So You Want to Get a Dog? (Part I)

by Lara on August 21, 2011

Lately I have been asked some questions pertaining to dog ownership.  “How did you go from being afraid of dogs to being the crazy dog lady?” is chief among them, but that is a story for another day.

Today I want to address the questions people ask me when they are contemplating dog adoption.  Admittedly I do not have a lifetime of experience with this, which I actually think makes me a good candidate to offer advice.  It was only a year ago that I started thinking about getting a puppy, so all of the fears and concerns are still fresh in my mind.  Furthermore, I sort of dove in head first in terms of addressing the issues that arise if you are responsibly taking care of your dog.

Doggie Ownership 101, from a Rookie Puppy Parent (take it for what it’s worth, or for what it’s not)

Part I: Costs to Consider

In my opinion, the number one thing you should consider about dog ownership is whether or not you can financially handle it.  Proper care of your dog will likely be more expensive than you think it will be–especially the initial set up, if you are raising the dog from puppyhood, or if the dog has special needs.

Non-negotiable costs: these are pretty much implicit with responsible dog ownership, even if you are not interested in getting fancy.

  • The adoption fee itself.  This has a broad range, but even a dog adopted from a shelter or rescue group will cost you a few hundred dollars, or several thousand if you are looking into buying from a breeder (another subject for another day).
  • Vet visits.  Regular exams alone are pricey, let alone the “emergency” visits if you are a paranoid pet parent like I am.  Also under this category: vaccinations and spay/neuter surgery.
  • Registration fees.  Check with your local animal control, but I’m pretty sure it’s mandatory to register your pet annually.
  • Gear.   You can stay basic with this or get fancy.  The bare necessities will include: collar; leash; ID tag; water and food bowls; a bed and/or crate; treats and chews; and some toys.
  • Food.  High quality pet food is an investment and a cost that should be considered.  Also, while most major pet stores have a good return policy, there may still also be a cost in the form of wasted food while you try to find the brand and type of food that suits your dog best.
  • Flea and heartworm medication.  This is arguably necessary, as I know some folks who choose not to use these products.

Additional costs: may or may not apply depending on your dog’s needs and how much you want to spoil them.

  • Pet insurance.  I recommend it.  It has been worth it for us by a long shot.  Our plan is about $30 a month, per dog.
  • Emergencies.  Luckily we haven’t had any instances when we need to consult a vet outside of normal business hours, but I understand it can be very expensive, hence the insurance.
  • Microchipping.   This is a one-time fee for implantation and then to register the chip.
  • For renters: rental deposit and pet rent.  Most property managers will require a separate pet deposit.  Many charge a monthly “pet rent,” per animal.
  • Dental work.  This is borderline optional, really.  From what I’ve read, you should have your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned once a year after the first year (small breeds) or the second year (large breeds).  If you don’t do the regular maintenance, it could result in much bigger bills later.
  • Grooming.  This is highly dependent on the breed of your pup.  I have poodles, which means we go in about once a month.  This runs us about $50 per pup.
  • Training classes.  Highly recommended, especially if you are raising a puppy.  We did a basic “Puppy 1” class with Lulu.  This cost $165 for a five week course.  
  • Daycare/dog walker/dog boarding.  Depending on your lifestyle, this may not be negotiable.  When Matthew and I were both working outside the house, we had to hire a dog walker on days we couldn’t make it home at lunch.  Alternatively, we would place them in doggie daycare for the day so they received socialization as well as exercise.  In the Bay Area, we paid $30 for a 30-45 minute walk for two pups.  Daycare at Petsmart was $40 for both.
  • Gear.  Sure, some gear is mandatory, but we purchased a ton of stuff that was either useful or just plain fun.  Some examples: blankets, harnesses, play pens, puppy stairs for the bed, grooming tools, dietary supplements, sofa and car seat protectors, car seat belts, toys and games, travel bowls, training bells, potty pads…the list goes on, and on, and on.

Admittedly I went way overboard with “the extras” for Lulu and Pippa.  This doesn’t mean that responsible dog ownership is cheap.  Even in the best situations, there will be substantial and unexpected costs.  But I promise you, it is so worth it.

Stay tuned for Part II!

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Mama Pea August 21, 2011 at 9:52 pm

This is so helpful! Lulu wants a dog so badly, so I have a feeling we will be caving soon…


Sana August 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm

What about Pea Kitty???


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:29 am

Pea Puppy would be lucky to join your family!


glidingcalm August 21, 2011 at 10:10 pm

cant wait to meet those two someday!!!!!!!!!! 😀 great tips mama!


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:30 am

I hope you can someday, too! 🙂


Eden August 21, 2011 at 11:07 pm

i had a dog growing up. i loved her.

but after reading this, i want a pet rock.


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:32 am

Hehe. A pet rock would indeed be cheaper…but not nearly as rewarding 😉


Andrea@WellnessNotes August 21, 2011 at 11:12 pm

They are soooo adorable! Great tips! Don’t think we are ready for a dob, but the toddler keeps on asking…


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:36 am

If you can handle a toddler, I’m sure you can handle a dog 😉


Sana August 21, 2011 at 11:15 pm

Your fur babies are super duper cuteee!


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:35 am

Thank you! Not that I had anything to do with it 😉


lynn @ the actor's diet August 21, 2011 at 11:28 pm

the first year we had julius was definitely the most $$$. but now it’s not too bad…


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:34 am

Perhaps I should write an update later, as we are still in the first year! Good point!


Blair August 22, 2011 at 5:13 am

Thanks for posting this! My mom took care of my dogs when I was a kid. I am dying to get my own dog now that I am an adult, but my big hesitations are time commitment and cost. In my opinion, a puppy is one step below having a baby in the responsibility scale, although I haven’t had either.

