collage of money, charts, student working and graduating

Doggone Expensive

I was sitting in my office thinking about what I could write as a financial tip of the week. It is spring. Many students are graduating and some are receiving graduation presents.  Some are presents that students buy for themselves.  Just yesterday, I visited with my friend’s daughter and three of her friends.  Between them, they had three dogs – two are puppies and the “old” one is turning a year old next month.  The dogs are great fun and the most recent acquisition is a Chesapeake Bay retriever puppy who will be trained to hunt for his owner. I truly understand this, as I purchased a golden retriever for myself, as a present for my successful matriculation form Mizzou 42 years ago.  Her name was Jessica and her photograph still adorns my office, as her love filled my heart during many a day.  She lived with me in Arkansas, Missouri, Nova Scotia, California, and New York, before returning to Missouri shortly before her untimely death.  To her credit, she not only swam in both the Atlantic and Pacific, but she also paddled in the Great Lakes, the Great Salt Lake, and many rivers while perched within my canoe. Truly, Jessica was loved by many who agreed that she should have been awarded a degree from Cornell, when I received mine, as she went to campus most days with me to her be adored by others. Moreover, she costs me a lot of money in care and attention and money was scarce while I was in school!  So, in case you’re thinking about getting a dog, consider what a doggone dog costs, before you make a commitment to join your life with that of your new best friend.

To begin, and shortly after the puppy has licked your face multiple times, there are initial costs.  If you are purchasing a pedigree dog, depending on the breed and local market, a dog can cost from $200 to close to $2,000.  (Don’t make fun of that high figure.  That is about what my son, the finance professor, and his wife spent on their dog, a Golden Doodle, during my son’s last year of graduate school!)

Other than acquisition costs, you may choose (or be required) to have the pet neutered.  This may cost you $200-$400. An initial medical exam will typically be $60-$80, a collar with a walking leash $25-$30, a training leash is another $15, a shipping/travel/sleeping crate will come in under $100, and the cost of signing up for a training class $150. (The training class is for you.  It keeps you disciplined to work with your dog so you can be proud of her when she is the star of the class.)  Taken together, the initial costs, at the low-end, is $750 upward to over $2,500.  The following site estimates the first year costs of owning a dog: http://www.thesimpledollar.com/pet-cost-calculator/ .

Next, the dog will live with you for twelve to fifteen years!  These years cost money, in addition to the one-time costs. Annual costs for food for a dog will range from $120 – $360 per year, depending on the size of the dog and the quality of the diet. Annual medical exams, vaccinations, and emergency visits to the veterinarian will run from $200 to some unbelievably large number if your dog is an extreme health risk and requires surgery or overnight stays in the doggie hospital.  Of course, you will want your dog to look good and to have some dog toys.  If you only buy 3 tennis balls a month from Amazon, they will cost you $45 for the year and monthly grooming could run to $200 for the year.  Doggy treats, depending on your preferred doggy diet, will cost at least $5 per month or $60 a year.  If you chose to purchase pet insurance that will be over $200 per year and, of course, we’ll throw in another $50 per year to cover miscellaneous expenses like repairing your friend’s door when your lovelorn puppy decides to scratch her way back to your welcoming arms when you leave her there, while you go to the movie. Of course, you can’t go on vacation without taking the dog.  If you do, you will need from $40 to $100 per day in kennel expenses.  In addition, many landlords will not allow pets.  If they do, they might require a second month’s rent as a dog damage deposit. (It always took me a while longer to find a place to live that allowed pets.)

Given the above and one week of kennel, a dog has an annual cost of from $755 to $1,465, perhaps much more. If we assume you will own the dog for 12 years, when you decide to buy that dog, you’ve made an immediate financial commitment of from $8,300 (for the economy model) to over $16,000 (for a dog tinged in gold with health issues).  Of course, at the end of the dog’s life, there may be heroic measures you wish to purchase to keep your friend at your side.  You may even consider going into debt. I recommend that you consider what actions you will take, should this occur, before it occurs! This eventuality puts additional pressure on your emergency fund.

Finally, I wouldn’t give anything in exchange for those years I had with Jessica. Many called her my first wife, as she went many places with me and always helped me meet people and make friends. A dog adds much to life, but a dog is a huge commitment and a large expense.  The total commitment to training, caring, and loving a pet is a big decision.  It is a decision to spend thousands of dollars which cannot be spent on tickets to events, cars, houses, books, food, or anything else you might want. Yet, coming home to that wagging tail and those “so happy to see you” eyes can be worth every penny it costs. Just make sure that those wags fit in with your vision of financial success, before you visit the breeder or your local Humane Society.