The Ultimate Money-Saving Guide for Dog Owners
"I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive." — Gilda Radner
Are you blessed to have a beloved dog in your life? If so, you know how much enrichment, excitement, and happiness they bring just by being themselves. You may have also asked yourself, “How can I save money with a dog?” The unconditional love and comfort they offer is priceless, but that does not mean that being a dog owner is cheap! The cost of owning a dog is estimated to range between $650 and $4,000 a year. The initial cost of getting a dog can range from $610 to $2,350 up front, which includes factors such as adoption fees, spay/neuter surgery, treats, food, toys, and so on. Purchasing a puppy from a breeder will bump up that price significantly.
If you have concerns about the cost of dog ownership, are struggling to balance pet ownership expenses, or are just trying to save money to bring more dogs into your home, then you are in luck! We have created the ultimate guide to how to save money as a dog owner. You will discover how to save money on dog supplies, how to save money on vet bills, how to afford a dog on a budget, and so much more. With dog adoptions and sales soaring during the pandemic, we hope this guide will provide actionable steps to those navigating dog ownership so that there is more fun and less stress.
How to Save Money When First Getting a Dog
Buying or getting a dog is similar to starting a business; the initial costs can be discouraging! However, there are several ways to afford getting a dog in responsible, humane ways.
Adopt a Dog
Adopting a dog is a wonderful way to bring a loyal companion into your life while also helping out animal shelters and rescues. Shelter dogs are significantly less expensive than breeder and pet store dogs. The average dog adoption fee is around $350 for puppies and $100 for adult dogs. Shelter and rescue dogs often come spayed or neutered, up to date on their shots, and with a clean bill of health. Many shelters have even started offering free microchipping! Not only that, but many shelter dogs may also have already been trained and housebroken, which saves money on cleaning products and lessons. All money-saving benefits aside, adopting a dog is a rewarding, compassionate gift that keeps on giving. Check out the Humane Society’s list of ten reasons to adopt a dog for inspiration. The ASPCA’s Find a Shelter resource can help you get started on your search for a new best friend.
Check With Friends or on Local Pages
Social media has made it easier than ever to find what you are looking for. Reach out to friends to see if anyone you know has a litter of puppies available or on the way or has an adult dog that needs a new home. This can help you save a significant amount of money, but it is important to be careful and responsible about who you trust. Know the signs of a backyard breeder and the right questions to ask to protect yourself and the dogs involved.
Make Sure the Dog Breeder Is Reputable
Purchasing a dog from a bad breeder or pet store is not only irresponsible and feeds the cruel cycle of puppy mills, but it can also come back to bite you in terms of cost. A puppy that has been bred in poor conditions without proper consideration of health and lineage may be more prone to genetic disorders and sickness. Not only are these issues tragic and inhumane, but they are also costly. If you are set on purchasing a puppy from a breeder, it is important to ensure that the breeder is responsible. The American Kennel Club provides tips on how to find a responsible dog breeder.
How to Save Money on Dog Food
Research Before You Buy
Dog food is the one of the most costly regular expenses. Many dog owners believe that they need to purchase premium dog foods that are grain-free or contain novelty proteins such as kangaroo or bison. In truth, those types of high-end, boutique dog foods are not necessary or even helpful. High cost does not always correlate with high quality. By doing research, you can discover an affordable, healthy dog food that will please and protect your pet. Here are some resources to get started on choosing a dog food and help you save money on dog food:
- How to Choose the Best Dog Food — American Kennel Club
- Best Dog Foods — DogFoodAdvisor
- Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods — World Small Animal Veterinary Association
Buy Dog Food in Bulk
Just like with human food, buying dog food in bulk can be quite cost-effective. Often, the bigger the bag, the bigger the savings. At local pet stores, you may be able to get discounts on big cases of food, so it never hurts to ask! Here are some additional tips on how to save on dog food:
- Sign up for loyalty programs at chain stores and local pet shops. You can use a separate email for savings to avoid spam and a crowded inbox. Some stores have an incentive plan such as offering a free bag of dog food for every ten bags you purchase.
- Stockpile when items are on sale. Make sure to check the expiration dates to ensure that your stockpile won’t go bad before it can be used.
- Use coupons and rebates. With just a little bit of Internet savvy, you can find coupons for nearly all pet supplies.
How to Save Money on Dog Toys
Many dog owners love to spoil their furry friends with a thrilling medley of toys. In fact, one of the biggest joys of dog ownership is witnessing your dog’s excitement when given a new plushie, rope tug, chew toy, or squeaky ball. Fortunately, there are several ways to save on dog toys so everyone can be happy.
Figure Out the Favorites
Does your dog love bouncy tennis balls that squeak? Do they enjoy a high-intensity game of Frisbee? Or maybe your dog enjoys tearing stuffed animals apart. By figuring out your dog’s favorite type of toy, you can invest in those and stop wasting money on toys that don’t tickle their fancy. Once you have an entertaining arsenal, you can rotate the toys to keep it fresh and engaging for your dog. Make sure you choose safe dog toys, too!
