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How Much Does A Dog Cost?

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How Much Does a Dog Cost?

How Much Does a Dog Cost?

My wife and I have been thinking about getting a dog for over a year now. It seems that whenever we think about it seriously, we have an important trip planned. (Case in point, I'm writing this flying somewhere over Kansas - I think). We've started to begin the search for Fido a more seriously in recent weeks. We've spent a lot of time looking online and visited with animal shelters. We've learned a lot along the way. For one, don't call an animal shelter a "pound" - they really don't like that. My wife and I didn't know the difference. (The pound typically houses dogs that have little marketability to people - and who are more likely to visit "the farm that you can't visit" after a week.)

Like any purchasing decision, dollars matter. We know that we don't have an infinite amount of cash to spend. That's why it's natural to ask the question, "how much does a dog cost?" When I thought about this, I figured it's similar to buying a car - there's the start-up or acquisition costs, and then there's the on-going maintenance.

Costs of Buying a Dog

There are many factors to consider:

  • What breed of dog is right for you? - If you want a big dog, food is going cost more. You may also need a bigger place. We knew there are a billion different breeds of dogs, but we didn't immediately know which breeds may be right for us. With the help of the animal shelter, we were able to quickly narrow down the dog choices with the following criteria:
    • Small to Mid-Size - We live in a 1200 square foot apartment. Though we are thinking of moving to a bigger place in the summer, we can't bank on that. We think a small dog would be a better fit for our small space.
    • Good with Children - My wife and I want to have children someday. We'd like to make things easy on ourselves and not get a dog that would mistake junior for food. It just seems like a smart idea.
    • Lazy - Working from home makes me the natural caretaker for the dog. While I would definitely like to play the game of fetch
    • Well Behaved with Minimal Special Needs - While I grew up with a dog for the first 15 years of my life, I was never the primary caretaker of the dog. My wife has never owned a dog. We are going to learn how to take care of a dog. We will probably even make mistakes. We'll be asking for the dog to have patience in dealing with our ignorance. If a dog has special needs, we think it deserves special owners. That's not us.

    I saw on the news President Obama is looking into a Labradoodle. That's one of the breeds that's been deemed a fit for us. Should we be scared with the President and Lazy Man have the same dogs. I think the answer is yes.

  • Where are you going to get the dog from?
    • Animal Shelter - The animal shelter we are looking at takes donations for the dogs while they are kenneled there (Note to self: maybe Lazy Man and Money should make a tax deductible donation - could be some good advertising). When you choose a dog, you pay $250 for a series of vaccines, fixing and other associated necessities. This is the road that we are looking at, but our requirements are tough to match. We may have to look into a...
    • Breeder - Breeder's aren't typically the cheapest way, but it's something we are considering. We found a local breeder that looks to cost around $300. [Update: Commenters have be helpful in telling me that this may not be a reputable breed as the price looks too good to be true - expect $750 or $1000 or more]. I have to look into whether we'd have vaccination and fixing costs on top of that. My guess is that we would.
    • Off the Street - My wife's family picked a stray dog off the street. They cleaned it up, took it to veternarian, got it shots, got it fixed... ta-da instant Fido. I'm not sure I have the stomach for this. I would be afraid that the dog had rabies, a potential health condition, or was someone else's dog.
    • The Bottom Line - Buying a dog costs between $250 and $550 - depending on if you need a breeder.

  • One-Time Costs - There are a number of one-time costs associated with buying a dog. A few of them include:
    • Shots and Fixing - We discussed this earlier, but if you have to do, it's probably best to set aside $250.
    • Bedding - The animal shelter had a sweet microfiber pet bed for around $60. There's at least a 57% chance that I sleep on that and let the dog have the bed. It felt that comfortable.
    • Toys - We can probably get away with around $25 to start in this area. I plan to playfully wrestle with the dog until it's tired out.
    • Water Bowl, Collar, Leash, Tags, etc. - I'm think we can get away with this for less than $50, but I'll over estimate it for now. The dog is likely going to live like me, the cheapest of these things that money can buy.
    • Training - We haven't decided between puppy or older dog. The older dog may come pre-trained. A puppy may require some professional training. I'm probably going to try to learn to the train the dog myself, but this is an area where I have to set aside up to $300 for that.
    • The Bottom Line - One time costs look to be roughly between $400 and $700 - depending on training.

  • On-going costs - Taking care of a dog, to paraphrase Ron Popeil, isn't a set it and forget it situation. Here are just a few of the costs that we will expect...
    • Food - It looks like food ranges $300 to $1000 depending on the size of the dog. I would estimate our dog food to be around $500 a year for our size dog.
    • Veternarian Services - My aunt is a vet. Unfortunately that's not going to help us much as she's going to live 3000 miles away from our dog. We are looking at around a $300 a year for medical exams. I think I'm being conservative with this estimate as it might be less.
    • Health Insurance - Is health insurance a good idea for a dog? I don't know, but it's something to look into. It looks like it might be an addition $250 a year.
    • Kenneling - We do like to take 1-2 vacations a year. Sometimes we go to Aruba. I'm not sure that bringing a dog there is very practical. We've looked around Silicon Valley and it seems like we could find someone for $30 a day. For two weeks, that would be around $450 a year. We could possibly have a friend take care of the dog, which would be a way to save money here.
    • The Bottom Line - On-going costs look like it will be close to $1500 a year. That's a little pricier than I thought, but not outside the range where I think it affects our decision.

