Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!

wolf_brotherIf you were to show up and gaze down on our planet as an outsider, you could easily get the impression that Dogs run the place, and we Humans exist only to serve their needs.

We provide them with shelter, transportation, medical care and even grooming, in most cases going further into personal debt to do so. We devote millions of acres of our farmland to raising other types of animals which we then slaughter and chop up and feed to our dogs. We even follow them around with plastic bags so we can pick up their excrement while they tug impatiently on the harness, urging us to hurry up so they can continue their guided tour of the city.

Now, don’t get me wrong – this is just what some visiting aliens would think. You and I know the real reason we have dogs. It’s because of our deeply shared evolutionary roots.

huntersIn episode 2 of the splendid science miniseries Cosmos, the host Neil Degrasse Tyson starts up a campfire and reenacts the fascinating tale of how dogs first joined our family circle. Living as pack hunters ourselves sometime within the last 40,000 years, we started noticing that some of the less wild members of the wolf packs surrounding us could actually be useful and trainable. And the group-based nature of our two species meant that they had some of the same social instincts as us, meaning they could become warm companions as well.

So was born Man’s Best Friend, and we enjoyed the help of domesticated wolves even as we selectively bred them into the hundreds of occasionally cartoonish variants known as dogs that we see running around today.

All of this has made perfect sense over almost all of these subsequent millennia. Most of human history has been spent in the wild, trying to stay alive and produce children that could do the same thing. More recently we moved onto farms, living a much easier life but still one with plenty of wild outdoor space, sheep that needed herding and henhouses that needed protection from foxes. On a worldwide basis, roughly half of us still live out in the country (in the US this figure is down to 19 percent). So there is still no shortage of good homes for dogs.

But at the risk of making myself the target of serious anger and hundreds of rational-sounding justifications, I wanted to point out something that seems to have been forgotten by people in my generation and younger. It’s just the plain, perfectly happy and non-judgmental fact that

Dog Ownership is Optional.

My experience might be partly influenced by living in one of the Mountain states, but it seems dog ownership is absolutely contagious around here. Young single adults will adopt a dog shortly after graduation. One dog often leads to another. Young couples will move in together and blend their dog families into one household, Brady Bunch style. Child-raising families have dogs. Older people have smaller, yappier dogs.  When I go out for a walks, I’m often the only one not walking a dog or three.

And this is before we get into the fact that as a society we have gone batshit crazy. When I first published this article I got hundreds of slightly-to-very upset comments from dog people accusing the article of being very anti-dog (it is not – I am saying they are optional, unlike car clown behavior which is never allowed). And then I got about a dozen private emails in support of the idea of a slight reconsideration of our attitude toward dogs. These people were actually afraid to put these comments out in public, because the dog people are so sensitive! As one reader wrote to me privately:

I feel as though the whole ecology of the US has changed in the last 10 – 15 years due to the extreme increase in ownership of dogs and cats, but also the extreme anthropomorphism of those same dogs & cats.

The dog examples in our area include debt over chemo treatments for dogs (and crowdfunding for this too), portraits of dogs (oil and watercolor of course), bronzed dog busts, dogs in strollers, dog spas & hotels, dog bakeries, dog clothing & costumes, toe nail painting for dogs, lavish pet cemeteries, and now people being upset if they don’t receive dog sympathy cards for their death.

All of this is overwhelming for people like me who actually like animals and see their
 amazing abilities to help the disabled or do great work on a farm, but feel that there should be limitations as well. And as you have found out the vitriol that these pet owners have toward any “voice of reason” is quite loud.

I’m not denying the benefits of dogs. We all know that they bring companionship, hardship, activity and even healthy germs and microbes into our homes. But I think the benefits are generally understood, while the downsides and costs are vastly underestimated.

When you’re a young and otherwise unencumbered adult and you adopt a dog, a huge chunk of your freedom is gone. Instantly, just like that. Suddenly you have a very short leash pulling you back to your house. Your new friend needs to be fed and walked. Did you meet somebody special and want to spend a few days with them? Need to fly somewhere to visit family or take a vacation? Sorry, you’re already out past your curfew and the dog is lonely at home.

For people who tend towards loneliness or introversion and who prefer to be at home most of the time anyway, this could be perfect. But for those with other time-consuming aspirations, it is worth considering what you are giving up to get this nice dog time. After all, every activity is a tradeoff that forces you to give up some other option. You enjoy caring for the dog. But is there something that brings even more happiness through personal growth that you would enjoy if only you had more time?

dogtown2When you are shopping for an apartment or a house or a car, the dog completely changes your decisions. Most landlords don’t accept dogs, because (as I can attest) they shred wood floors, carpets, decks, and gardens. You’ll pay more for rent, tend to buy a house further from work, and are also more likely to choose a larger car or even a truck. How will you take your dog across town on a bike? It can be done by trailer, but not many people advance themselves to that level.

Dogs often create a burden on everybody else. One barking dog can ruin a day of work or a night of sleep for 50 households around you. Even well-picked-up dogshit leaves a smear in the public park grass that gets on the picnic baskets of others or the bare feet of children, and then there’s that certain percentage of people who don’t even think it needs to be picked up at all. Dog piss kills plants and grass in front yards as dog walkers cheerfully stroll past by the dozen.

All of this comes at a financial cost that is usually underestimated. People tend to think of a big, cheap bag of dog food and assume that’s how much it costs to raise a dog – just like they quite wrongly use the cost of gas as an approximation of the cost of driving a car. In reality dogs come along with housing, transportation, kennel space, medical care and sometimes even grooming and entertainment costs. The millions of square feet occupied by pet stores is proof of the billions of dollars we spend on these friends.

Sure, it may well be worth the cost to you. But it is definitely worth reminding yourself of all the costs. Because it translates to a cost of your own freedom, which is really a way of subtracting years for your life. Let’s consider the average case:

The median US household has an income of around $51,000 and a savings rate of 5% ($2550). They are also very likely to have a dog, which averages about $2,000 per year if you amortize in the various medical emergencies and one-time costs. But the cost is much higher if the dog also influenced their housing choices or their decision to drive an Outback or a Tacoma or a Tahoe or worse.

Some friends of mine like to travel for two months out of every winter, leaving the pets at home. Without pets, they could easily rent out their beautiful house downtown and bring in $5000 to fully fund those two months in the tropics. Instead, they now struggle to find a house/pet-sitter willing to stay in the house for free. In this case, that $5,000 per year should be added to the total annual cost of the pets.

Despite the manageable-sounding numbers, this is a big deal. A savings rate of only 5% translates to a working career of 66 years, while saving just that extra $2000 brings you to 9%, which means you are financially independent in a slightly less ridiculous 54 years. The average dog family extends their mandatory working career by at least 12 years. Adopt two big dogs and use them to justify a big truck, and you’re instantly up to twenty years extra, workin’ for the man, three weeks annual vacation, conference calls from the cubicle, carpal tunnel syndrome, hope they don’t cancel that pension plan.

At this point in the discussion, we usually arrive at “But I love my furry friend! I wouldn’t give him up for any price!” … 

… and that is exactly the point. Because statements like that mean that all logic has gone out the window. Emotion has taken over the driver’s seat in your life while you are hog-tied with duct tape in the back seat. And emotion is a terrible driver, as you can see from the life path of the American middle class consumer. So think before you drink: Just like children, it’s hard to give up dogs once they are part of your family.

