before we got Matilda. Cars and the city don’t equal much besides a massive headache. But when you have a dog, sometimes you want to take them to a park or beach that’s on the other side of town. Without a vehicle, this means sitting on public transportation for over an hour (which Matilda won’t do). The same trip via car takes less than 15 minutes. A car definitely makes those trips to the pet store a lot easier. Trust me; lugging a giant bag of dog food home from the store when you’re on foot is no fun.

Also, if we want to visit family outside the city, even if it’s just for the day, we’re not going to leave Matilda by herself, and it’s not like we can hop on a commuter train or bus with her either. Right now, we have to rent a car or get a family member to pick us up, and honestly? It gets old after a while. You begin to want the freedom to go anywhere with your dog and not worry about the logistics, and that’s where a car comes into play.

We haven’t bitten the bullet on a car just yet, but it’s definitely on our list in the next year or so. Lord knows it won’t come cheap!

Collars and Leashes and Harnesses, Oh My!

When you get a new dog, there’s always a learning curve as you get to know each other and figure out what works for your pooch in particular. We’ve gone through a few different types of gear with Matilda: three harnesses, two leashes, a few collars. That stuff isn’t cheap!

Matilda tends to pull on the leash, which we’re working on, but we had to buy three harnesses before our dog walker turned us on to a special type of harness that basically eliminates pulling. We would never have known about it if not for her and again, it wasn’t cheap, but it’s a total godsend. I’m sure if you add it all up, we’ve spent close to $200 on this stuff, so it’s definitely something to take into account if you’re thinking of adopting a dog.

You Think I’m Gonna Eat That?

Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs will eat anything and everything you put in front of them (or maybe that’s just our little weirdo). Matilda, out of the blue, decided she no longer liked her kibble and basically refused to eat it. We’d feed her in the morning before we left for work and come home at night to an almost-full food dish.

Obviously, we knew we had to do something, so now we buy wet food for her and mix it with the kibble for her twice-daily meals, and she gobbles it up. That said, we choose to give her quality, human grade wet food — and it’s expensive; probably an added $20-25 a week. So if you’re thinking about getting a dog, budget for the fact that their appetite may not be exactly as you had expected. If you can help it, you also don’t want to feed them the cheapest food on the market; a lot of that stuff is essentially the canine equivalent of a McDonald’s-only diet.

Keeping Up With The Joneses

Our city is chock-full of speciality dog boutiques, spas, beauty parlors and bakeries. You name it, we’ve got it.

Seriously: we have two stores in a super-trendy area of town that are literally right next door to each other. One is your almost typical pet store, though they do sell “higher end” products and carry mainly organic, free-range pet food. The other is a “dog outfitters”. Seriously — all they sell is clothing and outdoor gear for dogs. Because when you have money to burn, it’s not enough to buy your dog a sweater at the pet store (how gauche!); you simply must get thee to the nearest pet outfitters.

I can’t lie — I’ve totally been inside the dog outfitters and had a look around. And I’ve also seen things that I think would look smashing on Matilda, as much as I hate to admit it. (I never thought I would be one of those people — you know, the ones that like to dress up their dogs. Eeek!) At the same time, I know I could never stomach spending $90 on a sweater for my dog. And if I ever change my mind about that, someone please feel free to smack me upside the head.

If you live in a city, what unexpected costs have you come across? Share your costly lessons with the rest of the PetGuide community below.

Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada’s all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city’s numerous parks or curled up with a good book.

Christina Peden
Christina Peden

Christina Peden is a lifelong animal lover and avid wordsmith. She lives in Toronto with her boyfriend Ryan where they are proud pet parents to puppy, Matilda and cat, Oscar. In her spare time, she can be found enjoying Toronto, Canada's all-too-short patio season, taking advantage of the city's numerous parks or curled up with a good book.

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