How Much Does a Dog Really Cost?

by Marshall Brain


Irena is my daughter and she is 8. For half of her life she has been lobbying her mother Leigh and I for a dog. I will admit that I resisted, and so did her mother. But finally, in late 2008, her parents buckled to unrelenting pressure. A dog would be Irena’s Christmas present.

This is not a bad thing, because Leigh and I are “dog people”. Way in the past – it seems like several lifetimes ago now – we lived on a farm and we always had several dogs. There was one point where we had eight dogs. Their names were Fluff, Roo, Fort, Bobby, Mamma Dog, Ginger, Barney and Yellow, and they formed a well-behaved little dog society. Through the normal aging-out process, our eight dwindled to two. And when we moved into town the two came to live with Leigh’s parents.

It was when the last two finally aged out (at age 16) that Irena saw her chance. She upped her lobbying, and it worked.

So, over the long Thanksgiving weekend of 2008, the Brain family explored the world of animal shelters. We visited three shelters (the local SPCA, the Wake County animal shelter, and a shelter that sets up in PetSmart on Saturdays). We picked out a nice mutt, about six months old, that Irena and her mother both loved. We went back to the Wake County Animal Shelter on Sunday evening and made a commitment. We put down a $50 deposit on our new family member, who would soon be known as Trixie.

Leigh and I have four kids, and I have always wondered in the back of my mind, “If I had actually recorded every penny we spent on the kids, how big would that number be?” But that is hard to do, because kids change everything in your life. If we didn’t have the kids, we wouldn’t live in the house we live in. But how do you account for that? The same thing happens with cars, vacations, food, restaurants, etc. It would be hard to tease out the fractional parts of all the decisions and changes you make as a parent.

But what about a dog? Here it is much easier. There is only one reason you buy dog food or a chew toy. It should be very easy to track the cost of a dog over time. I have no idea how much a dog costs, but I bet it will be a surprising number. So here I present you (and me) with a complete accounting for Trixie in her first year with us.

November 30, 2008

We made the commitment to Trixie today. We had to put down a $50 deposit and sign the paperwork. But we could not pick her up, because she needed to be spayed.

Here we see a huge cost benefit in getting a dog from the county animal shelter. We will spend a total of $70 to adopt Trixie, and for that $70 we get:

  1. Free spaying
  2. Free microchip implant
  3. Free first vet visit
  4. Free stitches removal
  5. Free first round of shots (at the shelter), plus free second round of shots (at the vet)
  6. Free 5 pounds of Science Diet food along with a bunch of samples of other products
  7. Free leash

We also got a free DVD (produced by Animal Planet) to prepare us for Trixie’s arrival. One of the things stressed in the video is the need for a “crate” to keep the dog in so she doesn’t chew up your house. So Sunday night Leigh got on and found someone nearby selling a used crate of the proper size for $35 (about half price). We picked it up Sunday night.

So, on day 1, Trixie cost us $50 (adoption deposit) + $35 (crate) = $85.

If we had gone to a pet store and purchased a pure-bred puppy, we would have spent $500 to $1,000, and all of the above-mentioned items would not have been free. We saved a lot of money by getting a pound puppy.

December 1, 2008

On Monday night we made the obligatory trip to PetSmart to buy a few accessories. We bought two chew toys and an engraved ID tag (they have a machine in the store that engraves it while you watch). The prices in this store are startling. Example: A rubber chew toy. Probable cost to manufacture: 20 cents. Cost on the shelf $10.99.

We spent $28 at PetSmart.

Trixie’s Total cost: $113

Had we not been prior dog owners, we would also need to be buying a food bowl and a water bowl, a brush, etc. But we had these already. Grandma also made a pillow and a cover for Trixie’s crate and donated them to the cause.

December 4, 2008

The happy day has arrived! We go to the animal shelter and pick up Trixie. We pay the reminder of the adoption fee ($20) and $8 for a harness, because Irena thinks that Trixie will like it better than a collar.

Trixie’s Total cost: $141

Both Irena and Trixie are ecstatic, and the whole family has a glow. Value of all that happiness? Definitely more than the $141 spent so far.