It is very easy, however, to postpone the formation of that family until you are truly ready for it. Financially independent with a nice roomy shabby chic house out in the country, with half an acre of your own organic produce, a nice craft brewery in the garage, and paths and forests where the dog can run free. Even ten years into financial independence myself, I still marvel at the life of dog owners and remain eternally thankful that the adoption of these creatures is completely optional.

And Now For a Completely Different Perspective

Over the summer, I had a discussion like this with my two older sisters, who are both dog people. While they do live in the country, the differences run deeper than just geographical suitability. One of them took the time to write me a counterpoint to explain what it feels to be a proper dog person. So as an offset to Mr. Money Mustache’s typically insensitive and one-sided rant, here are her own words:

Good News on Dogs
by Sister MM

Good news: You don’t need a dog. Or much of anything, really, but nobody wants to live in a white featureless box eating fortified pablum, so we add things. For some people, the benefits of dog ownership are more than worth the expense. It very much depends on the person and the situation.
In some situations a dog is worth the price.

Therapy for the socially odd:
People are large wild animals. For some of us more than others, dealing with other people is complicated and stressful. It can be rewarding, but it takes work. Dogs give us some of the same benefits, with orders of magnitude less stress and effort.
I felt I made some breakthroughs in dealing with other humans when I started living with dogs. My closest friend was my sister when growing up, and my parents were not overly sociable . I get along with other people very easily, but don’t tend to connect with them. Dogs were quite helpful to me. In addition to the relationship with the dogs themselves, dogs provided opportunities to connect with other (often, lovely socially odd) people over a common interest.

Confidence boost:
When dealing with a dog, you are always on top of the power ladder. It’s not inconceivable that this could change your biochemistry, to make you more confident in your dealings with others. When your brain, for some reason, wants you to fit into the bottom of the pecking order with other humans, isn’t it a relief to go home and have a creature around who needs you to be the strong one?

Human substitute:
When you have a companion animal, you can build a detailed mental representation of the mind of a another creature, as we do with humans.
You have somebody to talk to. (They don’t understand or answer. We don’t seem to care). You can communicate a fair bit just with body language. They are a source of physical affection and touch. Some people need a lot of this, some people just need a bit. You can spend decades finding a mate. You can get a dog now.

Child substitute:
Taking care of somebody or something else is, for many people, very rewarding. It is one of our strongest instincts.
We laugh at dog owners treating their pets like children, but could happiness be defined, in a way, as the opportunity to express our instinctive behaviors? We don’t have 12 kids the way our great-grandparents did.

Animal husbandry:
A lot of us come from long lines of farming folks. Having animals around feels instinctively right. As vestigial, and yet as true as the beauty of flowers or birdsong.

Adventure excuse:
Most dogs are always up for an adventure. People with a high drive for adventure can’t always find other people who are up for it at any time any day. Their obvious enjoyment of high adventure makes us step out the door more often.

Interesting subject for study
Dogs can be studied. They enjoy it. You can look at them, think about them, devise training ideas for them, experiment, and they enjoy every minute of it. They are fascinating creatures.

Own a piece of physical perfection.
Training performance in a super athletic dog is fun. For a little bit of money can buy a dog with the canine equivalent to an Olympian’s body. You can watch the muscles grow and see the exquisite grace in motion. We ourselves don’t have the genetic potential for such perfection. It’s easy to buy a dog that has it.

Some people can’t motivate themselves to exercise. They can motivate themselves to exercise their dog. Oddly, for many people it is easier to get out the door when somebody else’s health or happiness depends on it.
Super athletic dogs are an extreme case. I know quite a few people who have vastly improved their own physical fitness, in order to be a more useful part of a skijoring team. The transformations are startling. Imagine that you find yourself competing in a two-man team sport with an Olympian as your team mate. Your team mate loves to compete as much as life itself, and doesn’t care how slow you are. Would you not start to feel a little embarrassed at your lack of fitness? Would you not soon start devising a training programme for yourself? It happens all the time.

Now that I have a family, my dogs are not as important to me as they were. I could say that I don’t need dogs now. They are a luxury that we can afford. They make our lives more complicated and more unusual, which is sometimes a good thing.


— Sister MM competes in skijor races and once trained a dog to retrieve beers from her fridge on command. She is also a maple syrup producer, engineer, musician and mother who lives in the woods with her family.

Epilogue: Lots of emphatic comments on this subject as expected, but one point is coming up often enough that it’s worth putting right here: people saying “Kids are optional too! At least Dogs are cheaper and easier than those troublemakers!”, or some variation on that theme.

You are definitely right – kids are worth considering even more carefully than pets. Here’s an article on exactly that, and in fact the title of this article is a play on the title of this older one:

Great News: You’re allowed to have only one Kid!

  • Sam September 9, 2015, 11:56 am

    Has this post changed anyone’s mind? There just isn’t an easy way to quantify the upside of dogs / kids vs. the cost in a way that works for everyone. The real question is where one draws the line on where they obtain good feelings and fulfillment. For example, having a nice car is expensive, but not worth the good feelings. Having a kid is expensive, but worth it for the good feelings (for some people, other people are dicks who have no business having kids).

  • Rocketpj September 9, 2015, 12:00 pm

    Good article. I’m currently on the brink of getting a dog, though I’ve been on the brink for about 10 years or so.

    I haven’t had a dog since ‘my’ dog died when I was 17 – he was my best friend in all circumstances, and we did my 2.5 hour paper route together every morning for many years when I was young. He was an excellent dog. And he died 26 years ago, and I’ve wanted a dog ever since.

    However, I don’t currently have a dog for the simple reason that I wanted many other things too. Travel, prosperity and freedom being towards the top of the list.

    However, we are now homey sorts of people. We have kids in the house and they would utterly love a dog. And it may be time. But not quite yet – a few more FI ducks to get in order first.

  • Chris September 9, 2015, 12:10 pm

    I can’t believe I’m compelled to waste so much time responding to this post, but the hysteria caused by it is blowing my mind.

    Anyway… I think I get why so many people are upset by it, even if I think they’re a little bit warped in their arguments.

    Based on previous posts this blog is primarily intended to help intelligent middle-income people detach themselves from the arbitrary and meaningless expectations of our consumer-driven society. Society expects/encourages you to go to college, buy a new car, get married, have kids, buy a house and fill it with expensive shit, but a newer car, buy a bigger house and fill it with even more expensive shit, buy a newer car, pay for an expensive college, buy a newer car, retire and quickly die. We can all agree that this is pretty fucked up, but generally accurate as far as main-stream marketing goes.

    The think about this post is that society doesn’t necessarily expect or encourage you to buy a dog. That is a personal decision, and I assume that is why so many dog owners are offended. That said, dog lovers need to admit that not all dog owners are dog lovers. I know plenty of dog owners that “like” their dogs, but can’t wait until they die. Many people underestimate the amount effort, attention and money a dog needs. Just deal with that truth.

    If you love cleaning your dogs hair, vomit and shit, then good for you. If you’re okay with the fact that you can’t get a beer after work because you have to go let your dog outside to shit, vomit and piss, then good for you. If you’re okay with paying random vet bills vet bills because your dog ate something that wasn’t food, then good for you. If you’re okay with working an extra half decade because you spent a ton of money on something that eats its own shit, vomit, and piss, and then licks your face, then good for you.

