It’s all fun and belly rubs until you can to shell out a wad of cash because your puppy ate 43.5 socks. To ensure you don’t get stuck with a credit card bill you’ll have to take a mortgage out on, Christina Peden goes over how to calculate a dog-friendly budget that works for your finances.
Owning a dog is not for the faint of heart. From dealing with pin-sharp puppy teeth to expensive shoes that become chew toys and the dreaded-but-occasional poop explosion, there’s a lot to take in.
Another thing that you might find a bit hair-raising? The actual cost of owning a dog. When thinking about getting a canine companion, a lot of people budget for the initial expenses: first vet check-ups, vaccinations, spaying or neutering, training classes, pee pads and the like; there’s no doubt those things add up.
But have you ever sat down and crunched the numbers on how much a dog will cost you over a lifetime? I hadn’t — until I started to write this article. And seriously? My jaw dropped when I saw just how much our dog, Matilda will cost my boyfriend Ryan and I in the long run.
If you don’t have a dog yet, but you’re thinking about getting one, a budget is likely even more important. Maybe if we were all forced to sit down and do this before getting a pooch, we’d see fewer of them surrendered to shelters.
Sorting out your budget is actually relatively simple, thanks to the internet. I used this Dog Cost Calculator to do mine. It’s great because it has average cost estimates next to each category, like vaccinations, where the average cost is $125 to $185 (per year). Your mileage may vary depending on where you live, of course, but the estimate ranges are pretty decent.
The only negative thing about this calculator is that there’s no actual ‘Calculate’ button, so you’ll have to use your phone or computer to add up all the fields yourself, but it’s not that bad (I promise!). Just make sure you only add your one-time “start-up costs” like adoption fees or spaying and neutering to the first year you have your dog and not every year of their life.
If you’re not sure how much something will cost for a year (say, dog food), just estimate how much you spend in a month and multiply it by 12.
To get the lifetime estimate, multiply your yearly total plus the start-up costs by your dog’s life expectancy (for Matilda, I used 14 years).
Like I said above, my jaw dropped when I saw the results of my calculations. For us, expenses for Matilda will add up to $48,832 over the course of 14 years. Our start-up costs were $1,478, so the final total is just over $50,000. Yowza!! Insane, right?
The biggest surprise for me was where all that money is going — it’s going to our dog walkers! A full $39,000 of our budget will be spent on Matilda’s thrice weekly group walks. For me, this is all the more reason to move somewhere with land or a yard, but right now our home base is downtown Toronto, so we’ll be sticking with the dog walkers for the foreseeable future.
After seeing that big, round $50,000 number up there, I’m sure you’d like some tips on how you can save money. Well, you’re in luck, because I’ve included some below.
Money Saving Tips
Don’t hire a dog walker/have a yard
This one is pretty self-explanatory after the numbers you saw above. If you have a decent-sized yard or tons of energy to walk your dog for an hour or more every day, then that’s a massive savings right there.
You can also get a breed that doesn’t require a ton of exercise. Our girl is a Border Collie-Lab mix; she will always have crazy energy. Long walks (or runs) are not optional for her.
Crowdsource some items
There are definitely a lot of costs associated with a dog. See if you can reduce them by reaching out to family and friends, because they just might be able to help you out.
When we got Matilda, we obviously needed a crate for her, but didn’t necessarily want to spend a ton of money since we figured we’d only use the crate when she was a puppy. Ryan put out a call on Facebook to see if anyone had a spare crate they weren’t using anymore. Luckily, one of his friends did, and just like that, we scored a free crate.
Don’t be afraid to ask for this stuff. Who knows what pet supplies people may have lying around?
Go to a spay/neuter clinic
We saved a ton of money this way. Hit up Google to see if there’s a clinic in your area that specializes in spaying and neutering. What this usually means is that the clinic only does spays and neuters, so they’ve got it down to a science. Because they’re no frills and have less overhead, the cost is much lower than most veterinarians. A lot of these clinics are also funded through organizations like the SPCA, so they also receive charitable funding, making it possible for them to offer procedures at a price most people can afford.
And never fear: just because it’s “cheap” doesn’t mean your pet is getting subpar treatment; far from it. They receive the same level of care as they would at the local vet at a fraction of the cost for the reasons mentioned above. We took Matilda to the local spay neuter clinic here in Toronto, and I know a bunch of other people who have also gone the clinic route. We couldn’t be happier with the care Matilda received and she has healed up just wonderfully from her spay. Also, we saved almost $500.
Take preventative measures
While it’s cheaper upfront to give your dog inexpensive food, you (and your pup) could pay the price in the long run. It’s better to give them quality food as this will likely lead to fewer health problems down the line. Not sure what to look for in a good dog food? See this article on how to choose the best food for your dog.
Also, make sure your pet gets all the exercise they need. Just as in humans, obesity has all kinds of negative effects on dogs. Nip health problems in the bud before they start with quality food and exercise.
What about you? Did you use the calculator to budget for your dog (and did your jaw drop, too)? Got some more money savings hints? Share them with us in comments!