Adding up the Costs of a Dog

It looks to me that a dog will cost around $2500 for the first year and average $1500 after that. I think these are the top end of the spectrum. I'm sure we'll find ways to save money along the way.

Whenever making a purchasing decision, I ask myself the same five questions. Buying a dog isn't our typical purchase though. We don't need a dog. There's no financial benefit to having a dog. A dog makes our lives more difficult. A rational person would not get a dog. Getting a dog isn't about being rational. It's not about financial benefit or how I can live a more efficient life.

I could make a number of arguments of how a dog could save money. A dog is warm and we could use less heat. A dog can serve as protection. A dog could save me if my real name was Timmy and I've fallen into a well. A dog can be a good friend and studies show that people with friends live longer. A dog can cheer me up when I'm down - a very cheap psychiatrist. None of this matters. Getting a pet is about love and that's its own reward.

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Last updated on April 19, 2011.

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55 Responses to “How Much Does A Dog Cost?”

  1. Goal Hunter says:

    I have two dogs, and have had dogs all my life. For me they’re cheap. I buy cheap food for them, I don’t buy them dog-toys, I don’t buy them expensive beds.

    My dogs eat all my leftovers. It’s not a scientific diet, but it’s the actual diet that I eat. They always have a bowl of dry kibble around and I just mix in whatever from everyone’s plates after dinner. As well, the dogs clean up the rain of food droppings from my kids.

    They get very few dog toys – like $10 per year maybe. We find tennis-bals often enough and sticks are great. For excercise it’s a run to the off-leash park or the river to swimming and fetch.

    You are about right on the adoption and initial vet costs, but I don’t know how you get all the way up to $2500. I think for two dogs it costs us under $1000.

    Regardig the training: I totally support your idea. You are a smart guy so you don’t need to go to dog classes, just get a book and spend some time with the dog. It will be much more of a pleasure to go out with the dog.

    The only downside I’ve found, both with dogs and kids, is that your house won’t be close to spotless.

  2. fitwallet says:

    It’s wonderful that you’re considering all the costs of dog ownership and are also considering a shelter. I know a week or two ago you posted about how hard it is to adopt a dog from a shelter, so I assume that may be one reason you’re also looking at breeders (besides wanting to go with a pure breed, of course). Not to pry but I figured it might be helpful to have some tips from someone who is very involved in animal ventures :)

    If you go to a responsible, reputable breeder, the process should be just as rigorous as what you would go through at the shelter, if not more so. After all, you want to be sure the person you’re buying from isn’t a “backyard breeder” in it for the money and selling you a poorly bred dog. Ask the breeder some pointed questions. Some great examples are available from the Humane Society here (PDF file).

    If the breeder doesn’t like this line of questioning or doesn’t provide satisfactory answers, walk away. You ask lots of questions when buying a car or a house, right? Don’t let the puppies’ inevitable cuteness derail you from making the right choice for your family! The breeder should also be asking YOU lots of questions–after all, they raised these puppies from day one, and they care about the future of the breed. The breeder should be looking for a family that’s a great fit for their puppy, not for any old person who will give them money.

    If you’re looking for a pure bred dog, check out a breed rescue or search for the breed you like on petfinder.com. There are lots of pure breed rescue dogs out there. I hope this helps, and good luck in your search!

  3. Another Reader says:

    With all the homeless dogs in shelters, you should not even consider a breeder. Many so-called breeders are just back yard breeding for the money, with no regard for the health or personality of the “product.” A surprisingly large percentage of dogs in shelters nationwide are purebreds that came from breeders. That’s less true in the Bay Area, but the dogs are there.

    If you are set on the personality traits of a particular breed, work with the local rescue groups. You can find many of them on petfinder.com. Many rescue dogs come from shelters and most rescues are picky about taking only adoptable dogs from shelters. In fact, some shelters will offer apparently purebred dogs to breed rescues first because of the volume of animals coming through the shelter.

    Consider fostering a dog for a rescue group to get a feel for the breed. Some rescue groups even offer “foster to adopt” programs that allow you to try out the dog before making a committment.

    A public shelter adoption in the Bay Area will typically be less than $125 and will include the alteration and the shots. Your estimated cost for food is accurate. Feed a high quality food but buy it at a discount store such as Pet Club or An Jan. A healthy animal can be taken to a shot clinic to update the annual vaccinations if the cost is critical. Shots should cost around $35-$50 annually.

    Health insurance is limited in what it covers and is generally not worth the cost. Vet services are expensive, and insurers are not in a position to negotiate costs like your health insurance company does.

    You will probably have to license the dog and it is critical that you microchip your dog and register the microchip. That could mean the difference between life and death for a dog that strays and ends up in an overcrowded city shelter. In California, microchipped or tagged animals have to be kept longer before being euthanized and the shelter and microchip company will both attempt to cantact you. Remember to update your contact information with the microchip company when it changes.

    Bowls, beds, leashes and other dog accessories are cheapest at WalMart. Target and Pet Club generally have decent prices as well. The private shelters that sell these items use the profits to fund the shelter, but the mark-up is high. Watch the toys and beds, as a lot of these things are manufactured overseas and may contain harmful ingredients or may be chewed and swallowed by the dog. There is no Consumer Product Safety Commission or FDA protection for items for dogs.

    If you travel, consider a pet sitter over a kennel. The dog will be more comfortable at home, will not be exposed to kennel diseases, and the cost will be similar.

    Good luck with your search and remember “Adopt, Don’t Buy!”