    This post isn’t for you.

    Just like this blog isn’t for the car lover that is perfectly willing to work an extra decade so they can always drive a new car.

    You’re a grown-ass person making grown-ass decisions. Good for you!!!

    Some people aren’t making grown-ass decisions. They’re making dumb-ass decisions. They have no idea that a car costs more than the sticker price. Why is it that BMWs and Mercedes get such low reliability ratings in the US??? Because buy them and can’t afford to take proper care of them. Ask any mechanic and they’ll tell you.

    And finally…

    Stop comparing dogs to kids. JUST STOP IT!!!

  • Shawn September 9, 2015, 12:28 pm

    My father is a veteran with severe PTSD. He saw friends killed during operations in East Germany and witnessed people burned alive in the Gulf. He was in the Pentagon on 9/11. When he has an “episode” or a flashback, the sixty pound dog picks up on his fear and jumps up in his lap, comforting him and bringing him back to reality. That dog provides better treatment than humanity could ever offer him.

    I understand pets can be expensive, and irresponsible pet owners can allow them to be disruptive and destructive, but I know for a fact that for my father, as well as many, many other people with mental illnesses are helped tremendously by their animals.

    In my eyes, those animals are not optional.

  • simplified September 9, 2015, 1:24 pm

    I’m appalled at the comparisons between dogs and kids. If your parents didn’t have you, you wouldn’t exist to then own a dog some day. A dog doesn’t need to exist in the first place. At least not the fancy pants types that do not serve much purpose, unlike a farm dog or a service dog. It shows just how far gone the current society is when people make comparisons between kids and dogs. This is exactly whats wrong with the world.

    The comments are a clear testament to why there needs to me someone like MMM who can talk some sense into these people.

    • Kristy September 10, 2015, 3:23 pm

      I actually liked MMM”s post and am a dog owner. I am live and let live more often than not. However, I take offense to the idea that a dog doesn’t need to exist. Sorry. A human doesn’t need to exist either. People don’t serve a purpose, yet, here we are. Nothing honestly serves a purpose in the grand scheme of things. Living things have just evolved or been manipulated by other factors to be what they are so they may fit in and survive. Everything loses that battle. . .just give it time.

  • steve September 9, 2015, 2:30 pm

    OK so here’s the deal. you trade $ for lifestyle. any pet will result in a deferral of `retirement`, depending on the degree of substitution one is willing to trade in their budget. you can`t have it all. but for many people sharing life with a `pet“is well worth the sacrifice of other desirable things, including the postponement of `reiirement`. you only get one shot at life, I believe that we need to focus on our own situation, goals and desires. If these do not include a pet then it is not cool to criticise others for their choice. even if there is a perception that pets negatively impact youréour world. when the burning ball of righteousness rises in your chest, before you vent try to remember that you as an individual, no matter how frugal and green you are, have a much larger impact on the planet than a dog.
    MMM`s point about awareness of costs is the real point here and one that is gratefully accepted as a reminder that we often lose track of costs when we assume a lifestyle , habit, or responsibility.

  • PJ September 9, 2015, 2:31 pm

    Cats are cheaper than dogs and certainly cheaper than children (which are by no means a fair comparison to any animal). We had a cat for more than a decade. We never had to follow it around to pick up its shit. It went to the bathroom by itself. We let it out at night and it “walked” itself as needed. No time was wasted. No freedom sacrificed. It ate food scraps which otherwise would end up in the garbage, supplemented with its own diet of prey and the occasional 25 cent of cat food. It kept rodents and insects away from the home, was extremely affectionate and warm. We never paid a cent for it and got it from a litter. Whatever medical treatment it required was so minimal over the years was either free or so minimal that I spend more an aspirin in an average year.

    Cats all the way!

  • Meep er September 9, 2015, 2:58 pm

    Pets can be very expensive, both in cash and in lost time.

    However, as my wife likes to point out, bicycles can be very expensive, too, if owners are not careful!

    Both bikes and dogs have positive advantages — they can foster good health, get people outdoors, and help with meeting new and fun friends. I like both a lot.

    Like all things in life, though — whether bikes, dogs, or wine — wise use and application will bring a lot of happiness. And I think that is MMM’s ultimate goal.

  • mindi September 9, 2015, 2:59 pm

    I had a cat for 15 years and I chose my apartments and to some degree the people I dated based on her. Don’t like cats? Not the one for me. She was a wonderful companion for all the pre-husband years I lived alone. Looking back, it would have saved me lots of $$ to simply rent a room rather than an entire pet friendly (more expensive) apartment. I also paid for her to be boarded an ENTIRE SUMMER when I was a broke college student because I couldn’t bring her to the place where I was staying. Think hard before getting a pet folks. I long for another cat or a dog but I’m holding out as long as possible.

  • Travis Rojakovick September 9, 2015, 4:25 pm

    If anybody currently considering a dog plans to have children in the next five years, I recommend they delay the dog until they have kids. They may find that having young kids and dogs simultaneously is a huge hassle that they don’t want to deal with. I know lots of people who loved their dogs, subsequently had kids, and felt like their dogs became a huge pain in the ass after their kids were born — just another creature to feed, train, clean up the poop of, etc.

    Dogs aren’t endangered species. You can always get one in a few years, after your kid is born, if you decide you want that expense and hassle. But, I’d hold off until you’re sure you simultaneously want kids and a dog.

  • Katie Ostrich September 9, 2015, 4:35 pm

    I am a young, single adult with a low salary (grad student on a stipend) and a dog. You might say I should’ve held off, but I was tired of putting my life on hold. I was tired of not being able to hike and camp because everyone I knew was too ‘busy’. My dog’s no ferocious beast, but she does make me feel safer when I encounter unsettling people on the trail. Plus, she’s got a way better sense of direction than I do, and has saved me from getting lost more times than I can count. As a woman, that freedom is incredibly important.

    I realize I’m not the target audience of this blog, yet I’ve enjoyed it and read every entry. I’m in the biological sciences, where pay is poor. When I finish my masters, if I land a permanent position, I’ll be earning ~40,000/yr. This blog is clearly pitched to those who earn more, who can achieve a 75% savings rate without selling their car and moving in with mom and dad. Still, I’ve always saved at least half my income, even with the dog. Reading this entry, despite presenting both sides of the issue, makes me not want to continue reading this blog, much less recommending it to my friends. “You don’t have to own a dog” is, frankly, the wrong attitude. You don’t ‘have’ much of anything in life.

    I say, if you spend a good portion of your day watching TV and dicking around on the internet (most people do), and you say you want a dog, then good news! You’ve got time for a dog! You can also spend that time on a neglected hobby, or by continuing your facebook habit, but if a dog is going to give you the most fulfillment out of that time, if you’re ready to take care of another being, then a dog may be right for you. Better news – you can try out dog-ownership with zero obligation by dog-sitting! That’s right, you get the full on dog owning experience for a weekend and if it’s not for you, no harm done! But what about the cost? Well, dogs cost a lot more time than they do money (like so many things), but they aren’t free. However, if you’ve got a handle on your finances (you likely do, since you’re reading MMM), then you can also figure out what things you might have to cut to maintain your healthy savings rate with a dog. It’s a decision about another being, so don’t make it lightly. But don’t feel you have to put it off until you’ve found your mate, landed the job that will see you to retirement, and purchased your first house in the country. Life is about compromise, find the one that works for you.

