5 Money Moves to Make Before Adopting a Dog


There's nothing better than coming home to a wiggling dog. Their soft fur, wet noses, and boundless enthusiasm can brighten even the dreariest of days.

However, bringing home a furry friend can be expensive. The ASPCA estimates that owning a small dog costs over $1,400 in just the first year, while large dog owners are looking at a figure above $2,000. And those amounts only cover the basics. Extras like emergency vet bills or specialized training can cause your costs to skyrocket.

Because of the serious expense of owning a dog, it's important to not bring a pet home impulsively. Preparing for a new pet means you need to spend some time getting ready for his arrival. And that includes some important first steps. (See also: 5 Pet Costs You Don't See Coming)

1. Build an emergency fund

Unfortunately, dogs can be prone to accidents and illnesses. If they gobble a sock — which is oddly common — or eat something they shouldn't, you could end up with a four-figure vet bill. In fact, PetPlan, a pet insurance company, reported in 2017 that unexpected veterinary care typically costs between $750 and $1,600, though higher bills are also common.

If you're not prepared for an unexpected vet bill this high, you might be faced with a tough decision if something bad happens. To prevent that from occurring, start building an emergency fund for your pet's care before you even bring them home. That way, if there is an accident, you'll be able to handle it. (See also: How to Prep Your Finances for an Emergency Vet Visit)

2. Create a budget for the necessities

When you think about what it costs to own a dog, you probably think of basics like food and flea and tick prevention. But there are many other expenses to keep in mind, including:

  • Spaying or neutering: Spaying or neutering prevents overpopulation and can even help with your dog's behavior.

  • Dog crate or bed: When your dog is new to your home, a designated crate or bed can help soothe him and be useful during housebreaking.

  • Leash and collar: You'll need a strong leash and collar to walk your dog safely.

  • County dog license and tags: Some areas require you to get a license for your dog. Usually, the dog has to wear the license at all times.

  • Food and water bowls: Designated bowls make it easier to keep your home clean.

  • Routine shots and exams: At a minimum, your dog will need rabies, parvovirus, and distemper vaccines.

  • Grooming: Grooming is more important than just making your dog pretty. It also keeps their skin in good condition, and can help you catch illnesses and problems before they get worse.

  • Treats and toys: Treats and toys are essential to teach your dog and to help him burn off energy.

  • Training: If you're not an experienced dog owner, dog training can be invaluable. Ensuring your dog will obey you and develop good manners is an important part of pet ownership.

Some of these items can cost a lot more than you expect, especially if you plan to get a larger dog. For example, spaying or neutering your dog could cost as much as $600. By knowing how much money you'll need ahead of time, you can better manage your paycheck and budget accordingly. (See also: 6 Pet Expenses You Should Never Skip)

3. Buy secondhand where possible

When making your budget, you'll likely look at the prices for new items. However, you can save a lot of money by shopping for secondhand stuff. Especially if you're getting a young dog who will outgrow things quickly, buying used items or asking friends and family for their old things can help you save big.

For example, a new hard-sided crate can cost over $100 at big-name pet stores. But if you shop on Craigslist or find someone who is getting rid of one, you could spend as little as $10, and they're often as good as new. Just be sure to wash and disinfect any secondhand items thoroughly, and make sure there are no cracks or damage.

4. Research pet insurance

Pet insurance can be a smart investment. If your dog has a serious injury or illness, it can be a literal lifesaver. It's a good idea to shop around while your dog is still young since puppies and young dogs typically qualify for lower premiums than older ones. Premiums can vary, but most pet owners can expect to pay between $30 and $50 per month. If you're not sure where to start, check out the Canine Journal for reviews of the top pet insurers. (See also: 7 Things You Need to Know About Pet Insurance)

5. Identify discount pet supply stores

When it comes to dog food, treats, and toys, you might think your only option is the local pet store. However, you can often get better deals at farm supply stores or online discount retailers. Sites like Chewy even often discounts if you sign up for automatic shipments, helping you save on food and other supplies. Plus, you get the added benefit of not having to lug heavy bags of dog food home from the store. (See also: 5 Unexpected Dog Costs You Should Prepare for Now)

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