Nearly half of dog owners reported that having a pet is more expensive than they realized, spending up to $1,201 on average each year, according to a 2020 Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade. But that expense doesn’t just come from the general care and feeding of their pups. Instead, owners splurge on things like Halloween costumes, holiday gifts and birthday celebrations for their canine companions.
Considering the facts, none of this should come as a surprise. After all, pups hold a special place in Americans’ hearts. For starters, there’s a national day dedicated to puppies, which falls on March 23 each year. Plus, according to the poll, 79% of American pet owners consider their pet as their best friend, while 71% of millennial pet owners consider their pet to be their starter child.
Even so, it’s important to budget for your puppy-related expenses and not go overboard. See if you’re guilty of any of these other ways people pay too much for their pups.
Premium Pet Food
On average, you can spend $200 to $1,000 per year on premium pet food, according to CostHelper.
“This isn’t to say that you need to buy the cheapest stuff on the shelf, but rather consider cooking for your dog the way you would for a human,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews. “I know a dog owner who feeds her pup steamed chicken thighs and broccoli for dinner, for instance. Just be sure that if you’re cooking human food for dogs that you don’t add any seasonings, including salt. And if you have any doubts, consult your vet before you switch your pup over to a diet like this.”
Too Many Toys
Toys can cost a few dollars to over $20 each, which can add up if you get into the habit of picking one up every time you go shopping.
“We love our pets and we obviously want them to be able to have fun, but a lot of pet parents will go overboard buying toys for their pets that won’t even end up getting used,” Ramhold said. “Instead of filling a toy box with stuff your dog may or may not play with, consider buying a couple to see what kind of toys they like; once you’ve figured out their preference, you can focus on just keeping those around to maximize fun.”
Fancy Pet Beds
A premium pet bed can cost $150 or more, according to The Pricer.org.
“Pets are going to sleep wherever they want, so spending a fortune on a fancy pet bed may not work out well unless they’re a new puppy and you’re intending to train them to strictly sleep in the bed,” Ramhold said. “Rather than springing for a super expensive one, consider crafting one out of a blanket they like and can nest in, or look to stores like Costco for highly-rated pet beds that are cheaper than what you’ll find at some pet stores.”
The cost for dog grooming typically ranges between $40 and $75, according to HomeGuide, but some cuts can be more expensive.
“Unless you’re showing your dog professionally, you likely don’t need a fancy cut,” Ramhold advised. “Instead of going all out to make them look like a show dog, consider getting a simple cut that will overall make sure they’re comfortable whatever the season. However, it’s important to note that some breeds may be more expensive even to have simple grooming done just because of the nature of their fur and how much work it can take.”
You can expect to spend $8 to $25 per piece of dog clothing you purchase, and for specialty items, expect to pay even more.
“Sure, some of it can be useful — if you have an older dog that gets cold in the winter, sweaters can absolutely help,” Ramhold said. “But if you’re looking at pet costumes or dog outfits that show your love for certain sports teams or pop culture fandoms, you’re paying a lot for something that basically just looks cute.”
“Most pet owners spend way too much money on dog treats when there is a much cheaper (and healthier!) alternative,” said Daniel Caughill, co-founder of The Dog Tale.
“Most healthy dog treats cost around $9.99 for a 5-to-8-ounce pack. My dog could go through that in just a few days. Slightly cheaper treats can be bought in bulk, but they’re packed with all kinds of synthetic preservatives, and they’re still really expensive when you compare the cost-per-ounce to your pet’s daily food.
“Instead, we recommend rewarding your dog with fresh vegetables, cut into treat-sized portions. Raw carrots, broccoli, or celery are three safe and very affordable options. You can usually get two pounds of carrots for $2 to $4, and they don’t come with any of the synthetic ingredients treats include. Plus they’re packed with fiber that is good for your dog’s digestion.
“It’s still fine to keep a bag of treats on hand, but save these for really high-value rewards, like when you want your dog to stop jumping on a guest.”
“It’s easy to get your dog’s annual vaccines from their regular veterinarian, and if you value convenience, this is a fine option,” Caughill said, “But if you want to save $60-$100 per year, look for a mobile vet clinic in your area, such as VIPPetcare. They aren’t a good replacement for your long-term veterinarian, but they’re a much cheaper option if your dog is healthy and just needs their annual shots or heartworm medication.”
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