Don't buy a dog

By glblguy

As many of you know, we recently moved to the mountains. When we lived in the city, we had two dogs: a 10 year old Golden Retriever and a Pomeranian. Both were outside dogs for the most part. Of course during the winter they spent the evenings in our garage with a heater. I am highly allergic to dogs, so unfortunately they couldn’t come inside. The retriever we bought as an outside dog. The Pomeranian we saved from death…but that’s another story.

Knowing well that the mountains were significantly colder and that there would be predators lurking about that might kill the Pomeranian, we gave him to our neighbors before we moved. It was tough on my wife and kids, but it was the best thing for the little guy.

After we moved, my wife and kids missed him terribly and surprisingly so did our retriever. The fill that gap my wife and kids bought a boxer. I didn’t getting another dog, but I was outvoted 7 to 1. He’s a cute little guy and all, but as with all dogs, expensive. My wife and kids love him to death. Our retriever? Well, the jury is still out, she mother hens the boxer like crazy but he also irritates her to death.

The cost of a puppy so far

My wife found him through a Craigslist local ad. He had been significantly reduced in price due to a white splotch on his nose.  Seems that wouldn’t make him very good “show” quality. The owners also either didn’t AKC register him or lost the paperwork, so that worked in our favor as well. We ended up getting a $500.00+ puppy for $100.00. That included paperwork on flu shots and a health check.

Editors Note: The above paragraph was incorrect. I thought my wife bought another puppy she had been discussing. Turns out she bought a completely different one instead. Can you tell how much I was involved with this process???

My wife found him through a local ad. He was $250.00. His father is an AKC registered show dog and his mother wasn’t registered. He is from the mother’s second litter. They couple sounds like hobbiest breeders.

Here’s the cost breakdown thus far (amounts rounded off):

  • Puppy: $75.00
  • Collar and leash: $10.00
  • Carrier: $40.00 (he’ll quickly outgrow it)
  • Puppy food: $20.00
  • Bowls: $10.00

Total: $155.00

Expected first year costs:

  • Remaining vaccines: $100
  • Vet bills: $100
  • Neutered: $150
  • Flea control: $20.00
  • Heartworm: $75.00
  • Vitamins: $30.00
  • Food: $300.00

Total first year: $775.00

Expected yearly costs (estimated):

  • Yearly vaccines: $60 – $100
  • Yearly vet bills: $100 – $400 (assuming he stays healthy and no injuries)
  • Flea control: $20.00
  • Heartworm: $75.00
  • Vitamins: $30.00
  • Food: $300.00

Total yearly after first year: $585.00

Yearly, the little guy will cost at least $285 per year. Given an average lifespan of 12 years, that works out to $7,210.00 ($775 for the first year, then $585/year for 11 years)!

Many people get “free” dogs or buy a dog cheap. Don’t be mislead to being a responsible owner costs. Many people way under estimate the cost of owning and properly caring for a dog. Do the math and make sure you can afford to take care of that cute little puppy. Oh, and don’t forget, those cute little puppies grow up!

Also make sure you factor in the amount of time a dog takes as well. Dogs are just like children and require quality time. There is nothing more sad than to see a dog thrown out in the backyard and left alone.

Money saving Monday tip: Don’t buy a doggrumble….grumble….

Oh, yes the picture is of our new little pup Rusty. He is kind of cute…just don’t tell my wife I said that!

32 Responses (including trackbacks) to “Don't buy a dog”

  1. Frugal Dad Says:

    Being a “dog guy,” I sort of questions your rationale in the title, but once I read the article I know exactly what you mean! I love dogs, but every time I take ours to the vet the bill just kills me–I mean, I don’t spend that much on my own medical care in a year!

  2. Green Panda Says:

    Wonderful tips. I love having my cat, but he does cost money to take care of him properly. I would encourage many to really sit down and look at the cost of taking care of a pet.

  3. Miranda Says:

    We have fish. Mollys and Corys that do not require much looking after. And snails. Also, not very expensive, and not much looking after. The boys (my husband and son) would probably like a dog. I don’t know how long I can over-rule them. I like animals, but I’m not big on pets. We travel to see family a lot, and I would feel bad about leaving the dog. Also, the more complex the organism, the more it costs. Good luck, GLBL Guy!