  • Derek September 9, 2015, 7:03 pm

    I have a dog (and a cat) but no kids. When we first got the dog (which cost me $650) I found out he was very sick ($700 vet bill week 1). That was 7 years ago. The cost has been substantial over that time. To confirm how crazy this is, i just paid $400 TODAY to have his teeth cleaned.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog, but I totally agree with MMM’s point that the downsides and costs of dog ownership are vastly underestimated. Another point to make is that not only did underestimate the “actual” cost but when I made the decision to get a dog, I certainly was not considering my FI and what $1200/yr pet cost really adds up to. If on the day of purchase the breeder would have said to me the dog will cost you a one time fee of $27060.59 (Which is $1200/yr @ 7% for 14 years) I would have politely have declined.

  • Carole September 9, 2015, 8:29 pm

    I read somewhere that it seems to be a law of nature that the poorer a family or person is, the more dogs they are likely to have. Of course, this will only keep them poor. I agree it isn’t everyone’s inalienable right to have a pet. Some people can’t afford a pet, and some people won’t take proper care of a pet. Yes, believe it or not, having a pet is optional.

  • Meghan September 9, 2015, 9:03 pm

    Oh dear MMM! This post has dropped you down my list of favoured blogs.

    I understand that having a pet is a cost that people choose to have.

    I also believe that having children is a cost that people choose to have.

    From a purely financial perspective, a dog is far less expensive than a child.

    I see that you have a bias towards children, and away from dogs.

    Although this is a finance blog, I believe that the added happiness of having a dog, and the reduced happiness of having a child should be factored in.

  • Kiwikaz September 9, 2015, 9:29 pm

    I have the PERFECT Mustachian dog (actually I have three of them). Let me introduce you to the CHIHUAHUA.
    They are tiny, and comfortably fit into a handlebar basket on a bicycle so you can transport them anywhere without requiring a clown car.
    Being small and easily contained in a carry bag they are allowed on board aircraft (if you live in Europe or the US, sadly not Australia/NZ) and other forms of public transport so travelling with them is no problem. They are also easily smuggled into places that would not otherwise allow them (eg. hotels).
    They are super cheap to feed. Even the most expensive, imported, fancy human grade pet food doesnt cost more than $10 a month.
    They are too small to do any damage to your house, car, furniture, lawn or other things (except maybe shoes, do watch out for those) so they will not devalue your home or contents.
    You can get the non-shedding variety (my three don’t shed hair) and best yet, they never get that doggy smell as they dont produce dander (a nice breed characteristic).
    They are fiercely protective of you. They make great watchdogs and function as a personal security alarm. They will guard your home and person with all their might. They are really rottweilers in disguise.
    They love you fiercely, much more so than most large dogs. They are always excited to see you even if you have only been gone a few minutes.
    They make great heaters on winter nights, when they are burrowed down under the duvet at the bottom of the bed by your feet, or curled up against your back.
    They are pretty low energy and do not require a great deal of exercise, nor a large yard. They like to sleep most of the day – even if I am home with them they simply snooze the day away on the couch.
    You never have a problem finding a babysitter for them – people think they are super cute and are happy to take care of them while you go on holiday. Likewise people dont mind if you bring them along when you visit.
    They are a pretty healthy breed, and live to 18 years on average (so you can depreciate any costs over a longer lifetime, plus minimise replacements)
    So in summary, all the dog benefits at minimum cost – how Mustachian is that!

    • Kiwikaz September 9, 2015, 9:34 pm

      Oh, and their poo is tiny!!!

    • JT September 12, 2015, 2:31 pm

      I have to recommend that no one follows your advice to “smuggle” the dog into a place that specifically doesn’t allow them (such as pet free hotels). This is shitty behavior that makes people think all pet owners are jerks. There are plenty of pet friendly hotels.

  • LeisureFreak Tommy September 9, 2015, 9:32 pm

    We love dogs and have had dogs for many years. Our first dog lived 17 years, our second 15.5 years and recently our sweet Lab passed at 11 years. They do bring a lot of love and companionship to a family. They do cost a little to feed and take care of. They get real expensive when they get old and need old age related medical. The Lab cost about $3K over his final 3 months of life. We had the budget to handle it. We are now happy to be dog free and just get our dog-Fix when we visit our daughter’s homes. We get asked all the time when are we getting another dog. Almost like it is expected.

  • Rob from Munich September 10, 2015, 2:16 am

    Found this comments in the forum section

    “Following – want to live the life of a nomad, but I’ve got pets. I’m an armchair nomad.”

    “Me too, but only in a few years. I want a huuuge buffer.”

    “I’m fighting the pet battle as well. I have a running list of all the places in the US my wife and I want to see. I envisioned taking 6 months and just touring the country, visiting relatives and seeing the things we want to see. But we have two cats that probably aren’t going to die any time soon and that makes things complicated. Too bad I wasn’t thinking about this when I took them in as kittens.”

    With kids they either travel with you or they grow up and leave home. Told the wife many times, love my dog but I will not have a dog in retirement, crimps your style why why too much!!!!

    • Rob from Munich September 10, 2015, 3:18 am

      can’t edit comments but found some more comments

      I have a dog so can’t do long bike touring of any kind now (but still do it by car with the dog with me in North America) but it’s something I’d love to do once pet free

      I’m not against pets, as I mentioned I have a dog and love him to bits but they really really cramp your style in a way kids don’t

  • Trifele September 10, 2015, 4:32 am

    “I see that you have a bias toward children, and away from dogs.”

    That would probably considered normal, since we are human and children are human.

    Of course, both kids and dogs are optional, and no one should have either unless they can afford it, manage it, and will be happy. But come on — dogs are not people. Many people use them for people substitutes, companions, and so on — which is fine as long as they don’t impose their dogs on others. But let’s not lose sight of the big picture here, which I believe is what MMM is trying to describe.

  • Kyde September 10, 2015, 4:34 am

    Having pets is definitely optional, and I’ve seen many people who probably shouldn’t have pets. A few months ago my husband rescued a little kitten and she now lives with us. Soon we realized that now we have a little additional bill to pay — she costs us about $2-$3 per day, but it was so worth it. She gave us so much love and fun! And we are not lonely, socially awkward people without children. We have a son, we have family and friends.

    Your relationship with your pet and your relationships with humans are totally different things. I really don’t like when people suggest that people with pets should bring children instead. They don’t get it. It’s something you can’t compare. This should’t be even mentioned.

  • Penny September 10, 2015, 6:29 am

    As one of only probably twenty families in our neighborhood who do not own a dog (that’s over 200 dog-owning houses), I can assuredly state that there are people who should not own dogs. I’ve encountered a family who often skips basic care for their dogs because of the expense. But more than that, most of the people in my neighborhood are gone for 10-15 hours each day, which means their pets’ only opportunity to see daylight is through a window. There are definitely non-financial considerations to make, too, and that’s the biggest reasons why we don’t own one. One neighbor who was shocked to discover we don’t have dogs made the comment, “Well, I just thought that’s what you do. You buy a house, you get a dog.” That sums it up pretty well, I think.

