Our Approach To Affordable, Responsible Dog Care
Last week, Frugal Hound had her annual doggie wellness exam and vaccinations, which set us back $116. Far from bemoaning this expense, Mr. Frugalwoods and I were delighted to fork over the funds because it means Frugal Hound is a healthy and happy creature. Plus, we had the ever-entertaining experience of trying to get her to step up onto the scale at the vet’s.
Mind you, this dog is very tall and this scale is very small–it’s a raised platform that’s less than 2 inches off the ground–but every year, she is not having it. Shots? Fine. Exam? No problem. But step up on the death scale? Heck no. At each visit, the vet has to pick her up and hoist her on top of said scale (which, by the way, is covered with a soft pad) where she proceeds to tremble and quiver for reasons known only to her walnut-sized brain. She then gets a treat and all trauma is forgotten. It’s equal parts tragic and hilarious.
Much like coffee, seltzer, and quality produce, our dear little Frugal Hound is one of our joyful frugal luxuries. Yes, she’s a dog and yes, she’s sometimes stinky and yes, she requires money, but she’s worth every cent. Last year I calculated that she costs us $930.35 annually, and I think that’s probably a fairly accurate, if generous, estimate (I suspect she actually clocks in at a tad less).
Sure, it would be less expensive for us not to own her, but the gratification we receive from her presence far outstrips her doggie costs. Not to mention her practical use–I mean, who else could we dress up like a unicorn for Frugalwoods purposes? On a daily basis, Frugal Hound makes us laugh with her absurd antics, reduces our stress, gives us an excuse to get outside for a walk, and brings us closer as a family. It’s hard to stay mad or frustrated with this face looking up at you (see one hound face at right).
Frugal Hound is one of our emotional spending decisions and we’re fully aware that she’s technically a drain on our finances. But by that same metric, the impending Babywoods could also be categorized as a drain on our finances along with a plethora of other luxuries we relish around our frugal home (not to mention our home itself!).
Our goal isn’t to live the cheapest existence possible, our goal is to carve out a strategically thrifty life that’s optimized to permit spending on the things (including babies, hounds, seltzer, and coffee) that we value. For example, I’d much rather have Frugal Hound in my life than buy new clothes. The Hound makes me laugh on a daily basis; new clothes, conversely, would only serve to thwart my epic decluttering tirade and clothes buying ban. The trade-off is as simple as that. And, since we’re able to save 71%+ even with a Hound in tow, we’re pleased with our decision. The key, as in all frugal endeavors, is to carefully choose where and how we spend.
Through crafty strategery, it’s possible to partake in seemingly unfrugal things for surprisingly low dollar amounts. It’s all about employing frugal cleverness. And yes, puppy ownership is one of those things you can hack. Just like groceries, setting up a baby nursery, and having a car, there’s a cheap way to do it and an expensive way.
How We Frugalize Doggie Care, Maintenance, and Sundry Bits
1) Get a frugal dog.
It’s true, some dogs are just better at managing their money than others. You’ll see them at the dog park talking up index funds and showing off their purchased-on-Craigslist collars. But seriously, some pups are less expensive to acquire and maintain than others.
Adopting a hound, either through the Humane Society or another rescue organization (Frugal Hound came to us from the Greyhound Options rescue group) is a surefire way to start dog ownership off on a frugal foot. Rescued dogs are a great deal more economical than “new” dogs from breeders. As with most things in life, shopping used is the wisest option.
2) Temperament matters.
Another way to ensure lifelong frugal pet ownership is to thoughtfully consider the breed of dog that’ll best fit with your lifestyle. Ideally, you want to adopt a breed that’s habituated to the type of life you live. For example, since Mr. FW and I both work outside of the home 40+ hours per week, we knew we should get a dog that’d be content staying home alone during the day.
After extensive research, we learned that greyhounds are lazy, laid-back animals who will gladly snooze all day while you’re gone. Frugal Hound has unequivocally proven this true. When we first adopted her, we set up a webcam while we were at work to see how she handled being home alone–and, uh, let me tell you what, she slept so soundly that we had to wake her up when we got home. Ushering in a new bar for laziness, the dog barely changed positions all day…
Clearly, this is a breed that’s well adapted to the working parent family. Since Frugal Hound is basically a 60lb cat (who looks like a deer), we don’t need to pay for a dog walker or doggie day care. Plus, since we adopted Frugal Hound as an adult dog rescued from the racetrack, she didn’t require any pricey obedience classes or trainings. She came to us already knowing not to bark, jump on people, or bite. We really can’t take much credit for how polite she is, it’s just the way she was raised. And her calm demeanor gives us great peace of mind now that we’re about to welcome a baby into our lives–we know Frugal Hound will be patient, tolerant, and likely quite indifferent to Babywoods.
3) Consider the coat.
Grooming is another expense that thwarts many a would-be frugal dog owner. Our solution? Get a dog with scant grooming requirements. Frugal Hound’s limited fur coverage (poor thing is nearly bald on her underside) means that she has a grooming budget of $0.
Alternately if you have a canine with beauty needs, DIY it! The true frugal aficionado cuts their own hair already, so why not add your dog to your home spa day regime?
4) Insource all the things!