We take Trixie home and let her get acquainted with her new address. She takes many walks. I replace a couple of loose boards in the fence so we can let her loose in the backyard. Which brings up a good point: the fence came with the house. This would be a major expense otherwise. The neighbor across the street opted for an “invisible fence” that he installed himself when he got a puppy earlier in the year. That’s the cheapest option possible and probably cost about $150. If we had had to pay for it, our fence would have cost several thousand dollars.

Somehow we end up at PetSmart again that evening and spend another $25 on a “beautiful collar” (don’t ask), pig ears, treats and several other necessities.

Trixie’s Total cost: $166

December 5, 2008

Trixie has her first vet visit. The way this works is that we take Trixie to the vet and the animal shelter reimburses the vet for a shot, de-worming medicine and a check up. The vet applies a lot of upsell pressure for additional tests (at $50 a pop) that Leigh resists. Total cost of vet visit: $0. [If you want to be a stickler, we had to drive about 15 miles back and forth to get to a vet that would take the animal shelter’s voucher.]

The vet tells us that Trixie is probably 8 months old rather than 6 (based on her teeth). The vet speculates that she is a beagle (tail/body) + terrier (body/head) + sharpei (skin/coat) mix, but who knows.

What we notice after reviewing the first 24 hours of Trixie’s life with the Brain family is that:

  1. She loves the crate. She will happily go in and lay down.
  2. She sleeps through the night in the crate no problem. Doesn’t make a sound.
  3. She doesn’t bark at all in the house
  4. She is really good on a leash
  5. She is as sweet as she can be with the kids. No biting, nipping, scratching, etc. Very playful and happy
  6. However…
  7. She likes to jump up on people
  8. She immediately starts barking at any stranger and especially at any other dog while she is walking
  9. She seems to be reverse potty trained. She will wait to go inside the house! We have had four or five accidents. Perhaps this is because she lived for several months in a small pen at the shelter, and all the dogs go in their pens.
  10. She totally ignores the Science Diet dog food they gave us at the pound.
  11. Any item left on the floor (shoes, slippers, toys, even Christmas ornaments on low-hanging branches, anything) has a high probability of being carried back to the crate and chewed.

No damage yet because we are watching her like a hawk. But the damage potential is high. There is probably a cost to the accidents as well, but the carpet is old (and has already weathered the spills of 4 small children for years) and is scheduled to be replaced after she is fully house trained.

Trixie’s Total cost: $166 as of Dec 5, 2008

December 8, 2008

A tragedy today – Trixie ate her beautiful harness. She had it on, and she was able to reach around and chew through part of it and get it off. So when Leigh and the kids were at Wal-mart today they bought three chew toys for $12.

Once she got settled in after a couple of days, she started eating the Science Diet food without any problem. We feed her twice a day. We received a 10 pound bag of dog food in early December from Grandma. It was Purina Pro brand for “senior” dogs, but Trixie liked it just fine.

Trixie’s Total cost: $178 as of Dec 8, 2008

December 21, 2008

A friend at HowStuffWorks suggested that we check out Big Lots for dog paraphernalia. Boy, was she right. We sent Leigh and Irena into the local Big Lots on Sunday and 20 minutes later they came out with a big bag of dog stuff for $12. One of the things they found was a stake that you screw into the ground ($1.50) to hold a line that would let you have the dog out in the front yard while you are doing yard work.

So on Monday Leigh and Irena went to Target and bought a steel cable (20 ft long) to attach to the stake. That was $8. They also went to PetSmart and bought a new harness ($9) and a bottle of dog shampoo ($5).

Trixie’s Total cost: $210 as of Dec 22, 2008

December 22, 2008

Trixie went to the vet and got her stitches out. This was free through the animal shelter.

December 26, 2008

Trixie got her first bath today. She didn’t particularly like it, but she stoically bore her burden and smelled much better when she got done.

December 27, 2008

Time to buy more dog food. We went to Wal-Mart and, after reading a bunch of labels, picked out Purina One Puppy Food (lamb and rice blend) at $10.83 for a 10 pound bag. Why this brand? Because Leigh has been reading, and supposedly you want to find a dog food that has a meat as its first ingredient, rather than corn. And you want something other than corn to be the main filler (after the meat). And you want “crude protein” to be as close to 30% as you can get. It was a toss up between the Purina and Rachael Ray’s Nutrish dog food, and the Purina stuff had more protein.

