They say the financial resources and time commitment required to raise a puppy is an excellent test for couples considering children. Granted, they aren't quite the same – puppies don't need clothing or diapers, and your baby can't survive off dry kibble.
Raising a dog from puppyhood is still a lifelong commitment that can drain your budget if you're not careful. But, for the financially-conscious dog-lover, it can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience that will open your heart. Read on to explore some ways I like to save money on my pooch and some beginner mistakes I've made that you can avoid!
Know Your Breed
Many dog owners pick a pup based on its looks without understanding its breed-specific needs. Dogs have evolved to have various characteristics, personalities, and health issues that you should consider. Understanding a dog based on its breed is vital for raising them right, but it also helps you avoid unnecessary costs.
You want to aim to pick a dog that fits your lifestyle.
This can be challenging if you're waiting on a rescue or shelter to receive mystery puppies, but try to develop an idea of what you're looking for ahead of time. Factors to consider are activity level, temperament, responsiveness to training, health issues, physical size, life expectancy, and food consumption.
For example, if you have difficulty exercising, you may need a dog that requires only short walks. High-energy breeds that don't get enough exercise usually become anxious and seek an outlet for unused energy through destructive behavior. If you're away from home 80 hours a week, you likely don't have time to train a puppy that requires a lot of attention. Bigger dogs often eat more, while breeds with powerful jaws go through toys and bones very quickly.
While all dogs can suffer health problems, low-risk breeds help you avoid costly vet bills. Some breeds are notorious for health complications and can require extensive veterinary care. Take Cocker Spaniels, prone to orthopedic issues, epilepsy, and heart and liver disease.
If you browse big box stores like Petco and Petsmart, always compare prices online. These stores can afford to mark up absolutely everything because there are few pet store options. It can be tempting to buy toys and treats in person, but you'll find the same brands much cheaper online at 1800 Pet Meds, Chewy, and Amazon. Amazon's flea and tick prevention brand runs about $20 cheaper than its competitors.
You can find huge steals in discount stores like T.J. Maxx, Homegoods, and Ross, which have a pet supplies section. I've found several fantastic dog beds at Ross for $25 each. Beds of the same size and quality cost at least $50-$70 at Petco. Poop bags are a constant drain on your bank account, and they can cost $15 for 120 bags, but I found a pack of 400 bags and two dispensers at T.J. Maxx for about $10. As an added bonus, these stores all welcome dogs, so you can bring Fido to browse discount toys and treats.
Training a dog is a constant effort as they mature through different stages of life, and you will go through many treats to reward desired behavior. A high reward treat needs to be healthy in moderation and desirable to your dog. I try to buy treats online, and Amazon has some great bulk deals. Another tip is to identify dog-appropriate groceries your pooch loves to eat. If your dog isn't sensitive to high sugar content (which sometimes promotes yeast), they can be a very affordable option. For example, my dog loves apples and other fruits, so cutting an apple into 20 small pieces motivates her to learn for just a few cents a day.
The raw food diet has been gaining a lot of attention and stirring controversy in veterinary medicine. If you do the raw diet outright, buying food and processing it yourself is much cheaper. Perfectly Rawsome is a great food calculator that takes the research stress out of DIY raw.
I believe in feeding raw and fresh when possible, but it is not affordable for most people. Remember that nutrition is essential in avoiding costly vet bills in the future and that there are ways to feed your dog quality meals without breaking the bank.
Kibble is cheap because many brands get away with using biologically inappropriate fillers and baking them at high temperatures, reducing bioavailability. However, some kibble brands are vastly better than others, and learning to read pet food labels will help you pick the one you feel good about if the budget demands it.
Dogs require a considerable amount of quality animal protein by nature. Brands can list “chicken meal” or “beef meal” as an ingredient when they're really adding scraps like feathers, bone, hooves, and more.
Ingredients lists mention items with the highest content first, and so on in descending order. If your kibble brand lists a meal, grain, or legume as the first several ingredients, they probably don't care about your dog's health. Choose high-quality protein kibbles like Acana or Orijen, which are not much more expensive than big brands.
Training basic commands and general obedience is vital for your dog's safety, and puppyhood is the best time for them to learn. It's pretty common for a dog's curiosity to land them in dangerous situations, but a well-trained dog is less likely to land you a huge vet bill.
There are plenty of free dog training courses online, which can save you hundreds for training classes. You must train your dog to respond to your call at a young age, even if you never plan to let it off its leash. This will be vital if they ever run away. Dog tracking systems are great if you plan to train your dog off-leash. Instead of forking out for a $150 Fi Collar, clipping an Apple Airtag or Tile to their collar will give you peace of mind for a fraction of the price.
Dog parks are amazing, but they can also be dangerous places. Crowds that come at 8-9 am and 5-6 pm daily usually have consistently socialized dogs. While it may be overwhelming for your pup to go at a busy time, owners with reactive and aggressive dogs usually bring them at odd hours when no one is there.
Playing fetch sounds like the obvious thing to do at a dog park, but toys often cause dog fights. If your dog is playing fetch with another dog, always ask the owner if they will get possessive or defensive and keep a close eye on them.
Raising a puppy is one of life's greatest joys for the animal lover, but it doesn't have to come at considerable expense. Treat them with love and respect, and the rest will come naturally.
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