  4. Cos says:

    As a teenager I wanted a cat which is still alive today, 14 years later. A teenager doesn’t have that much of a budget so I learned that I could purchase and administer vaccinations myself for radically cheaper than going to the vet. I’d go to the vet for an annual checkup (no shots) or possibly even skip a year while keeping up with the shots myself. The feed store I purchased the shots from was able to provide me a years long schedule of what and when. I’m sure the same would apply for a dog.

    Super easy, just grab up some scruff and poke. I don’t even know if my cat realized she got a shot – there was no freaky trip to the vet, nothing to set off any sort of anxiety for her.

    And I was a city kid – it doesn’t take rural life on a farm to possess the skills necessary to give a shot.

    Just a thought – probably saves $50+ a year.

  5. Chef says:

    Nice article – we have a Boykin Spaniel and he is the man! He’s also an expensive little man. I’d like to look into avoiding the vet more as our vet seems to be rather expensive and just going for an annual checked as Cos says would be wonderful. I need to get my act together on that.

  6. If your “breeder” is charging $300, RUN. That’s a backyard breeder, or even a puppy mill.

    And up the cost for food. There is some very scary stuff in cheap dog food. You can research that at sites like this one, http://www.dogfoodanalysis.com/

    Another option similar to shelter is rescue organizations, usually specific to breeds. They use foster homes. There’s even one for Labradoodles.

  7. Goal Hunter says:

    Another Reader made some great points and reminded me of the biggest cost: kenneling the dog! Pet sitting is dead on good advice because a kennel seems to be minimum $40 or so dollars per day and in my case the dog is not that happy there.

  8. Karen says:

    The link posted by dogatemyfinances is one worth checking out. I was initially turned off by the higher price of good quality dog food, but not only is it so much better than grocery store food, you feed less so it works out to be cheaper than the bad stuff! A healthy dog results in fewer expensive vet visits too.

  9. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the comments thus far – lots of great information here.

    I provide the breeder information for completeness. It is something to be considered for some people.

    We would rather go to the animal shelter and rescue a dog. Our long list of what we are looking for doesn’t make it easy. We don’t expect it to be easy, but we don’t want to wait a year. It seems that the Obama’s aren’t having much luck with finding their specific breed. What chance do we have?

    Getting a dog from the animal shelter in San Jose is $250… maybe it can be done for $125, but we don’t want to limit who we work with.

    Though my wife is licensed to give human immunizations, we will stick to doctors. We are fortunate enough to not have to skimp on that.

  10. kosmo says:

    FYI – maybe a local shelter is participating in this – 300 shelters are waiving their fees on Jan 24 (just on that one day). Sounds like the timing of this might not work for you, but perhaps some readers can take advantage of it.

    My “pets” are the birds in the backyard. No immunizations, no kennels, plus, they can fly – how many dogs can do that? :)


  11. Kate says:

    Hi there,

    I’d like to chime in and recommend getting a dog from a shelter (or a rescue group). In my experience you can actually tell a lot more about what the dog’s personality is going to be when you adopt an adult dog than if you get a puppy or young dog from a breeder.

    We got our super-mutt from petfinder.org, and I couldn’t recommend it more.

    As far as breeds, I had many of the same requirements you had, and here are a couple of breeds I’d look into.

    Border Terrier (what we have – easy and wonderful)
    Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
    Bichon Frise
    Miniature Poodle

    FYI, Labradoodles are HIGH energy dogs, who need long walks and lots of attention. I’ve known more than a few that were absolutely crazy. I’d stick with a good mutt from a rescue that can tell you something about its personality.

    As for boarding / vacationing, the best thing you can do is make some friends who have dogs and pet-sit for each other. You’ll meet a lot of “dog people” when you have yours – at dog parks, fields, hikes, beaches, or just walking around. Making friends with some of them can save you both a ton of money on boarding. I was shocked and surprised at how much that costs too – here in the bay area it can run $60 a day.


  12. Lazy Man says:

    I do recall recently seeing that Labradoodles were high-energy. They are soooo cute though.

    We are looking at three miniature poodles that just came in to a shelter, but we were warned that it would be unlikely we’d have a chance…

    We took care of a couple of pugs for a couple of weeks. While they were great dogs and we grew to love them, they scare me. I had nightmares a couple of nights. Something weird with their eyes being up in the forehead or something.

  13. Ken says:

    You forgot a major expense if you plan on getting a puppy… replacing all the items he or she chews up. We’ve spent over $500 on new eyeglasses alone for my wife and I over the past 6 months to replace ones that the puppy got to, not to mention the 5 pairs of shoes, the numerous articles of clothing, the kids toys and the corner of our family room couch all of which we have decided not to bother to replace or repair until the dog is quite a bit older. We are experienced dog owners and have trained 4 different dogs, but if you get a puppy who’s a chewer better have a lot of $’s in your emergency account.

  14. Another Reader says:

    You must be dealing with a private shelter if the quoted adoption cost is $250. The City of San Jose shelter adoption fee is $115 for adult dogs and $135 for puppies under 6 months. The San Martin (County) shelter is $100 for adult dogs and $110 for puppies. Alteration, microchipping, and vaccinations are included in the adoption fee at both shelters.

    Because you have not had a dog before, I strongly recommend you work with a reputable rescue that screens both the dog and the prospective adopter. In addition, if you foster a few dogs before you adopt, you will get to know the traits of several breeds and become more knowledgeable about what you want in a companion. Rescues are always in need of foster homes, and fostering benefits everyone.