  • Cornish Lass September 10, 2015, 6:58 am

    Thankfully I am past the age when people ask innocently ‘when are you going to have kids?’ Very early on in life I made decisions based on multiple family observations that having a baby was not for me.
    Travelling and working in different countries for years meant that dog ownership was also not a great option.
    I now have a pretty excellent world education, friends and family across the planet that I can go and visit ( while they cannot leave due to children in school or dogs) and a job that allows me to work half the year while travelling the other half with my spouse (this is the longer term goal as right now we are fixing up, renting out and using multiple houses as ‘forced savings accounts’)
    All this has happened by choice, by design and more to the goals of personal freedom to live a life in various ways than via financial analysis (something I am only lately getting the hang of)
    Because we both have a fair amount of time we contribute to our community through cleanups, tree planting, take care of a number of gardens and snowplowing for free, hoping that by doing so the families that live around us gain a number if benefits even though they may not have time for these things. As a result, we are quite busy and fulfilled.
    As we now live in a sharing economy (we have a bike share and membership at a tool library as well as car share) I want to point out that I can ‘share’ in a child or dog’s life as much as I’m willing to contribute. Friends have dogs and kids, both species like a good day out and we all benefit from it.
    So before assuming someone’s life is empty, consider they may be willing to walk your dog, clean your neighbourhood, and take a child to the fun fair, enriching all our lives through a sharing economy :-)

  • Theo September 10, 2015, 7:44 am

    Right on the money!
    My kids talked me into a dog and I got a fantastic one. However, he owns me. I can never sleep in anymore, when I hike I have to leave the mountains early, any overnights are a huge deal, and all I seem to do is pick up poop and dog hair. I had estimated a cost of $2000/year not counting future major medical bills. Think of it, freedom, sleeping in and a free trip to Europe each year if I didn’t have a dog. But don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown to love this dog and take exceptionally good care of him (I see how others keep their dogs indoors all day only to let them out tot he backyard for a few minutes each day, not this guy). So I’m in it for the duration in giving him a good life and a lot of affection. But after him I vow to covet my own limited life and never own any kind of animal ever again.

    • Eldred September 10, 2015, 8:59 am

      Interesting – I usually read about pet owners getting pissed at others leaving their dog outside. “Bring them in the house – they’re family!” They imply that it’s cruel to keep the dog in the yard. I like dogs, but I don’t own one because I know I don’t have the time to care for them. I’d sooner get a cat because they’re easier to take care of. Don’t have one of those either. I think I’ll survive. :-)

    • JT September 12, 2015, 2:28 pm

      With proper training, you can fix one of your primary complaints, which is the early wake up.

      Overnights are also an easy fix, because if you get a hotel, many major chains allow pets for an extra $10/night or so. And if you’re camping, it’s way more fun with a dog. Mine has been in tents, cabins, backpacking, and cross country with me a few times in hotels.

  • Ash September 10, 2015, 8:25 am

    I think you could easily replace “dog” with “cat” or just “pet” in this post. I totally agree with both what you and your sister said, and wish I had thought a little harder 4 years ago when I adopted my first cat. I at least knew that I shouldn’t get a dog just to leave him home all day while I worked. Anyway, I do love my kitties and feel that I’ve benefited from having them, but I also wish I had waited 10 years. They make everything more expensive. Literally name anything and its more expensive because you have a pet. Furniture doesn’t last as long, you have to clean more, vacations mean paying for boarding, groceries, and you need housing sufficient for you AND the pets. Cats don’t need a ton of room, but I find myself looking for 1br places instead of studios so that I can lock them into a separate area if necessary. Of course, there’s ways to mitigate these costs, but it would have been easier for me to do so in different circumstances. I will be very hesitant to replace them when the time comes.

  • Amy September 10, 2015, 12:11 pm

    Our family of 4 has had a dog for 2 years. He is our court jester, our exercise buddy, a lap warmer in the winter, our self-esteem booster and YES, also a slightly major luxury. We feed him well and take care of him, so that hopefully he will have a largely vet-free ($$$) future. We don’t need him, but gosh do we all really want him! I’m happy to economize in other areas. Did I mention he rarely barks?
    Thanks for the article. It’s easy for a dog to just be considered another part of the “American Dream Package” along with a two car garage, massive debt, braces for all your kids, etc.,.

  • Bert Perry September 10, 2015, 3:14 pm

    It strikes me that the number of comments–some angry, some angry another way, some not–really illustrate our host’s point about how we need to engage our minds as we purchase anything. Could be dogs, could be beer, travel, cars, or even bicycles…..and at a some point, you’ve got to examine whether our decision is emotional or rational. Not that pure reason a la Spock is our goal, but one ought to at least understand when a decision is made in the heart (or lower I guess) and not in the mind and know the difficulties inherent.

    Speaking, FWIW, as a person who enjoys dogs, beer, travel, cars, and bicycles.

  • Tonja September 10, 2015, 5:50 pm

    The thing is….I love my dog and I love my kids. They both cost me a lot of money, the but the joy they give me defies logic. Not everything has to make sense–that is part of the human condition!

  • Cheesepare September 10, 2015, 6:48 pm

    It is generally recognized that single kids tend to be a bit odd. Raising kids without dogs doesn’t help.

    I believe that most of the adults who don’t like my dog or claim to be afraid are probably still bed-wetting.

  • kite September 10, 2015, 7:14 pm

    Optional the way that love is also optional.
    Median income household is plenty wealthy enough to afford a dog. It’s the all the discretionary expenses (pet related & not) that leave those who are living so close to the edge on the verge of bankruptcy. In other words, it’s not the cream in my coffee and slice of birthday cake that made me fat. It’s day in/day out choices, death by a thousand cuts that sinks a ship, splits the seam in a pair of trousers or sends the family to the poor house.
    Take away the privelege of dog ownership from the struggling median income family and they don’t suddenly wake up to the wonders of wealth….they’ll just travel more, redecorate more, and find some other pet cause or item on which to sink those funds.
    Our shedding ball of fur is great company and hates to be left alone. Had we been the dine-in-restaurants-weekly type before his arrival, we’d be saving money for having had to kick that habit. Travel? Far less common now that a kennel or dog sitter must be factored into the equation. Redecorate? Not keen to buy anything else that’s just going to smell like a dog. Dog needs walking which forces exercise (savings on blood pressure meds) and expands the urban tribe. I’ve no choice but to be out and about at regular times throughout the day meeting neighbors, finding perfectly good tennis rackets in the trash, happening upon a gardener with excess banana peppers, learning whose new construction means transplanting raspberry bushes to my yard.
    Then there’s the likely end for all of us…..old age. We no longer look as good, smell as good, conduct interesting conversations, or remain as attractive as we did in our youth. The dog doesn’t care. Auntie is nearing the end of her 9th decade, years into Alzheimer’s and losing more memory by the week. But she, and every other nursing home resident love this little guy. They all get a kick out of the cuddles, the petting, the sleeping on their feet, the games of fetch. No human is as consistently capable of delivering that joy. The psych meds thus far don’t either, not at all like a friendly animal who reminds an old man of Lucky, Major or Duke who was his best friend in the 1940s.
    But dogs, like sex or beer, are optional. It’s possible to do without, no doubt. And I don’t judge your abstinence. But like N. Degrasse Tyson says about atheism, it’s peculiar to get together and talk about how you don’t collect stamps.

    • AJ Arias September 11, 2015, 2:10 pm

      I just have to say: I love this!

