Budgeting for a dog

What do dogs cost?

A few times a week we get calls from people asking how much our puppies cost. We welcome these calls. Because no one should ever buy a puppy from a store and it’s a chance for us to educate people on the right ways to get a dog. For the record: we don’t sell puppies or dogs.

If you, or someone you know needs to know, we’re happy to help, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. This post is about considering all the things that go into the budget once that puppy is yours. The initial purchase price is just the start. 

Give it some thought

Aside from the calls we get from actual people, we see data about what people are searching for when they happen to land on Golly Gear’s website. It’s great that people are searching for puppies – the world would be a better place if everybody knew the unconditional love of dogs. It’s awful that people are searching for “cheap chihuahua puppies.” That search subject made us sad.

We know there are lots of people who get free, or really inexpensive puppies when their sister-in-law’s cousin’s friend’s dog had an “oops litter.” But the initial cost of a dog is just the beginning.

Considerations when budgeting for a dog

The first budget consideration is all the “stuff” a new dog or puppy needs. Just the basics would include: collar, harness, leash, two bowls, crate, car restraint, food, treats, bed, brush, comb, and toys. Depending on where you live, your dog may also need a coat, sweater, and boots. The cost for this list, depending on your taste and shopping skill, may range from a couple hundred dollars to as much as you’re willing to spend.  

Picture of a dog next to a calculator, illustrating budgeting for a dog

The first stop you make, before your new dog even steps foot in the house, might be your veterinarian’s office. The cost for that initial visit, and continuing care, changes dramatically, based on where you live and your access to veterinary services in your area. 

But “smart shopping” for a veterinarian isn’t always a great idea. The cheapest option may not be the best. We’re always a little dismayed when we see social media posts from our local dog groups asking for “cheap” options for neuter/spay surgery. Do you want the least expensive veterinarian, or the one who will take exquisite care of your dog?

Budgeting for vet care

Googling the annual cost of a dog, the general guideline is about $500 initially and $500 annually thereafter. That seems really low to us, but we do live in a metropolitan area where costs can be higher. 

Pet insurance is becoming more popular in the last few years and we’ve heard both good and bad about it. Like any investment, do your research and make sure you know what it covers and doesn’t. 

Many policies exclude pre-existing conditions, which may include issues that your dog’s breed is prone to. And it’s important to know what those may be. A friend of ours has Dachshunds. Dachshunds are prone to back problems and, at some point in their lives, generally need back surgery. When our friend gets a new Dachshund puppy, she sets aside money to pay for the surgery, because insurance has not covered it for her dogs.

Other budget items

Depending on your breed, you may also need to budget for grooming. We know that “doodles” are popular and all of them need professional, as well as at-home, grooming. Grooming costs also depend on where you live, but it’s a recurring budget line. Figure about every six to eight weeks.

With dog food, the general wisdom is to get the best you can afford. We find the website dogfoodadvisor.com to be a valuable resource in dog food ratings and advice.

Time. In the last year or so, many of us have spent more time at home than we ever thought we would. Our dogs have loved it. But is it sustainable? If/when life resumes a more “normal” schedule, will you still have time for a dog? Dogs are worth the time, but it is something to think about.

Line by line

Budgeting for a dog is a consideration, but not the only one. It’s an instance where you listen to your head, but your heart gets to weigh in on the decision, too. 

Funny dog stories for sharing smiles

In decades of dog ownership, some of the best memories are the funny dog stories. The ones that make you smile every time you remember. We’re choosing to start this year with smiles, and hoping you’ll share some of yours. All dog people have them, and sharing a laugh is always a good thing.

Looking back

Spunky was our first dog. He was a Boston Terrier and the best friend two little girls could ever hope for. It was a long time ago, and our family knew almost nothing about dogs. Spunky was gated into the kitchen at night (although we later discovered that during thunderstorms he slept with our mom). And every night Spunky got his special “banky.” which he bundled up into a ball, held with his front paws, and sucked on like a pacifier. He also sang himself to sleep every night – a descending scale of “mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, mmmmmmmmm.” Whenever we think of Spunky, that sing-song comes to mind and we smile. 

Characters, all

Daemon, another Boston we had as young adults, was possibly the world’s most angelic dog. He never put a foot wrong, never had obedience training, he was just a polite gentleman from the get-go. Never naughty. Until one Fourth of July. We were getting ready to grill a steak for dinner – a rare treat for the holiday. Standing around the kitchen, waiting for the grill to heat up. The steak was trimmed, seasoned, and ready to go.

 Daemon was sitting on the kitchen chair, his usual place, “helping” with the meal prep. We looked over the that little “angel” had his fangs in the steak and was, slowly and surreptitiously (he thought), dragging it closer. We laughed so hard we almost let him get away with it! Yes, we did cook and eat it. And yes, he got some.

