Is Your New Dog a Money Pit?

Before buying a pooch, consider these financial costs.


Ongoing costs. Food will be the biggest strain on your wallet, but vet check-ups need to be factored into the budget. You may need to put your dog in a kennel when you travel, or you may want to send your canine to a doggie daycare if nobody's in the house all day. Of course, there are treats, rawhide bones, dog beds, sweater vests, pet insurance, and an untold number of dog accessories you could purchase as well.

Experts warn not to skimp on food and veterinarian services. "If you go to a grocery and buy a 30-pound bag of dog food for $10, there are health consequences for that with increased vet bills later," according to Forbes, who acknowledges that consumers often feel they have no choice but to go for the cheap stuff. "When you have to pay your gas bill, dog food always ends up being cut."

Forbes, who has worked for a number of dog-food brands in the past but is no longer affiliated with any, says if you're pressed for cash but want to buy something relatively healthy, Pedigree, Purina One, and Iams are sound choices. But he adds that the expensive dog food usually has the best nutritional value.

[See: 10 Reasons Older People Need Pets]

If you're having trouble caring for your dog and think the shelter is your only option, Ganzert says your local shelter or animal control might be able to steer you to places that can help you access free or inexpensive dog food and low-cost vet care.

Training. Raising a dog on your own can be mentally taxing. Ganzert suggests getting help, whether through an obedience school in your neighborhood (a five-week course can cost between $50 to $350) or a guide book. Or you could opt for the cost-free alternative of watching a dog training TV show, says Joel Silverman, who hosted Good Dog U on Animal Planet for 10 years and currently stars in the TV show Dog & Cat Training with Joel Silverman.

"One of the biggest reasons dogs are returned to shelters, I believe, is due to training issues," says Silverman, who also cites gifting someone a dog as a return-to-sender route. He believes dog owners should choose their pet to ensure a better bond and match.

Cleaning. You may want to buy cleaning agents, a carpet cleaner, or have a carpet-cleaning service on speed dial. "Look at your house and home facility and what's likely to be impacted, because you're going to have accidents the first year," Ganzert warns.

[Read: 5 Ways to Save on Pet Costs]

And unless you completely puppy-proof your home, you can expect to encounter costs to replace items such as shoes, books, and toys.

Economic benefits of having a dog. Ganzert says furry family members save people more money than they spend. She cites studies that show dogs help lower people's blood pressure, and show that children who are exposed to dogs at an early age often avoid developing asthma. Kids who have dogs and are walking them and playing with them are less likely to be overweight, adds Ganzert.

Silverman sides with Ganzert as far as thinking the positives outweigh the costs: "These aren't really major expenses. This is your best friend, right?"