As consummate frugal insourcers (can we be “insorcerers“? yep, I’ve just decided we can), Mr. FW and I devised ways to conduct almost all of Frugal Hound’s care ourselves. No dog is entirely maintenance free, but it is possible to do their maintenance for free (oh wow, I’m on a terrible roll here… ). Here’s how we DIY hound care at Frugalwoods HQ:
Claws: hound claws should be trimmed to avoid scratching selves, others, and wood floors, so we use this cheap Dremel knockoff to file down her talons. Word to the wise: do this outside as hound nail dust gets everywhere. Our technique is to sit on either side of a standing Frugal Hound. Then, I hold her paw up and Mr. FW Dremels each nail using first the course sandpaper attachment and then the fine grit attachment.
- Fangs: hound fangs should be brushed regularly to avoid expensive trips to the doggie dentist. Brushing can’t entirely ward off cleanings (and we’ll likely need to have Frugal Hound’s teefs cleaned next year), but, it does allow us to space out her cleanings to once every four years as opposed to annually. We use this houndy toothpaste (human paste is not safe for dogs) and a regular human toothbrush (received for free from our human dentist). We also wear these latex gloves because, no matter how much we love her, we really don’t fancy getting dog spit all over our hands. Our technique is to both sit on her bed and have Mr. FW hold her mouth open while I get in there and brush. To add to the humor (and utility) of the session, I wear a headlamp so that I can see each tooth. It’s important to scrub ’em all. Someone should really take a video of us doing this because I’m sure we look patently ridiculous.
- Ears: hound ears should be cleaned in order to avoid hound ear infections. Frugal Hound’s ears are like gigantic sails into which all manner of debris flies. Seems like an inefficient ear design to me, but what do I know. I use regular human Q-tips to gently clean the dirt out of the outer regions of her ears. I don’t dig too deep so as not to harm her hound hearing.
Baths: hounds should be bathed occasionally in order to avoid stinkiness. Frugal Hound is, by nature, a pretty clean canine, but she gets musty smelling about every 6 months. And so, each spring and fall, we dunk poor FH in the tub. It’s a whole family affair of hilarity and hair, but we endure and are able to scrub her down in under 15 minutes (our record is 13 minutes. And yes, of course we time these things because we’re efficiency nerds!). We use this houndy shampoo (human shampoo is not good for hounds) and a no-skid bath mat, which enables her to get better traction in the tub. Our technique is for me to stand inside the tub with her and Mr. FW on the outside. This prevents her from ill-advisedly leaping out and also allows us to soap her up on both sides. Word to the wise: close the bathroom door first. The first time we attempted a hound bath, we failed to do this and ended up with a damp animal running around the house flinging water from her tail. After we scrub and rinse her, we lift her back out of the tub and towel her dry with two towels. She then goes and rubs herself on our one carpeted room for about an hour until she forgets all about the bath and resumes her usual routine of… snoozing all day. Since I’m aware this is her routine, I vacuum that room right before her baths.
- Brushing: hounds should be brushed periodically to remove dandruff and loose fur. We use this hound mitt on Frugal Hound since her fur is so short. She goes through a molting period every spring whereby she sheds a great quantity of fur and we need to brush her weekly. The rest of the year, brushing every once in awhile suits her just fine. Pro tip: only brush dogs outside. Fur. Goes. Everywhere.
5) Administer preventative medications.
As with humans, dogs do best with an ounce of preventative medicine. It’s far cheaper to avoid diseases than it is to treat them. Not to mention the fact that your dog depends on you to do what’s best for them. Frugal Hound gets a monthly heartworm prevention pill in her food bowl (which she inexplicably always eats first) as well as a monthly application of Frontline flea and tick prevention medication during the warmer months (no need to apply in the wintertime–all the bugs are frozen… as is the earth).
6) Adhere to annual vet exams.
In this same vein, taking your pup for a yearly check-up is a responsible course of action. Spending the nominal fee to ensure your dog is hale, hearty, and up to date on vaccines is crucial. Find a vet you’re comfortable with and commit to this annual ritual. This is not an area to frugalize or cut corners. When we assumed the responsibility of caring of Frugal Hound, we assumed the responsibility of taking her to the doctor every year.
7) Find frugal fido food.
In the interest of keeping Frugal Hound fit and healthy, we feed her grain-free kibble. We were purchasing Taste Of The Wild from Amazon (which is cheaper than fancier in-store options) until a reader clued us into the wonders of Costco’s generic version, called Nature’s Domain (thank you, Frugalwoods readers!). Turns out, Nature’s Domain contains nearly identical ingredients to Taste Of The Wild, but for a fraction of the cost. Frugal score! Whatever ingredients work best for your hound, see if you can find a thriftier generic version. Costco alone vends several different options.
8) Dog swapping.
This might be where we realize the largest margin of savings with ol’ Frugal Hound. Dog swapping is quite simple: we babysit other people’s dogs for free and they in turn babysit our dog for free. It’s a beautiful system. Hosting hounds at our house is fun and, we feel much more comfortable leaving Frugal Hound with friends than at a kennel.
Since we travel a fair amount, creating this network of hound sitters has been of tremendous value. In the past two months alone, we’ve babysat for two different dogs and left Frugal Hound with no less than three different friends. I shudder to think how much we’d be shelling out on kennel boarding for each of our trips. Plus, we’re delighted to help our friends out when they travel!
