AARF, AARF is the sound of money

We adopted Frankie, a rescue puppy. While it makes no financial sense, we expect her to bring us exercise, stained rugs, chewed furniture, excuses to decline social engagements we didn’t want, and, yes, pure loyalty and affection.

However, given my interest in personal finance, I couldn’t help but consider the cost of all that joy. It’s hard to put a price on love, but I’ll try.

In short, puppy love isn’t cheap.

“Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.”  Kinky Friedman

“What do dogs do on their day off? Can’t lie around – that’s their job.”  George Carlin

Start-Up Expenses

  • Most dog owners adopt a rescue or purchase one from a breeder. A rescue organization typically charges ~$500 for an adoption and prices from reputable breeders are in the thousands of dollars. But, you’re just getting started.
  • Your puppy will need all sorts of vet visits, vaccinations, micro-chipping, and neutering. These expenses will be a couple of thousand dollars in year 1 of your puppy’s life.
  • But that’s not all. Rover needs lots of gear — crates, gates, collars, beds, leashes, toys — that will add up to hundreds of dollars in year 1.
  • With this investment, you’re going to want to train your baby so she doesn’t turn into a little monster. Puppy orientation and ongoing training classes will cost hundreds of dollars more, unless you opt for a personal trainer and then it might be thousands. Frankie will be leaping after frisbees and winning agility contests and I’m guessing those skills don’t come cheaply.
  • Then there’s the fence. You may already have one, live in an apartment, or conclude you don’t need one, but if you do install a fence, it will cost many thousands of dollars. Given the love you’re receiving and treasure you’re spending, you certainly wouldn’t want Rover to run away.
  • Finally, let’s not ignore the furniture, rugs, and shoes that she thinks are now hers.

The total bill for the start-up expenses? Hard to say but, it’s a lot, depending on where you get your dog, your training needs, cost of neutering, etc. I would figure between $2,000 and $6,000, before one fence post has been dug or one couch leg has been chewed.

On-Going Expenses

After all those one-time expenses, come the ongoing ones. Rover needs to be: fed, taken to the vet, groomed, boarded when you’re traveling, walked when you’re working, protected from fleas, ticks, and heart worm, etc.

How much does all of this cost per year? Again, it depends on many factors including expensive services like boarding and dog walkers, her age, how hungry she is and how fancy a diet you chose for her. Figure at least a couple of thousand dollars per year.

And, then there’s the pet insurance. Like everything else, the cost varies but it’s in the range of $1,000 or $2,000 per year. It’s not a simple decision if you should purchase pet insurance as it has several shortcomings:

  • It’s not really insurance in the sense that it is not offered by regulated insurance companies.
  • These companies can raise rates (or decline coverage) each year at renewal time.
  • Your rate is likely to increase each year as your pet ages and the likelihood of expensive medical care increases.
  • The policies are governed by complex legal documents and it is difficult to decipher exactly what will be covered and how much of the claim will be paid, if it is covered.

Generally, I recommend to not insure against relatively small (i.e., affordable) losses as the long-term financial benefits of the coverage aren’t worth the premiums paid. Insurance works best when it covers very unlikely and unpredictable catastrophic events.

I can only think of one good reason for pet insurance. If Rover requires expensive medical care for a serious condition, you will have more peace of mind knowing that you’re not making the treatment decision based on whether you can afford it.

Unpredictable Expenses

And then there are the surprises.

When it comes to dogs, shit definitely happens. No matter how careful you are, they may eat Tylenol or rat poison, get attacked by porcupines, or suffer from unlimited other possibilities. Count on these expensive emergencies happening from time to time. How much should you expect? Again, impossible to know but, I’d plan on another $1,000 per year of these headaches.


Over her lifetime, canine love is tens of thousands of dollars. But, could any price be too high for this?

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