  • Jake F. September 10, 2015, 7:29 pm

    I’ve been waiting years for this article, and no one could have written it more tactfully. Even hardened mustachians struggle to consider reasonable arguments on this topic, and as much as I wanted to see some facepunching MMM snark, I respect your bravery in even putting it out there at all. Your strategy is superb. Thanks, MMM!
    PS. I’d love to see a new feel good face-puncher out soon to re-rally the troops. The evil Mr. M$ney and his ilk are still out there you know ;)

  • Brian September 11, 2015, 8:36 am

    Yes, of course dogs and other encumbrances are optional. Yes, they do certainly limit your freedom, if you’re a responsible pet owner.

    I would list one huge advantage in our rather fragmented world: they are an incredible way to build your social circle. In NYC my group of friends expanded exponentially when I got a dog. My lonely friends were amazed that everyone in my neighborhood knew me, that strangers spoke to me every time we went out. I met my ex through my dogs. My best friends are still from that time. Then I moved to a small town in a rural area. Within a year I knew everybody because I was always out walking the dog. If I only depended on work and my natural introversion, I would know almost no one here. But I have many friends now, because of my dog. And as we all should know, the bigger our social circle, the happier, healthier, and more secure we are. I am unmarried, have no children, and these friends have helped me on many occasions, as I’ve helped them.

    So don’t figure up everything on a calculator. If you have the temperament, if you like having something dependent on you, if you don’t mind lots of loose hair and not having a sterile home environment, and if you want to meet great people, get a dog. Of course, there’s no need to discuss this – if you want a dog, you’ll have one whatever anybody argues.

  • Forrest L September 11, 2015, 11:35 am

    I would venture to say that a majority of pet owners that I know in a suburban-U.S. setting do NOT take adequate care of their pets. Many neighbors do not give their large dogs exercise on a daily basis. This leads to behavior problems including making too much noise (mainly dogs).

    I include myself in this with one of our birds.

    I think few people will take good care of their pets throughout their lives (priorities change – family, job, etc.). For goodness sake, if you really think you need a pet – ADOPT! It’s super cruel not to do so.

  • AJ Arias September 11, 2015, 2:04 pm

    If you are on the fence deciding whether or not you want a dog, I want you to know it can be done MMM-style. Having a dog can be dirt cheap, depending on how you approach it. I realized that the breed and temperament have a lot to do with your overall satisfaction. In researching, I decided on a yorkie because it doesn’t shed, is too small to jump onto the furniture, and only eats 1/2 a cup of food a day. When picking out the dog, I took someone with me so I wouldn’t make an emotional decision, but would stick to my goals of a sweet dog who would love to sit in my lap and keep me company. I DID use a breeder, because the puppy mills and pet shops are more likely to give you an unhealthy or unsocialized dog. But I found a breeder who was selling the puppies at a discount ($850, as opposed to what the breed generally runs at $1200-$2400), because she was going on vacation. It was a big initial investment. But from there, the money saving really began.

    The crate, which usually runs about $60, I got for $17 because I took one with two doors, but one was broken.
    The cover for the crate: old blanket – $0.
    The bed: old towel – $0
    The food dishes: at garage sale, $0.50
    The food: $15 for an 8-month supply at Costco, then vacuum packed and frozen at home: $1.88/mo.
    Puppy shots: first one the breeder did, second and third – $8.00/ea. (Got the vaccination from neighborhood farm supply store, nurse across the street administered it for free.)
    Treats: you can feed dogs lots of super-cheap food items, like frozen peas or bits of carrot. A small treat smaller than your pinky nail is all the motivation a dog needs, so make treats last longer by breaking them up. Petflow.com or your local dollar store have rawhide and $0.99 treats.
    Toys: rummage through your kids’ stuffed toys and ball supply and see if you can find some that have fallen out of favor – $0. Or, for tug of war, our dollar store had a rope toy for $0.99, or look through the garage for a bit of rope.
    Training: Here’s a place people spend lots of money! The secret to free training: Zak George’s Pet Revolution site on youtube.com. I watched all the videos before getting the dog so I knew what I was getting into.
    Vet: To get the dog spayed/neutered (we’re not doing this) or get proof of rabies shots is the only reason to go, besides illness. Decide with your significant other before getting the dog how much you’re willing to spend on trying to save the dog if it becomes very ill. Don’t let a vet keep upping and upping those bills without limit. Vets will have you come in and spend $88/pop to see them for every little thing. Get advice from that farm supply place, friends, neighbors, the internet…hell, a book… before you go in.
    Grooming: I use the same clippers as I do on my three boys (don’t worry, I wash it and sanitize it after!). Haircuts are free. Saves me $30-$60/mo. Comb & brush: just dedicate one of your old ones to the dog. Done. I do buy the “doggy toothpaste”, which I can’t remember how much that cost, but it lasts for months. A toothbrush made for a human can be bought at dirt cheap, whereas one made for your dog is expensive.

    I’m learning as I go, but MMM has saved us so much money, that I now have MMM eyes on everything I do. So, mistakes I’ve made before, I correct the next time, like buying a $50 doggy purse. Oh well, can’t be perfect.

    • Amy September 11, 2015, 11:01 pm

      Absolutely zero reason for you not to spay or neuter your dog. Also lack of socialization or health are poor reasons not to use a puppy mill. Disdain for animal abuse is a more appropriate response. But it sounds like you have some interest in caring for the family member.

      Trying to stay calm and educational. But everybody and everything deserves the right to be humanely treated. I hope people who read this will consider adoption. Once you become educated on the issue, creating demand for a $1000 inbred pet will seem crazy.

  • Doug September 11, 2015, 3:36 pm

    I’m fully with MMM here on this topic. Here in Ontario, where I live, a lot of people are just as crazy about their dogs. It’s not just a Mountain State thing. I often hear politicians (usually of the opposition parties) as well as many economists bellyaching about how “tough” times are for the “struggling” middle class. Personally, I think this obsession with dogs shows the opposite, that a lot of people have far more money than they know what to do with. What comes to mind is a hydroelectric power plant with all the sluice gates fully open, dumping all that surplus water down the spillway because there’s far more coming down the river than can be used to generate power. Just like the fully open sluice gates, these people have FAR MORE MONEY than they know what to do with and are looking for ways to get rid of it. I’ve lived alone for most of my adult life and, according to the rubbish some people believe, I should have a dog to keep me company and yet I have no desire to have one. I can’t imagine why presently I’m financially independent and retired.

  • Anna September 11, 2015, 8:34 pm

    Of course, there were also the New Zealand scientists who claimed that a dog is environmentally equivalent to driving an SUV, so I am not surprised that MMM is not pro-dog (another reason for me to like him!), e.g. see this article http://www.stuff.co.nz/environment/2987848/Save-the-planet-time-to-eat-dog

    The scientists wrote a book called “Time to eat the dog? The Real Guide to Sustainable Living”, which sets out the environmental impact of daily consumption, prompting readers to question what they think they know about sustainable living.

  • mara September 11, 2015, 10:04 pm

    Of course, if you want to hang onto your money, don’t take responsibility for anything that eats.

    My husband eats more than he needs to, but I’m keeping him.
    The pet collection (no dogs) is down to three. One is a mouser and the others mow the lawn.
    The kids expect to be fed when they show up to visit, but the conversation is amusing, so we provide the dough.