Can’t wait for part 2!


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:37 am

Time commitment will be Part II 🙂 Hope it is helpful.


Laural @ Being Healthier August 22, 2011 at 5:33 am

what a helpful post! I love it, and I’d love to get a dog but I’m super allergic and feel like it isn’t worth my health suffering EVEN though I REALLY want one. sigh. i’m looking into shots but even those can be ineffective and expensive.


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:39 am

Laural, have you been around hypoallergenic dogs like poodles? They don’t shed and are usually an allergy-friendly choice. I have some allergic friends who aren’t bothered by my pups.


Rebekah @ Making MIracles August 22, 2011 at 7:35 am

They are adorable!! We have 5 rescue dogs and they mean the world to us – I think it is VERY smart for anyone deciding whether or not to bring an animal home to look over a list like this and realize and accept the long term responsibilities (financial and otherwise) of being a good pet owner (or ownee??!!) 😀


Lara August 22, 2011 at 8:40 am

FIVE rescue dogs?! Wow! I would have five if I could 🙂


Susan August 22, 2011 at 8:40 am

One of the main things holding me back from getting a dog right now is money! I finally have the time and proper living space for one, but not the hundreds of dollars to dole out right away. Plus, I really want to get the breed I want. Adopting may be cheaper and faster, but I don’t want to end up with a second choice dog, ya know? That’s kind of a huge commitment. Especially when its breed characteristics don’t jive with my environment.


Lara August 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Oh Susan, please consider a rescue dog! You can still get the breed you want, and even get a puppy, as so many pregnant mommies are abandoned. I promise, you can get a first rate pup and not pay thousands for it! Let me know if you want more info on some rescue groups in your area…:)


Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) August 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Yes yes yes yes! Amen! Our best dogs were rescues.


Biz August 22, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Such cute puppies! We adopted our dog 10+ years ago – we have no idea how old he is because he’s a rescue dog, but probably 12 or 13, which is getting old for a lab.

While I like having a big dog, I think I would love a tiny dog!


Lara August 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

I guess the grass is always greener, because lately I’ve been wanting a big dog! Tiny dogs are hard to exercise with, and they certainly aren’t very threatening when I’m out walking alone 😉


Cait @ Cait hates Cake August 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

I can totally relate to this post! I just got a puppy about 5 months ago. It is crazy how much you end up spending. I just dropped another $50 yesterday on a travel crate. But, dogs are worth every penny! 😉


Lara August 22, 2011 at 1:49 pm

We have now purchased a total of FOUR crates between our two pups. They are so expensive, but finding the right one took a lot of trial and error for us! I agree though–totally worth it.


Roz@weightingfor50 August 22, 2011 at 1:59 pm

AWWWWW!!!!! Your two pups are ADORABLE!!!!! And undoubtedly worth EVERY penny! All the best Lara, to you and the dogs!


Lara August 22, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Thank you, Roz!


Terri August 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I only regret their short lifespan…the pain of losing one is the same as a family member for me…but there’s nothing like their unconditional love. So I choose to love one whenever possible!


Shannon @ Her Dog Blog August 22, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Great post, Lara! I certainly appreciate the “gear” section. That can get pretty spendy…but I’m sure you already know that. 😉


Erin @ Big Girl Feats August 23, 2011 at 10:54 am

Oh my gosh, this is so funny! I clicked on your link via Hangry Pants because I didn’t realize you were back to blogging again (love the blog)! It must be a sign because I got just word from our ASPCA that we were approved to adopt a dog there. I’m SO excited but am also slightly freaking out. The good thing is that she’s a 5 year old mutt, so she’s at least past the puppy stage. Great tips in a very necessary time!


Lara August 23, 2011 at 11:04 am

Hi Erin! I’m glad you found me, and I’m glad this post came at a good time for you 🙂 I would love to hear more about your new pup when you get her, good luck!


laura August 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm

great post! i have to say that in our experience, a large part of the adoption expense is determined by how attached you are to adopting a particular breed. i know that “mutts” aren’t for everyone, but we have two rescued mutts that we love more than anything, and a bonus of adopting them was that each one was less than $100 to adopt, which included spay/neuter.

the most unexpected cost for us was boarding — when we adopted our first dog we lived in a small town where pet boarding was super affordable. we’ve since lived in two mid-size cities where that is definitely NOT the case!


Lara August 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Agreed! Good point. I think another large part of the expense is also determined on how long you are willing to wait for the right dog. I knew I wanted a toy poodle but I also wanted a rescue, so we had to wait several months before we found one. It’s possible though.

Yes, boarding is ridiculous!


Danielle August 24, 2011 at 9:14 pm

Ahh, your pups are too cute. I would most definitely get one of my own if I didn’t live in a tiny NYC apartment. I miss my parent’s dogs every day.

Also, see you at FoodBuzz!!!!


Diane Fit to the Finish August 25, 2011 at 7:16 pm

I am afraid of big dogs, but love little ones! We have a sheltie who is so cute and such a great family dog!


Deb (SmoothieGirlEatsToo) August 26, 2011 at 11:30 pm

This is so helpful for anyone considering a dog and reaffirms our decision for cats- LOL! No, in all seriousness, dogs are about a quatrillion times more work than cats. For this reason and others, I envy good doggie parents- and obviously you two are very very good. (And Lulu and Pippa are very very cute!)

You are so right on the dental- it’s important- much more than people realize.

And I’m so with you on adopting/rescuing. I’ll leave it at that so as not to start a cat fight (haha)


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