Our namesake was naughty

Golly, the little diva Brussels Griffon that our shop is named for, was Fran’s first obedience competition dog. She was a pretty easy-going dog, as long as she got her way. She could just look at us with those puppy dog eyes, and usually got exactly what she was aiming for. 

Golly was a funny dog diva

We went to the national Brussels Griffon Specialty show one year in Louisville, Kentucky. It’s a showcase for all things dog, and a chance to get together with all our Griff friends. Golly and Hope’s boy, Roc, were there to compete in the Obedience trial at the show. 

We got back to the hotel room one night after dinner and couldn’t get back in the room. There was obviously something blocking the door. After quite a few attempts at little shoves, slowly pushing the obstruction back, we discovered that Golly had rolled her portable crate all the way across the room and jammed it against the door. Apparently the princess objected to being left behind!

Right out in public

A few years later, at the same show, Hope was showing Dax, her first French Bulldog, in Novice Obedience. One of the exercises is the “Recall.” You leave your dog in a sit/stay, walk about 30 feet away, and call your dog. She’s supposed to dash toward you, come to a stop right in front of you, and sit. Hope left Dax, walked across the ring, and called. Dax came running across the ring, right past Hope, and directly to the little boy spectator with the ice cream cone sitting right outside the ring! She didn’t get any ice cream. 

As a side note, if you’re easily embarrassed, don’t go into a competition ring with a dog. Or, if you are and want to get over it, start immediately.

Heart-stopping

Teddy, Hope’s French Bulldog, wasn’t crazy about agility, but he did it because Hope wanted to and he got treats. He was always pretty easily distracted. 

One of the obstacles in agility is the A-Frame, two large boards, about four feet wide, hinged together to form the frame. It stands a bit over five feet at its apex. Teddy reached the top that day, saw something that caught his attention, and went to go check it out. Right off the side of the obstacle. Splat. It was the most terrifying moment we’ve ever experienced in agility. Watching the video, you can hear everyone in the place gasp simultaneously. 

Fortunately, he was fine. A fellow competitor, who is a veterinarian, was there and checked him out. It wasn’t funny at the time, but it is now.

Too affectionate

Torque, Hope’s French Bulldog, has a problem with people. He wants to kiss them all. He loves everybody, that funny dog. It’s a problem when he’s supposed to “sit/stay” in obedience competition. The Beginner Novice exercise is just that – have your dog sit and stay while you go to the end of the leash six feet away. The judge comes up and touches the dog lightly on the head, while he sits perfectly still. 

Except Torque didn’t. He jumped up and planted a wet, sloppy kiss right on the judge. She laughed, and said “I don’t think he passed this exercise.” 

We know he didn’t. Oh, Torque.

Lots of happy memories

Writing this brings lots of smiles and fond remembrances. These are just a few we thought of right away. There are tons more that we’ll probably remember. Maybe that’s a good resolution for 2021 – write down the good/funny/happy things when they happen. A diary of smiles. We hope you’ll share some of your funny dog stories with us. We could all use some shared joy for the new year. 

Last of a terrible, horrible year

This is the last post of 2020 – a horrible year. Good riddance.

Like most everyone, for us and our business, it’s been a terrible, horrible, very bad year. We’ve never been so happy to see the end of a year as this one. We know the calendar is an artificial construct, that there’s no actual “turning the page” between December 31 and January 1. And yet…

Worst saved for last

There has been untold sadness this year, with losses of loved ones, jobs, businesses, social networks, and of course, pets. 

In a bad year, December has been the worst month of all. Seven people we know have lost beloved dogs this month. Not social media, internet friends. Actual real-life people we know. Whose dogs we knew. And want to acknowledge.

The roster of loss:

We’re going to talk about these dear dogs alphabetically – because there is no other way. Each was vitally important and there can be no hierarchy of loss. Each one is agonizing.

Cooper was a Frenchie owned by Jennifer. We met her and her Frenchies and Rottweilers at an agility trial in Chicago Ridge years ago. We later found out she’s a veterinarian and a staunch supporter and member of a rescue group we’re also involved with.

Dobby was a Brussels Griffon. He was the beloved pet and snuggle buddy of our friend Beth, who is one of the top Obedience competitors in the area – if not the country. Beth had the highest-achieving Obedience Griff, ever. It wasn’t Dobby. Beth has Border Collies to compete with now. She has Griffs to love, and laugh, and cuddle.

Jinny was a Keeshond. She was a source of joy for our dear friends Emily and Harold and she died much too young, suddenly. We’re all still trying to absorb the loss of a six-year-old dog. 