(Note that you can buy 50 pounds of Old Roy dog food for $17 at Wal-Mart, so there definitely are cheaper options when it comes to dog food. But Old Roy’s main ingredient is corn.)

Trixie’s Total cost: $221 as of Dec 27, 2008

January 1, 2009

January 1 came cold, crisp and beautiful in Raleigh. To ring in the new year, we went for a 3-mile family walk at Lake Johnson. Here is a self-timer family portrait we took on the dam. Trixie is a full family member at this point. She loves taking walks and does really well in public settings. You just have to hold her back if another dog comes along.

Today didn’t cost a thing. It was a lot of fun.

January 2, 2009

Time for another vet visit, this time for another round of vaccinations. These things can get so expensive that vets now produce a preliminary estimate, just like they do at the car repair place. It looked like this:

There is nothing you can do about the top two items. The DHLPP and Bordetella lines are the actual shots she needs. The rest is proposed tests. For example, the Fecal line is a proposed test for worms, even though at the last visit Trixie was given de-worming medicine. Leigh took the four required lines and declined the rest.

She also bought a 12-month supply of heartworm medicine. The proposed price was $75. But Leigh had taken a printout showing the online price to be $47.50, so the vet sold it to her for $47.50 instead.

Total vet bill for the day: $132.55

Trixie’s Total cost: $354 as of January 2, 2009

January 4, 2009

Another trip to Good Will today to dump a load of stuff there, and since Good Will is next to Big Lots and Trixie needs more chew toys, another trip to Big Lots. We bought a 17.5 pound bag of Iams Healthy Naturals dog food ($15) plus 4 chew toys and a one-pound bag of rawhide strips ($5). The total bill was $29.

Trixie’s Total cost: $383 as of January 4, 2009

January 5, 2009

Trixie totally rejected the Big Lots rawhide strips. At BJ’s today Leigh bought a 2.5 pound bag of premium pig ears for $18. That should last awhile, we hope. (You might be asking why this dog needs so many things like chew toys and pig ears. It’s because she wants to chew CONSTANTLY, and buying this stuff is cheaper than having her start devouring shoes, toys and furniture.)

Trixie’s Total cost: $401 as of January 5, 2009

January 12, 2009

Today Trixie got tangled up in the power cord of my laptop and knocked it to the floor. In the process she shattered the screen. As described in the following three blog posts, I initially thought she might have doubled her cost:

But, thanks to some advice from friends who read the blog, the screen was replaced for $72. It was replaced on January 24.

Trixie’s Total cost: $473 as of January 12, 2009

January 22, 2009

Trixie pulled way too hard on her leash and broke the clasp of her collar (made of black nylon plastic, the male part of it snapped right off). So we went to Big Lots and got a replacement for $2. We also picked up five new chew toys, for a total of $13.

Trixie’s Total cost: $486 as of January 22, 2009

January 23, 2009

Purchased a little mat to put under Trixie’s food and water bowl to keep spills from getting on the floor. The mat was $2.99.

Trixie’s Total cost: $489 as of January 23, 2009

January 29, 2009

It’s getting to be time to buy more food for Trixie. Leigh is convinced that Trixie prefers Science Diet dog food, and she is also convinced that Trixie’s fur looks glossier when eating Science Diet.

The problem is that Science Diet dog food is expensive. You can’t buy it at Wal-Mart or BJs. The only place we have found it locally is PetSmart. The 35 pound bag is $53, or $1.51 per pound. [Keep in mind that if you go on the right day, you can catch BJs selling premium de-boned chicken breast fillets for $1.50 per pound (they put them on half price sale when there is one day left to expiration). Mix that chicken with rice and stewed vegetables and you have some pretty swanky dog food that costs less than Science Diet.]

So Leigh has been waiting for a sale, and that day came on Friday. The sale price was $9 off, or $44. Then she had found a Science Diet coupon for $4 off. And we had a PetSmart “buy $40 or more and get $5 off” coupon that came in the mail. So the 35 pound bag was $35. Tax was $2.63.

For the record, the official name of this dog food is: “Science Diet Puppy Lamb Meal & Rice Recipe.” Trixie loves it. But I bet she would love “Marshall’s Chicken Breast Fillet, Rice and Vegetable Recipe” even more. Maybe I’ll try making some up this weekend and see how it goes. Hell, now that I think about it, *I* would eat “Marshall’s Chicken Breast Fillet, Rice and Vegetable Recipe.”

