Dog Economics: a.k.a. Why I need to delay painting my cardboard box until next summer.

9 Aug

It may surprise you to learn this but things do in fact cost money.

I know Don. We were confused too.

Some things that cost a weird amount of money? Dogs. Even that free puppy* from a fellow Dog Snob will still cost you thousands upon thousands of dollars in the long run or if you’re unlucky, in the short run too.

“They see me rollin’. They hatin'”

You may think you’ve budgeted for dog basics (food, routine vet care, etc), but in case you didn’t know, shit happens.  And in the dog world, shit happening is usually quite expensive.

We’ll need to repeat the calm part.

Have a dog with absurd allergies (we’re looking at you Mr. T), prepare to spend way more than you ever thought buying organic goat meat for raw feeding.


Have a dog with behavior problems? Better save up for that behaviorist, which have initial consultations often starting around $200.

First question: Is the head spinning all the way around normal? Second: will he just grow out of it?

Feel like taking a fun class with your dog?  Get out your credit card.

One more class and sloth is going to need to make some room.

Want to compete? Pfft.

We don’t go to compete…

Does your dog have a touchy stomach?  Prepare to sell your first born child to the vet to cover your bills.

The budget will never be that tight… maybe.

Oh yeah, and if you live in a major city?   Be prepared to pay even more for basic services than your friends in small towns.

She got me throwin’ my money around.

According to a few sites we found, including this one, the average amount spent on dogs yearly is between $580 to $875.  Um…what?  Did they mean per month? Every three months?  No?  Well then… we feel silly.  The only way this makes sense to us is that there are a whole lot of “zeros” averaged in there to skew the average.  The three of us only wish that our yearly average was anywhere in that range.

All of it… on your dog. Do it now.

Back to that competition thing and our noises of derision…Want to compete with your dogs?  Oh dear. Better take out a loan.Conformation is it’s own little realm of poor long-term financial decisions. Chalk is surprisingly expensive, after-all kids..

Is it really cheating if everyone does it?

But… let’s take a look at Obedience because it’s something we know a bit about. We’ll start with the absolute basics for the average novice competitor for a year (or something like that because we’re not all that scientific. Fang did most of these estimates, is painfully cheap and in a cheap area so Busybee nearly had a stroke reading the prices)

Dog: We’re going to assume the dogs are bionic, indestructible and able to survive without food.

Probably the cheapest pet you’ll ever have.

Classes: $80 per 8 weeks. 6 Sessions a year (48/52 weeks approx) so $480 per year for the minor-keener. If you want to train with an expensive trainer or you live in ‘not the sticks’ it goes into price brackets we don’t like to think about (and that BusyBee would rather not talk about because it might make her wallet weep more than it already does).

They can shake in the corner from trauma though. Documented fact.

Floor Time: Live somewhere with shitty weather? We do! So the indoor space with actual floors is a godsend, but it’s not a free godsend. $3 if you’re willing to share but if you want the whole space, $20 an hour.

You’d think it would be this special but it’s not.

Training Equipment: Think your old collar will work? Ha! We could tell you’re new! $350 in a year seems like a lot until you begin to add things up. Utility articles, dumbbells (Try 3 when the first two don’t fit), leashes, collars, tugs, balls, long-lines, crates**, treats, PVC (The miracle plastic) and the list goes on. This isn’t even including anything special. We’re talking bare bones basics here. The good news is, it’s all reusable… at least until you have a dog of a different size…. *sigh*

A metric fuck-ton of stuff. Not to be confused with a fuck-ton which is about 204 fucks less.

Trialing: Entry fees start at $20, if you’re in a cheap area. Averages in other areas are in the $22-28 range. Gas, lodging, food, parking (Conformation shows charge for parking and it’s never cheap.), emergency fund that is inevitably spent in concessions at any large trial. There are also those optional titling classes which are oh so tempting to add to our alphabets, and the Wildcard classes where you can train in the ring (sort of, not really, don’t shoot me.).

That’s one way to enter all the classes. Cloning!

Miscellaneous: Rule books, books in general, notebooks, seminars, videos, mental acuity training (Don’t laugh it’s real), Fun Days, Show-and-go’s, Match Shows, Buddy Training, Petco because when you train in their stores they’ll give you dirty looks if you don’t buy *something*.

And the kitchen sink… in case you didn’t get that by the picture.

