This month, after I had gone through the exercise of tallying Sommer’s medical expenses, I was inspired to further torture myself (haha) by adding up the full costs of Sommer’s first year, including the medical expenses. I began by thinking through where and how I spent money this year. Fortunately for this exercise, we had relied on a handful of vendors for the majority of our needs, so I found it easy to simply call each place, whether the pet store or our groomer, to find out how much we had spent. Again, as with medical expenses, I had relied on the wisdom of the Internet and also casual friends for ballpark figures of the first-year costs. Guess what? I experienced another shock when I saw the numbers in black and white. Dogs are known to lower stress, but they also demand fiscal responsibility.
Myth: You can easily get a puppy and spend under $1,000 the first year.
Reality: Sommer’s First Year, By the Numbers
- Healthcare: $2,440
- Fence: $1,700
- Pet store expenses, including food, treats, and chewy sticks; toys; collars and tags, harnesses and leashes; heartworm and flea and tick medications; crate and playpen; dishes; beds: $1,270
- Boarding and daycare: $700
- Grooming: $425
- Training: $450
- Carpet cleaning (due to housetraining accidents): $260
If I set aside medical costs and fencing, we would have cut our costs by more than half – down to not much more than $3,000. And to be honest, that amount is more in line with what I expect to spend on an annual basis going forward.
Many of the one-time costs, such as the fence, and medical procedures such as spaying and vaccinations, are behind us now. A lot of rookie pup mom errors are behind me. I have learned my lesson about leaving things lying around the house within pup’s reach, and I fervently hope that will reduce the likelihood of any further emergency hospital visits!
Even some of the larger purchases from pet stores are behind us as well. We should be set for a while regarding a crate and bed, dishes, collars and leashes and heartworm and flea and tick medications. With any luck at all, the carpet cleaning expenses will also shrink – although that might be overly optimistic, as there is always the prospect of an occasional accident or even muddy-paws-in-the-house fiasco. As far as training, I plan to do a leash walking class before her first year is up, but after that, I expect that we will be done with most of the paid training, as I now have been trained in how to train her. Now the task ahead is to keep up with practicing what we learned in class.
I give myself a B- on my effort there, so far. Who knows, I might wind up deciding to do some additional classes this winter, to give us an activity during the long, cold months, and to make sure we don’t forget everything we learned.
What I Learned (The Hard Way)
Don’t rely on Internet estimates of first-year costs. They are myths! The reality is that you’re likely to spend double what you think, so take a look at my costs, and budget accordingly. Many of the costs were somewhat fixed, but one thing I wish I would have done was given myself a budget for discretionary items, such as treats, toys and chew sticks. It was far too easy to pick up an extra toy while browsing in a pet store or splurge on expensive chewy sticks when Sommer would be just as happy with a less expensive option. We pup moms love our pups! And that’s a good thing. So while an occasional splurge would have been completely fine, I could have cut back a bit if I had given myself the parameters of a budget.
Lessons Learned from My Vet
- At this seven-month-old age, your pup may careen from one behavior extreme to the next. Sommer would be completely confident one moment and then jump at the sound of the mailman’s truck the next. This is normal!
- Teaching your pup to deal with its fears and concerns is paramount at this age. You don’t want a dog that has permanent fears imprinted because of experiences at this age.
My Favorite Articles
- The ASPCA attempts to put numbers to a dog’s first year. Based on my experience, this is a low estimate, but it is an interesting comparison of large vs. small dogs:
- Your dog’s ideal first-year puppy vaccination schedule. This is a great reference piece to stay on top of 1st-year vaccination.
- These random puppy facts are so fun. I learned tons from reading them.
- The complete guide to pet insurance
Puppy Diary Series: Sit, Stay, Play
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About Puppy Diaries
Puppy Diaries is an ongoing series that explores the journey of pet parenthood, from deciding to get a puppy, to bringing a puppy home, to the joys and struggles of training, and beyond. Laura Tiebert, our resident Pup Mom, is an experienced nonfiction writer and first-time puppy parent who lives in Minnesota with her husband, two sons and a new puppy.