Caught your attention with that title, didn’t I? We all love to save money where we can, and there’s no shame in admitting to wish we could spend a little less on our pets.
Owning a pet is an investment, no doubt about it. Estimates vary, but studies show pet owners spend nearly $1500 every year on their dogs. That’s a significant figure, especially when you multiply it by each year of your dog’s life!
What if there were a way to leave a little more money in your bank account without sacrificing your Lab’s health and happiness?
In this article, I’ll share with you these insider tips for wallet-friendly pet ownership. You’re welcome.
Contents & Quick Navigation
- How To Save Money Getting a Dog in the First Place
- How To Save Money On Dog Food
- How To Save Money On Dog Toys
- How To Save Money On Dog Training
- How To Save Money On Dog Grooming
- How To Save Money On Gear (Collars / Leashes / Beds / Crate / etc.)
- How To Save Money On Health Care / Veterinary Costs
- The Bottom Line
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How To Save Money Getting a Dog in the First Place
Buying a dog is a bit like opening a business: the start-up costs can be prohibitive!
Adopt a Dog From a Shelter
Shelter dogs are far less expensive than their breeder and pet store counterparts. As an added bonus, they come loaded with ‘incentives’ like being up-to-date on their shots, spayed or neutered, and with a clean bill of health.
By contrast, buying a puppy from a pet store or breeder carries a far greater risk of incurring secondary expenses, notably for health reasons.
(Note: there are many reputable sources for puppies. Unfortunately, there are far more disreputable ones.)
Check With Your Friends
With social networking being what it is, it seems we truly have reached the point of six degrees of separation from everyone else on the planet!
Tap into this marketplace of friends to see if someone you know (or someone they know – and TRUST) has a litter of puppies or a litter on the way.
Odds are, somebody, somewhere has a puppy (or adult dog) that needs a new home. You’ll come away with significant savings versus dealing with a complete stranger.
How To Save Money On Dog Food
Food is the single largest regular expense, and it’s the one most dog owners are hesitant to cut back on.
Research Before You Buy
This cannot be stated too clearly: ‘high cost’ is not the same as ‘high quality.’
Many dog owners assume they’re giving their dog the best food simply because it’s expensive. And while there are many excellent but expensive dog foods (especially when dealing with exotic or ‘novel’ proteins like kangaroo, or bison), in many cases you’re paying a premium for the word “premium” on the bag.
The most important tip for purchasing any dog food is to check the list of ingredients and select a brand that uses the least amount of filler you can find.
These are ingredients that make your dog full, but which contain little or no nutritional value. Armed with that knowledge, you can now seek out lower-cost food that still packs a healthy punch.
Buy in Bulk
As with any food product, when you can buy dog food in bulk (and/or wholesale) you save money on a per item basis. Over the course of your Lab’s life, those savings can really add up.
If you prefer not to purchase in such large quantities or lack the storage space, always choose a single large bag over several small ones. Yes, the small bags are easier to carry, but you’re spending more on the same amount of food.
Bonus Tip: Look For Free Food!
If that conjures images of scraping up road kill, I apologize. Here’s a more appetizing thought: try to find a store that offers an incentive plan.
My retailer of choice tracks my purchases, and for every ten bags I purchase, I get a bag for free. With a large Labrador in the house, it’s amazing how often I get to number 11!
How To Save Money On Dog Toys
Your dog has no clue how much you spent on a toy, only whether or not it’s fun to play with!
Stick With the Favorites
Experiment with different types of toys for a while, and learn what your dog enjoys the most.
From then on, only purchase those types of toys, and rotate the selection from time to time to keep things fresh.
Make Your Own Toys
When you get right down to the core of the idea, you’ll find that most dog toys are quite simple. There are chew toys, tug-of-war toys, find-the-treat toys, and so forth.
Creating your own versions from things you already own is an economical (and fun!) alternative to buying ready-made.
An old length of rope or worn-out belt can be the basis for either a chew toy or a tug toy.
Stuff an old sock with a crunched up water bottle or use old clothes to refill an empty store-bought stuffed animal.
These are just a couple of ideas to get you thinking; a quick search on the Internet will yield a litany of results for D.I.Y. dog toy projects.
Avoid the Big Box Stores
If you’re not into arts and crafts, but you’d still like to save money on toys, look for alternative sources.
Hit up your local dollar store for some low-cost toys. Many stock actual dog toys at a fraction of the price you’ll pay at a pet retailer.
Be sure to check your selection for safety concerns (choking hazards, flaking paint, etc.) before purchasing, however. Sometimes there’s a reason an item is cheap!
Flea markets, charity stores, and garage sales are also great places to find old stuffed animals, balls, and other things to keep your Lab entertained. Give them a wash, and you’re good to go!
How To Save Money On Dog Training
Training your dog is essential, but, unfortunately, there’s no public school for pooches.