  4. That One Caveman Says:

    We have an indoor cat, so our costs are much less, but there are still costs. People seem to overlook that when they’re captured by the cuteness of a little furry animal…

  5. Sheila Says:

    You forgot to figure in the cost of all the things they will destroy as puppies. :) For us, that has unfortunately been in the thousands of dollars – and I’m not even kidding. It starts with the $1800 in replacement cost for the carpet they chewed up and goes from there. Somehow they managed to do that even with me working from home and being present. It’s amazing how quickly they can destroy with those sharp little teeth!

  6. Going Gazelle Says:

    I have a CPA friend who adopted a greyhound. Afterwards she read an article that states the typical dog puts a $15,000 drain on the family budget over its lifetime. $15k.

  7. Spencer Says:

    Dog Food Expenses?

  8. AnnMarie Says:

    You forgot to figure in food. I do hope you’ll feed him a premium (IE, can’t buy in a regular store) dog food, like Canidae, our favorite.

    What I really wanted to say was I think you’ve been had regarding the “discount.” Just a few things I can tell you about this, as the owner of two purebred Boxers, one AKC registered.

    * A white splotch on the nose does NOT make a dog non-show quality. White on a boxer is called flash and is prized unless it is more than 30% (or so, I forget the exact number). Our AKC dog was the pick of the litter, and he’s got white on his nose, chest, and legs.
    * Puppies usually aren’t registered by the breeder since it costs money. They leave it up to the new owner. Since they didn’t give you the paperwork to do so, it’s probably because the parents are not registered. A registerable dog should come along with at least a copy of the parents’ bloodlines and proof of their AKC registration. We got a chart going back 3 or 4 generations will all of their AKC numbers as well as the paperwork to file ourselves. We did it, but can’t show him since he’s neutered; just did it for fun.
    * Both of these, combined with their attempt to make you believe they had discounted the cost lead me to the thought that you dealt with a backyard breeder or puppy mill. :(

    You might luck out and have gotten a Boxer who’s non-AKC blood means it’s more mixed and thus less likely to suffer the typical issues that purebred Boxers have. Or you might be unlucky and end up with an unhealthy Boxer due to poor breeding. Oddly, our well-bred Boxer has had the most health issues (allergies, stomach problems, and arthritis at age 6) while our backyard-bred dog has only had tooth and gum issues (requiring surgery nearly every year and the loss of her canines) (well, plus her severe separation anxiety). Please be sure you read up on the common health problems for Boxers (in particular, they are NOT outdoor dogs in the heat of summer nor cold of winter due to their short muzzles).

    We ADORE our Boxers and they are wonderful dogs, despite their issues. I hope you have lots of fun with him and I look forward to hearing and seeing more of him.

  9. No Debt Plan Says:

    We got a dog at the local humane society back in late April. It really was a bargain — I can’t imagine paying thousands of dollars for a “purebred” … the “muts” love you just as much as the others.

  10. Gina Says:

    Awe. He is a cute little guy!

  11. Diane Says:

    We have a 3yo house cat & a new English Cocker puppy, a recent addition after the death of our 15yo Engie last June. I held off getting a dog for a couple of months, but my sons, 17 & 22 really wanted a puppy… She’s been expensive, and also a lot of work, but well worth the price.

    Pets are costly, but if you’re an animal person, as we all are, it is worth the cost in quality of life. We get so much enjoyment from our animals!

    As for travel, we take them along at times (even the cat & tortoise when we evacuate) and sometimes we get a neighbor to come in and care for them, or board the dog at the vet, if absolutely necessary. If you have a crate for each animal and train them to use it they travel quite well. Our 16 week old puppy is already a seasoned traveler and goes right to sleep in her crate when placed in the van.

    If you use a crate when you cannot supervise the puppy there is no reason to have any cost for things destroyed. I’ve raised a dozen puppies over the past 35 years and never had one destroy anything of value. They have chew toys, and we supervise them in the house (we also work at home). They’ve all LOVED the crates where they sleep at night until potty trained and past the chewing stage, because they always get a TREAT when going in…

    My vote is that if you’re an animal lover it is well worth the cost. If not, don’t bother with a pet!

