How Do People Justify Owning a Pet? Can I Afford a Dog?



I may run the risk of getting hate mail for asking, but I have a genuine question I want to get an answer to. How do pet lovers justify owning a pet financially?

I saw the other day that animal shelters are running out of pets during the pandemic and I shook my head because now isn’t the right time for many people to adopt a pet. I get people wanting companionship when we are forced to stay at home for the better part of our lives, but isn’t getting a pet the last thing we should do during this time of crisis because owning a pet costs so much?

My Struggle to Stay Dog-Free

I wanted to know because Sara has been asking if we can get a dog for basically forever. What do you want for your birthday? A dog. What about Christmas? Dog. For lunch? Not a dog, but could we get a dog soon?

Most days I’m pretty firm with my response, but there are times when I feel like giving in. Sara is only ten years old, but she’s pretty responsible considering her age. She is also a very caring person and loves animals so much that if any kid “deserves” a pet, it would be her.

Still, all I can see whenever someone walks their dog is the work and money that’s tethered to that leash. These are just some of the negatives that immediately pop into my brain:

  • I’ll have to walk the dog every day. This seems minor, but did you know that who’s going to walk the dog is the number one argument couples have about their pet? Today is a pretty sunny day, but what if it’s super cold outside? Really hot? What if it’s pouring outside and walking the dog is guaranteed to make you soaking wet?
  • Dogs bark, run around, and want your companionship. I work at home though. I wouldn’t be able to concentrate whenever the dog starts getting excited or barks. It will be sad to continually push him away if I need to work all the time.
  • My friend’s dog wakes him up every day at 6:30 am, and he looks sleepy every time I see him.
  • Another friend’s dog was sick and needed to be on some special medicine that costs $300 a month.
  • Other dogs need surgery, and the costs I hear from my friends run into the thousands.
  • Some dogs develop food allergies and need special kinds of dog food. You can cook for him, but if you don’t have time or simply don’t want to do so, then expect to pay up.
  • We don’t have close family members to help take care of a dog when we go on vacation. That’s another $50 a day every day we are gone from our home.
  • The day the dog dies will be devastating for everyone in the family. Why subject the kids to this torture?
So How Much Does Owning a Dog Costs?

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) broke it down nicely for us, and it’s not cheap.

One Time Costs
Spay/Neuter – $190 to $220
Initial Medical fees – $70
Collar/Leash – $25 – $35
Carrier Bag – $40 – $60
Crate – $35 – $125
Training Classes – $110
Total One Time Costs- $470 to $560

Annual Costs
Food – $212 – $400
Recurring Medical – $210 to $260
Toys/Treats – $40 – $75
License – $15
Health Insurance (covers vaccines and any medical issues) – $225
Total Annual – $732 to $975

All in all, you are looking at over $2,000 the first year and upwards of $1,000 each and every year. Now, I say it’s probably going to be $2,000 the first year because ASPCA failed to mention that adopting a dog can cost anywhere from $0 to $500. Some special breeds can even cost upwards of thousands of dollars.

And though the costs already don’t sound cheap, I feel like even these estimates are too low. Many of my friends take their pets to get cleaned, groomed, and sometimes even pampered, adding hundreds of dollars to the annual costs.

There’s also no mention of the costs associated with a family going on a vacation. Pet sitters or pet daycare are very expensive. And while going somewhere is optional, it’s a common enough expense that this should be factored into the typical cost of owning a pet.

You can skip health insurance if you wanted to, but remember that these costs are based on a typically healthy dog. The medical costs could run thousands of dollars per incident if your dog develops an allergy, or need medicine/surgery. And by the way, insurance, even if you pay for it, may not cover everything in its entirety.

How to Prepare Before You Commit to Owning a Dog

But David, I really still want a dog. How should I prepare myself?

I want to know too! But from the research I’ve gathered for this article, here are a few mental notes I need to make to myself if I plan to own a dog.

Figure out what you are willing to give up to own the flurry friend. You have finite resources, and it’s not just financial ones either. Much like children, a dog will want to be with you and you will also need to take time out of the day to care for that little friend.

For some, it could be spending less time on a favorite hobby. For others, it may require giving up a few vacations here and there. Take time to figure out what the costs for you are, and be prepared and willing to make the trade-off.

Make a list of preferences and take time to research the breed you are planning to adopt. Owning a dog is a big commitment and you need to be ready before you say yes. Do you mind a Chow Chow that sheds lots of hair? What about an Australian Shepherd who’ll need a ton of exercises? Or a Border Collie who needs a lot of love? Don’t make the common mistake of falling in love with just the “looks” of the pet and then hastily bring her home!

Set aside a few thousand dollars for the day your dog becomes sick. I imagine not every dog will require expensive medical attention in his or her lifetime, but judging from my friend’s experiences, they all seem to require at least a moderate amount. Make sure you beef your emergency fund up a notch if you plan to welcome a dog into your family.

Try it out by dog sitting for your friend. You likely won’t get a sense of the costs of having a pet, but at least you will have more insight into the everyday life of being with a pet. You’ll also be able to give the dog back after this is all said and done, you’ll have a forever grateful friend.

Do You Own a Dog?

There are plenty of dog lovers out there, and I want to hear from you. If you were me, would you let Sara adopt a dog? Do you think a dog will grow on me, or do you think I’ll just continue to see the work and dollar signs running around the house all day?

This article originally appeared on MoneyNing.com. Let us know what you think (or read what others thought) here.


Tags: Family, Marketing, Lifestyle, Frugal Living, David, Crate, Frugality, Sara, ASPCA, Shopping Smart, Initial Medical, License 15 Health Insurance

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