  15. Grrl says:

    As a dog owner (2 great Goldens) and a rescue fosterer, I am glad that you are considering adopting a dog. I want to point out a couple of things:

    1. There are a couple of “sub-species” of dog shelters. One is a rescue organization that fosters the dogs in homes. They are often very selective, but the dogs have all lived in homes and you can get a very good idea of their quirks from their current family. The other are service dog organizations. My second, but older Golden is a retired seeing eye dog. Yes, he’s got some miles on him (10 when I adopted him), but he is a highly trained, purebred Golden Retriever who is in great health. These organizations also sometimes adopt out dogs that aren’t suitable for the service program, although there are usually long waiting list.

    2. You should also factor in a health savings fund for your pet. This year, one of my dogs needed surgery and some dental work, which cost about $700.00. I consider it money well spent, but putting some aside in case of an emergency is a good idea.

    3. No matter what age and training level (short of the aforementioned retired service dog), you should probably get some formal training. It doesn’t need to be expensive or excessive – most school districts or shelters have inexpensive programs. It is a great way to bond with your new dog and to set out clear guidelines.

    4. Finally, my dogs see the vet for most of their shots, but in New York, we have a rabies vaccination program, which costs $5. I bring my boys to the clinic for their rabies shots and get the others at the vet. Look into shelter and state programs of this type.

    Good luck. I’m looking forward to Lazy Man and Dog!

  16. Miss M says:

    Dogs are expensive, but it’s one of those decisions you can’t make solely on financial grounds. Like having kids, the equation never pencils out. I don’t think labradoodles count as small dogs, the ones I’ve met are 70+ pounds. Plus the whole designer mutt thing is weird to me. Unfortunately, a lot of small dogs are fiesty, not lazy. Take my boston terriers, they bounce off the walls at times (literally). Too bad you don’t like pugs, they really are lazy. French bulldogs are small and low-ish energy, but they are very expensive and can have expensive health problems.

    Any breeder only charging $300 is definitely a BYB to be avoided. You’ve been given great advice on finding a breeder, if that is your decision. I have one boston from a breeder and two from shelters, there are a lot of purebred dogs in shelters or rescues. I think your yearly costs sound about right, but some of the start up costs are higher, especially if you get a puppy. I hope you find a fido of your own.

  17. Cos says:

    On another note, I wouldn’t even say that doing your own shots is skimping but rather it’s a big time saver. Lazy Man preaches a lot about what time is worth – a clinic visit can be a 2-4 hour ordeal by the time you pack up the pet, wait in the lobby, wait in the visit room, etc. Swinging by a feed store when combined with another trip is a 5 minute ordeal, administering the shot is another 5 minutes. Combine that with the comfort of the animal and, for me, it’s no longer about the money. Being plenty fortunate to note “have” to do my own vaccines for the cost savings alone, I’d still do vaccines because I’d rather spend my time doing a lot of other things than dealing with a clinic visit. Time=money.

  18. Lazy Man says:

    I don’t know if the Silicon Valley Human Society counts as being private or not. I don’t really care about their affiliations/funding too much. I know the dogs are well cared for and the price is $250. Maybe more than other places, but it’s a one-time cost.

    As for the breeder, the wife has looked into more than me. We have full reason to think that it’s legit – it’s someone’s house, but a real business. We haven’t been there and don’t really know. Maybe it’s cheap because they aren’t purebreds – labradoodles can’t be ;-).

    As for the time-money of waiting for a doctor, it’s negligible for me. I can go during off-hours and write from my laptop. I might even be more productive with fewer distractions. Then again, I’m probably the exception here.

  19. brittdreams says:

    I second the idea of looking into rescue groups. There are lots in the Bay Area, for specific breeds and ones that take in all breeds. As Grrl said, the ones that foster dogs in homes are great because they’ll have already started basic training and housebreaking, which will certainly help as you’re learning to be a dog owner. Mixed breed dogs, adopted from a rescue organization, can be great. They’ll have already been prescreened for all the temperament stuff, you’ll know how active s/he is and how s/he behaves, etc.

    At $300, I would be worried about purchasing from a backyard breeder. There are numerous potential health problems that you could be dealing with for the next 7-15 years if you go that route.

    I think you’re giving rescue groups, which includes more than just the Humane Society, a bad rap. They may have the PERFECT dog for you, but you seem to be suggesting that there’s no way they could have a dog that meets all your needs. You never know unless you look.

  20. brittdreams says:

    Oh, and labradoodles, at least in my area in GA, from a reputable breeder were at least $750, which is why $300 struck me as being possibly not reputable. Just because it’s registered as a legit business does not mean the dogs are taken care of, bred appropriately, etc.

    You may want to check this list of Bay Area dog rescues (http://www.bonniesteiger.com/bayareadogrescues.html) and this list of CA rescues and shelters (http://www.wonderpuppy.net/1cashelters2.php).

  21. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks again for the comments all. We are still working exclusively with shelters . We need to find out how often they have dogs that suit our needs. Realistically, I don’t expect them to say they have a lot each month. It never hurts to explore all options. We haven’t done anything more than a Google search for breeders. I don’t know what a “backyard breeder” is, I thought it was an individual breeding in their backyard. If anyone can give tips on evaluating reputable breeders, I’d appreciate it. Please, I would objective things to look for… not stuff like “ask around.” A good tip would be some website that inspects breeding facilities and rates them (sorry if someone posted this, but I’ve been posting these with my cell phone, so checking links doesn’t work well for me.

