Money at 30: The Cost of Pet Ownership: Our Actual Expenses with a New Dog (So Far)
Last week, my wife and I welcomed a new member to our family as we brought home a pup we’ve decided to name Rigby (in case you were wondering, our friends have a dog named Eleanor). Miss Rigby is two years old and is a Frenchton. Specifically, she’s apparently 3/4 French Bulldog and 1/4 Boston Terrier — although we think her face looks more Boston overall. Anyway, as you can expect, the past week and a half has been both fun and a bit challenging as we’ve gotten to know each other. Overall, though, she’s been great and very affectionate. But, with this being a personal finance column, now’s where I mention that having her has also cost us quite a bit of money.
Back when we were first looking at the possibility of getting a dog, I wrote about some of the expenses we were anticipating. So, now that these costs are coming to fruition, do they match up? Let’s take a look at what we’ve spent on our new dog so far.
Purchases and Expenses Made in Preparation for Getting a Dog
Apartment deposit: $250 (+ $20 a month in pet rent)
When I wrote about some of the expenses I was expecting as we looked into getting a dog, I mentioned that our apartment charged a one-time pet deposit but not pet rent. Well, turns out there’s good and bad news on that front. Apparently, since I initially inquired, that policy has changed. On the bright side, the deposit was reduced from $500 to $250. However, they now charge $20 a month in pet rent. Technically, if we were to leave this apartment when our lease is up, then the math would actually put us ahead against the old structure. Of course, considering we don’t currently have plans to leave, this likely means we’ll be spending more over time. Sigh.
Travel carrier: $40
Since we knew we’d be picking up our dog from Kansas and then traveling home with her, we figured it’d make sense to buy a travel carrier on Chewy. It was a great plan… except she doesn’t quite fit in the one we purchased. Granted, we knew this might be a possibility, which is why we didn’t spend a great amount on it. In any case, we may have wasted $40 on this but we’re going to try to donate it to a local rescue that will hopefully be able to make use of it.
Grass patch: $40
Living in an apartment means our dog — who previously had access to a yard via a doggy door — would need to make some adjustments. To help ease that and in a bid to have a backup option should bad Missouri weather preclude us from taking her downstairs on time, we decided to purchase a patch of grass to put on the deck. Of course, while this $40 item looks great and seems like a smart idea, Rigby has yet to use it. That might sound like a good thing overall, but I’d still like her to get used to it. Maybe in time this will happen but, for now, it’s kind of a bust.
Rather than getting a traditional crate, we liked the idea of getting a zipper-up playpen that could be Rigby’s home base during the day and could be secured at night. This hasn’t worked out exactly as planned but she does still make use of it — especially at night. Once again, perhaps more time will mean greater use for this item, so I’ll say $50+ spent well enough for now.
Leash, collar, food: $131 ($7 Cash App Boost) – $100 returned
Rounding out the purchases we made before even meeting our dog, we picked up a leash, collar, and some food at PetSmart. The reason I mention the retailer is because, as luck would have it, I had a 5% Boost on my Cash App Cash Card. With our total coming to $131, this amounted to nearly a $7 discount. Thanks, Cash App!
Funny enough, while the collar and leash came in handy (and we still use the latter), the food we purchased ahead of time wasn’t the “correct” one — meaning it wasn’t what she’s been eating. Thus, we went ahead and returned it, getting $100 back in the process. Interestingly, despite refunding that amount back onto my Cash Card, my initial Boost total remained.
Hotel stay pre-pickup: $60+10k Hilton points
Normally, driving five hours would be considered short for us. However, given the circumstances, we didn’t feel like driving that distance and then turning right around and doing it again. So, instead, we elected to book a hotel in Wichita for the night before so we’d only have an hour drive in the morning.
Looking at options, I decided to try a Tru by Hilton location — both because it was well situated for a stop and also because I was curious about this new-ish brand. The price was also pretty good for a Friday night, coming in at around $120 once taxes and fees were added in.
However, I didn’t end up paying that full price. Since I had some Hilton Honors points to my name, I decided to cash some of them in. Specifically, I decided to take my account to a nice, round 100,000 points by redeeming 10,000 toward the room. This brought the total down to $60. All in all, this was definitely worth it as it gave us a chance to get a normal night’s sleep, grab some breakfast in the morning, and have just a short drive to go meet our new canine friend.
Initial Costs After Bringing Our Dog Home
Without going through the entire story of how Rigby came to join our home, I will say that we got her from a breeder who initially planned on breeding her but agreed to let us have her. So, instead of staying in Kansas and having puppies, we were able to take her home with us and show her what city life is all about. To do that, we paid $1,500 — which was more than we anticipated but she’s totally worth it.
Microchip registration: $27
Although Rigby already had a microchip, once we brought her home, it was up to us to update that information. Apparently, doing this comes with a $27 fee. Technically, this was an unexpected expense for us, but luckily it wasn’t too big.
Bed, bowls, harness: $73
Even though we purchased a couple of items before getting Rigby, we quickly realized we were forgetting a couple of others. In particular, within minutes of arriving home, I headed to our local mom-and-pop pet store to purchase food and water bowls as well as a bed (we actually purchased a bed with that initial PetSmart order but it was out of stock, apparently). Plus, I also took this opportunity to purchase a harness for her now that we’d had a chance to take her measurements.