As with so many aspects of our uber frugal lives, there are quite a few tertiary benefits to managing hound care on the cheap. Through dog swapping, we’ve built a community of dog-loving friends. By insourcing her houndy maintenance, we’ve learned the skills associated with those tasks. Adopting a rescue dog means we’re giving a home to a hound-in-need. And by owning a dog who is well-adjusted to our lifestyle, we have a harmonious home and a happy hound. Enjoying these benefits beyond the mere monetary make frugal hound ownership just that much sweeter.
Do you have pets? How do they fit with your financial goals?
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I love pics of Frugal Hound, and her in a sweater has to be my favorite. Our cats are fairly frugal since they are inside 100% of the time and don’t necessitate flea/tick meds. And brushing their little cat teeth is always hilarious. 🙂
Pics of the Frugal Hound never fail to put a smile on my face! I just wanted to say “Thank You!” for brightening my day!
No wonder she doesn’t want to get on the scale, she’s a female. But for real, I think having the option to swap dog-sitting is huge. I’ve always wondered what we’d do for travel if we had a dog. I’ve house-sat for people’s pets for free, but that was a long time ago. So that’s great that you have people to swap with.
I don’t have a dog but I enjoy your posts about Frugal Hound. If I ever get one, I now know it will be just like him (her?)
I love the way you articulate the benefits of having Frugal Hound around! I feel the exact same way about my dog, in that he brings me a huge amount of joy – much larger by volume than his corresponding costs! – but every time I sit down to write about it I get all sappy and it turns into a big jumble of happy dog feelings. It’s great to read such a well-laid out plan for frugal dog ownership!
Also, “crafty strategery” is my hands-down new favourite phrase.
These photos are hilarious. You are so wonderful to Frugal Hound. We have some dog owners in our neighborhood that would benefit to be more like you. I love the point about spending on what really matters. Money isn’t everything, and it’s so clear how much joy Frugal Hound brings into your lives (and my Instagram feed when you post pics!). The funniest part of this post? My nail tech uses that same Dremel when she puts artificial nails on people. :-O
We too have a not-so-frugal hound – a beagle with separation anxiety. But he brings us a lot of joy. One comment on your practice of suspending Frontline during the winter months – it no longer gets cold enough for sustained periods to really kill off the bugs in the winter around here. I know one friend whose dog ended up with Lyme disease because she thought it was OK not to use Frontline in the winter months (she lives in Somerville). It’s much cheaper to pay for a few more months of Frontline than for Lyme disease treatment. Just a thought.
We feed our rescued lab Taste of the Wild as well, so I checked Costo online and found the price to be about the same as having Taste of the Wild delivered from Amazon. Since Costco is a bit of a drive for us and in an area with high sales tax, the Amazon route is actually cheaper (and I don’t have to lug the bag home). I’m just wondering if the Costco brand is cheaper in the store than it is on the website?
First, I love that sweater in the first picture. Adorable! I’ve always loved dogs and had one growing up. I’ve steered away from owning a pet because of how little I’ve been home. It seems like the cat has a hard enough time being alone all day! And the costs have spooked me a bit, too. But it looks like you’ve found solutions to a lot of those! 🙂
As a dog lover, this is one of my favorite posts.
I think it’s worthwhile to plan for the future with dogs, as with any other lifetime commitment. All of our dogs have enjoyed long, mostly healthy lives, but costs do tend to rise with a senior dog. We set aside money in a “pet fund” each month to handle emergencies and senior care. Right now we have an 11-year old chow mix who has several health problems that require expensive medications and food and more frequent vet visits. Yes, it is expensive, but she is part of the family and we’re committed to taking care of her and making her later years as comfortable as possible.
We have a 13-year-old dog and a kitten. The kitten wasn’t planned – my neighbor found her abandoned under our shed!
Our pets don’t really cost that much. The biggest expenses so far have been when my dog hurt himself and had to be on special anti-inflammatory medication for a while. He’s worth it =)
I agree – dogs are worth the expense. We are still learning the ins and outs of greyhound care. We have been trying to motivate ourselves to try the dremel – nail care approach. And I’ll have to check out the price of the dog food you mention. I’ve been ordering grain-free stuff from Petco when they have 20% off and free shipping and then stocking up on it. I knew big dogs would eat more food – but I am still shocked at how quickly she can demolish a bag of kibble!
I like to see that your numbers are similar to mine. I insource most of my stuff, but once every couple of months my dog needs a little work that I am not capable of doing. Even with that extra expense we are able to keep it under $1,000 a year. I’m excited because we recently found an excellent dog food at Tractor Supply that is both healthy and cheap. That will greatly reduce our costs. Plus doggo loves it. Woot! Woot!
What is the name of the food you found at Tractor Supply?
This is a great marketing piece for greyhounds. We live in a condo so we’ve put off getting a dog saying there isn’t enough room and concerned what the dog would do while we’re away at work, but maybe I just need to look into lazy breeds like greyhounds.
Our approach with Kitty PoP is pretty similar. He was a rescue and came neutered with all of his initial shots. We clip his nails with a hand-me-down dog nail clipper. We don’t overfeed him, so he stays trim and healthy and his vet visits have so far been excellent. He’s not allowed in the outside world, so we don’t give him any preventive flea/tick medicines, but keep an eye on him brushing him and checking him over often. But like you, the biggest thing was getting an animal that would be okay being alone for a period of time. Kitty PoP is fine even if we get stuck at work until late in the evening and we can go out of town for a weekend and just rely on a timed feeder and Kitty PoP doesn’t care (especially now that we have the Litter Robot that clears his litter after every trip). Much longer than that and we need a friend or neighbor to stop in and check on him, but he’s pretty low maintenance.