    One issue that we have with animal shelters is that there are numerous ones in the bay area – and they aren’t connected. It took a whole Saturday to build a relationship with the one we are working with. We don’t have another 50 Saturdays for each shelter – it’s not realistic.

  22. NatalieMac says:

    Owning a dog is a huge responsibility, and I’m glad to see that you’re being careful with the decision and considering all the different angles. A few random thoughts:

    * Labradoodles are hyper, not lazy
    * “Don’t breed or buy while shelter dogs die”
    * petfinder.com – if you know what kind of dog you want, it will tell you which shelters in your area have one available for adoption, and also spell out any special history of the animals and/or special needs
    * Don’t rush. The perfect dog will find you.

  23. Daniel says:

    First off I have 3 cats, which cost me about $30 each a month, that is the cost of litter and food. I feed my cats a natural, raw diet, based on what I have researched to be the healthiest diet possible for a feline. My cats have never been to the vet for anything other than being fixed and for blood tests for health checkups, not shots at all. I can count the colds they have had on 3 fingers. There is absolutely no need to take your animal to the vet for any reason other than to be fixed.

    And while a cat requires a diet based almost solely on protein, dogs are much less tedious. I believe the percentage of protein for a dog can range from 25-50% of their diet, but I do not have a dog yet and haven’t researched it enough. Dogs do very well with a mixture of vegetable and fruit and proteins. Of course, you make this all yourself, but the benefit of having a healthy animal is wonderful

    Imagine yourself eating fast food your entire life. Smaller quantities, sure, but think at the cellular level what it is doing to your animal. The price is not very much at all, it is slightly higher than what “kibble” costs. Then take in to consideration what your lack of vet bills will result in, especially when the animal has some sort of digestive organ problem, then you have to buy special food for that.

    I really encourage you to research the possibilities, if nothing else.

  24. brittdreams says:

    Here are some links you may want to look into:
    From the Humane Society of the US. I think their guide is a good place to start. There are also links to adopting from a shelter and from a purebred rescue group that you may want to look into.

    The American Kennel Club also has a bunch of information on their site: http://www.akc.org/puppybuyerinfo/

  25. Lazy Man says:

    My wife has done the Petfinder.com searches which led us to the shelter we went to. It is my experience from this shelter (previously mentioned by name – my terseness due to using a cell phone to reply), that they don’t list and behavioral issues.

    PetFinder hasn’t been working for us for a couple of reasons… some our fault
    1. We are on a trip to Boston planned months ago… hard to make arrangements in Silicon Valley.
    2. We have applied to three places. One we spent the Sat. at. One rejected us because we rent an apartment. One is working to bring dogs from Taiwan – we are still working with them. (Ridiculous in my opinion to ship a dog around the world, but my wife is handling that.)
    3. If we find 5 dogs that seem like fits, we have to apply to 5 places – again a very intensive process.

    Someone mentioned foster dogs. The shelter we work with says that we might not be a good fit as a host because are first time owners. These dogs are special needs. We signed into the program to get a dog that is in a foster home, but they said that this was quite competitive and we would probably be at the bottom of the list (because they have behavioral problems and aren’t a fit for us).

    We realize that a labradoodle is hyper, but it’s something we are willing to bend on. I grew up with a labrador-mix.

  26. Another Reader says:

    Silicon Valley Humane is a privately funded non-profit organization. For many years that organization provided animal shelter services for several municipalities, including the City of San Jose. In the last few years, they have changed their direction and they now focus more on adoption. They receive their animals from other shelters, owner surrenders and they may still provide shelter services for one or two cities.

    Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA) has its public shelter not too far from the Humane Society on Thomas Road in Santa Clara. This is a very nice facility with pleasant kennels and “get acquainted” spaces for dogs and cat dormitories. This is a “joint powers” agency that serves the shelter needs of several cities, including Santa Clara and Campbell. You can look at the available animals on-line at petfinder.com.

    The San Jose Shelter is on Monterey Road, south of Tully/Curtner, about a 20 minute drive from Silicon Valley Humane. Available dogs can be seen at petharbor.com. Enter your zip code and select the San Jose shelter. Click on “adoptable animals” and go from there.

    Either shelter will have staff and/or volunteers available to show you the available dogs. If you find a dog that interests you, you should be able to visit with the dog without a long wait. The adoption process is less rigorous than the Humane Society, but there will be less information available about the animals.

    You can also check petfinder.com for the breeds you are interested in near your zip code. You will find several local rescue groups that way. These groups may have weekend pet fairs at your local Petsmart, Petco, or Pet Club. Pet fairs are a great way to meet several dogs at once in a more open environment. For example, the Pet Club in San Jose will usually have at least two dog rescues exhibiting on Saturday afternoons from 12 to 3PM.

    For someone with no dog experience, picking a dog on a Saturday afternoon with a list of desired characteristics is not a recipe for success. The more dogs you meet, the more you will learn about what kind of dog you really want. Visit several shelters and go to pet fairs. Fostering is a great way to meet other dog people and to learn more about the breed characteristics, which is why I encourage potential adopters to give it a try.

  27. Craig says:

    Buying a dog from a shelter would make sense if you are trying to save some money, and also it can help save a dogs life. But of course there are setbacks, and the dogs tend to be older and could be more aggressive. Either way a dog or any pet like that is a huge responsibility and will be costly. No one should get one unless you full well understand the costs involved.

