Dogs are (wo)man’s “best friend” and an additional member of the family. But that loyal canine will cost you big.
For starters, your pooch’s love may come with a lifetime price tag of $27,000-42,000. And everyone in the household may not be thrilled about inviting a four-legged friend to the party.
Unsurprisingly, Google autocompletes “I don’t want a dog” like this:
I don’t want a dog but my husband does
I don’t want a dog my husband does
I don’t want a dog my wife does
But despite the mixed feelings surrounding dog ownership—as demonstrated by an aggregate of internet-searches— 44 percent of US households include a Fido. And dogs aren’t just a source of companionship, they also have a lot to teach us about fiscal and personal responsibility.
Get Real About the Cost of Owning a Dog
The first lesson in fiscal responsibility comes with the procurement decision. Should your household adopt or purchase? Many people opt to adopt for ethical reasons, which also generally comes with a lower price tag than going through a breeder. The Humane Society places the average adoption fee of an adult dog at $50-$140. The standard adoption fee for puppies is $310. But for that fee, you’re often getting a spayed or neutered pup, with a chip and its first immunizations. According to PetMD, a puppy from a breeder can range from $500-1,500 and may still have an expensive vet visit in its immediate future.
Regardless of where your pup comes from, the cost of procurement must be factored into your budget. And that budget better include everything from teeth cleaning (a few hundred dollars every few years) to poop bags and dog-sitters (about $35 a day). Depending on your dog’s size and breed, you can expect to pay around $2,858 a year for your new puppy, according to Rover.com. Those costs can shrink or rise depending on your dog’s size, grooming necessities, and lifestyle.
According to Kari Owen, the publicist at Texas Society of Certified Public Accountants, there’s a lot to consider: “Before you get a dog, talk to your spouse about your expectations. Will you board the dog if you go out of town or have a family member dog-sit? Do you plan to pay for obedience school? Are you wanting to feed the dog a natural, grain-free diet, or are you okay buying generic dry kibble?”
Unexpected vet bills can also be a big expense that pet insurance may be able to offset. (Of course, pet insurance is an additional expense.) If your dog eats something she shouldn’t, that could end up costing you thousands in emergency surgery. And, just like people, dogs get terminal and chronic diseases. In 2015, the Associated Press reported on a woman who spent $30,000 to treat her Shih Tzu-poodle mix after a lymphoma diagnosis.
“Owning a dog should be a mutual decision and one that both parties are committed to,” says Kari. “Throughout its lifetime, you’ll need to share the social and financial responsibilities that come with owning a dog. And you’ll need to be on the same page when it comes to emergencies and things like pet insurance.”
Now, Discuss Those Real Costs in a Meaningful Way
When we talk to our partners, we naturally want to avoid conflict. This is why so many people are searching Google for the “proper” way to tell their partners, “I don’t want a dog.” However, if you or your partner has agreed to compromise on the issue of pet ownership, there are ways to have a productive and meaningful conversation surrounding a new addition to the household.
Start the discussion with a solid financial plan. Do the homework and create a realistic budget around the cost of a dog.
Introduce the conversation. If finances are the primary reason one partner is hesitating, the partner who truly wants the dog should offer to cover the related expenses, either with their own personal credit card or through their individual bank account. It may help if the excited partner shows the hesitant partner their account balance, to demonstrate that they can actually afford dog ownership. It’s important to assure your partner that the new dog will not impact financial goals set as a couple.
Revisit the conversation. A few years down the road, the hesitant partner may come to love the dog as much as the excited partner. If that’s the case, it may be worthwhile to revisit the subject of dog expenses and work out a more equitable arrangement.
But here’s the thing—relationships end. Whether you are married or unmarried, make sure to include a contingency plan for the new pooch. Even if you have the financial resources to afford a dog on your own, do you the have time? Remember dogs are often at least a ten-year commitment, and breakups may result in pets being surrendered to shelters. If you love dogs, make sure your primary human relationship is on solid ground before lobbying to add a furry bestie to the mix.