[I will mention again that you can get 50 pounds of Old Roy dog food at Wal-Mart for $17 if you aren’t picky. See December 27, 2008.]

Trixie’s Total cost: $527 as of January 29, 2009

February 9, 2009

PetSmart is still running the $9 off sale on Science Diet dog food (see January 29), and Leigh found another $4 off coupon from Science Diet. So the $53 bag is reduced to $40 + $~3 tax, so $43 for a 35 pound bag of dog food. $13 off is a 25% discount, so we are stocking up.

BTW, Amazon has this same dog food for $54 a bag. It is not easy to find discounts on this stuff.

Trixie’s Total cost: $570 as of February 9, 2009

February 17, 2009

We had a warm spell last week and saw (horrors!) a flea on fair Trixie. Which means we need to buy Frontline. Remember up in the introduction I said we once had 8 dogs on a farm? Before Frontline, these dogs would get an unbelievable number of ticks (and thousands of fleas) in the summer. After Frontline was invented, ticks and fleas were TOTALLY eliminated. It is amazing. We are big fans of Frontline.

The vet would like to sell us three doses of Frontline Plus for about $60. Each dose lasts a month, so that would run $240 for a year. That becomes a major expense.

So Leigh set out to find cheaper Frontline. The first thing to note is that Frontline Plus is the latest version of the product. You can get the older version, called Frontline Topspot, for less. The only difference seems to be that Plus claims to kill flea eggs as well as fleas. But if you have ever used Frontline Top spot, you know that it totally eliminates fleas, so we see no need for the Plus version.

Looking on the Web, Amazon actually has some good prices. Leigh discovered that, for whatever reason, the version for 89 to 132 pound dogs was cheaper than the version for smaller dogs. So she bought 12 doses for $67.36. Note that Amazon prices fluctuate daily, and it pays to watch them for a week and catch a low price. I just pulled up the prices today – Look how crazy the price difference is between the 12 month and the 6 month package:

Prices on Amazon fluctuate every day. Notice how crazy the price difference is here – you save $45 by buying two 6-month packages instead of one 12-month package. It pays to watch it for a few days and catch a low price.

One day when Leigh looked, the price for a 3 month package for 89-132 pound dogs was $16.84. So she bought four packages.

Since we have bought the kind for 100 pound dogs, and Trixie only weights 35 pounds, the obvious question is, “can we use half, seal the vial, and then use the other half the next month?” If we could, that would cut the price in half again. We will try this experiment and report back.

[Thanks for your email Wendy, and your concern. We do have some experience with splitting doses like this, and no, Trixie will not OD on Frontline. For years our “country vet” at the farm sold us the Frontline dosage for larger dogs and told us to split it across two or three of our smaller dogs. It effectively cuts the cost of Frontline in half, and if you have a lot of dogs it is a big savings. It also works fine (all fleas and ticks are eradicated), and our dogs lived to ripe old ages. But you do want to keep the dogs separated for a couple of hours after applying Frontline so they don’t lick each other. Frontline ingested orally is not good for dogs.]

[By the way, this same vet would sell us a liquid cow wormer medicine called Ivomec, which contains the same chemical found in Heartguard heartworm pills but costs a fraction of the price. If you have several dogs, you can save hundreds of dollars a year by using Ivomec. This page explains the idea.]

Trixie’s Total cost: $638 as of February 17, 2009

March 8, 2009

Another trip to Big Lots, another $12 in chew toys.

We also had to fix the fence today. A couple of boards had come loose, and Trixie had learned how to exploit the hole and get in the neighbor’s yard. Or maybe Trixie loosened them. Who knows. Cost of repair was $20 plus an hour or so of time.

Trixie’s Total cost: $670 as of March 8, 2009

March 13, 2009

Trixie has one of those retractable leashes. It can be up to 16 feet long, or two feet long, and the 14 feet of cord stores on a spring-loaded spool in the handle. Like this. We had inherited it from Grandma, and it was many years old. It snapped for the fourth time on Friday, so we replaced it.

Target had them on sale for $11.99, and it came with a $3 rebate.