  • Sandy September 12, 2015, 12:24 pm

    There was a time when I would’ve taken umbrage at your comments regarding dog ownership. Of course, that would’ve been BEFORE I was ‘lumbered’ with a large breed dog 9 years ago. Thanks to a now ‘ex’ friend who colluded with my partner on bringing this dog into our already crowded household, I have been a reluctant and resentful dog owner for 9 years. I will say, for the first 3 years of having the dog around, I put up with the mess, walked the dog and trained the dog. The dog was (and is) our guard dog. My partner had always wanted a dog and, when the opportunity came along for him to get the breed he wanted, I acquiesced and made the effort to not be selfish. 9 years on and the dog has cost us a small fortune in food and vet bills, freedom and lost vacations. We cannot just leave the house on a whimsical trip and haven’t been able to do so for NINE YEARS. Why didn’t I just take the dog to the pound or find it another home? Because the animal is part of our family and it is a ’til death do us part’ proposition for me. I do not regard animals as commodities to be discarded just because they are/become inconvenient. I was part of the equation when the dog made its home with us and that is the way it will stay for the indefinite future. But I will say this: this situation will NEVER happen again. I refuse to make this level of commitment to an animal at this stage of my life. I want to travel without the added burden of finding caregivers for the dog (there aren’t any, hence many lost trips). Not to mention the mess and damage inside and outside of my home. Just this morning, I awoke to a pile of barf on the floor ….. by no means the first time that has happened. As it now stands, my partner who wanted the dog so much does the absolute bare minimum with the animal. I am the one who walks, bathes, feeds and trains and honestly I am sick of it.

  • JT September 12, 2015, 2:21 pm

    Dunno what all the uproar is about. I foster and train dogs, but my one permanent dog was acquired for nothing and has pretty low fixed costs. It’ll be tough when she gets to the age where thousand dollar procedures are needed to prolong life. I like to say I won’t do it, but there’s no question I’m emotionally invested in her health and would selfishly hate it if she weren’t alive.

    That said, of COURSE dogs (and kids) are optional. And HELL YES people spend way too much money on both. Proceed with caution, as with any other large expenditure.

  • Taylor September 12, 2015, 4:00 pm

    Wonderful article. Not everyone NEEDS a dog, especially if they are not financially responsible enough.

    Thy type of dog also matters. My adopted 6 pound chihuahua will cost me WAY less over the long run when taking into account typical expenses incurred when owning a dog.

  • Anna September 12, 2015, 5:13 pm

    Interesting pov… full disclosure, I chose dogs over kids. My reasoning, all the listed cons of dog ownership. Kids=expense, kids=lack of mobility, kids= medical bills. All of these to the 10th power!
    Yet I still have an instinctual desire to care for another soul; and to be cared for back.
    I’ve watched friends and Co – workers through the years make the kid choice and feel confident that the $$ and time I’ve invested in my pups is significantly less.

  • Susan September 13, 2015, 11:19 am

    Well done MMM! As you can see by the hornet’s nest you kicked over, this was an excellent choice of topic. So much defensiveness and outright anger because you dared to point out that people would do well to think through the financial and time commitments of owning a dog before they get one!

    There are societal expectations about having dogs (or other pets) that are absolutely worth examining, as you neatly encapsulated with the title, “Great News! Dog Ownership is Optional!” Whenever you get pushback like this, it means you are doing what you do best — challenging Deeply Held Beliefs.

    Thank you! Keep up the good work!

  • Tom September 13, 2015, 1:40 pm

    You can make a lot of money exploiting pet owners, as they will spend any amount on anything for their pets.

  • Darin September 13, 2015, 2:11 pm

    I think a lot of the kickback is coming from the $2000/year estimate. It looks right on the surface. For instance, this article estimates pets cost ~$1600/year.


    Unfortunately those numbers don’t pan out IRL. With ~78 million dogs in the US, that figure implies we spend about $125 billion per year on dogs alone.


    On the other hand, total expenditures for all pets, which also includes cats, birds, fish, reptiles, horses, and other small animals, is only ~$60 billion.


    Digging into the numbers a little more suggest that total spending is less than ~$350/year for dogs & cats.

    That isn’t to say that pets aren’t expensive in specific cases, but they don’t cost $2000/year in an average family, much less in a mustachian family.

    • Bill September 13, 2015, 2:23 pm

      You’re not taking into account indirect costs such as repairs, higher costs for cars/houses and health care costs that people spend on trying to save a dog

      • Darin September 15, 2015, 7:38 am

        Bill, vet costs are included in total expenditures for all pets. While I can see someone getting a larger vehicle for something like a horse, the vast majority of dogs/cats will be fine on the vast majority of vehicles. Getting an SUV for your 40lb mutt would be a choice, not a requirement.

        I’ve never spent anything on repairs associated with keeping dogs/cats, but I suppose there are some notable exceptions to that rule. Still, I don’t see it moving the needle much. Certainly not enough to go from a ~$350/year average to a ~$2000/year average.

  • Luke McCarthy September 14, 2015, 9:51 am

    We live on a street surrounded by people with dogs. One neighbour has SEVEN dogs alone and they are a constant noise nuisance. The dogs are not trained properly and go on hours long barking fits at the slightest provocation. This seriously reduces our quality of life and is a great stress on my mother. Dog ownership is extremely selfish and only makes sense when dogs are USEFUL, instead of merely a “friend” for unsociable people. I would support laws that restrict dog ownership and require licensing.

    • josh September 14, 2015, 10:09 am

      “Dog ownership is extremely selfish and only makes sense when dogs are USEFUL”

      I LOL’ed

      A fine sentiment as long as you are just as self critical about your own “useless” proclivities, but I wager you are not. This is the reoccurring hypocrisy among most of the proponents of this post. We got it; dogs cost more than unthinking idiots imagine. We make different choices; you have irrationally strong feelings about others’ dogs. Moving on… unless you want to play some kind of game where upon we compare who makes the most rational, ascetic life choices, devoid of waste, luxury, and frivolity. That would be fun.

      • Hibryd September 14, 2015, 12:28 pm

        “We make different choices; you have irrationally strong feelings about others’ dogs.”

        His point was that other people’s dog affect HIS life, which IS selfish of those dog owners. It’s a dick move for dog owners to make their neighbors listen to barking at all hours of the day. (AND most likely clean up their dogs’ crap as well; I live on a small street and every dog who has ever lived on it managed to excrete something onto our lawn.)

        • Rid September 14, 2015, 1:28 pm

          Long time reader first time commenter here. Timely article as I just shared a picture of dog shit left on my lawn the other day in a neighborhood website where I live. My wife and I love dogs but we hesitate getting one because of the potential barking and the fact that we don’t want to pick up after them every day. So, yes, when a neighbor’s dog barks at night it affects us; so it does when it shits on my lawn and its owner doesn’t pick up or, the left over residue even if picked up. Selfish indeed!

          • Laura September 15, 2015, 6:14 am

            I consider myself a responsible dog owner and irresponsible dog owners bother me just as much as they might bother someone like you who does not have a dog. I can’t stand when there is dog poop on the side of the road. I pick up dog poop every day of my life so I don’t see why others are unable to.