All told, we figure he costs us ~$1/day most years. That’ll probably go up as he ages, but hopefully keeping him healthy will keep those costs on the low end, too.
I don’t have pets (other than my roommates) and don’t plan to for quite some time. But we always had pets growing up, and they weren’t that expensive to maintain, relatively speaking. Personally I travel a lot, and work late some times so it wouldn’t be fair to the pet. Plus I personally think it’s gross that dogs can poop and pee all over the sidewalks of NYC, so I wouldn’t want to be contributing to the epidemic 🙂
Frugal hound looks to have an incredible temperament. I have always had pets, mainly dogs and when we did not have one for a few months it seems like something was missing from our family. Our Mushu is an expense. He scheduled for his annual check up next week, but its an expense we are will to factor into our overall budget. He’s well worth it.
I love your hound posts! Two things stood out: I wonder if FH was used to being weighed before races, thus really hating the scale? Also we’ve done a lot of counter-conditioning work with our rescue dog who was seized from a hoarding situation … she is basically terrified of all new people and experiences (but coming around nicely after a year). It IS possible to get your dog to tolerate tooth-brushing, baths, and other grooming … the late Dr. Sophia Yin was a pioneer in what she called “low-stress handling” and her web site has great articles and videos on how to get your dog used to nail trimmings, etc. We do it all ourselves, too.
I’d love to find someone to swap dog-sitting duties with … our Daisy sometimes needs a doggie friend to stay with.
You might want to reconsider Frontline … it’s poison. Note the instructions to NOT get it on your own skin. I make a homemade tick preventative, recipe is here and it’s nontoxic and super cheap: http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/flea-tick-powder/
Frugal Hound is adorable! My grandfather was a vet so I grew up around dogs and there’s only a couple of periods in my life where I haven’t owned or been close to one. Now we have a beautiful and feisty Maltese that we bought from a friend for only $200 when he was a puppy; the thought of spending thousands was not appealing at all. My wife and I love him to death, even though we didn’t consider his demeanor when acquiring him and he can drive us a bit crazy barking at everything and everyone…hmmmm, maybe I can do a DIY neutering to calm him down? 🙂 Just kidding. Maybe. Thanks for sharing!
With three greyhounds, brushing teeth and baths take planning. Earl clamps down on the toothbrush and won’t let go. We will probably have to carry the newest greyhound, Bailey, up the steps to get a bath in a month or so. All three are over 75 pounds.
Bailey is not eating and will need to see the vet. I am wondering if she has a broken/abscessed tooth.
No matter what, they do add to our lives and keep us in shape. Greyhounds are wonderful dogs. Our adoption group is having the annual reunion. They have a raffle for dog goodies, food, short races, and this year will have a speed gun to see how fast the individual greyhounds run. Should be a blast! There are usually between 50-100 dogs in Brighton CO.
We recently took our cat for her yearly exam and our little goofball would NOT let the vet do anything. They ended up having to sedate her to get the job done. UGH! Not the finest frugal moment. 🙂
Aw the Frugal Hound is so well taken cared of 🙂 I don’t have any pets, but if we ever get a dog I’ll have to keep these tips in mind.
Owning my dog is a huge luxury on my budget. My numbers ‘re: annual costs are fairly close to yours,maybe slightly higher. However, give her up? Not happening. She earns her biscuits as a companion, walking partner, playmate and footwarmer.
My dog’s annual vet visit is this weekend! She had to get her first dental cleaning last year (at age 5) and I need to start brushing her teeth, but she’s scared of the toothbrush. I’ve put that paste on my Amazon wishlist though and will have to check it out!
As someone stated above, flea/tick preventative is essentially poison. With my dog, I only apply it as needed (if I notice fleas on her that persist after a flea bath). This is both frugal and eases my doggie mom mind about applying topical poison.
On another obsessive doggie mom note, I’ve thought about forgoing annual vaccinations and doing titer tests instead. I haven’t yet as it would involve switching to another, more expensive, vet. But since my dog is getting older and I worry about how a senior body may react to the vaccinations I may look into it more.
I LOVE DOGS! I’ve had many during and since childhood. We currently have a Boston Terrier, she’s our second BT. We adore her! I have learned that for me, I get a rescue, a short-haired spayed female, that’s at least six months old (because they are usually through the chewing stage by then). I find females to be a little more docile (and they don’t hump you leg, some males will continue to do this even when they are neutered!). Not all males do that but I’ve chosen not to take that chance. I’ve had as many as three dogs at a time (talk about expense). But I love them! We currently only have one because this BT, Abby, doesn’t like other dogs. If you are planning to adopt and then perhaps dog-swap, make sure your pooch likes other dogs. I want to get a second but Abby will not tolerate it.
Great stuff Mrs. Frugalwoods. We own a cat, like you guys, she’s a joyful frugal luxuries. To keep her affordable we keep her as an indoor cat, cut her nails and fur ourselves. The yearly vet checkup is definitely a good idea to keep her healthy.
