For a while I was taking a cue from The House of Two Bows and posting a little monthly budget summary here. Then I realized that our numbers were crazy and I gradually quit doing it.
It is very easy when you have an anxious dog to throw money at the problem. There are a thousand calming widgets on the market, many of which do help, albeit not enough that you aren’t enticed into buying the next one. It’s also tempting to buy a lot of dog toys, because you spend most of your dog’s life in the house. Good toys that won’t leave indelible paint marks on your white walls aren’t cheap. All that’s before you even get to training classes. Also, spending money makes you feel like you’re doing something to help, even if what you’re buying doesn’t help at all.
So I thought I would present the conversation from a slightly different side. These are our current baseline minimum numbers per month, assuming that we want to make progress rather than just managing the level of fear Silas currently has:
Behaviorist: $120 (that’s for the maintenance visit). This is a fair price for our area. $120 would get me once a month with the behaviorist, once a month private lessons with a few dollars left over, or a 4-6 week class if I could find one that wanted Silas.
Food: Silas eats roughly 22 pounds of food in a month. The cheapest thing he eats is about $2/lb, ranging up to about $4. We’ll say $50, although the amount I spend per month fluctuates depending on what’s available. Our numbers are higher than typical here, thanks to the food allergies.
Prescription medications: Roughly $25. This is alprazolam and Silas’s heartworm preventative. If we decide to use a daily medication, this will obviously go up.
DAP Collar: $20, depending on where I can find it on sale. This is one of those whoo-whoo things that really does make a lot of difference for us.
That’s $215 dollars a month, assuming I don’t buy a single toy or treat and nothing unusual comes up. If financial calamity were to hit, I could of course cut out a good bit of that, but that’s not really what this post is about.
Helping a fearful dog is not cheap. Even if I could feed Silas kibble instead of raw, I would be looking at a substantial monthly outlay. I’m not telling you that because I feel sorry for myself. I’m very lucky that we can afford this, and I don’t feel bad about it.
I’m also lucky that Silas is not worse. I don’t think our numbers are the highest out there. Separation anxiety can easily cost a small fortune in either repairs to your home or in doggie daycare. In some dogs, fear can lead to aggression, especially toward other household pets, and you may have extremely high veterinary bills.
I feel like sometimes people get sucked into rescuing anxious dogs because they “feel bad for them.” Or, more likely if the dog is coming from a shelter, the dog’s problems don’t really manifest for a few weeks. Badly bred puppies, either from mills or from unfortunate accidental litters, may not show their problems until they enter adolescence. I think this kind of data needs to be out there as a part of that discussion.
The emotional cost of dealing with a fearful dog can be unexpectedly high. I’m used to it, and I still have days where it gets to me. The real financial cost is also quite high. It’s okay if you can’t afford either of those things. It can be a wonderful thing to help a fearful dog, but we also need to acknowledge that not everyone has the resources.
If you have a fearful dog and are willing to share, please give your numbers in the comments.
(Updating with our more recent numbers: we finally were able to phase out our behaviorist visits, and the DAP collars stopped working after a while. Silas’s daily medication plus his heart worm treatment is roughly $45 per month, and his food costs have remained the same. I find that Silas is happiest if we stay involved in some kind of training class online, which ranges in price from $65 per six weeks at the Fenzi academy and up.)