So you think getting a dog would enrich your life? On many levels, you’re probably right - but have you thought about how much that furry friend will cost you over its lifetime?
We’re not saying you shouldn't go out and find yourself a new man’s best friend - just make sure you’re aware of all the costs so you can plan accordingly.
The price of a pooch
First, the bad news: a dog is often more expensive than other common household pets (such as cats, guinea pigs or rabbits). They can vary from about $250 to more than $2000, depending on whether the dog is a pure breed or not.
One way to keep this cost down, and give a dog a second chance at life at the same time, is to adopt a rescue dog from the SPCA.
An SPCA adopted dog costs $195 and as an added bonus, the dog will already be microchipped and desexed, as well as having its vaccinations and worm and flea treatments up to date.
Otherwise, the cost of microchipping and desexing your dog is about $300, annual vaccinations about $150, and flea and worm treatments between $250 and $320 a year.
You’ll also need to register your dog with your local council, which can cost anywhere between $30 and $150. This is an ongoing cost that you will need to pay every year.
To set up your home for your dog, you’ll probably spend between $300 and $600, by the time you’ve organised a bed, a crate, some bowls and a few toys.
You’ll also need to make sure your property is fully fenced if it isn’t already. The cost for this will depend on the type of fence and how big your property is. Try searching ‘fencing calculator’ on Google for a rough idea.
Other set-up costs include collars, leashes and coats (between $50 and $250) and puppy training for you and the dog (between $250 and $800).
Adding it all up
Looking at the above expenses, it’s easy to see how you could spend $2000 to $4000 on your dog in the first year.
Ongoing costs are less but in 2015 the NZ Companion Animal Council estimated that ongoing care for a dog costs around $1686 a year. The biggest component of this cost was food ($400 to $700), followed by the regular costs we’ve already mentioned: flea and worm treatments, annual vaccinations and registration fees.
Another cost to be aware of is veterinary bills. If your dog visits the vet once a year for an illness, that’ll set you back about $120. But what about major illnesses and accidents, which could cost thousands?
This is where it’s a good idea to have a plan in place for how you will pay a significant vet bill. There are two options:
- get pet insurance
- put aside a savings buffer that you could use to pay vet bills in an emergency
If you opt to take out pet insurance, it makes sense to do it right away while your dog is young, as older animals are more expensive to insure.
You should also carefully check the exclusions and limitations of the policy. Pre-existing conditions are almost always not covered and most policies have a limit on the amount you can claim each year.
Make sure the excess is suited to your financial circumstances. While increasing the excess will mean your premiums are cheaper, you’ve got to be sure you can pay the excess when you need to. It may be worth paying an extra $10 a month or so in premiums to keep the excess affordable.
New Zealand only has a handful of providers of pet insurance, but it still makes sense to shop around. Different insurers have different exclusions, and may also charge different amounts for different breeds of dog.
On a more positive note, research shows that having a pet is great for your mental health. Owning a dog should also be good for your physical health, with all that extra walking you’ll be doing.
Finally, owning a dog may not be as expensive as you think. Could you swap your gym membership for free exercise in the fresh air with your dog? Could you use your car less, with every short journey becoming a potential dog walk? The savings you could make in this way could help offset the expense of your new best friend.