I went to the website of a major book retailer and entered “dog training” into the search box. It returned more than 1500 matches.
Clearly there’s a lot of information available at your local bookstore, and a good book is still less expensive than hiring a trainer, or even joining a class.
Used-book stores may save you a few bucks, and there’s always the library for the ultimate savings.
Search the Internet
Of course, you’ve already done this one, or else you wouldn’t be here now!
The World Wide Web is a treasure trove of information on every possible pet subject. You’ll find articles (such as this) and videos to help with any dog training questions you might have, and most of it is free!
The trick is separating the wheat from the chaff.
There is a lot of questionable material online, with unverified sources, and just plain bad advice. If something doesn’t seem right to you, go with your gut and move on to another site.
“Hire” a Virtual Trainer
There are numerous online training programs available. You pay a fee, either monthly or flat, to gain access to a library of articles and instructional videos.
A well-made video is a great resource because it actually shows you techniques in action.
Didn’t quite catch it the first time? Just rewind and watch it again. Or search for a video that deals with the exact problem you’re currently dealing with. It’s a lot more efficient than recording every episode of “The Dog Whisperer!”
Doggy Dan the Online Dog Trainer
At the top of the class for online dog training is Doggy Dan.
Dan’s website, theonlinedogtrainer.com, is full to bursting with great information in the form of articles, downloadable audio files, and videos. He covers every topic you can think of in over 250 professionally shot videos, and they’re nicely organized for easy browsing.
Dan is a professional dog trainer, and, unlike many others you’ll find online, he’s a charismatic and engaging presenter.
Speaking as someone with a background in broadcasting on both sides of the camera, I assure you these are well thought out, cleanly produced and nicely presented pieces.
The focus is on conveying quality information, rather than on slick packaging and gaudy graphics. The result is a compilation of videos that you won’t mind consulting again and again.
The cost? Well, you can dip your toes for just one dollar for a 3-day trial. You read that correctly: one dollar. That’s for full access, by the way, not a limited trial version. After that, it’s $37 per month for as long as you care to continue.
That’s an exceptional value when you compare it to the $100+ per HOUR you’d pay for private training sessions. And you can work it around your own schedule, instead of trying to squeeze it in somewhere in your busy week.
Oh, did I mention that, so far as we can tell, Doggy Dan is the only online dog training service endorsed by a branch of the SPCA?
The New Zealand SPCA has been in existence for over 130 years, and to have their seal of approval speaks volumes about the quality of Doggy Dan’s program and his dedication to working with dogs.
If you want to read more about Doggy Dan, hop on over to our full review of his site. Go ahead now, if you like. I’ll wait.
How To Save Money On Dog Grooming
Everyone loves a well-trimmed and freshly washed dog, but there are alternatives to pricey pet spas.
Grooming at Home
Labradors are surprisingly easy to maintain, as far as their coats go.
They don’t need to be trimmed, and they don’t shed as badly as some breeds. (Certainly my Shepherd leaves far more fur around the house than my Lab!)
A good brushing now and then to get out the loose, dead hair and assorted bits of nature clinging to them is about all they need.
Buy yourself a decent brush and skip the groomers.
Buy a Nail Trimmer
Many dog owners balk at the idea of trimming their dog’s nails, so they end up spending money to have someone else do it. The truth is, there’s nothing to it!
A good set of trimmers will probably cost between $20-$40. (Compare to about $10 each time you take them to the groomers.)
Make sure you get a pair with a guard that limits the amount you can cut off at one time. This reduces the likelihood of accidentally trimming too much at once and hurting your Lab. And have styptic powder handy to stem the blood, just in case you cut the quick.
Once you become adept at it, and your Labrador gets used to having it done, you’ll find it takes only 10 minutes to trim all four sets of nails.
Washing at Home
Dog washing is another service most people pay unnecessary amounts of money for at a groomer. Unless you lack the physical capacity to do it yourself, you’re better off pocketing that money and doing it at home.
It’s likely you won’t need to bathe your Lab very often unless it has a propensity for finding every mud puddle they can find in the dog park.
Still, it’s good to keep Rover clean, it’s an excellent opportunity to search thoroughly for any areas of concern (lumps, sores, etc.), and it can also just be plain fun!
While puppies can readily be washed up in the family tub, bathing a full-grown Lab is an outdoor job!
A cheap kiddie pool or specialist dog pool (not the blow-up kind, for obvious reasons) makes a perfect washtub. And have a supply of old towels on hand for drying off, unless you’re planning on air-drying.
If you live someplace where the weather turns frosty and outdoor bathing is not an option part of the year, check to see if there’s an indoor dog washing station nearby.
A coin-op carwash near my home has converted one stall to an indoor dog wash facility complete with a raised tub with a non-slip bottom, and eye hooks in the wall for tethering to.