Sadly, it’s quite possible that the reason Frugal Hound is terrified of the scale in the doctor’s office is because of the way she was treated as a racing dog. Racing dogs generally are kept in small, stacked kennels, so she might have spent a good portion of her early years raised off the ground in a small wire cage. And she would have been weighed regularly (and probably hoisted on and off scales by people who were interested in efficiency, not in treating her tenderly and lovingly). Thankfully, you have given her a safe and loving home.
One option for people to consider if they’d love to have a pet but can’t commit fit the costs into their current budget or the time/space commitments into their lives is to volunteer at an animal shelter or with a rescue group. We have cats, but I volunteer as a photographer and/or caregiver with several animal rescue groups (dogs, cats, wild birds and other small wildlife, as well as farmed animals). As a result, I spend at least a few hours every weekend in the company of lovely animals and I get my fill of snuggles and kisses from cats, dogs, cows, sheep, goats, ducks, chickens and turkeys.
There’s nothing quite like holding a rescued turkey chick in your arms, giving it a massage and having it fall asleep peacefully in your embrace. Unless it’s getting nuzzled (and bathed) by an orphaned calf. Aside from the intrinsic benefits of helping others, the other great things about volunteering with rescue groups are: (a) getting the inside scoop on adoptable animals (you get to know them over time and are well-positioned to choose the perfect family member when you’re ready to adopt); and (b) you learn a lot about animal behavior, care and training, so if you’re new to this field you’ll become better equipped to make a great life with the animal you eventually adopt.
I, too, love the Frugalhound posts. What a darling dog!
After seeing a roommate having bad luck with “medically needy ” cats (who knew cats could be allergic to protein !?) I got cat health insurance ($24/mo) as soon as I adopted my kitten, which sounds unfrugal but turned out to be a great decision. At her first year vet visit, the kitten was allergic to her rabies shot and needed a $1000/night stay in the Pet ER, most of which was covered by the pet insurance.
Otherwise, she doesn’t cost me much but makes me happy when she runs to the door at the end of the day. I buy her food when it goes on sale for 30% off online.
She is adorable. I had no idea these racing dogs are so docile and lazy. I learned the hard way about expensive breeds, but I found that mutts/mixed breeds are generally more healthier than purebred dogs, who often have genetic breed-specific health issues. Of my two dogs, my adopted mutt only has some seasonal skin allergy issues, while my pure bred frenchie has genetic diseases and emergency illnesses of all kinds.
Is there a reason you only bathe frugal hound twice a year? My dogs get very corn chippy if I don’t bathe them every month or every other month. That doesn’t happen with your dog? We call it taco feet, dorito feet, frito feet, or the “corn chippies”.
Oh my gosh Kelly, had to reply because we so often find ourselves referring to our 3-year-old shelter mutt as “The Corn Chip!” That’s exactly the smell and yes, we do baths about once a month here for that reason. Our dog has a double coat as well, so brushing with the Furminator is waaaaay more frequent for her than for Frugal Hound.
Haha, corn chips! Yeah, for whatever reason, that doesn’t happen to Frugal Hound. Maybe it’s a greyhound thing? We find that she smells fine for about 6 months. After that, she’s a little stinky 🙂
Some info on “Frito Feet” and its possible causes
I always love the pics of Frugal Hound! I’ve always been a dog lover and a big proponent of adopting from a local shelter. It’s not only a frugal way to get a dog (or cat), but you are also saving a life. You still have to do your homework and know what you are getting in to in terms of cost and commitment. I have a high energy dog that needs to be walked every day, but after a long walk in the morning she sleeps all day while I’m at work. (I learned this the hard way though when she was destroying things in my house from boredom.) Although I’m frugal, I would never give up the ‘luxury’ of having a dog in my life. The benefits they bring far outweigh the costs.
Love this! Frugal Hound is so adorable and I can totally understand the not wanting to be weighed thing. lol
Also, thank you for talking about rescue animals. All three of my cats are rescues (Enzo was found on the street as a kitten, Carebear was free on Craigslist and Felix was $17 at the animal shelter) and they’re an amazing addition to my life. Not only are rescue animals cheaper up front, but it’s good to know that one is saving a life. Many animal shelters will kill the excess animals once a week.
Which, huge frugal tip: if someone is looking for an animal, check the shelters on Tuesdays. Because it’s the day before the animals are killed, many are free (due to the kindness of animal sponsors). It’s emotionally tough but it’s a sweet act to do.
I’ll have to check Costco out for kitty kibble. 3 cats plus feeding an outdoor feral cat (I’m a crazy cat lady) is starting to get a little pricey. Still totally worth it though.
I have to say that our “pets” come to us. Unfortunately, living in the country for all its pluses can be a real headache in some ways because we become the dumping ground for all those “free” animals you see when you go to box stores. I walked by one “FREE” sign and that was a mistake because there was the most darling puppy (my favorite breed) that looked like a baby Cocker Spaniol. Of course, I knew she wasn’t purebred but I knew she was my dog long before the owner said her husband was going to throw her (and her litter mates) in the Cumberland River that night if she brought them home. Yes, this happens. Well, Tovah became mine and a beauty she was and wonderful companion. She died two years ago but was with me for 16.
