How Much is that Doggy in the Window?

A classmate suggested that I write about the cost of owning a dog so that interested future dog owners can plan and perhaps budget for it.

I’d like to say that my family crunched numbers before we made the decision to get a dog, but we didn’t. We went into this with eyes-wide-shut!

I surveyed some of my dog-owner friends and asked about their monthly dog-related costs. The responses were hilarious and the costs, luckily, were not too scary. What I also discovered is that there isn’t a set, one-size fits all, monthly or yearly cost for a dog. There are many factors that come into play. The following is a generalization and quick run-down of numbers based on my friends’ personal doggy-spending habits:

Cost of Dog

This is a one-time (unless you decide on more than one dog) and obvious cost.  The cost will depend greatly on the size and age of your dog, and whether it’s a pure breed, a mix, or a rescue dog. Pure breeds tend to be the most expensive and can range from $1000-$2000 for a puppy. Adopting a rescue dog costs considerably less: $210 for a male and $240 for a female dog through the City of Toronto’s Animal Services. A smaller mixed puppy can cost around $800-900.

Photo by ANTPKR, freedigitalphotos.net
Photo by ANTPKR, freedigitalphotos.net

Food & Treats

Again, the cost of food and treats depend on the size and age of your dog, and the quality of food you choose for your dog. A German Shepard, like my pal Maverick eats about $150 worth of food a month. My medium-sized dog pals Jake and Martha, eat about  $70-$80 a month worth of food.

Vet visits

Again your vet costs will depend upon the health of your dog, and hopefully they don’t get sick.  A “healthy” vet visit will cost about $100. When you first get a pup you’ll have to visit the vet a few times for immunizations, but generally you don’t see your vet more than once or twice a year.

Embed from Getty Images

Grooming and Spa Visits

If your dog needs grooming, it can cost about $70-100 a month to send your special furry friend to the doggy spa.  Some people buy nail clippers and brushes and try to do it themselves.  But some dogs need a professional’s touch and maybe even pampering!  Some dogs have hair rather than fur, so they do require haircuts.

Doggy Hair Salon for me please! (Photo by SOMMAI, freedigitalphotos.net)
Doggy Hair Salon for me please! (Photo by SOMMAI, freedigitalphotos.net)

Other monthly costs can include…

Doggy sitting – $30-50/day for family vacations that don’t include fido.

Toys & Chew Sticks/Bones – about $25-30 month.  It can be hard to resist a cute new toy when shopping for their dog food!

Yummy! (Photo by SOMMAI, freedigitalphotos.net)
Yummy! (Photo by ANTPKR, freedigitalphotos.net)

As you can see the costs can add up. But is it worth it? My friends gave a resounding and unequivocal YES.  This is how my (hilarious!) friend described Maverick, her adopted German Shepard, “he’s a like a Ferrari – good-looking on the outside, but requires a lot of maintenance.” He is an expensive dog, but he’s lucky that “he is the “George Clooney” of German Shepherds!” Bow-wow to that!Embed from Getty Images

Another friend also said that her little Jake “gets only the best! We skimp on the children.” I have actually heard that more than once about dogs vs kids! Hum, I wonder what will happen when Carter overtakes, I mean, becomes part of our family?

The list of these expenses don’t take into account the ‘start-up’ costs associated with owing a dog. My family got a little carried away when we made those purchases. More on that in my next post.

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Breeds, Breeders and Panic. Oh my!

I have no idea why I’m on a Wizard of Oz theme for my post titles, but I am. For a soon-to-be new puppy owner, saying yes to a dog is a big decision. Recently, a friend told me how he compared his dog to his two-year old niece; both need a lot of care and attention. BUT unlike his dog, his two-year old niece will grow-up, become independent and eventually leave! In other words a dog = big commitment.

So what’s next? You have to decide on the right breed for your family and lifestyle. You would think this would be exciting and easy, but it wasn’t exactly easy when you throw kids and a husband into the decision-making mix. Of course there are many factors to consider when selecting a breed like size and temperament to name a few. My family’s requirements were simple but vastly diverse. I wanted a smallish, non-shedding, cute dog. They wanted a big ‘real’ dog (no toy poodles!) that can play catch, fetch and run. Hum, one of these things is not like the other.

Research

The obvious place to start your research is to hit the Internet and that’s what my boys did. I choose to send out a bunch of “OMG what did I just say yes to?” panic emails asking friends for advice and suggestions.