Trixie’s Total cost: $678 as of March 13, 2009

March 27, 2009

It’s been cold and rainy, so Trixie is inside more and needs more chew toys. $12 at Big Lots.

Trixie’s Total cost: $690 as of March 27, 2009

April 4, 2009

Spring Break is here and we need to move our base of operations for a week. Trixie can’t go with us, so she needs to stay somewhere. Normally we would leave her with the grandparents, but they are out of town too.

Leigh called up the local PetSmart, which offers the PetsHotel. Note that their web site says not a word about rates. When Leigh asked, they quoted $24 per day for a 4′ x 4′ pen. That comes with two five-minute indoor walks a day. Or you can go the deluxe route at additional cost, which offers a bigger pen with a TV. Adding $12 per day gives you doggy day camp, which means your dog gets to spend 9AM to 5PM in a big room playing with other dogs. There are other add-ons as well. You could easily spend $50/day at PetSmart.

What’s interesting is that you can get a motel room at Motel 6 in many areas for about the same price as the PetSmart deluxe pen. It isn’t a little pen… Motel 6 gives you a whole full-size room with a bed, a TV, a phone, a window and a bathroom. So PetSmart is making out like bandits on this. Or Motel 6 could make some extra cash by renting its empty rooms to dogs.

Leigh called around looking for other options. Vets who offered kennel services were about the same price, but they used smaller cages rather than pens.

Another option: If you get on, it is possible to find people who board dogs in their homes. Most have fenced-in backyards and some will even let the dog sleep in a bed. These people charge between $25 and $35 per day. Leigh found a nice women with good references who promised to take Trixie to a dog park and for a run every day. The cost was $150 for the week.

Trixie’s Total cost: $840 as of April 4, 2009

April 8, 2009

BJ’s had a close-out sale on a big bag of Milk Bone chew toys. $10.

Trixie’s Total cost: $850 as of April 8, 2009

April 28, 2009

We haven’t spent any money on Trixie for several weeks. We stocked up when they had a sale on dog food earlier in the year, so we haven’t had to buy food. It’s been beautiful springtime weather for the last several weeks, so Trixie spends a lot more time outside with the kids. That means she can chew sticks and burn off extra energy. There have been no vet visits in April.

But today she did get a bath. We went fishing with the kids at a nearby lake at sunset. Trixie ended up jumping in, swimming around, squishing through the mud, etc. Trixie has been spending less and less time in her crate, and you can’t have a smelly dog covered in lake scum hanging around the house.

Trixie’s Total cost: $850 as of April 28, 2009

May 15, 2009

More Science Diet dog food at $43 per 35 pound bag.

Trixie’s Total cost: $893 as of May 15, 2009

May 25, 2009

Bought a bag of rawhide chew things at BJ’s for $10

Trixie’s Total cost: $903 as of May 25, 2009

June 5, 2009

There was a big sale on Iams dog food. $35 for 35 pounds. It turned out Trixie didn’t like it as much, but by mixing it with the Science Diet stuff she ate it

Trixie’s Total cost: $938 as of June 5, 2009

July 4, 2009

Once again we moved our base of operations for a week and left Trixie with the same woman we left her with on April 4. It worked out well for Trixie. We spent $175.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,113 as of June 5uly 4, 2009

July 15, 2009

More Science Diet dog food at $43 per 35 pound bag.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,156 as of July 15, 2009

July 21, 2009

Went to Big Lots and bought $12 in chew toys. Which brings up a good point. This dog LOVES to chew things constantly. Over the last couple of weeks we have had to watch her more and more. She has gotten into Legos, she has destroyed a Barbie and a plastic Turtle, she shredded a book, etc. If we were to add up the retail cost of these transgressions, it is probably $40 or $50. Let’s call it $20.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,188 as of July 21, 2009

August 22, 2009

We purchased one of the “invisible fence” kits at PetSmart. This is the one we bought: Petsafe PIG00-10777 Stubborn Dog In-Ground Radio Fence System. It was $185 at Amazon, $189 at PetSmart (on sale) and $199 at Lowes. We picked this one because: a) the collar has a vibrate mode, b) the collar uses a normal 9-volt battery, and c) It was relatively inexpensive but could handle a pretty big area (up to 10 acres).