For a dog to finish a UD (Essentially the last of the basic stream obedience titles as the rest require multiple classes to qualify for), it must be shown at least 9 times with qualifying scores. That’s 9 times where nothing goes wrong enough to have issues. Assuming the trial is literally down the road, you have a perfect run and you never need to spend money a CD to a UD has an opening price range of $200-300. Utility is called Futility for a reason. Some people can do it in 9. Most people do it in many many more.

But at least the bar has been set a little lower

UDX requires qualifying in two classes in a single trial, 10 separate times. The nice part is they charge you a little bit less for two classes. It’s still $30+ but it’s better than $50. A single UDX is therefore about another $300.

OM/OGM/OTCh titles increase those numbers exponentially and we do mean exponentially.

Depressed yet? We are! And they say obedience competitors are cheap…

Fake it ’til you make it.

On the bright side you can sometimes win money, assuming you’re the best that day. If you’re lucky your entry fee is covered. If you’re not lucky, you get a handmade piece of braided polar fleece to be destroyed in under 38 seconds. Why do we do this again?


So what is the moral of the story?  Dogs are expensive.  Doing things with your dogs is even more expensive.  Why aren’t they allowed to be claimed as dependents on tax forms??

We could get behind a drool-tax ‘cuz that’s just gross.

*Potnoodle’s got foster puppies and somehow Fang may wind up with one. Because four dogs aren’t enough apparently.

**Fang has two of the Noz2Noz crates which are lovely and great and Z has destroyed both and the cheap emergency replacement. She now goes everywhere in the metal pet crate. She is why we can’t have nice things.

But that blue one is a destroyed crate and the idiot sticking out is Z.

20 Responses to “Dog Economics: a.k.a. Why I need to delay painting my cardboard box until next summer.”

  1. Flynn's mama August 9, 2013 at 11:37 pm #

    So cruel of you to fling reality at us . . . There’s a reason I lump all of my dog expenses into the “miscellaneous” category in my budget. They hide better there . . .

  2. Denise August 10, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    I live in a high cost of living area so those numbers have always made me laugh on the outside and cry on the inside. I’m just seriously getting into nosework, ORT this weekend, with my boy and our yearly expenses have certainly just grown. Nosework is a pretty cheap venue to take part in so I’m getting off “easy”.

  3. doggimum August 10, 2013 at 1:07 am #

    Do not show this to my husband!!

    • Helen August 10, 2013 at 12:02 pm #

      No kiddin’ doggimum! DH was sooooo happy I quit showing in conformation and went w/ obedience (cuz it would be so much cheaper!) Bwahahahahaaaaaaa…. he don’t know the half of it!

  4. Sara August 10, 2013 at 1:29 am #

    Feeding my two 65 pounders homemade raw costs me between 250-300 a month if I’m lucky. 800 dollars a YEAR? Did they only poll people who feed Dog Chow and have magic dogs who never get sick and can understand English and therefor don’t need training?

  5. bgszap2 August 10, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    If you show in conformation you need 3 crates per dog:1 for the Van that you bought especially to transport dogs (you forgot that one) 1 for the show site and 1 for the motel. Don’t forget the $50 tip to the maid who opened the door even with the sign on it and discovered your dog not crated and horny…..

  6. Elinor August 10, 2013 at 2:41 am #

    and if you are a fool like me and do performance events with multiple dogs in multiple states, plus some combination of obedience/rally/agility, throw in a handful of shows and a week at Nationals… oh well, who really needs a retirement fund?

  7. Moth August 10, 2013 at 3:48 am #

    Shhh…if we don’t talk about it it isn’t real!

  8. donnasoderstrom August 10, 2013 at 6:11 am #

    The vehicle you buy to transport the dogs, the gas to travel to events and lessons, taking a morning off work every week for private lessons, pet sitting or boarding if you try to go away. I do not want to dwell on this. Ouch.

  9. tideeyed August 10, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    Forget about training… You left out the bajillions of dollars in vet fees!

  10. warnhound August 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    run a raw group if you do it right and live in the right area it can actually be cheaper than most kibble just saying…not all cases but some

  11. aclynham August 10, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    Great blog. Dogs ARE expensive. Especially competitive dogs. So ARE horses, especially if they are bred to excel. It all boils down to personal choice. No need to justify, or explain their relative expenses by geographic situation. Someone who is buying a dog that they are interested in entering into competition should, and should be expected to know, what they are doing right from the very beginning. The breeder, the vet, or some significant other makes it clear before a person takes ownership. What is offered is the opportunity to accept a genetic obligation. Such a transaction is not just for a household pet. Indeed, sometimes the challenges of working with a gifted athletic dog work out, sometimes not. But, I don’t feel that Wonder Dog, “little canine from the hills wins National Title”, comes along too often.