            But you know what? Many humans are also selfish and irresponsible when they have children. There’s nothing like the parents who refuse to discipline their children or they think that their human child can do no wrong. Parents are also irresponsible and selfish when they approach me and my dog. Many parents let their young child run right up to an unfamiliar dog. I have had to stop young kids from approaching my dog many times because the parent thought nothing was wrong with their kid approaching a strange dog yet I suspect that they’d be quick to sue someone if a dog injured their kid. My dog is pretty friendly but I know her boundaries and know that she can be timid with new people and she could jump up and knock a young kid over. A parent is in the wrong when they let their kid approach a dog, the same way a dog owner is in the wrong when they have their dog off leash and they let the dog just run up to strangers and young kids.

    • Tim September 14, 2015, 11:03 am

      My city does limit dog ownership to 2 dogs and has strict licensing laws. There are also great noise ordinances that make it very easy for you to call the police and report issues with barking dogs. My family has taken advantage of this twice, and the police were very helpful.

      Maybe you should look into living somewhere that better suits your needs if your city doesn’t provide these things? Or better yet, get involved in your local government and petition to have a noise ordinance passed by the city council.

  • Arob54600 September 14, 2015, 11:16 am

    Well MMM,
    You have done it again. The right post at the right time.
    I was just telling my husband that I really wanted another cat (we already have one).
    But I think I will put it off, IT is a luxury and an unnecessary expense, and I’d really much rather spend my money on getting free. Thanks again for the face punch!

    Oh and you know, haters are gonna hate. Keep on working that soap box!

  • SpicyMcHaggus September 14, 2015, 1:41 pm

    I have to nope the F out after this.
    Most people my age are popping out kids. (one couple i know is on their way to #4) and aren’t even 30 yet.
    You want to talk about expense, look at your own life. I could never dream to bang the war drum against children, despite the fact that I don’t want them, nor like them. They are many times more expensive (not legal to lock your kids in the house for the day with a bowl of food and water!), yet you’re a monster if you question having children?

    The good news about a dog is YOU CAN’T HAVE A DOG BY ACCIDENT.

    Anyway, the dog gives back to you in intangible ways. Some protection, some love, companionship, an outlet for your energy and an increased sense of fulfillment. If you can’t come up with a few hundred dollars a year to feed and care for a creature that loves you unconditionally, then maybe you shouldn’t have one.

    And by “one”, I mean your wife or child.

    Where does MMM draw the line on “money doesn’t matter” ?

  • mara September 14, 2015, 2:57 pm

    I hope we can all agree that children, pets, hobbies (except bicycling), etc. are optional. We may feel a need to have one or more, but should consider costs carefully before making commitments and allocating funds. As others have said, the careful consideration is the key part of the message. I’ve made my share of emotional decision mistakes; I think this post is a great reminder to be responsible. Still, that shouldn’t mean giving up everything we hold dear.

    Jacob from ERE is an amazing role model for this situation. If I have the numbers right, he spent $1,000 in a year on his martial arts hobby, but his total annual spending on everything was $7,000. You can draw your own conclusions, but it’s certain he felt deeply about the hobby and found a way to include it in his life while still working towards his goals.

  • 13 months in ecuador September 14, 2015, 2:59 pm

    I’m going to take this comment in another direction.

    MMM – thank you for writing this article. it obviously hit an emotional chord, which can be seen by the numerous comments. You made a ton of great comments as to the economic implications of owning a dog, and people don’t need to do so. It is an option that people should consider without the emotional connection to the animal.

    Living in a major northeast city with no backyards and little green space – i am astounded at how many people own dogs. I always wonder where they store these animals and give them odd looks as they walk around with plastic bags picking up poop. And i am also shocked by how many of these people make life decisions based upon this barking animal. I will never get it.

    Thanks for sparking a debate and trying to show both sides while encouraging people to get beyond the emotions. Appreciate it! 13monthsecuador.blogspot.com

  • LLBigwave September 14, 2015, 4:35 pm

    “At this point in the discussion, we usually arrive at “But I love my furry friend! I wouldn’t give him up for any price!” …

    … and that is exactly the point. Because statements like that mean that all logic has gone out the window.”

    Begging your pardon sir, but this is not quite true.

    It just means that the dog owner’s logic is different from yours. Which doesn’t make it wrong.

  • Laura September 15, 2015, 6:00 am

    I have a dog and her care obviously adds to my expenses, but I don’t mind. I know some people might get upset at the things you pointed out in your post, but I am not affected by the points you made because most of your points about money mean nothing to me since I value my dog so highly on a scale that cannot be measured with a monetary value.

    I am a young, single woman and I have a 5 year old black lab and she is the center of my universe and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I feed her premium dog food, I pay for boarding when I go on vacations, I pay for her vet expenses, I pay for pet insurance (because I am absolutely the type of “crazy dog person” who would pay for any procedure to save my dog’s life) and none of these costs bother me the slightest bit because I am so in love with my dog.

    My dog is the love of my life and all the happiness and joy that she has brought into my life is worth the money I pay to care for her wants and needs. I won’t deny that the expenses of a dog can add up to a lot, but I don’t mind paying these expenses so long as I can have my wonderful companion by my side.

    What I’m saying is… you make some decent points from a costs perspective, but your sister makes great points when it comes to the amount of joy a dog (or any pet) can bring into your life.

    • Yuuki September 17, 2015, 5:07 pm

      And honestly, that’s what this blog has always been about in the first place. Your dog isn’t ruining your life, on the contrary, it’s adding to it and you don’t mind the expenses. A lot of comments really seem to be ignoring the word “optional” in the title and are treating this like he told everyone to euthanize their pets immediately.

      In the first place I wish people would consider more deeply the cost associated with an animal before purchasing them too. Most people don’t think too much about it. If you are truly prepared to pay the price to enjoy the company of your pet, more power to you.

      Good to see there are some other rational dog owners in the comment section. I like my dog too. I don’t know what kind of dog he is or anything, he was just a puppy who was cowering in the corner of my yard one day and he didn’t belong to anybody. Apparently he was 2 weeks old or something around there the doctor said. I decided to keep him after thinking about it and I don’t regret the decision, but I don’t think people should completely ignore the fact that his continued existence isn’t free.

  • Amber September 15, 2015, 11:48 am

    What about cats? We just got adopted George, a 2-year-old Blue Russian, from a rescue a few months ago, and I have absolutely loved having him around. Cats provide every benefit listed by Mr. MM’s sister (with the exceptions of exercise motivation and social interaction with others) but with less restriction on your freedom, and I presume less expense?

    Sorry if this was covered in the comments already – I read quite a few but didn’t make it to the bottom! Any cat people out there? Thoughts?

    • Sezza September 17, 2015, 6:23 pm

      I love cats! We had cats growing up in my family and I agree, they provide all of the benefits of dogs, without as much restriction and training required. However, I would not personally own a cat until I’m ready to ‘settle’ and stop travelling – buy a house, put down roots etc. I view them, and dogs, as just as restrictive as having kids: ~15-18 years of being tied down by another being and having that responsibility (as you may be able to tell, I’m not particularly fussed about having kids either :p)

      However I do agree that they would be cheaper and easier to look after than a dog. Cats can even ‘live off the land’ – I saw many farm cats in rural France that were fed a little on raw meat and tinned fish, but who also caught mice/rats, ate raw eggs (yup, I watched a cat steal a fresh egg from the farm, attempt to crack it for 5 minutes, finally break in and devour the contents like it was Christmas come early), even fought over VEGGIE scraps from the household kitchen. It’s worth remembering how pampered our pets are compared to ‘work’ cats and dogs.


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