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Dogs: The First Year

A scene played out all too often at the Pet Store; exasperated customer exclaiming “My new dog is costing me a fortune!!”.

To which I can only reply: Uh-Yup.

It’s no secret that at this point in my life, I basically prefer senior dogs. Still, it was not too long ago I somehow ended with one of these….

Rescue pug puppy turned out to be a kryptonite to which I am not immune.

Even here at a well established dog house, full of food, beds, leashes, collars, and toys galore, a new dog is the beginning of spend o’ rama. If you manage not to end up with a puppy (lucky you), that first year of dog ownership? It’s going to be a doosey anyway. Time-wise, money-wise, and learning-wise. It is the nature of the beast. (HAR!) We’d done this particular dance a time or two (or five) before, so I’m well versed. Knowing what to expect, I signed up for pet insurance, and held on for the ride.

A new dog is going to cost money. I can’t emphasize that enough. If you aren’t ready for the expenditure, don’t get a dog. That said, here’s what you should be prepared for, and perhaps how to mitigate at least a portion of it.

Acquisition. Dogs should cost money. You can try for a ‘free to good home’ scenario, but as with lunch, there’s no such thing as a free dog. Purchase price (for lack of a better term) is going to vary greatly. Adoption fees depend on the facility and region. Typically rural shelters are cheaper. Urban shelters and rescues, more expensive. It should be about the dog, not the price. Stil, be prepared to pay at least $100 for an adoption fee. If you absolutely must buy a dog, you absolutely should pay more. A lot more. I would not recommend buying a dog from a reputable breeder for less than $1000. If you found them in the paper or on Craigslist, they aren’t reputable. Trust me.

Big Ticket Items. Crates, beds, bowls, gates, vehicle barriers. Your canine infrastructure, if you will. Some of these will be one time purchases (if you are lucky). Crates and vehicle barriers are a dime a dozen on Craigslist. Go utilitarian stainless on bowls, easy to sanitize and they won’t break. Price shop for pet gates or consider DIY (I wish I had). Don’t buy an expensive bed until you are sure your dog won’t eat it. Then buy easy to wash, upholstery grade nest or ‘bagel’ style. I could write an entire post on dog beds. It’s a weakness of mine. There are dog beds in this house going on 8 years old. A solid bed is worth the money money. For bigger purchases, the point is: Research what you will truly need and buy ahead of time.

Take Your Time. On the subject of time and destruction, get to know your dog. This is much of what the first year is about. Is your dog a Leash Chewer? Collar breaker? Toy Shredder? Trusted in the house? Don’t buy a bunch of fancy toys and that fancy bed the first week you have your dog. A few balls, a small variety of toys, and a stash of folded blankets and towels is going to work fine. If you wait to determine what they like and see if they outgrow that destructive phase, it can save you more than a few expenditures. Our tendency is to rush out and buy our new family member all that is new and shiny. Resist that. Take the acquisition of dog goods slowly. In the meantime, research what’s worth your money.

Vet Costs. Although I am not a fan of vaccinations, you still gotta have a baseline. This is particularly true for puppies, but even adolescent dogs with an undocumented past, should at least be titered. Unfortunately, doing the year’s worth of vaccinations is probably cheaper. It’s not just the shots though, new dogs may need to be altered, or require a dental, or sometimes surgery. This is where adoption comes in handy. Rescues and shelters (at least the good ones) spay or neuter, prior to putting dogs ‘on the market’. They are required to give the first round of vaccines, and depending on who you adopt from, dogs may also have had any other necessary vet work. At the very least you could get a heads up on what will be needed. All for the bargain price of that adoption fee.

Extra-Curricular Activities. Doggie School. Day Care. Vacations or Pet Sitters. New expenses for the uninitiated. I will always recommend a new dog go to at least one basic manners training class, for their benefit and your own. Beyond that these expenses get squishy. It’s all about your individual dog’s needs. Young, energetic dogs often benefit from day-care (and additional training classes), but it gets pricey quick. Consider trading off play dates with friends. The same can be done for pet sitting. Better yet, find a dog-less dog-loving friend. Someone who will enjoy some pooch time during the middle of the day or even an occasional over night stay. Taking dogs with you on vacation presents it’s own unique set of challenges and costs. My best advice is to start adding these expenses need into your regular budgets. It will seem painful at first. The sooner you get used to it, the better.

This Too Shall Pass. It doesn’t last forever. Eventually, you go to a once a year veterinary exam schedule. Your dog has their favorite toy and bed. They’ve been wearing the same collar for who knows how long, and your leather leash is all nice and worn in. They go stay with ‘Grandma’ for their own vacation, and they are happy with walks around the neighborhood for exercise. Well, maybe it will never be that picture perfect. However, things will level off. Just like dating, that honeymoon period is expensive and it should be carefully considered before embarking. As with any good relationship though, it is totally worth the investment.

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Food Fan Frank

This post offers a lot of insight to people thinking about adding a new family member. I have to agree wholeheartedly on every point you have made. I have opted to buy my dogs from very reputable breeders, and if you are going to do that, $1,000 should be the minimum, and I have gone as high as $2,000. I definitely recommend shelter dogs for anyone not willing to fork out this much for the initial purchase. And then don’t forget all the other expenses that come later. And if you do get one from a reputable breeder, you will be expected to show, which costs thousands in an of itself!

Luke D

Great post. This should be required reading for all first time dog adopters!


I’d love to hear about your dog beds! We have a golden that scratches repeatedly before he lays down and he keeps shredding them!


FYI, said golden is 14 years old! And I make him chicken meatballs (in muffin tins) once a week because of his weight lose. Just another cost of owning dogs.

Betsy Voss

Would you mind if I used this post on our website? If so, please let me know via This is just perfectly written … and in the same tone that we use. Thanks.

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