Invest in Puzzle Toys
While not every dog will love puzzle or “slow play” toys such as Kongs and treat dispensers, they are a fantastic way to keep dogs mentally stimulated, peaceful, and satisfied. In fact, toys that challenge your dog’s mind may be even more effective at tuckering them out than high-intensity exercise. Kongs are a great way to start, since they are long-lasting and safe. You can simply smear the inside with peanut butter and freeze it for hours of relaxing fun. Here are some Kong recipes if you are feeling fancy.
Make Your Own Dog Toys
Not only are DIY dog toys fun and creative, but they can also save you money, especially if your dog loves to destroy toys. Here are some resources on how to make toys out of shirts and other materials:
- 33 Dog Toys You Can Make From Things Around the House — BarkPost
- DIY Cognitive Dog Toys for When You Are Stuck at Home — American Kennel Club
- Ten DIY Dog Toys You Can Make for Pennies — WiseBread
How to Save Money on Dog Training
Training your dog not only makes for a happier, less stressful life for you and your pet, but it can also even save your dog’s life. If you are curious about why you should train your dog, check out famous dog trainer Victoria Sitwell’s insights on the topic. Is paying for dog training worth it? Sometimes, depending on your goals and any issues your dog may have. However, with patience and enthusiasm, you can train your dog for free or just save money on dog training overall.
There are many excellent dog training books out there, from general dog training to specific dog issues such as reactivity and separation anxiety. Here are a couple of dog training book options to explore:
- 19 Top Dog Training Books for Every Kind of Dog — Rover
- Ten Top-Rated, Classic Dog Training Books — Dogtime
Use the Internet
The Internet is a treasure trove of information on dog training. There are plenty of experienced dog trainers who have YouTube channels, enabling you to train your dogs for free! A well-made video by a reputable trainer can show you techniques in action so you can successfully train your dog. Check out dog training videos on channels such as Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution, Kikopup, and Pam’s Dog Academy. Reddit also has active communities where you can ask questions, read about dog experiences, and discover how other dog owners have handled specific challenges. Also, you can just admire cute dogs from all over the world!
Hire a Virtual Trainer
There are plenty of online dog training programs out there that are cheaper than paying for an in-person dog trainer. You can pay a monthly or flat fee to access a library of valuable dog training resources such as instructional videos and articles. During the pandemic, virtual dog training has skyrocketed.
How to Save Money on Dog Grooming
Depending on the type of dog you have, the kind of lifestyle you and your dog enjoy, and many other factors, dog grooming can add up. In fact, professional dog grooming can cost up to $80, more than many human haircuts! The type and size of dog influences dog grooming costs, so consider a dog breed that requires minimal grooming to save money and hassle. Of course, all dogs deserve to feel beautiful, so let’s explore some tips to save money on dog grooming.
Learn DIY Dog Grooming
With some research, watching videos, and investments in dog grooming tools, you can save a pretty penny by grooming your dog at home. The Penny Hoarder provides a helpful guide to DIY dog grooming, with tips on nail trimming, trimming the face and other tough spots, cleaning the ears, brushing the teeth, and bathing. The right tools and practice can make all the difference.
Wash Your Dog at Home
Washing your dog at home can save you a lot of money. While many dogs can fit right in the bathtub, bigger breeds can be washed in a cheap plastic kiddie pool or a special dog pool. Old towels are perfect for drying off your pup. Some car washes offer dog washing stations with features such as shampoo dispensers, oatmeal scrubs, and blow dryers. Not only will washing your dog yourself save money, but it is a great opportunity to check your dog over for any unusual bumps and sores. Being proactive about these things can save money, too!
Here are some additional resources on how to save money on dog grooming:
- DIY Tips for Grooming a Dog at Home — PetMD
- Seven Ways to Keep Your Dog Clean Without Having to Give Them a Bath — Bark Post
- How to Trim Your Dog’s Nails Safely — American Kennel Club
How to Save Money on Vet Bills
Vet bills can be a major obstacle for dog owners. The average annual vet bills for a dog range from $100 to $500, but that does not factor in emergencies or illnesses. Since our dogs are family, we want what is best for them so they can live long, happy lives. With these money-saving tips, you can provide your dog the care they need on a budget.
Keep Your Pup Healthy
Just like with humans, prevention is the best medicine for our canine friends. A healthy diet and adequate exercise can go a long way toward preventing many common issues. In North America, obesity is the most common preventable disease in dogs. Around 25-30% of the dog population is obese, and 40-45% of dogs aged 5 to 11 weigh more than recommended. In wealthy countries, as many as two in three dogs (34-59%) are overweight. Obesity can greatly increase the risk of many types of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and osteoarthritis. It can also reduce a dog’s lifespan. Research from Banfield Pet Hospital found that the lifespan of overweight dogs was up to 2.5 years shorter. That is why it is so important to keep your dog’s weight in check. Being healthy and active can also do wonders for your dog’s mood and behavior!