  28. Lazy Man says:

    Thanks for the info “Another Reader.” It’s great that “Silicon Valley Humane is a privately funded non-profit organization”, but it really doesn’t impact my goal of wanting to find the perfect dog. It could be Satan’s Workshop and if we are rescuing a dog that’s a good fit for us at a reasonable price, sign us up.

    We didn’t expect to pick up a dog on a Saturday afternoon. We just can’t devote 20 Saturdays to go through the lengthy application and approval process for 20 places. It’s the same reason why I didn’t apply to 20 colleges, it simply wasn’t practical filling out 20 applications, writing 60 essays, and all that. I know I’m Lazy, but I think I’m in the majority here.

    Unfortunately the PetFinder process is exactly this. PetFinder doesn’t have a generic application like say Monster.com where you fill it out once, and then submit it to everyone. This would allow us to have relationships with multiple shelters. I find the lack of this obvious solution disappointing.

  29. Another Reader says:

    Shelters like Silicon Valley Humane keep their adoptable dogs at the shelter. Fostering in these organizations is for dogs that need additional training, evaluation or TLC before being put up for adoption. Rescue groups generally do not have shelters. They have networks of foster homes where the dogs stay until they are adopted. You may meet the dog at the foster home or at a pet fair. As a dog newbie, you could foster for a knowledgeable rescue group with whom you are compatible.

    Some rescues and private shelters will not adopt to anyone living in an apartment because they worry about the stability of the home. Very few rentals allow pets, and the rescue or shelter is concerned the animal will be returned if the adopter moves. Other rescues and most public shelters will adopt to you if your lease shows pets are allowed or you have a letter from the landlord permitting a pet. Check with the shelter or rescue about their adoption policy for renters before investing time in looking at their animals.

  30. I would second the statement about pets and apartments above. Having a pet can put significant restrictions on where you can live. The majority of rentals allows no pets at all. Out of the minority, many will allow pets only up to 20 lbs, so even if you have a 20 pound dog, you may find your choice of apartments when moving to a new place going from 15 to 3 with only 1-2 allowing a heavier dog and 0 allowing any of the fighting breeds (except radioactive killer laser pugs).

  31. Jeff says:

    Any breeder who breeds “-doodles” is indeed a backyard breeder. A good breeder can be difficult to find but things to look for: they rarely turn a profit so they are doing this because they truly love the breed and want to better it. The parents will be champion show dogs. The breeder will also make you sign a spay/neuter contract and, if for any reason you need to return the pup, will take him back. Here’s a pdf with tons of good information

    Enjoy! Selecting a dog for your family is really exciting!

  32. A puppy may cost more up front (I paid $300 for my Bichon Frise and he was often sick as a pup) but I promise the money and time you spend REALLY pays off. I wouldn’t trade my dog for anything in the world and he’s always been there for me. Dogs really are (wo)man’s best friend :D

  33. Lazy Man says:

    I had this whole long response to Jeff about backyard breeders and then I thought – I should look up backyard breeders…

    Backyard breeder has been used in these comments in a negative connotation. From what I’m reading, it seems that’s almost exactly what I would want if we were to look into breeding (which we are not quite there).

    Obviously, I’d want the dog to be bred in good conditions, but the things that a reputable breeder brings to the table, such as the genetics theory and producing dogs to compete for bestin-show – I’m not interested in that. I wouldn’t want to pay the premium for that. We’d be looking for a companion, not some kind of trophy like others.

  34. Jennifer says:

    Sorry, a backyard breeder should not be an option. If you care about dogs you’ll stick with a reputable breeder that shows their dogs and is intent on improving the breed or you will go to a shelter.

    All backyard breeders and puppy mills contribute to the problem of homeless dogs. For the price and the contribution you make to society a shelter is the best way to go.

    Patience is a virtue Lazy Man. It did take me over a year to find my dog. He perfectly fits my needs. He cost $50 (shots, etc included), weighs 20 pounds, adores kids and is a lazy bum. I got him from a rescue in Alabama and had him transported to Pennsylvania.

    Don’t limit your options, but don’t contribute to a real problem in the name of laziness and saving a buck. You gotta keep the big picture in mind. Good luck.

  35. A Dog Owner says:

    Look, a backyard breeder IS a negative connotation, no matter how you slice it. They are breeding dogs that have no business being bred; no health checks, do not meet breed standards, breeding dogs you can find all over the place fighting for their lives in shelters.

    What you risk financially in buying from a backyard breeder, since that is the purpose here, is buying a dog with a great deal of genetic problems and diseases you won’t know about because the breeder didn’t spend the hundreds and even thousands of dollars for genetic and health certifications. I have twice seen puppies purchased from these types of breeders die in the next few days after purchase. These breeders give no guarantee, so you’re out the original purchase price, the vet costs, the medicine, and the disposal of the body. Yes, this is the extreme, but it is a monetary consideration. You can end up paying more in vet care when buying from a backyard breeder than from a reputable breeder.

    Also, if you don’t “have the time” to forge relationships with shelter people and rescues and spend time looking for the right dog for you, you don’t have time for a dog. Period. Especially a puppy, that will have to be housebroken, trained, fed, walked, played with, taken for vaccinations, etc. Consider a less time consuming pet, like a fish.

  36. Juli says:

    Going through a reputable breeder has NOTHING to do with getting a trophy dog. It has EVERYTHING to do with preserving the integrity and health of the breed. For example, I own a Bernese Mountain Dog. This dog has a long line of health problems, and reputable breeders do a lot of research before breeding to make sure there is no cancer in the bloodline (back a number of generations) excellent hips/elbows, etc. – they know what to breed OUT.