These three items plus a bag of training treats came to $73. By the way, this pet shop is awesome! We’d actually been there a couple of times for doggy adoption events but, what makes it really cool is that they have self-service dog wash rooms in the back. While the selection is limited in comparison to the chain stores or Chewy, we’ll definitely be making an effort to visit All About Cats and Dogs when possible going forward.
Treats, toys, trimmer: $100 (with $30 gift card back)
It’s funny how quickly Chewy has become my best friend. As we looked around for what else we should get for Rigby, we decided she could use a couple of toys, some different treats, and a nail trimmer. Okay, so that last one wasn’t really an immediate necessity — but we elected to buy it now as Chewy had a promotion going on. When we spent $100 on the site, we received a $30 gift card to use in the future. With a few other items already in my cart for next time, we will definitely be making use of that $30. Until then, Rigby seems to be enjoying all of these purchases… minus the trimmer, of course.
Remember earlier when I said we purchased the wrong food at PetSmart and returned it for a $100 refund? Well, it’s actually a good thing that food isn’t what she eats as the actual item was far cheaper! In fact, we were able to find a 50-pound bag at Sam’s Club for $56! Considering how much Rigby eats per day, this bag (and $56) should last us for literal months.
Fi collar: $79
Months ago, when we were first discussing getting a dog, a came across something called the Fi collar and was pretty fascinated by it. Naturally, when we finally got Rigby and I could confirm what size collar she needed, I went ahead and bought one. And, I have to say, she looks smashing in it.
In addition to being fashionable, the Fi smart collar has some fun features, such as the ability to track Rigby’s physical activity and sleeping. It also has GPS so it can map our walks. Plus, should she ever sneak out and get lost, we can see where she is and even have the Fi collar community help us recover her. I don’t really foresee that happening but it’s nice to know it’s an option. Plus, did I mention that the collar looks snazzy? This was a doggy splurge for sure but I love it.
Initial vet visit: $94
Even though everything with Rigby seemed fine after we brought her home, it was important to me that we get her checked out at the vet just to be sure and so that she was already established with a care provider should we need them in the future. First, I’m very happy to report that, while she was visibly nervous, Rigby did an outstanding job at the vet. Even more importantly, it seems her exam went well as there was no need for additional tests or treatments.
For this visit, we paid a $55 new patient deposit as well as $39 for a standard intestinal parasite test (you know, the kind that requires you to collect a sample. Tons of fun.). Considering I really had no idea what number the receptionist was going to say when it was time to pay, I was pretty happy with this total overall.
Pet insurance: $228
Part of the reason we wanted to get Rigby looked at ASAP was so that I could purchase a pet insurance policy for her. While I looked at a few different options, I ended up going with Lemonade. Our policy is one of their basic ones, but customized to cover 90% of diagnoses or treatments, have an annual deductible of $500, and have an annual limit of $20,000. We also added coverage for vet visit fees, applicable “when treating a covered accident or illness.”
Although we could have made this a monthly cost, I decided to pay the $228 annual fee upfront. In doing so, we saved $24. Truth be told, I’m still not 100% sure how the whole policy works — but, at this reasonable rate, I feel pretty decent about the decision.
Upcoming Costs We Already Know About
Spaying (and add-ons): $800
One big downside that came along with the manner in which we adopted Rigby is that she is not spayed. Because of this, when we took her for her initial vet visit, we obtained a quote for the procedure. This quote actually has a range to it as there are some optional items as well as some unknowns. However, we’re likely to go with the top-end of the estimate as they’ll cleverly give her a dental cleaning while she’s under anesthesia for her spaying. How efficient!
Combined, the cost of having her spayed and having her teeth cleaned will be around $800. And while we haven’t spent this money just yet, she does have her appointment on the books.
Finally, while Rigby has been a very good girl since we brought her home, our minimal experience as dog-owning adults means that we’re not very well equipped to teach her the ropes. The good news is that she does know some basics — such as going potty outside — and has adapted to walking on a leash quite well. Still, there are some behaviors we’d like to communicate that we just haven’t been able to yet.
Luckily for us, there’s a dog training service that visits our apartment’s farmer’s market each week. This past week, we took Rigby down to meet one of the trainers (who also happens to have a Frenchton!) and set up a formal session. This first visit will be free, but of course subsequent lessons will come at a cost. In fact, looking at their site, there are a number of different training packages we’ll need to choose from.
Admittedly, this could end up being a sizeable expense depending on which option we go with. But, I’m confident that this will be money well spent as it will allow us to better interact with Rigby and communicate with her. As my wife described it, we’ll just need to decide whether we want to send her to “fancy preschool” or just give her a few tutoring sessions before homeschooling from there.
Looking back at my estimates of what it would cost us to own a dog, some of my numbers were in line while a couple of others were a bit off. For example, I pegged food at $50 a month when it’ll really be closer to $50 per quarter. On the other hand, I wasn’t anticipating getting a dog that wasn’t spayed, so that $800 definitely wasn’t accounted for. All in all, though, I feel as though we were pretty well prepared for the financial impact of adding a pet to our family. Of course, it’s only been a couple of weeks and we still have a lifetime ahead of us. With that, while I’ll still be keeping tabs on our expenses to share my insight, we’ll be focusing more on spending time and having fun with our new pup.