  12. Wendy Says:

    As a person who rescues and sometimes runs a hospice for Pekingese, I will agree with one part of your statement: DON”T BUY A DOG. There are hundreds of thousands of wonderful dogs looking for a home that need to be adopted, not bought. Many of them are the result of a person, most likely like the one from whom you purchased your dog, a backyard breeder. A backyard breeder is the most irresponsible of breeders- usually caring only to “breed” a dog, and hopefully make money off the pups. They are not careful to breed out the defects of a breed, nor the keeping of pure bloodlines. Your beautiful pup looks to be about 12-15 weeks old? A reputable breeder with carefully bred pups who are AKC registered (Usually the new owner registers the dog, but the breeder will provide the parents paperwork) will have most likely have already sold the pups by the time they were a few weeks old.
    The costs of a dog are more than what you have mentioned, including Carpet cleaner, lol, dog food, vet bills are always more expensive than what you think, spay or neuter, flea repellant, much like kids, there are always unexpected expenses. However, the companionship, loyalty, and unshakable love of a dog is priceless.

    You can read about some of our rescues here:

  13. castocreations Says:

    Backyard breeders are evil.

    A reputable breeder does not list on Craig’s list, nor do they sell in the parking lot or street corner. I’ve seen these for the last few weeks and it makes my blood boil.

    PLEASE do not scrimp on dog food. Quality dog food is more expensive but it can also decrease vet bills in the long run … think preventative maintenance. We feed Solid Gold to our four dogs.

    We recently adopted our 4th – he came to us from a bad abuse situation and his fur was quite rough and scragly. After 2 months on Solid Gold his coat is shiny and smooth. It’s really an incredible transformation.

    I can’t imagine ONLY spending $300 a year on our dogs. We spend almost that in a month. Then again I get a huge benefit from our dogs in mental health and physical exercise and they are worth every penny. Agility classes cost me $100 every three weeks but it’s a wonderful hobby and activity. Each bag of food costs us $50+ and we need to buy at least 4 bags at a time … every 5-6 weeks. I have cut back on the dog treats and toys though. I got 30+ coupons for free dog treats and those should last us awhile. And toys get destroyed so fast that it doesn’t seem to matter what we buy.

    Congrats on the new pup. He is adorable. :) I love boxers.

  14. Mrs. Micah Says:

    @casto, that depends on the breeder. I had a friend whose family bred one springer spaniel on their farm. She and the puppies had lots of space, they gave the puppies plenty of time to be with her (and let them get old enough to be housetrained, learn some basic commands, etc). But then they never sold at a discount. So I guess that depends on what you mean by backyard breeder.

    The puppy looks adorable. I have a baby begonia. That’s about as much as I can commit to right now. She’s going to need a new pot soon (she has a tiny one now) and more soil, but I anticipate low lifetime costs. ;)

  15. Jo Says:

    While I agree with you in basic principle (and really enjoy reading your blog on my RSS feed) I would argue that by the same logic I shouldn’t have birthed two kids, either. They cost me even more than our dog, who we adopted from a rescue facility! We got her because she was so extraordinarily gentle, and our older son had experienced several frightening incidents with other dogs. We wanted him to learn how to handle himself around dogs as well as simply enjoy the companionship and responsibilities of pet ownership.

    She provides us with so many intangibles (reason to go walking more, lowering of blood pressure, entertainment, etc.) that far outweigh the costs of her care. For these reasons and more, pets are worth the money. No, she’s not “cheap”, but being frugal involves getting a great value for your monetary investment. I think our little Moxie fits the bill.

  16. Christine Says:

    My parents raised boxer pups while I was a little kid and teen. They are one of the best family dogs around while being a good watch dog too. I will warn you that they should be inside during the winter as their coat is pretty thin. This is not a dog that tolerates heat well either. I had an adult male die of heat stroke one year so I have witnessed this myself. I think you got an excellent deal on the boy. It’s great you wrote this article to remind the people who take in rescues and freebies that there are some costs involved.

  17. HS Says:

    We bought our golden retriever for 400 dollars!! and for sure I’ve spent well over 2,000 on her already. She’s the best dog in the world!! I love goldens!!


  18. EmWrites Says:

    Rusty is adorable! My husband and I have a pair of Vizslas that I wouldn’t trade for the world, one of which participates in field trials to a tune of about $3000/year. I look at it like this: some people smoke, some people drink, I have dogs. The difference is my “recreation” brings me immeasurable joy.

    Good luck with the little guy! :)

  19. jill Says:

    I want a cat but can’t justify it at this point in our life. Also, we don’t have the time to spend time with it so you’re right, it would just be sitting around the apartment moping about, probably wrecking the place in the process since it’ll be bored.

    We’ll definitely be getting one in the future though but I’d like the idea of getting an unwanted cat. We don’t know exactly how much it will cost but no matter what, I’ll still want one. :)

  20. dogatemyfinances Says:

    Dude, that’s a BACKYARD BREEDER shilling cheap puppies on Craigslist. Reputable breeders would never do that.