  12. cathy kenny August 11, 2013 at 2:09 am #

    ha! I laugh at your puny expenses and see you.. stock! Yep.. 100 miles EACH way every week (have you seen gas prices lately.. sheesh!) $40 a lesson, and trialing? ONE weekend can run $400+ just for entries!! My coworkers joke that my budget looks like a pie chart.. but it’s all for the dogs! It’s all worth it though, when you are at an agility trial you just paid $150 in entries for at 7am outside on Saturday in 30 degree weather and you realize.. this is what I do for fun!

  13. Jo August 11, 2013 at 4:56 am #

    Living in Vancouver, I alway s look at those spending numbers and laugh, then cry. I have the tri-fecta of costliness: a dog with wretched allergies (heyyyyy, I’m looking at you BC Moose hunters. Hit me up, I’ll make it worth your while), an insatiable need for learning & stimulation (Why yes, Ms. Trainer, I *do* pay you more than I spend on my mortgage. Agility? Check. Nosework? Check. Trick class? Check.) and just recently, a torn ACL. (Just start direct depositing my paycheck into the Vet’s account. I won’t be needing it). Some people strip to pay their way through law school, I might have to do it to pay my way through dog ownership. Too bad I’m fat and I can’t dance, eh?

  14. Robin Nuttall August 11, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Obedience costs, though considerable, are not a drop in the bucket compared to agility costs. Hence the $700 set of weave poles sitting in my back yard so I can work several times a week with Mr. I Do Not Weave At Trials. Alsoplustoo, the crate collection! (3 dogs, 20 crates, I only wish I was exaggerating…) and the Leash Collection; can you say leather fetish? And the class I just signed up for, 120 miles away one-way, two dogs, $130 per dog for six weeks..

    My SIL, after coming to one of my trials years ago, asked me over dinner how much money I made from winning a class. I just stared at her and said it was like fly fishing or golf; you throw money at it. Money never comes back.

  15. Competitive K9s August 15, 2013 at 1:50 am #

    I calculated the expenses of just ONE of my dogs once, over the course of a year (in response to one of those comments as to how breeders must be rolling in it)… Never, ever again will I do that LOL

  16. Kitdragon2000 August 15, 2013 at 1:52 am #

    geesh Why are you reminding us about the fact that my wallet randomly runs away…. *sigh*

  17. Sheltiebrat August 15, 2013 at 2:58 am #

    When I first started agility in NADAC a long time ago (1994) , I attended classes for some time, a quickly determined I needed to buy equipment of my own to practice with 🙂

    After a couple years, I determined it was best to buy QUALITY equipment, lol.

    I bought one big expensive piece each year, as well as one smaller piece of some type as new stuff came out I still took classes and seminars and bought videotapes and CDs and books and and and – but having equipment is awesome.

    Doing obedience, same thing, minus expensive equipment, and I could build jumps, and not much needed besides classes.

    I had to laugh when I retired, my husband wondered what I had done with my paycheckfor 25 years 🙂 I asked him what did he think I was doing every weekend when i left with the dogs, or where I was going in the evenings with some of the dogs various evenings during the week , or where the ribbons and titles on the wall came from?

    Nose work caught his attention because of little boxes all over the house, lol

  18. Marcia D August 16, 2013 at 2:32 pm #

    Well, I figured it out 2 years ago and will never make that mistake again! 1 dog doing 2 obedience classes a show and 1 just getting started (and also showing in breed) and I also show in agility (no equipment to purchase there over and above what I already have). I don’t do many out of town shows because there is always one of my sports happening locally or if I do go out of town I might have a relative living nearby. I didn’t figure in what I bought at shows or food/gas/tolls on the road. One is fed raw which is about $60 a month. But my big cost was the holistic vet along with the regular vet. They both get chiropractic adjustments every month and one gets acupuncture every month along with herbs (allergies). My grand total was $14,000 a year. One of these dogs has 41 AKC titles. That’s a lot of entry fees!

  19. Deb August 17, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Learn the mechanics of clicker training, shaping, targeting, etc. Then do it all yourself. Clicker’s are a $1 and treats can be cheerios. Need to socialize? Just go out your front door and visit training centers. Very true – the dog biz is how many billions? Just take a look at SuperZoo in Las Vegas. Every year I yearn for that new waffle dog bed or that gorgeous collar and leash set. Crates on wheels, glow in the dark bowls – in case Rover can’t find the water after bedtime, jewels, hats, booties, you name it! I need another job.

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