    Backyard breeders don’t care. They just put two dogs together and they are the ones that destroy the breed. It’s not about a trophy dog, it’s about a HEALTHY dog. They do it to earn money whereas reputable breeders are first and foremost looking to get the HEALTHIEST dogs and preserving the breed.

    Please, please, please do NOT support backyard breeders. This doesn’t mean they own a puppy mill. This doesn’t mean they aren’t nice people. A backyard breeder just doesn’t do the research before they breed.

  37. Lazy Man says:

    I think there’s got to be some middle ground between a someone that breeds dogs and treats them terribly and one who breeds dogs for the purpose of winning dog shows. It doesn’t make sense that there’s middle grounds in all areas of business except for dog breeders.

    A Dog Owner makes a good point when he says, “[backyard breeders] are breeding dogs you can find all over the place fighting for their lives in shelters.” If dogs that meet our criteria are fighting for their lives in animal shelters they should make it an easy. I’m not asking for much. My library has a system where if they don’t have a book, they’ll go in their network and get a book for you. This can be the same thing. Animal shelter A calls up animal shelter B and says, “We have this great family applying and they are looking for a dog with traits A, B, and C. Our records show you have listed Fido, Rex, and Sandy which seem to match. Let me digitally send you their application. They’d like to come by sometime in the next hour to the next two days to see the dogs. What times do you have available for an appointment?” If anyone wants to save dogs lives, put that system in place.

    Another Dog Owner also said, “Also, if you don’t ‘have the time’ to forge relationships with shelter people and rescues and spend time looking for the right dog for you, you don’t have time for a dog. Period.”

    That’s like someone saying that if you don’t have the time to apply to 1500 colleges, you don’t have the time for college. Period. Applying for college is an onerous process and I don’t know anyone that would apply to 1500 of them. However, I know a lot of people that cherish the experience of going to college. I don’t know anyone that says they look forward to 1500 applications for animal shelters, but I know lots of people who cherish the experience of caring for a dog.

  38. Juli says:

    Honestly? There really isn’t a middle ground. Either you do the testing and you’re a reputable breeder or you don’t do the testing and you’re a backyard breeder.

    Backyard breeders do NOT prove the health of the dogs they breed. Like I said, reputable breeders do a lot of testing before they breed a dog and look at the dogs lineage to make sure good health is there – Hips and elbows are X-rayed. The parents and grandparents should all have undergone testing to make sure there are no genetic problems. They keep our breeds healthy whereas backyard breeders destroy the breed overtime because they have no idea WHAT they are truly breeding.

  39. Moneyblogga says:

    I adore my chocolate labrador. He’s smart, funny and a great companion. I will say that labs have a TON of energy. After all, they are hunting/working dogs and they LOVE to run. If I didn’t take my dog out every day for a least an hour’s run he would definitely become depressed and feel neglected. He knows when business is not being taken care of. I am committed, every morning at 6:15am, to the routine of an hour’s run at the park, off the leash whenever possible. The park’s empty and wide open at 6:15am. I would not recommend any type of hunting/working dog if your living space and yard are small or if walks are few and far between. These dogs need exercise with a capital E.

  40. Seth says:

    The added responsibility of a dog will definitely help prepare you for children when the time comes, especially if you ended up getting a puppy. Our Boxer was 8 weeks old when we brought her home and it was an eye-opening experience to say the least. Our 7-month old son actually hasn’t felt that much different :)

  41. Miss M says:

    I understand what you are saying, I thought I found that great middle ground breeder with my first boston. She did all the health testing etc but was not actively showing. Now I know she wasn’t exactly honest and her “guarantees” were worthless. She bred a lot of sick dogs she won’t admit to.

    There is currently no middle ground, the only breeders who are actively trying to breed healthy dogs are also show people. BYBers simply don’t care enough to research pedigrees, health records and pay for expensive health testing. Either rescue or decide on a breed and find a great breeder, BYBers are the main reason for pet overpopulation. Puppymills don’t produce enough to account for the numbers, indiscriminate people looking to make a few bucks off of breeding Fido are. Good breeders will always be there for you and will take back a dog at any point, for any reason. I’m friends with a few who have gotten dogs back at 5 years old when the owners had a baby and decided the dog was too much work!

    I adopted my third boston a few months ago from the local shelter. He had been there several months yet all they could say about his health was, seems healthy. That very first night at home I knew he had serious breathing problems, he had a $1400 surgery just after christmas. The minute I adopted him I knew I had to care for him for better or worse. Would you be OK with this situation?

  42. My two dogs have cost more to raise compared to our two children. I have two labs and when they were puppies they managed to eat and destroy countless items of clothing, electronics, toys, furniture. You name it, they ate it. They have also managed to get hurt while playing as well and we’ve taken them to see the ER doctor several times. I guess it’s just the life a lab lives, life on the edge :) My dog also found my cell phone one day, and ate it. Now I keep them in a drawer. He found the remote, took it outside and ate part of it. I should probably try and buy some health insurance for my dogs as it might help offset the vet bills. Do I love my dogs, and do they give our family happiness and joy. You bet :)

  43. its funny.. i was considering getting a dog for my wife for her birthday, but after looking at all the costs, i think ill have to pass :/

  44. Nicole says:

    I got my German Shepherd mix Blue from a shelter I found on Petfinder. I also found the process of some of the shelters very cumbersome. One shelter wanted to come do a home visit with my husband and I, then have us come meet the dog in a supervised place, then have the dog meet us in our home (supervised again), then the shelter would decide if we could adopt. My husband and I were working opposite hours at the time; we had very little time together. Someone would always be home with the dog, but we couldn’t schedule all the visits together. We ended up finding a shelter called ARVSS that wanted a 4 page application and some references, but not extensive interviews. We ended up adopting our beautiful little monster on October 28th, 2007. We spent about $250 for adoption fees.

