1. Adopt an adult dog.
A grown-up that has already learned to live with humans will save you on furniture and landscaping repair, carpet cleaning, and training. And someone else has paid for spaying or neutering.
2. Choose a breed that is not on the homeowner insurer’s list of breeds that trigger higher premiums.
Avoid German shepherds, Rottweilers, pit bulls, doberman pinschers, chows, huskies, and other dogs with a reputation for unpredictability.
3. Learn to obedience-train your dog in low-cost community classes. Practice obedience training frequently, so the dog will come when called and stop when ordered.
These skills may save your dog from costly accidents or animal attacks, to say nothing of making your own life a lot more pleasant.
4. Keep your dog secured inside a yard with a sturdy, escape-proof fence (not on a tie-out!). When walking outside the yard with your dog, keep the dog on a leash at all times.
This keeps your dog safe from accidents and fights with other dogs and helps protect you and passers-by from dog bites. And that keeps your wallet safe from veterinarians’ and lawyers’ bites.
5. Exercise your dog regularly.
6. Restrict immunizations to those that are absolutely necessary.
Some shots given once a year are really needed only once every two or three years.
7. Learn to give shots yourself.
Vaccines can be purchased at feed stores and online.
8. If you live in an area where there are no mosquitoes, don’t give your dog heartworm meds. If you can’t avoid the monthly worming treatment, purchase Heartgard at Costco, where it’s much cheaper than at most veterinary offices.
9. Read the labels on dog food.
Do not feed your dog corn or corn products: at best, they’re indigestible; many dogs are allergic to corn. Dogs often manifest allergies as ear infections, a direct route for cash to flow from your wallet to your veterinarian’s pocket.
Note what’s in premium dog food and then look for similar formulas in less expensive varieties. For example, Trader Joe’s lamb and rice dog kibble is similar to much pricier premium brands. Also, feed and tack stores often sell premium kibbles at a significant discount from the prices in pet stores.
10. Learn to groom the dog yourself.
Invest in clippers for dogs that need fancy trim jobs and a Dremel to file down heavy claws.
11. Keep your dog’s teeth clean with dental-cleaning dog chews or by brushing the teeth.
12. Abstain from cosmetic surgery such as docking ears, which is cruel and unnecessary.