Cats are another thing. We get so many sometimes I just cry. When we built our loghouse, we decided to build a CAT HOUSE, too. How’s that? A minister with a Cat House????? Well, it is really nice because I can’t have cats in our house…allergies, you know. But this cat house has three levels and lots of places to hide and crawl. It is screened in the summer and protected in winter. These would all be called “barn cats” but they don’t live in the barn. It is expensive keeping these animals but the option here is not acceptable. I will not have them killed just because someone was irresponsible. Getting them fixed is really expensive so the female cats are first. I have no idea why people have pets in the first place if they’re not going to take care of them. Neutering is part of that responsibility in my opinion.
Thankfully, the cats keep the mice population away from the house. That is one animal I can’t deal with at all. My dear friend from California used to get her kids mice and I would die. She also had about 25 little crosses in the back yard where she buried some. It made my skin crawl…but that was “C,” and I love her dearly. My kids could go see her mice/rats…I wouldn’t have them. We had guinnea pigs instead. No cats in CA…the coyotes would get them as we both lived on canyons.
All our cats have names and some pretend they don’t know theirs but I’ve often caught them off guard and that’s when I get the last laugh. We are not frugal when it comes to animals. We have chickens – just for eggs. They all have names, too. Hunters shot our two horses and that was a terrible time. We think it was in retaliation for posting NO HUNTING signs all around the perimeters of the farm. But, that is life in the country. For the most part, it is glorious and free and healthy.
Life is messy and expensive, whether it be Plant, Animal, or Human. But who would want to live without it? At least Frugal Hound doesn’t have to go to college!
My dogs are truly the love of my life! I am working to make them a more frugal part of the family. The way we save money on the dogs are as follows: Using the internet to learn new tricks, as a behaviour analyst I know how to reinforce, just not what to teach; We are currently trying the Kirkland food to cut back on feeding (we go through 5 cups a day); Stuffed toys are purchased at the local thrift store for 99 cents a piece; we do our own grooming too, with a German “shedder” this is brushing several times per week and daily several times a year. My vet suggested that q-tips could be dangerous. Our Shepherd gets chronic ear infections. We clean his ears 2 times a week with 5 drops of equal parts vinegar, alcohol and water – drop it in, massage the ear, use a tissue to wipe out the gunk. Best money saving advice to pet owners, befriend a vet. I don’t suggest this just because it has saved me a lot of money over the years, but because you know you are paying for what you need. Some vets are not as honest as you would want them to be. Because our mutt has some anxiety issues (she is on Prozac – it costs us $40 a month, worth it), we can’t dog swap her easily, so we do have to board her about once a year. We found a place that is $30 a day for the 2. For our very long trip last November, they stayed with my parents, who unfortunately live to far away to make use of all the time.
My first dog, Loki, developed a serious immune disorder and we spent more money on him then I will admit to on a frugal blog . . . . however, the joy he brought us for the short 8 years we had him was worth every penny.
Thanks for sharing your frugal dog tips!
Kristen, our rescue puppy is on Prozac as well to help her overcome her early life terrors (hoarded). We enrolled her in the CVS Health Savings Pass program for, I think, $15 (Walgreens has one as well, but it’s more expensive) and her prescriptions are now $11.99 each. For some reason it only covers Prozac capsules, not tablets (same med, same dose) so see if your vet can write that prescription. I did this for a former elderly dog who needed lots of pain meds … a huge savings.
That is a great suggestion but unfortunately I live in rural Quebec, Canada, so my options are just limited!
Something else to consider are the health issues associated with the breed of the dog. I’m always in awe of my mom’s bulldog’s vet bills and health issues!
You are so right on. Many people don’t realize the immense cost of associated with the care of a dog. I should talk,right. : ) As a proud and very responsible owner of an Irish Wolfhound, I spend between $300 – $400 a month on my boy. Sometimes even more (this does not include the cost of the mini-van I had to buy to transport him! :D. I decided just to accept it and to cut out virtually every other possible expense I could to deal with this reality. Luckily I have a good job, but all my extra cash goes to my dog. And I want to say you don’t have to own a fancy breed to have these kind of expenses. But it usually is the purebreds that have the most issues. I get a lot of inquiries from people, asking me how much my dog costs (i.e. how much for one of those). I always tell them, its not the entry fee folks. It’s the maintenance you need to think about. Be sure before you get a dog to consider EVERYTHING, vet, and possible special dietary needs, housing costs, you may need to pay more for a yard or location that will allow pets. Even if you have pet insurance, you still need to be able to pay upfront for the vet, and don’t bank on getting reimbursed every time or in full. When you travel you may have to pay someone to take care of your beloved fur baby, unless you can make a great arrangement like Ms. Frugalwood suggests. I just witnessed an acquaintance who rescued a dog with many issues who sadly had to find a new home for her because she just could not afford the vet bills. It was heart breaking. As for me, I am just going frugal in all my other areas of life to afford my beloved furry companion. Kudos to Mrs. Frugalwood for her creative and sensible solutions to pet expenditures and living the frugal life. All my money has gone to the dogs! : D
Great post! At the end of the day, you just can’t cut out all expenses from your life. The DisIndebteds are keen to this fact and have done the analysis on our animals (dog and two cats). Still, we stand to benefit from adopting some of your tips. And of course it is cheaper to go without – but the benefits of animal ownership far outweigh the costs. Our dog is aging and we do expect her costs to increase, but despite our ambitious debt repayment goals, we are willing to incur the additional expense to care for our loved family member. It is far better in my book to spend a little to gain the unfailing love of a family pet than to spend nothing to gain some extra cash in the bank.