If you start an online search, a great place to start is the Canadian Kennel Club. You’ll find lots of information about pure breeds, and listings of reputable breeders by province. The Internet can also show you what breeds may not be suitable for your family. For example, my younger son was lobbying hard for a Husky, until we watched a video on YouTube entitled Warning About Huskies. While huskies are beautiful and can be great family dogs, they are very strong-willed and require an experienced dog owner. And that’s not me.

My research approach was a little different, and less digital to start. After I received reassuring replies to my panic emails, I talked to many friends and asked a lot of questions.

First stop, life-long dog-owner and friend, Jen. We went for a walk in High Park with her sweet Martha, a Golden. (You can see where this is heading right?) During our walk, I pointed to every dog we came across. What dog is that? Tell me about that dog. And Jen always had an answer. But guess who stole the show? Yup, Martha the Golden Retriever. I didn’t even know she was a Golden Retriever because she’s not golden but white! Yes, I have a big learning curve people.

Shortly after our walk, while I continued to ask other friends about their dogs, I had Martha over to meet the rest of my family. She got 3 yeas, and a maybe. Majority rules! In addition to the Internet, your best bet when it comes to making a final decision is to talk to dog-owners. Go to a dog park and watch dogs play and talk to their owners. You will get a lot of good and practical advice, and probably fall in love too! With a dog, I mean. After spending about a month researching and some lively debates, we settled on the Golden Retriever and chose Martha’s breeder, Braefield Golden Retrievers.

Reputable Breeders

After conducting a non-scientific survey with my dog-owning friends, here is a list of what to consider when looking for a reputable breeder:

  • A reputable breeder will ‘interview’ potential owners because they care about where their puppies are going. These breeders do their job as a labour of love, and are not just in it for the money.
  • You too should meet and interview the breeder. A few friends visited 2-3 breeders before settling on one. If they are willing to answer all your questions and not rush you out the door, it’s a good sign. In our case, we had to first fill-out an online survey and then met with the breeder in person.
  • Be sure to also meet both the mother and father of the pups and get a sense of their temperament.
  • All my friends chose a breeder that had their puppies and dogs in a home environment. If the breeder uses kennels, visit the kennels to be sure they are clean, and the dogs are well tended to.
  • Find a breeder that is registered with the Canadian Kennel Club. This helps to ensure CKC breeding rules and regulations are followed. A good breeder can tell you the lineage of the pups, and guarantee against potential hip or eye issues for example.
  • And as tempting as it may be, DO NOT purchase a puppy or dog from Kijiji or similar sites. These pups or dogs may come from a puppy mill, and you have no way of knowing if your dog will develop health or behavioral issues. If you haven’t seen the “GoDaddy” controversial Superbowl commercial, you should take a look at how cruel it is to sell pups over the Internet. The commercial has since been pulled due to the outrage it created all over Twitter.

Rescue Dogs

You can also find the right dog by going to rescue shelters. Like reputable breeders, there will be an interview process, and a good shelter will get to know you and your family and find the best dog to match your lifestyle.

My friend Margaret’s beagle-husky mix, Babette, is a rescue dog from Toronto Animal Services. Babette was about four years old when she was adopted and is now a happy 8 year old!

Here are some of the ‘pros’ of choosing a rescue dog:

  • An unwanted dog is forever grateful for the home you have given them
  • Shelters provide ‘head to tail’ service, including neutering the dog if this hasn’t been done
  • Rescue dogs cost considerably less then going through a breeder

A drawback to a rescue dog is that you can never be sure of the dog’s background and whether there was any abuse that may affect their behaviour.

The Toronto Humane Society has a foster-parents program to help socialize dogs, or help them recover after a surgery before they are put up for adoption. That’s how my friend Deborah got her German Sheppard, Maverick. Initially her foster-parenting was supposed to be a two-week gig, but once Maverick started to improve and gain weight, Deborah and her husband couldn’t let him go and adopted him.

I promised photos… and here is the first! This is the gorgeous Maverick, also known as Maverick the Wonder Dog. Look at that happy face!

Maverick
Maverick the Wonder Dog

In conclusion… 

So my family didn’t settle on the small, non-shedding dog I thought I wanted. But Goldens are really cute, and loyal and loving. I’m also told that they’re easy to train! Really, how hard can this be?