    Then the vet treatments…Blue developed mites rather badly, and needed multiple treatments. We had signed up for a savings plan through our vet, which has saved us about $1200 over the last year alone. He was kind of destructive when he was a baby, and ate a few nice pairs of shoes (my fault for leaving them out). The costs have leveled off now, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world (most of the time! His nickname is Bluecifer for a reason). I wish I had anticipated higher costs for him, however.

    Have fun making your choice!

  45. Foster Friend says:

    I know the application process for shelters is rather arduous, but please don’t give up on shelters!

    Shelters make people jump through a lot of hoops because they want to make sure the dog is going to a great home.. otherwise it will end up right back at the shelter, or worse :(

    To add to the long list of why BYBs are so bad, it’s because they will sell their pups to any random person who walks in off the street. They do little to nothing to screen their buyers, which is absolutely key in making sure a dog ends up in a good FOREVER home.

    Please cut shelters and foster groups some slack. They are dealing with an extremely overcrowded population and trying their best to reverse the problem. It is the BYB’s “quick sales” that are creating this chaos. Please have patience – the right pup will come along :)

  46. As for health, on average a good mutt pound puppy will be healthier than any pure bred by a long shot. If you are going to get a pure bred you must use a reputable breeder. dog health care is not a small number for unhealthy dogs that need surgeries.

    that spay neuter contract you sign with a reputable breeder means that you will not be showing the dog.

    As much as I like my dogs, from a health perspective think of it this way. How many inbreed healthy people do you know?

    also you have some stuff in one time costs that are ongoing… Bedding and toys need to be replaced regularly.

    the pugs gave you nightmares?

  47. Jaye says:

    Something to keep in mind when considering what breed/mix fits your lifestyle: energy level is a more important issue for a dog in a small space than the actual size of the dog. You’d be surprised what big dogs can be total couch potatoes!

    One that may really surprise you, given their reputation for speed, is the greyhound. Sure, they are capable of bursts of tremendous speed–but otherwise they are LAZY. People who own them call them “the world’s fastest area rug” or “the 40mph couch potato”.

    Basset hounds are usually low-energy also. They love to go for walks, but at home they spend a lot of time just lying around on the furniture being cuddly.

  48. brittdreams says:

    This month, The Dollar Stretcher, ran an article on adopting a pet: http://www.stretcher.com/stories/09/09jan12g.cfm

  49. I’m an early riser. Every day I look out my window at the street and watch one dog owner after another staggering along picking up poop with a plastic bag. Doesn’t matter if it’s rain, snow, blazing hot, they are ALWAYS there. No break. Doesn’t look like fun. It’s a baby that never grows up. I like dogs, don’t get me wrong, but I’d rather play with my neighbors’ dogs than own one myself.

  50. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that your “one-time” costs are that. We’ve bought a number of beds, collars, and water dishes over the lifetimes of our dogs.

    I wrote an article about this recently here:


  51. If the health insurance covers enough, I say go for it. Not a year goes by where our black lab doesn’t need some sort of major medical treatment. She broke her leg as a puppy, and has had major problems with it ever since. And everyone once in a while, she finds and consumes some sort of food she isn’t supposed to (one time, it was 18 hot dogs and a loaf of bread!). She quite easily ends up costing us thousands in vet bills each year. Next time I get a puppy, I’ll be looking into health insurance for it.

  52. I picked up my dog Linus from the Carson Animal Shelter four years ago and he’s a great dog (Australian Shepherd mix). At the time we adopted Linus the adoption fee was $37 and it covered spay/neutering costs, initial vaccinations, a free health exam from a participating veterinary office, and free microchipping.

    However, Linus was not in the greatest health when we picked him up from the shelter and we did have to spend several hundred dollars on medication and follow up vet examinations.

    The Carson Shelter is part of LA County Animal Care and unfortunately many of the dogs in these overpopulated shelters are not in the greatest condition.

    My other two dogs are Labrador Retrievers. One is training to be a guide dog and the other is a career changed guide dog. If you’re interested in adopting a career changed guide dog you need to apply to the school. The school I volunteer with is called Guide Dogs of America and last I heard there’s a five year waiting list. I’m pretty sure that’s not in your time frame. I have heard that if you’re willing to take a dog with health issues then the wait can be significantly shorter.

    Good luck with your search for a dog.

  53. anonymiss says:

    Have you all insured your pet dog? You should read the article I stumbled upon.


    It will be worth your time.

  54. Jimmee Johanson says:

    Informative article however I have to take a little bit of an issue with the fact that it seems the author is taking the whole experience of dog ownership as a profit/loss event.
    Having a dog is a life enhancing experience in which the “master” learns as much about life and how to live it as the dog does.

    I have been well blessed with my two cross-breeds hope the best for you.

  55. Anonymous says:

    The cost is over whlming especially in the city. When we lived out of town it just didn’t seem to cost as much to have a dog.

    One key thing is obedience. When you have a dog that listens it is far less likely to run off and get hurt, fight another dog, eat stuff it finds. Our dogs always respond to heal no matter what they are doing.

    Get them trained and it will save you vet bills, repair bills, etc

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