I love the picture of FrugalHound getting a bath. Look at those eyes! Poor sad-eyed puppy. I can attest to how easy it is to own a greyhound. Since Maeby never destroys anything, she’s had the same toys for years now. We replaced her six-year old bed after it finally got threadbare on both sides from too much greyhound re-arranging.
It’s Maeby’s six-month bath time right now. I’m hoping to get that and some nail filing done this week. Then off she goes to our $20/night dog sitter while we go to Japan. Frugal fail!
We got cats due to our inability to have dogs at our stage in our life but we do want to get a dog one day. I think when we have a kid who is old enough, we might finally do it because we’d need someone to help with responsibility. 🙂
What sucks though about food for our cats is Costco stopped selling the natural cat food in the Kirkland brand so I had to keep going with brand name food since the phosphorus was too high in their regular Kirkland cat food (bad stomach results). I feel cats sometimes get the shaft when it comes to big box stores… 🙁
As a small animal veterinarian, I love your thinking and what you do to take care of Frugalhound!! I’m so happy you brush her teeth- that is the number one thing people can do to reduce the amount spent over a lifetime. Anesthesia, cleanings and dental work are so expensive! Many things can be prevented. Thanks for spreading the word. It really does warm my heart.
Dancer says Woof! http://www.tomtrottier.com/tomAndDancerFB.jpg
She’s such a beautiful, sweet girl!
Those pictures of frugal hound couldn’t get any cuter! My daughter especially loves the unicorn picture. We employ the same frugal , hands on approach with our dogs, and I totally agree with you, they are worth every penny!
Dog food is one of those things that you do sort of get what you pay for. Which is a bummer. Our guys food comes from Amazon, too, Subscribe & Save. Primarily because the only place to get it locally is on the other side of town. But, enough of that! If you did a true study of the ingredients, the Costco food, while it looks like it is, won’t be as good. And, it probably can’t be when it is less expensive. However, that said, if Frugalhound is doing well on her food, not to worry. Our one dog has food sensitivities and we actually have a hard time finding a premium food that works. Things he can’t eat include potatoes, rice, and lentils and it is surprising how many foods have those ingredients. You can guess how much time I spend at pet shops reading ingredients!
Frugal tip on the Frontline: There’s a brand of heartworm preventative that also kills flea eggs, along with a number of other types of worms. It’s called Sentinel and goes for about the same price as Heartguard, with the added benefit of not having to buy Frontline as well. I enjoy not having to deal with the topical application anymore.
Our dog is a non-frugal dog, one that we adopted from my mother in law. She comes with a number of deep seated anxieties (she’s on Prozac for $10/month, but damn does it do wonders) and a luxating patella in one of her back legs (going to require a $3000 surgery). But she is a beautiful, smart dog that we absolutely love having around. It’s nice having a walking partner. 🙂
We also feed her and our cats a raw diet. It’s a tad more expensive than her dry food but we are in the frame of mind that feeding high quality helps prevent more vet bills in the future (this has been especially true with our cats). We reduce costs by making the food at home with a recipe that I’ve perfected.
As a fellow greyhound owner, aren’t we really smart to own the cutest, smartest and the fastest dog that consumes more food than several puppies combined? Thanks for the good read! Always fun to read greyhound articles.
Can you be more specific about how often you brush your dog’s teeth? Also, how much does a professional dental cleaning usually cost you?
Premium food can be expensive, but it’s less expensive in the long run than vet bills for kidney failure, diabetes, skin problems, heart disease, and a wealth of other problems that can be caused by poor quality food. Even better, you can make good quality pet food yourself. If you are interested, I recommend Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. It has made all the difference in the world for our two cats.
I’m glad there are people out there that view dogs as a possibility while still remaining frugal in other spending. Thank you for telling us about Nature’s Domain. We don’t currently live near a Costco, but I will keep it in mind for the future. We were pretty happy about a month ago switching from Blue Buffalo Wilderness (buy 10 bags, get the 11th free) to Infinia (buy 8, get the 9th free) from our local pet store and we’re saving $1 per pound! They already beat the Petco/Petsmart prices, but I may have to check out Taste of the Wild (and other grain free brands) pricing on Amazon. I love that you’re hands on about your pet care! We also in-source the work on our two shelties. We bathe them 4-6 times/year with weekly hair brushing, weekly nail trimming (and subsequent paw hair trimming), and daily teeth brushing with application of special teeth gel. Our boy still ends up with a dental cleaning about every two years, but we expect it and try to keep anything sooner at bay. Also, have you heard of antlers? Our girl loves to gnaw on them every night and they help keep her teeth really clean (she’s 3 and hasn’t needed a cleaning yet). They last for years too! Talk about a frugal chew toy. The only area I haven’t gotten up the courage for is performing a sanitary trim because I’m so scared of cutting their potty areas. They go to a professional 4 times/year and I think it’s time to finally learn how!
We actually buy Lamaderm from Walmart- it’s a really high quality dog food and ends up costing only $1.04 per pound versus the Kirkland Nature’s Domain which is $1.26 per pound. 🙂
Mr. Picky Pincher and I have been arguing the merits of pets this past year. We’re about to get into a home with a yard and, for the first time, having a dog or a cat seems like a nice possibility. It’s funny, we’re having the age-old dog versus cat debate, and still haven’t made up our minds. But whatever wonderful pet we choose to bring into our home, they will definitely be from our local shelter and will be completely loved! Pets aren’t always the most frugal choice, since they can cost a lot of money, but they bring a lot of happiness.