Here are some additional resources on how to keep your dog healthy and happy for a long time:
- Ten Tips to Make Your Dog’s Life Happy and Healthy — Pedigree Foundation
- Six Things You Can Do to Keep Your Dog Healthy — American Kennel Club
- Top Tips to Keep Your Dog Healthy and Safe — WebMD
- Ten Fun Ways to Exercise Your Dog — FitBark
Brush Your Dog’s Teeth
A big part of a dog’s wellness is their dental health. By age 3, most dogs will begin showing signs of periodontal disease, which can severely impact their well-being. Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth, offering dental treats, and giving safe chew toys can help reduce the frequency of dog dental cleanings. How much does a dog teeth cleaning cost? Dog teeth cleaning costs can range from $300 to $1,000. If your dog needs teeth extracted, that can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. Check out these tips on how to keep a dog’s teeth healthy:
- Five Easy Ways to Keep Your Dog’s Teeth Clean — American Kennel Club
- How to Best Clean Your Dog’s Teeth — Dr. Phillips Animal Hospital
Keep Shots and Medication Up to Date
Being proactive about vaccinations not only protects your dog from serious diseases, but it can also protect your budget from having to pay for expensive treatment for something that could have been prevented. In the words of the ASPCA, “Vaccinating your pet has long been considered one of the easiest ways to help him live a long, healthy life.” How much do dog vaccines cost? For first-year puppy vaccinations, the average cost is around $75-100. However, these vaccines can prevent painful, deadly, and expensive diseases such as distemper, bordetella, parvovirus, influenza, Lyme disease, and leptospirosis. Keep in mind that many shelters and rescues provide key vaccines for free!
Consider Pet Insurance or a Wellness Plan
Pet insurance can help reduce the shock to your wallet when an unexpected vet bill hits. The key is to choose a plan that fits you and your dog’s lifestyle. Pet owners can typically choose between three types of coverage: accident-only, accident and illness, and overall wellness plans. Wellness plans usually cover preventative care visits and vaccines. Pet insurance can also offer peace of mind in case an emergency happens, such as a hiking injury or getting hit by a car. It can mean the difference between being able to afford treatment so your dog can recover and having to say goodbye due to prohibitive out-of-pocket costs. How much does pet insurance cost? According to the North American Pet Insurance Association, the average monthly pet insurance premium in the United States is $49.51 for accident and illness coverage and $18.17 for just accident coverage. In 2020, 2.571 million dogs were insured in the U.S., which is a 23.2% increase from the previous year.
Here are some more quick tips on how to save money on vet bills:
- Talk to an online vet first. One of the most stressful aspects of a potential pet emergency is not knowing if it is actually an emergency. Checking with an online vet can help you figure it out, which can potentially save you money and hassle.
- Compare different vets. If your dog needs a procedure or test, it is worth checking around with various vets. The difference in price can sometimes be thousands of dollars.
- Look into an emergency fund or veterinary financing. Companies like Pawp offer immediate pet emergency funds for a small monthly fee. Other veterinary financing options include CareCredit, which allows you to pay vet bills over time like a credit card.
- Tap into community services. Many shelters offer spay/neuter and vaccine clinics at free or discounted prices.
How to Save Money on Dog Supplies
Dogs need gear such as collars, leashes, beds, crates, and so on. These items can add up! Here are some tips to help save on these accessories.
Be a savvy shopper when it comes to dog accessories. As a new dog owner, your first instinct may be to go to big-box stores. However, you can often find better deals at Amazon, Chewy.com, outdoor living stores, and department stores. T.J. Maxx, Homegoods, and Marshall’s are often celebrated as some of the best places to get dog products on a budget.
There is no need for fancy dog beds that cost a fortune. You can repurpose old pillows, blankets, furniture, or yard sale finds. Check out Country Living’s showcase of DIY dog beds for some incredibly creative ideas.
Check Online Marketplaces
You can often find gently used dog items such as crates and dog houses on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace.
The Bottom Line
Owning a dog (or dogs) can be expensive, but it is so worth it! With some research, creativity, and resourcefulness, you can provide a wonderful life for your pet while protecting your bank account. Here is some further reading to explore for more money-saving tips for dog owners:
- How to Cut Pet Care Costs — WebMD
- Money Tips for Caring Pet Owners — American Veterinary Medical Association
- 23 Ways to Save Money on Pet Costs — Intuit
- 21 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Save on Pet Care — The Penny Hoarder
- Saving Money as a Dog Owner: How to Cut Costs and Earn Extra Cash — The Dogington Post
- Five Ways to Save Money on Pet Expenses — American Kennel Club
- 15 Ways to Get Pet Freebies for Your Furry Friends — The Krazy Coupon Lady