Pups are not stocking stuffers. They are high maintenance gifts. Almost any other time of the year is a better choice. Get a pup or adult dog before or after the holidays, but not for Christmas.
This list might steel your resolve not to give in to pitiful puppy eyes or pleading children.
Dogs are living animals, not toys. They require a major commitment for 10 to 15 years. They should not be “impulse buys” or surprise gifts, and no one should think they are “temporary” possessions that can be replaced when the novelty wears off.
Dogs are money pits. According to Jenna Stregowski’s About.com Guide for dog owners, a dog can be expected to cost between $700 and $2800 annually. You can reasonably expect to double that in the first year’s expenses.
Rescue dogs can cost $50 to $200 in adoption fees alone. (Ours cost $375 after neutering, basic vaccinations, worming, and micro-chipping.) Purebred pups cost about $500 – $2000. Bedding, leashes, bowls, quality dog food ($3 per pound), and a crate should be planned for as part of the initial expenses, unless you already have some usable dog items on hand.
Veterinary care . Most dogs don’t have all their shots when they arrive; they need follow-up vaccines. Some need to be wormed. Some are on pain medication or antibiotics after spay/neuter surgery. (All responsible animal rescues and shelters have the dogs neutered before adoption.) All new dogs should have a vet check (our vet costs $45 for an office visit) within the first week or two, and that might be inconvenient at Christmastime.
If you want to buy pet insurance, a highly recommended investment for a new dog, expect to pay another $15 or more dollars a month. (We got Petfirst insurance, recommended by our Rescue. It offers this special rate for adopters who adopt through thousands of rescues or shelters listed on Petfinder.com. Also, the company rep says all major rescues and shelters are included.)
If you want your dog micro-chipped or tattooed, it is another expense, and it should be done ASAP before the dog gets loose or lost.
If you want or need fencing, you are getting into hundreds or thousands of dollars, certainly money well spent, but perhaps not immediately affordable. If it’s wintertime, installing a fence might not even be feasible.
Speaking of wintertime: If you live in a cold, snowy northern climate and hope to house-train a dog quickly, you can more-reasonably expect it to take three times as long as usual. You will probably have to train the dog to potty on newspapers – or use expensive doggy pads, like baby diapers — and later transfer the training to grass. Going out once or twice during a cold, dark night can be daunting to the most avid animal lover.
If your dog is a breed that requires professional grooming, you can expect to spend up to $500 per year. If you do it yourself, you might need to only pay out about $30 for grooming supplies like brushes, clippers, and shampoo.
This is only a basic list of costs. It does not include the responsibilities of dog ownership. The dog needs training, scheduling, consistency, time, and energy. (Our little, high-energy dog, adopted in September, has grown twice his weight and requires 5-9 miles of walking per day for all of us to be happy.)
If you are even considering puppy socialization classes, basic obedience training, or doggy day care, prepare for expenses equal to that of short-term, basic childcare.
If you are planning to have house guests, the timing is not right for a new dog. Other smells, extra noise, confusion over the dog’s pack leader, possible guest allergies or one who dislikes dogs…. The negatives go on.
Everyone in the family needs to share in the dog’s consistent training commands: Down, sit, come, stay, and off. Outsiders can’t be expected to participate in the adjustment phase.
If you are planning to travel over the holidays, you should think again. Some dogs don’t like to travel. You may need to revise your itinerary to find motels that take dogs. Alternatively, you should expect to spend a good amount on a boarding kennel or a pet sitter ($100-$300 per year for average traveling families).
If you think you are going to take your pet to someone else’s home, make sure they are agreeable. If your new dog is not house trained, you could be putting friendships at risk (or straining a family relationship). Upfront, as common courtesy, you should offer to pay for damages caused by your new pet.
Be forewarned that your new pet will lose some consistency in scheduling and establishing its place in its new human pack family.
BTW, don’t forget to get a dog license for your location (ours was licensed from another county) and make sure your dog has its required-by-law rabies vaccination.
A dog can be a “gift” that keeps on giving – love, loyalty and good interactive times– but it is definitely a high-maintenance addition to the family.
Source for quoted expenses: Jenna Stregowski, Registered Veterinary Technician. “The Cost of Dog Ownership – Can You Afford a Dog?” About.com Guide, part of The New York Times Company. Copyright 2010. Http://dogs.about.com/od/becomingadogowner/a/costofdogs.htm. Retrieved 11-29-10.
Source: Self, as recent adopter and former dog rescuer.