Journey was a Brussels Griffon and lived a long, full, and happy life with our friend Ann in Massachusetts. Journey had an incredible one. When he was diagnosed with lymphoma more than two years ago, Ann made sure to fulfill every dream on her little guy’s bucket list. He was a lucky boy.

The list goes on

Technically, this dog left us last month, but for us, it was the first in the series of knock-out blows that’s pummelled the end of this year. Jubilee was a French Bulldog – legendary in the breed. She was our friend Sarah’s first dog as a “grown up” and set records in flyball. She was an amazing companion and friend, but, after 15 years, she was tired. And Sarah was brave enough to recognize it.

Olive was a French Bulldog/Boston Terrier mix and Carlene’s best friend. And we were responsible for bringing them together. Hope got a call from rescue to pick up a dog in Wisconsin one day. Or the dog would be surrendered to a high-kill shelter. She hit the road and picked up Olive. Without really thinking about what to do with her once she got her. Fortunately, our friend Carlene lived half a block away, recently dogless. We begged her to foster Olive until a forever family could be found. Carlene was her forever. 

This horrible year marked the loss of many adored dogs. This was Teddy, a French Bulldog.
Teddy

Yoda was a French Bulldog related to Hope’s. At first, his mom Olga and we were just friends on social media. With a common love for the Florida Keys, we were able to meet and become real-life friends, too. Yoda is another gone too young, too suddenly, to process. His death was particularly poignant, since it was on the same date as our own Teddy’s two years ago. And our mother’s, 26 years ago. December 9 will never be allowed again.

Hug your dogs

In perspective – our dear friends, Amy and Garry lost their beloved Shiba Inu Sumo this year. Sumo was an agility, rally, and obedience competitor. And, like all the dogs here, a dearly-loved family member. Even worse, they lost Garry’s mother to COVID-19. It has truly been a horrible year.

We’re sorry if we seem maudlin. Each of these dogs was one of the lucky ones – loved completely and spoiled thoroughly. Hug your dogs. Their time with us is precious and none of us knows how long we have. 

Beware internet vet advice

More people seem to be posting semi-disgusting pictures of their dogs’ bits growing things, exuding things, leaking things, etc. It’s an attempt to get internet vet advice, which we understand.

These days you may not be able to get an immediate appointment with your veterinarian. Many of us still can’t accompany our pets into the vet’s office, if and when we do manage to get that appointment. Vets are as overwhelmed, understaffed, and stressed as the rest of us. 

Hive mind strengths

That being said – the Facebook group for local dogs, or for your breed, or your breed in your city, isn’t any kind of substitute. 

Once you have a diagnosis of what’s going on with your dog, by all means ask if other people have experience and what worked/didn’t work for them and their dogs. If you’re pursuing a second opinion, or even looking for a good veterinarian, it’s a great idea to ask people with similar situations for their recommendations. 

But don’t rely on other dog owners for a diagnosis of whatever oozing’s going on. And please stop posting pictures of it!

When you know what’s going on

The hive mind of the internet is great for finding answers to specific needs – like when you’re looking for a chiropractor in Chicago, a dentist in Detroit, or a neurologist in New York. It can’t help when you think your dog has acid reflux, and, tragically, is diagnosed with an abdomen filled with cancerous tumors. That happened to a friend of ours this past week.

Internet vet advice is no substitute for a veterinarian

She did everything right. When her dog was having trouble keeping food down, she made an appointment with her vet and got an initial diagnosis of GERD ( Gastroesophageal reflux disease). With that in hand, she asked her network of dog-owning friends if anyone had dealt with the condition, and what worked and didn’t work for them and their dogs. 

She was also sent for further testing, and an MRI revealed the sad truth. Her six-year-old dog is now on palliative care – whatever she wants, she gets. For however long our friend is able to keep her dog happy, she will. 

Don’t scare yourself

We’re sure you’ve seen it, too. People post a picture of some red bump on their dog and ask for internet vet advice. Opinions range from warts to cancer. We wish we could all get accurate diagnoses from photos, but we can’t. So the non-experts’ opinions are worthless. People are falsely reassured and do nothing. Or panic and worry until they’re able to find out what’s really going on.

By all means let the people who care about you and your dog know what’s going on. “Fido’s bump has changed and we’re seeing the vet on Monday,” is a good post. It lets people know you’re not having a good weekend, and that Fido’s getting extra treats. And on Monday, after the vet visit, it’s good to post a follow-up so your friends and family know what’s going on. 

The internet is a vital lifeline – it lets us stay in touch with our friends, family, and community when we can’t all be together physically. But take social media advice with a few grains of salt. A little seasoning makes everything better.