Living with Dogs: Advice for Dog Owners during Cost of Living rises.

Merlin and Ripley: Photo Credit Candydash Images

I live with three dogs, two Norwich Terriers and a Chocolate Labrador, along with a varied menagerie of poultry and other small pets and adore all the different characters we get to enjoy.

Owning pets requires some forward planning such as ensuring we don’t run out of their food, providing enrichment and exercise, offering a comfortable bed (even if they opt for the floor!). When I sit down and list everything in a month or a year that we spend for our pets regularly it’s pretty amazing! But of course we don’t begrudge them anything and love seeing them so happy.

With the cost of living going up during 2022 and set to continue quickly into 2023 the majority of households are needing to look at ways of saving money to be able to pay the bills, but there are also additional worries such as the cost of animal feed due to less ingredients availability. There are some areas in our regular lives that we can look at saving money such as reducing electricity usage with turning lights off in rooms not being used, ensuring your insulation is doing it’s job and using the car less where possible. One area that is very hard to save money on is our pets – there are a lot of suggestions for saving money but these can be counter productive by costing more money in the long run!

Today we are looking at some ways to reduce costs without our Pets going without!

🐶 Become a Home Baker –
As a Dog Trainer I use treats a fair amount each day. Sometimes its for a set training session, or during walks to practise skills in public or just in my pockets for when I’m outside in the garden and I want to reward the dogs for doing something great! Shop brought treats are varied in cost and in quality but the cost overall has been going up. Having studied canine nutrition as well as speaking to Canine Nutritionist Krista Karpowich I know that ingredients in our dog’s treats can and do make a difference to dog’s behaviours and health so have encouraged higher quality dog treats for a number of years.

However, it will be very tempting to reach for the economical treats; they are more easily available such as in supermarkets, pet shops, online etc. They come in many flavours so more choice for our dogs. You’ll often get many more treats for the price. Take a look at the ingredients as you may be surprised!! Filler ingredients in dog’s food and treats can lead to sensitivities, upset stomaches, a duller coat and even dandruff – not always what you want when saving money!

Instead, have you ever made your own treats? We have some brilliant dog owners who come to our training who make their dog’s treats and they are pawsome! Mix together a few ingredients such as a tin of tuna, some flour, an egg and some water and microwave for a few minutes then chop up small or you might like to try put the mixture in a silicon baking mould for small treats like bone shapes! If you need to leave out something like the egg, you can. If you want to try a different meat or protein you can. If you need gluten free flour, you can change it! Making your own dog treats you’ll find you can have a lot more for your money, even if it’s for training around the house and you buy shop style treats for training sessions, walks and events!

🐶 Consider shopping around for member discounts, subscriptions and deals for your dog’s products. I’ve found that signing up to a few pet product email lists results in offers coming to my email throughout the month which have already been useful for saving % off my order, free delivery or offers when buying items in bulk. Many independent dog shops will have bonuses for signing up to their mailing list so it’s worth looking into even for local sellers. Social media pages may also have flash sales with discounts running for just a few hours or deals on stock with shorter use by dates or end of line stock. This might be for products such as shampoos, supplements and brushes as well as treats etc.

🐶 Prevention is better then cure or treatment! We can actually work on helping prevent some of the most commonly known of health issues which can help prevent procedures being needed in the future, including in the near future!! Keeping your dog’s weight lower will help them stay mobile for much longer, help reduce pressure on the heart, prevent excess stress on joints, help some breeds with breathing just to name a few things! Keeping the weight lower doesn’t cost anything and in fact may result in your dog’s food lasting a little longer! Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly can help reduce plaque and tartar, or prevent the build up of these, which will help slow down the chances of gingivitis and gum disease issues which can be very costly with dentals in UK costing from £400 upwards (higher costs for bigger dogs as they require more anaesthetic!!).

Look after your dog’s overall body by ensuring they warm up before a walk or activity, cool down afterwards, avoid unnecessary stressors on the joints such as jumping out of the car, slipping on floors when they go to stand up out of their bed, reducing the amount of chasing after a tennis ball etc. Instead utilise mats and rugs around the house, especially when your dog is young, plus using ramps, rolling a ball instead of a long throw which encourages jumping and landing on rear legs or turning sharply. There are many free resources available for dog fitness and conditioning, including our own!! Look up Canine Fitness Month in April as well as National Senior Pets Month in November!