It took about 6 hours to install it. That includes getting the wire into the grass as well as across the driveway. Once it was installed, we tested the collar and it seems to work exactly as advertised. The kit comes with a DVD that describes a two-week training process for Trixie. We haven’t started that yet.

The kit itself was $200 once you add tax. We spent $50 for additional wire. We bought an extension cord and surge protector so we could plug it in in the garage for $20. Total cost: $270, not counting our time to install it. After we train Trixie I will report back on how that went.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,458 as of August 22, 2009

August 30, 2009

Grandma brought by a 1.5 pound free bag of Purina Chef Michael’s Canine Creations dog food today. It is filet mignon flavor. Trixie gulped this down like nothing we’ve ever seen before. But it seemed to give her gas. We’ll see if the gas persists after a couple more feedings.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,458 as of August 30, 2009

September 25, 2009

We took a weekend trip and Trixie could not come. The woman we had been using was no longer keeping dogs, but she recommended another woman and we left Trixie with her. The total cost was $90. Trixie had a good time.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,548 as of September 25, 2009

October 5, 2009

We were at a store called Ollie’s, and they were selling big smoked bones wrapped in plastic for $7. Irena thought this would be a nice treat for Trixie, so we bought one. Trixie absolutely LOVED this bone, gnawing on it for a couple of hours, completely consuming the knuckles at both ends, etc.

Unfortunately, this thing also made Trixie sick to her stomach and worse. She threw up several times outside, then in the house, and on the screen porch. She had diarrhea for days afterwards. It was a real mess. In retrospect, this bone was not a good idea. If you were to count the cost of all the cleanup, it would be expensive.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,555 as of October 5, 2009

October 31, 2009

No, we did not buy Trixie a Halloween costume. But we did consider it.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,555 as of October 31, 2009

November 8, 2009

Back in August we bought one of those invisible underground fences for Trixie at PetSmart. Here is a report on how that went.

We have heard both good stories and horror stories about these fences. There are many people in the neighborhood that use them. In most cases they appear to work well. We have heard from one small dog owner that the dog was completely traumatized from the shock delivered by the collar and will not move when the collar is on.

So we did not want to traumatize Trixie. We wanted this to be a pain-free experience for her.

The collar we have has a “beep/vibrate with no shock” setting. So to train Trixie, we used that setting for two weeks with Trixie on a leash. We would let Trixie walk around the yard, and inevitably she would get to the property line where the wire is installed. Whenever this happened and the collar beeped, we would reprimand Trixie verbally and pull her back away from the line with the leash. We did this over and over again, several times a day for two weeks. The kids would do it, Leigh and I would do it, etc. By the end of two weeks, Trixie knew where all the property lines were without a doubt. She had even started to respect them to some extent, simply from the training we did. Keep in mind that for these two weeks, there was no shocking used at all – just the beep.

The collar has 4 shock level settings. So we set it on the lowest shock level. I tried it on my finger. It is an unpleasant sensation, but certainly nothing deadly. After they saw me try it, the kids also wanted to try it, so they tried it on their fingers. None of them found it to be oppressive. So we put the collar on Trixie, with her on a leash.

The first time Trixie got shocked, she jumped. Irena was not so keen on that, so we stopped for the day.

For about a week we kept Trixie on the leash so she would get the idea. In that week she might have gotten shocked three times. She learned very quickly that she did not want to go near the property line. She would stay about 10 feet back from it.

Then we took her off the leash and let her have her freedom in the yard. We had three cases where Trixie saw a cat or another dog and she ran right through the fence. So we would bring her home, and purposefully retrain her at the point where she ran through. Over the course of about a month the running-through completely stopped happening. Trixie will now stay 10 feet back from the property line no matter what. Even with a cat in the street, Trixie will simply stand there and watch.

And you know what? It is nice. Trixie has complete freedom to roam in the front yard, the back yard and the driveway. She will run, play, fetch balls and sticks for the kids, etc. She seems completely happy and at ease. There has been no “trauma”. She simply stays 10 feet away from the property line at all times. It has been a big positive for both the dog and for us. We can put Trixie out and we don’t have to worry if we forgot to close the gate. We don’t have to hold her back when we open the front door or the garage door. She no longer “gets out” and starts running around the neighborhood. And Trixie has a lot more room because she has access to both the front and back yards now. We had been using a chain when we had her out in the front yard. We got rid of the chain and it is much better.

