I faced sticker shot at the veterinarian the other day to the tune of $403.85 for annual vaccines as well as 6-month supplies of heart worm and flea/tick medicine. It wasn’t a big deal as much as it was a moment of, “$400! For shots and medicine?” and I remembered how much I missed the vet I had when we lived in Florida. She offered a VIP (very important pet) program and for $40 / month all vaccines, regular medications, check-ups, exams, and pedicures were covered. When I got home I handed my husband the receipt and muttered, “That dog just cost us over $400.” He just smiled at me and said, “That dog is family and you know you love him. He’s worth it, isn’t he? Look at that face.”
*Sigh* He’s right. That dog is family and $400 once a year to ensure that he’s healthy truly isn’t that big of a deal. Although, I’ll admit that maybe I could have planned a bit better so that expense didn’t hit us the month after Christmas but the damage is done now. I’ll just consider it a lesson learned that dogs can be unexpectedly expensive. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, take my lesson to heart and pay attention to my other top 5 things you should consider before getting a dog.
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Prepare for training
Dog training is not easy but it’s a very important first step when you bring a new pup home. Before getting a dog, you should decide if you are going to hire a dog trainer, attend training courses (like these courses offered by PetSmart), or try to train the dog yourself.
If you are going to attempt to train the dog yourself, ask yourself if you have the right knowledge and experience as some breeds are much easier to train than others. If you’re new to dog training, I recommend picking up a great training resource like this 5-week program (which is only $12!).
Can you afford the dog’s care?
Our trip to the vet for annual vaccines and standard medications was $403 for a small 15-lb dog. Add on top of that the costs of pedicures to keep the nails trimmed, anal gland expression (common especially in small dogs), grooming, and food/treats you can easily spend upwards of $1,000 / year just to provide medical care and food for your dog. I typically set aside about $200 / month for pet expenses since we have two dogs. You should also be prepared for unexpected illnesses (like when my dog had a tumor last year) or injuries.
Even if you don’t go to a groomer and choose instead to handle the grooming at home, you’ll need to factor in the cost of shampoo and skincare treatments (which some dogs may require)
Who will be caring for the dog?
The kids? You? Your husband? Who is going to be responsible for feeding, training, and walking the dog each day? Do you have the time to dedicate to exercising and walking the dog or will you need to hire a dog walking service (like the one I mentioned here).
Some dogs are good with a 15-minute walk each day whereas other dogs may require an hour walk 2x per day. Before bringing a new dog home, make sure that you have the time and the resources to devote to properly caring for him.
Do you have all of the necessary supplies?
Adding a pet to the family takes a lot of supplies and some things are easily overlooked. For example, I highly recommend picking up an indoor dog pen (like this one we have for our boys). It is ridiculously easy to set up so we use it frequently when we have guests over. It keeps the dogs contained so they aren’t jumping all over our company but they also aren’t locked up in their crates. Plus, it comes apart so easily that we always take it with us when we travel and set it up again in the hotel room.
In addition to a pen, you’ll need a crate ($80 – $200) large enough for your dog to rest comfortably, a dog bed, blankets, food/water bowls, toys, leashes, and collar/harness. If you intend to travel with your pets like we do, I also recommend a car seat cover (like the one I mentioned here).
What breed is right for you?
Getting the right breed for your family is the most important decision you’ll make when you decide to add a dog to your family. A lot of pets end up in shelters each year because people adopted pets that weren’t right for their lifestyle. You need to consider everything from your housing situation, to the time you have to dedicate to exercise, to whether or not you have (or intend to have) children, and so much more.
Anything else you’d recommend people consider before adopting a dog?