Simply by turning the knob, I can select from a variety of cycles, including shampoo, conditioner, oatmeal scrub, and plain water for rinsing. There’s even a built-in blow dryer.
Sure, you have to keep pumping in the quarters, but it’s still less expensive than having a “professional” do virtually the same thing.
How To Save Money On Gear (Collars / Leashes / Beds / Crate / etc.)
Dogs need accouterments and furniture the same as you and I, but do they need to cost a fortune?
Be a Smart Shopper
You’re probably a pretty savvy consumer, right? You know where to get the best deals, how to price-match, and shop around? Sure, when it comes to regular, everyday commodities!
When it comes to dog accessories, most of us probably head straight to the nearest big box pet store because we know they have what we need, and we don’t know where else to get that stuff.
But every store has competition, so check flyers, wait for sales, and ask for price matches. Check non-traditional sources like department stores, discount stores, and outdoor living stores for pet supplies.
You might find better prices at a boutique, or “mom and pop” shop, but you’ll likely face a limited selection. And don’t be afraid to visit thrift stores like Salvation Army, or Goodwill for used items, or things to repurpose.
I promise you, Amazon is not paying me to say this, but the variety of dog goodies of all sorts available through their website is astonishing.
Best of all, you can read reviews written by actual users to help you make up your mind.
More often than not, you’ll find lower prices than in physical stores, and you have the convenience of shipping right to your home.
Other options for online shopping are sites like Craigslist and Kijiji. Plenty of dog owners use these sites to sell off unwanted gear and hopefully gain a few dollars in the process.
I once sold an under-used doghouse for a fraction of what I paid for it to a very happy customer!
If you’re the type who loves a project, hit the ‘net for some new ideas for making everything from dog tags to dog beds.
Making your own dog furniture not only saves money, but it can also enhance your décor – if you have the skills! (I, sadly, do not.)
Some of the best ideas involve repurposing furniture you may already have, or which you could pick up on the cheap at a yard sale or flea market.
Use What You’ve Already Got
I am ashamed to say that I own a clip-on doggy bag dispenser for taking on walks. I was lured in by the adorable bone-shaped container, and perceived convenience, even though I have a never-ending supply of perfectly good plastic bags from the grocery store.
The lesson here is not to pay money for things to throw out.
Old sofa or patio furniture cushions make great dog beds, as do outgrown crib mattresses. Have a look around the house; the possibilities are seemingly endless!
How To Save Money On Health Care / Veterinary Costs
Short of becoming a vet yourself, how can you dodge those bank-busting bills?
The easiest and best way to avoid costly trips to the vet is to keep your Lab healthy. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. (Or a dollar of cure, a peso of cure; whatever fits your local currency!)
A healthy diet and regular exercise will stave off the most common health problems facing Labs, as most of them stem from being overweight.
Keep Shots and Pills Up-to-date
Again, by being proactive with your Lab’s health care, you may be able to avoid costly health issues down the road.
Use Household Medications
There are many common medications you may already have in your home that can be used for dogs.
Examples are Imodium, Benadryl, and many antibiotic ointments.
Even some prescription medications can be useful, but you should consult your veterinarian before administering anything you’re not absolutely certain about, and ask about proper dosages, too.
Here are seven common over-the-counter medicines that are known to be safe to use on dogs:
- Aspirin (sparingly)
- Saline nasal spray
Create Your Own “Insurance”
One of the best tips I’ve come across for easing the financial burden of unexpected medical costs is remarkably simple. Rather than taking out Pet Insurance, which can be costly and involves all the complications associated with any type of insurance, simply open a savings account.
Check with your bank or financial institution to see if they have any high-interest accounts or some other way of maximizing your return.
Make regular deposits into the account – maybe set up an automatic transfer from your paycheck – and just let it accrue over the life of your pet.
When the day comes that your Labrador suddenly needs surgery, or a battery of tests and medications, you’ll have a readily accessible source of money.
If you’re fortunate, your dog will incur no major expenses and you’ll have money to cover end-of-life costs, something no one likes to think about in advance.
Bonus Tip: Double Dip Your Savings!
Use a credit card that offers some sort of reward points to make payments at the vet, and then pay it off immediately from your dog account.
The Bottom Line
Owning a dog is expensive. Period. Anyone looking to become a first-time owner needs to be aware of that.
Those of us who have owned several dogs are keenly aware! Even though it’s always worth it, in the end, there’s no rule to say you have to break the bank getting there.
If you have any tips of your own that I didn’t cover, please share the savings with us, and your fellow Lab owners, by leaving it in the comments below!
All content on this site is provided for informational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended to be nor can it be considered actionable professional advice. It must not be used as an alternative for seeking professional advice from a veterinarian or other certified professional.
LabradorTrainingHQ.com assumes no responsibility or liability for the use or misuse of what’s written on this site. Please consult a professional before taking any course of action with any medical, health or behavioral related issue.
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