    Hope you’re ready for the hip dysplasia/eye problem/other inbred disorder bills. I’d guess at least 10K. You (and the animal population) would have been better off if you had gone to a pound.

  21. Gypsie Says:

    Dont forget about toys either! My labs constantly have to have something in their mouths and that is where good dog toys come in. they have never destroyed anything that they have not been given to play with (Toys dont last too long but quality toys for chewers are a must!).

  22. Mrs. Micah Says:

    So the mentions of backyard breeders made me decide to look them up, and I found a decent description here.

    A backyard breeder is someone who keeps a number of dogs and either breeds them deliberately or just lets them breed. Backyard breeders may have a few dogs or many, one breed or several. They usually have no understanding of or concern about the breed standard, genetics, socializing the dogs, and maintaining their health. Don’t confuse them with “hobby breeders,” who breed small numbers of dogs and care for their dogs well.

    From talking to my friend and interacting with the puppies, I’m pretty sure she was a hobby breeder. They were careful about pedigree, health, training, etc. As for what this person was, who knows. Your dog definitely ended up with a good family! :)

  23. Bonnie Says:

    Some thoughts:
    – Don’t get papers just for the bragging rights ;p

    – Get pet insurance. Even a broken leg can set you back $4,000.

    – Make sure you research the breed before you buy. Much as I love mutts if you buy purebred often you can anticipate (and prepare for) certain things about your dog, like how much exercise and space it needs or how much it barks or how big it will grow. If you get it from a good breeder you can also meet the parents and siblings and get an idea of the dog’s temperament. If you have a good breeder they will ask as many questions of you as you will of them.

    – Learn to make your own dog food. I found that most recipes called for ingredients I was already buying, and having a pup actually means I waste less leftovers and my dog eats healthier for it.

    – Puppies and kittehs are expensive but to me the benefits far outweigh the costs. I exercise more and end up doing more “free” activities that involves the puppy, and she brings more joy in my life than anything brought ever could ;)

    (My pup, a 1 year old Papillion is here –

  24. glblguy Says:

    Wow, didn’t anticipate the number of reactions! First off a few corrections as some of my info is wrong. My wife did find some pups on Craiglist but didn’t buy those. She found Rusty on a breeders classified list for the area we purchased him. He was also $250.00 and not $100.00. Again, I got confused on who she bought him from.

    Food…yep, forgot to add food. I had it in there in the first draft and when I changed the format I must have deleted it! So don’t worry, we do feed our dogs :-)

    As for puppy farm vs. hobby breeder vs. regular breeder…I have no idea. I do know that father was an AKC registered show dog. The mother was not registered. The dogs were very well kept and the place was clean. It was the mother’s second litter and they weren’t planning on having anymore. They kept one of the puppies and sold the rest.

  25. Wendy Says:

    WEll, you’ve learned a lesson, and now have a BEAUTIFUL lovely sweet puppy to add to your joy! (an monthly expenses).

  26. MITBeta @ Don't Feed the Alligators Says:

    We’ve spent over $30,000 on our dogs over the last 8 years.

    Biggest lesson learned: Pets don’t need pets. Don’t buy another dog because your first dog is “lonely”.

  27. bouncing back Says:

    The mother wasn’t registered and it was her second litter?! Yikes, even if the place was clean,neat and tidy, a reputuable breeder would not breed an unregistered dog to a registered dog. Most breed clubs have a code of ethics that prohibit that. Sounds to me like your “breeder” did the breeding purely for the cash.

    I have friends who fall under the moniker of “hobby breeders”. They litter register the pups with the AKC and the individual registration is up to the new owner. A reputable breeder will supply the litter registration slip and a sales contract that spells out if the dog is to be spayed/neutered, conditions for it’s return, any known health issues, etc.

  28. CindyS Says:

    Great article! People don’t realize that the largest cost for buying and having a dog is AFTER you buy it. I’m not sure where you are but I would expect flea control to be much larger. Frontline Plus runs about $40 for 3 months which works out to about $160 per year. Most of my clients use it year round here in Southern Virginia.

    I would also agree on the premium dog food. Just like humans, dogs are what they eat and most of the grocery store brands are more like eating at McDonalds every day.

  29. john Says:

    Yes they are very costly and out grow there crates that they need to feel safe. But I hope one day people will come to there sinces and stop paying so much for dog and other animals. Maybe that would stop or slow down the breeding of them for money.