The only change we’ve had to make is when we want to take Trixie for a walk in the neighborhood. We take off the collar, but Trixie insists that we pick her up and carry her over the line. She absolutely will not get near it otherwise.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,555 as of November 8, 2009

November 12, 2009

We bought a lot of dog food earlier in the year, using sales and coupons to cut the cost. And as mentioned on August 30, Grandma had been able to get Chef Michael’s dog food for free using the power of double coupons. She has brought us several free bags of it over the last two months. Trixie loves Chef Michael’s, and after getting used to it her gas disappeared.

Apparently the promotional period has ended, and today we actually bought some Chef Michael’s dog food at BJ’s. It was $14 for 11 pounds. The sales tax brought it to $15.

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,570 as of November 12, 2009

November 27, 2009

PetSmart had a big “black friday” sale on dog food today. We picked up two 40-pound bags of Iams dog food for $29.99 each.

They also had chew toys on sale and we bought one for $1.99.

With tax the total was $63.77

Trixie’s Total cost: $1,634 as of November 27, 2009

[PS – someone wrote in to ask, “How much does Trixie eat?” Trixie eats about 3 cups of food per day. 3 cups weighs about 12 ounces. So the 80 pounds of food we bought today should last about 100 days.]

December 4, 2009

So, we have owned Trixie for one year. How much does a dog really cost in the first year? In Trixie’s case, the cost was $1,634. If you break it down into some big categories:

– The biggest expense, surprisingly, was kenneling at $415. That was about a quarter of Trixie’s cost in the first year. If we never went out of town, of if she could have stayed with friends/relatives, or if we could have taken her with us, this expense would disappear.

– Next was equipment at $348. A big part of that was the $270 spent on an underground electronic fence that we installed ourselves. On the other hand, that was a lot cheaper than a “real” fence. Another part was the $35 crate.

– Next was food at $305. We bought 273.5 pounds of dry dog food in year one.

– Next was the vet at $201. Trixie did not get sick or injured in year one and the animal shelter covered some vet expenses, so vet costs (which includes the cost of heart worm medicine and flea medicine) was very low.

– Next was toys at $187 – chew toys, rawhide, pig ears, etc. to keep her from chewing more valuable things in the house.

– Next was repairs at $112. The biggest repair was a broken laptop screen which I replaced myself for $72.

– And finally there was the $70 adoption fee.

We have tried to be cost-conscious and to save money where we could. We adopted rather than spending $500 or $1,000 on a pet store puppy. We were lucky to avoid any additional vet fees. We did buy “premium” dog food as opposed to the cheapest stuff on the shelf, but feel like that was the right thing to do. And overall, she worked out to $1,634 or about $4.50 per day.

Is she worth it? I think the Brain family would unanimously say YES to that. But it is not an small amount of money to own a dog. And the wild card is the dog’s health. If a dog gets sick or injured, vet bills can add up fast.

We look forward to our second year with Trixie!

Postscript, November 2011

As we have continued to own Trixie, the expenses recorded in her first year have been representative of the following years. There were several first-year expenses (like the crate and the fence) that we have never seen again, but things like food, boarding, chew toys, etc. have not really changed at all.

We have been very lucky with the vet bills, because Trixie has not had any health problems… except for one. We took her to the vet one day and were told that she has heart worms. This, you would think, is impossible since she takes medicine to prevent heart worms. Nonetheless an x-ray revealed that she has a small number of adult worms in her heart. The theory is that she got the worms during the period when we did not own her and she was not getting the medicine.

Getting rid of adult heartworms costs about $1,000 at the two vets that we talked to. The company that makes the medicine has a “guarantee” and agreed to chip in $300, which would lower the treatment cost to $700. The treatment has risks, and requires that you crate the dog and keep her quite for 30 days – something that would be nearly impossible in this case because Trixie is one hyperactive dog. Because she is on the medicine, Trixie will not get any more adult heartworms in her heart and the current number is small. Therefore, we decided (with the vet’s blessing) not to treat her. The theory is that the adult heartworms eventually die of old age. So far we have seen zero ill effects from the heartworms she is carrying. From outward appearances she appears to be a normal, strong, happy, healthy, hyperactive dog.

The Official Site for Marshall Brain