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Saving Money on Dog Care

Cutting the Cost of Dog Ownership

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Dogs are expensive, but the cost of dog ownership can vary based on the decisions you make. The typical cost of dog ownership ranges from $1100-3500 a year. However, you can save money on dog care, keeping the cost around $700 a year or less - but you must do it the right way. Cut back on expenses and decrease the cost of dog ownership without compromising the quality of your dog's care and quality of life.

Getting a New Dog

An abandoned dog waits in a cage for a forever home.
David Paul Morris/Stringer / Getty Images
If you decide you are ready for a new dog, but you still want to keep expenses down, the best option is adoption. Millions of dogs are at animal shelters and rescue groups waiting for a home. Choose a shelter or rescue group with a good, solid reputation that is clean and well-organized. If you really want a purebred dog, check out a breed-specific rescue group rather than purchasing from a breeder. Not only will you be helping dogs in need - you will also be saving money. In general, adoption fees will range from $50-200. That's about a tenth of what it costs to purchase a dog from a breeder.

Quality Dog Food

A dog at a bowl of dog food
Photo Jeff Topping / Stringer / Getty Images
You may be tempted to buy a cheap brand of dog food to cut costs - this is not a good idea. A healthy diet made of quality ingredients is the key to keeping your dog healthy. Dogs that are fed poor diets are more likely to develop health problems over time. Stick to holistic/natural diets or premium dog food. Once you choose a brand, try to sign up for savings and coupons through the company's Web site. Alternatively, you may save money by preparing a homemade diet for your dog. Consult your vet or a nutritionist so you will be sure to prepare a well-balanced diet.

Dog treats should be kept to a minimum in order to keep expenses low. Use carrots and apples as treats, or make your own homemade treats from your dog's canned food.

Dog Supplies

A Chihuahua dog in a wagon with boxes
Photo GK Hart / Vikki Hart / Getty Images
All dogs must have some basic gear to stay safe an happy. The key is to choose wisely so that supplies will last as long as possible. Avoid "impulse buys" and other unnecessary purchases.

Collars and Leashes: Buy versatile, durable leashes and collars and they can last several years.

Dog Beds: Get one or two durable dog beds that can easily be taken apart to wash and replace the filling as needed. You can also make your own dog beds or use old comforters. Your dog just wants a soft place - she is not picky about style!

Dog Toys: You can get away with three or four toys for your dog. Learn what types your dog likes best and choose high-quality toys. Rotate toys out every week or two and they'll seem like new when re-introduced.

Veterinary Care

Dr. Johnson with Suki
Photo © Jenna Stregowski
Many people try to cut costs by visiting the vet less often. The fact is, keeping up with routine vet visits makes it more likely that problems will be found before they are out of control. Wait more than a year to see the vet, and a "routine check-up" can turn into a costly domino-effect of tests and treatments. Dogs excel at hiding sickness, but clues can turn up on the vet exam. Schedule routine exams for your dog - every six months is ideal, but at least once a year. If you detect any signs of illness, contact your vet right away. The longer you wait, the more likely it will cost more in the long run. Additionally, purchasing pet insurance can help you save money - insurance companies may cover up to 80% of medical expenses.

Grooming Your Dog

Bath for a Dog
Photo Getty Images / Stringer
Any dog will need some grooming, but cost varies depending on the type of dog you have. Choose the right grooming tools so you won't spend extra money replacing worthless supplies. If your dog needs professional grooming, try learning how to do this yourself. After the initial investment, you will save hundred of dollars a year on groomers' fees.

Training Your Dog

Shaking Hands with Dog
Photo Kane Skennar / Getty Images
Obedience classes can get pretty expensive. If you are willing to take the time to do research and learn about dog training, then you can do it yourself. Look for books and DVDs on dog training that have good reputations. Ask respected dog trainers and trusted dog owners for their suggestions before you waste money on gimmicks or misinformation.

Travel and Your Dog

A beach dog on vacation
Photo MJ Kim / Getty Images
First of all, if you are really trying to keep expenses down, then travel plans might not even be in your budget. However, if you decide to travel you must consider your dog. Traveling with your dog means that there will be extra costs and fees to consider. If you do not bring your dog, you may save money on boarding, but this might not be the best experience for your dog. Pet sitters are wonderful, but this can definitely get expensive. The best way to keep costs low: find a trustworthy family member or friend who can care for your dog while you are away.

The Unexpected Costs

Emergencies, disasters or other unexpected events usually occur without warning. These situations do no allow time to shop around for the best price. If you can budget to put extra money aside for these types of events, then you will have an easier time bearing the financial burden. Also - having a disaster plan in order will help make things go more smoothly if the worst happens. Keep a quick reference guide handy, like the Pet Emergency Pocket Guide to help you in a pinch.
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