She has such gorgeous, expressive eyes!!
We got super lucky with kitty expenses, since my cousin is our vet. She never charges us for exams, and charges the “vet rate” for any needed medicatons, so everything is dirt cheap!
Hey – I’m brand new here so this is a new response to an old article, but still — loving dogs is loving dogs, right? I’m starting a website for people like me who are over 60 (shhh..over 65, actually) who are really pursuing the frugal life, and I have an 80-something yr old Briard (11 in people years) that I’ve always taken to a pro groomer ….you even seen a Briard who hasn’t been groomed in a while…yeah, really. Anyway, I had my hot & cold running water installed in the garage, have a doggie bathtub and the nice clippers and a Dremmel — trick is getting a 95 lb dog to behave/hold still when I’m only about 20 lbs bigger than him (and live alone). Please, any and all suggestions are welcome!
We are just looking at adopting a greyhound. We have had dogs in the past, but this would be our first greyhound! Thank you for such great info! It’s been hard to find numbers to estimate costs. Does yours sleep in a crate or on a dog bed? The adoption agency recommended a 48″ cage (it’s huge!) for a 63 lb. female. Currently, where we would have her sleep, doesn’t have the room for that sized cage. Other places recommended a 42″, possible a 40″ (hard to find). What would you suggest? Thank you!
Congrats on adopting a greyhound! They are wonderful dogs! On the recommendation of our adoption agency, we crate-trained our greyhound and she slept in her crate for the first six months we had her. Since then, she’s slept on a dog bed (we actually have two dog beds in different rooms so she can have her pick 🙂 ). A large cage crate is important for a greyhound as they are very tall and very long dogs. I recommend following your adoption agency’s advice. And, check and see if you can borrow a crate from someone (we lent ours to a friend when she adopted her greyhound) or if you can find one used. Best of luck :)!
We also have a greyhound. Low maintenance in almost every single way – grooming, training, manners etc. A breeze of a dog to adopt. The only thing we have had issues with is a sensitive tummy, so our vet and food bills have been quite a lot. I did want to mention, though, that even paying for services for greyhounds tend to be waaaaay cheaper than most. I can access a huge dog tub at a local chain petshop, $10 for 40 minutes – and THEY do all the clean-up! That makes it worth it for me! If I want to bring him in to the groomer – there is usually a “greyhound” special – bath, ears cleaned, and nails trimmed, all for $20-$25! Since our boy only needs it 3-4 times a year, the DIY tub or groomer is still worth it. Just my two cents on having a splendid hound! Plus – did I mention their therapeutic beenfits and love…? Priceless!
My dog cost an arm and a leg in her first year. I got her cheap from the friend of a friend – basically the cost of her first vaccinations. She’s a Border Collie x Australian Cattle Dog. Did you know that ACDs can have a Thing for rocks? No? Nor did we before I got her. We discovered this when she swallowed a stone that she couldn’t pass.
We discovered this at midnight, on a Saturday night when we had to take her to the emergency vet (because by then the regular, less expensive vet, was closed until Monday). The vet who told us about a family that ended up having their ACD in 6 times for this. Then at her regular vet’s clinic we were told that he’d had a family bring in an ACD 3 times in 6 weeks. And another friend said that her (drover) husband once had an ACD that would carry a rock in its mouth all day.
If we hadn’t bought the car just two weeks beforehand, we might not have bought it. As it was, we got much better insurance after that incident (unfortunately, surgery for bowel obstruction is excluded due to her past history) and that’s probably our largest expense for our Not-frugal-hound.
However, we save in other areas. Like you and yoga, I volunteer at my local dog obedience club. It’s a not-for-profit (so costs are low anyway) and instructors get to train with their own dogs for free. 🙂
Of course, as a “working breed” she needs a good deal of exercise and that’s good for me too. And she makes us laugh, is loyal and loving, so she’s worth the kennel fees (we rent and do not have permission to do dog-swaps for other friends), the vet bills and other costs.
Frugal Hound is a very lucky pup! One issue we have, is our rescue pups are reactive to other dogs, we are very limited when it comes to dog care. My family would help, but their dogs aren’t fans of ours! I wouldn’t swop my furbabies for the world anyways! Having rescue staffies, they are nice and pretty low energy, they love cuddles and sleeping, perfect for us, can walk further when needed and are just fabulous! I would budget them any amount, as you said, the joy and happiness recieved is so much more than money can buy!!! The littlest staffie has Diabetes Insidious, and a recent diagnosis of Arthritis, big staffie has arthritis, this medication does add to costs, but my goodness they are worth it! No insurance for us, both babies can’t be insured at a decent price due to their issues, I don’t care! We are lucky/work hard enough that we have always been able to pay for the care our babies need! I hope ours may become Frugal Hounds too, but maybe not with medical issues!
Hi, big fan of your blog. I would highly recommend speaking with your vet about grain free diets and if it is in your pups best interest. You can find out a little more if you google “FDA grain – free and DCM in dogs.” I think it’s great that you advocate not skipping yearly’s even when dogs are healthy! Thanks for your blog!