Dog on a Budget:
The New Affordable Fido
By Gary Le Mon

With a tight household budget, you may wonder if you can afford to add a new canine member to the family.

Sure, dogs have the endearing quality of fitting into any human environment easily. They never complain and are simply happy to be with their "pack."

However, you should be aware that caring for a pet requires some basic expenses, but expenses that can be shopped smart and adjusted to fit your family's finances.

Food

High-quality food is the one place where you should be prepared to spend some money for your dog. A good-quality dog food can make a huge difference in your dog's coat, skin, energy level and general lifetime health. Dog food manufacturers go to great lengths to provide the right nutrition for canines. You don't have to choose the "top of the line" brand, but your dog's food should contain the basic elements that are known to promote good canine health:

  • The average dog requires a diet with 50% vegetables, 40% meats and 10% grains. A small amount of fat and about 4% fiber is also important for good canine nutrition.
  • Meats such as chicken, beef, lamb or salmon should appear first on the list of ingredients in the better brands. Get as much meat as you can afford.
  • For the grains, choose rice, oats or barley. Corn, wheat and soy are hard for dogs to digest. You can find a number of supermarket brands that contain the preferred grains.
  • Food that contains omega-3 oils will help your dog's coat stay in good condition.
  • Vitamins C and E are healthy preservatives often used in dog food.

Accessories

You can find leashes and collars for free or a minimal price at your local animal shelter or humane society. Dog bowls should be durable and easy to keep clean. A few dog toys made of strong, safe materials will keep your canine pal occupied for hours. A simple tennis ball can be used for fetching. Understand that your dog's favorite toy is you and the time you spend together.

Training

A well-trained dog is an asset to any household. You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a training course if you or another member of the family are willing to spend a little time. It’s easy to teach good manners and simple commands. A wide range of books, videos and websites can be found offering instructions on good training techniques. Half-hour training sessions, given several times each week, can provide all the training your dog needs. Repetition and rewards are generally the best methods for reinforcing canine training.

Veterinary Care

Vet care can be an expensive part of your dog ownership responsibility. You can vet-shop your area to determine who gives the best prices on routine care and their general philosophy of canine health care. Some vets offer many "extras" and push these services to drive up revenues. Other vets are more down to earth about pet expenses and provide good basic care at affordable prices. The range in fees from vet to vet is significant. As an adjunct to basic veterinary care, a growing number of dog (and cat) lovers are turning to healing pets at home with safe and effective herbal remedies for dogs and cats.

Immunizations

Having your dog immunized on a regular schedule is important for his health according to many, but not all, veterinarians. Some say too many vets are giving too many shots. If vaccinations become too pricey, find a traveling veterinary vaccination service that can provide common immunization for your pet. These services set up in the parking lots of chain pharmacies and other retail establishments on a periodic basis to provide pet vaccinations at low cost.

Boarding While You Are Away

You should become familiar with a pet care service of some type as soon as you get your dog. Make sure you have the service for occasions when you need to be away from home. If you find kennel pricing too prohibitive, do what I do. Find another dog owner with whom you can exchange pet care time. The other dog owner can then become acquainted with your dog's habits and needs. Allow the two animals to become well accustomed to each other before the need for boarding arises. This co-care arrangement is often an affordable and workable solution that can save you from the high cost of boarding your dog.

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