🐶 Beware false economy!!! There are areas of our Dogs’ lives that appear to be money saving but when you break things down actually don’t save you anything or might even end up costing more!! One area is our dog’s meals; there are so many food brands, food types etc that it’s really hard to decide even when cost isn’t too big a factor! However, you get out what you put in, in two interpretations! What you feed your dog can lead to additional issues that may need vet’s help such as foods with filler ingredients such as cereals, derivatives or soya and may result in runny eyes, discharge in the ears, dull coat, itchy skin, dandruff, full anal glands that need expressing to name just a few!! Switching to a cheaper food for you dog’s main meals, especially when they have been doing well on another food) can also lead to your dog’s stools changing, believe it or it! When there are lesser quality ingredients in the food the dog’s body cannot digest everything and so more waste comes out the other end. In order that your dog is eating enough they therefore need more food to counteract the bigger stools which means the saving on a bag of food can disappear when that bag is finished much quickly then usual!

🐶 Something that can appear to be a luxury but is in fact quite essential are trips to the groomers. Some dog’s coats will matt under the legs, behind the ears, around the tail but aren’t obvious so without their regular grooms you may find some knots start really pulling the skin and making life harder, then an emergency groom is needed which will often be a full shave which takes longer and costs more!! Some fur types can become very curly and knotted by the skin but looks nicely brushes and untangles on the surface. Once the tangles are in place it will pull the skin in so many areas at once and make life more. Instead of trying to taking on the grooming, why not ask your regular groomer for a lesson with your own dog on how you can keep your dog comfortable for between grooms and maybe even have a little longer between main grooms to save a little money. When asking for a lesson, this would be paid for but would be a long term investment for you and your dog!! Having a well groomed coat between grooming appointments can also mean the sessions are easier for your groomer, take less time or not require an assistant and so cost a little less for you.

🐶 If your dog likes a toy for a few days or weeks then gets bored of them, why not put them away in a box with a lid and then every few weeks rotate a few toys so your dog is receiving new toys regularly!! We end up with about 20 toys out at a time which is mad but by putting some away I can get back out when not expected and give my dogs some fresh playtime!! If you use interactive toys then you’ll have a few already which can be reused. You could also ask friends if they use any and see if you can swap one of your dogs’ interactive toys with one of theirs – wash them first, our dishwasher does a great job with most of our interactive toys and means there’s less chance of canine illnesses being spread.

You can also create enrichment games such as a cardboard box with scrunched up packing paper inside and sprinkle treats or hide a toy. Let your dog snuffle in the box of paper searching for the prizes!! Using a few flower pots in the garden you can hide a treat or toy under one, pretend to hide it somewhere else, go and get your dog, and send out to find the treat or toy under a flower pot!

🐶 Try looking at some of the subscription boxes now available. This may sound a little odd when we are talking about saving money but hear me out!! Subs boxes vary and some you can choose what you get and others you choose the theme of the contents but not the specific items. Some are for training treats, some are treats, toys and other items, some are natural treats that can also help with teeth cleaning or helping keep the digestive system healthy. If you would be ordering many of these items anyway it could be cost effective to have a subs box so you pay less overall plus not lots of delivery costs.

🐶 For services or products that aren’t easy to shop around for you can ask if there are payment plans to spread the cost more, contact to find out if there is a way to streamline the service a little for a better monthly fee (we do this with Sky TV every few months and there is always something that can be taken off we don’t use or an offer for existing customers on the internet etc! Insurance is so often something that is stopped when money is tight but as someone who has relied on pet insurance in the past for Canine Epilepsy and Hemangiosarcoma (two different dogs!) please be aware that the popular option of cancelling insurance and just putting some money aside often won’t help!! If your dog needs surgery or falls very ill in the first year of saving up there’s a lot less chance you will have enough to cover the treatment and this may mean a difficult decision is needed.

Instead look at monthly payments, check your policy in case you have additional options that you don’t need such as cover for holidays abroad with your dog but you never go abroad. Also check the policy is how you want it such as fully insured or third party style insurance, and if you have multiple dogs some insurers will discount for this too.

This is just a few examples for you as suggestions – we hope they may help in some way towards helping you enjoy living with your dogs!

Joe Nutkins
Dog Training for Essex & Suffolk