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!

  • Tatiana September 16, 2015, 7:48 am

    Looking at all the projected anger, misinterpretations, and skewed mental filters in this comments section leads me to believe Mustacians could use a good dose of self reflection and the practice of Buddhism.

  • jpark September 16, 2015, 8:10 am

    Raising children versus keeping pets are not the same thing. That there are so many people here who believe this shows the total decadence and self indulgence of the contemporary Western society.

    Do people really believe that parents are raising children (biological or adopted) for the same reasons that people keep pets – i.e. for companionship and emotional support? Doesn’t that sound selfish to the extreme – that other human beings exist just for one’s own pleasure?

    If everyone was to equate child rearing with pets, then the cold hard financial calculations will lead everyone to just have pets, since they are cheaper and take less effort than children. I guess the attitude is who gives a shit what happens to civilization after I pass away and the only thing that matters to me is my own convenience and physical comfort.

    I guess there is an argument to be made that there are too many human beings and we could use a smaller population. But you can adopt a child, and it still takes huge effort to bring up another human being to become a productive member of a society especially a modern one.

  • Meg September 16, 2015, 8:50 am

    I wish I had considered this more carefully before buying my first dog 6 years ago (a companion for him, my second dog, followed a year later). I was single and having dogs was fun(ish) and a good way to meet people in my neighborhood. Suddenly I met my neighbors, had an excuse to linger at the dog-friendly wine bar patio by myself, and became a lot more active walking them 3 times a day. It was also nice to have cuddly things to snuggle with alone on the couch.

    Owning dogs in a city way more expensive than I anticipated though, having grown up in the country where dogs roamed free and rarely went to the vet. Now I have to have vet visits and shots twice a year if I ever want to be able to board them, I have to buy baggies with which to pick up their crap, and I notice and need to treat it when they get mildly sick since they are indoor pets puking on my floors.

    But fast forward a few years and the dogs negatively impacted my dating life and travel plans. Like kids, other people will rarely appreciate your pets like you do. My now husband had (and still has) no interest in bringing them anywhere, sleeping with them or having them and their hair all over the couch. He found the dogs the single biggest obstacle to overcome when it came to committing to me back when we were dating. I implemented firm boundaries like no more dogs on furniture or in bed, which helped but also took away the primary methods for enjoying my pets.

    Now that I have a man to cuddle with and go on outings with, the dogs are more like expensive chores I have to repeat daily for probably another decade.

  • Karen September 16, 2015, 7:57 pm

    If you think MMMs post garnered a strong response, imagine the vitriol occasioned by this testimonial by Farhad Manjoo. I think it’s pretty true and also funny (when he gets to the comparison with his toddler son). But maybe that’s because I’m a cat person ;-).

    I’m very fond of my cats, but there’s no question they entailed undue expense, now that I’m old enough to know better. And don’t even get me started on the high-pressure guilt tactics used by vets…

    I seem to be one of the few parents who (according to statistics) has experienced nothing but joy from her children. Maybe that’s because I am an older mom (first child was practically a 40th birthday present) so I was prepared for the sacrifices. And (also age-related) I wasn’t very tempted to fulfill my aspirations via my kids. I just feel incredible joy around them, and deeply fortunate to be graced by their unique charms and seemingly limitless possibilities. Above all, children (like pets) give us the best opportunity that life offers to love unconditionally. As a parent I set all sorts of conditions (both implicit and explicit) to guide my children’s development. But I can still love them with all my heart–which builds their capacity to be similarly blessed by their own children–and that is one of the greatest gifts I can imagine.

  • Karen September 16, 2015, 7:59 pm

  • Yuuki September 17, 2015, 10:42 am

    Full on disclaimer, I don’t have kids and technically have a dog.

    I cannot for the life of me comprehend what is wrong with some of you people. You are sitting in your chairs right now responding to this post “IT’S NOT FAIR BECAUSE YOU KIDS ARE WORSE!” and then somehow getting angry when the author implied you are crazy dog people.

    You just compared the life of a human being to a dog! You compared taking care of a dog, purely for self satisfaction with essentially zero utilitarian function to birthing a child and continuing the existence of the human species, your society, and your culture.

    But we are all about being logic here. Obviously I am not being logical here because kids are expensive, and this blog is all about saving money! (I operated under the assumption that this blog was not really about saving money, but by improving your quality of life by letting go of materialism which naturally as a consequence would leave you with piles of cash to which you have to do something with and because you are not materialistic you invest it, but I am not a very wise man.)

    Well, to start, if we assume that having a child is a completely emotional illogical net loss decision, then I would make the argument that by extension relationships are too. Relationships only exist to facilitate this courting. You only want to have a relationship because your emotions drive you to, and they only drive you to so you can produce a child. Now some would argue there are positive aspects of intimate sexual relationships that are not all about procreation. To those people I would respond, exactly. Just like having kids.

    For the exact same reason it APPEARS and FEELS to you that those relationships have more than biological functions (they don’t) having a child does too. The issue is, you have no real obligation to have tons of children. The problem isn’t that people want children at all (having children is important.) it’s that they want to have a lot of them. We do not need people to have a ton of children. We do need people to HAVE children. Society will become worse if people do not have children.

    If right now, we all decided there was no logical reason to have children and stopped, in 50 years the youngest person in the world would be 50 years old as society gears up to stop existing, and quality of life would be terrible and society would stagnate before coming to an end. (As a side note, I feel really bad for the last guy. The last guy who is just the only person left and is sitting there thinking to himself “Maybe kids are not so bad after all.”)

    That doesn’t apply to dogs. If we all decided we don’t need dogs nothing bad would happen. Life would continue and eventually everybody would get over it. People used to keep Cheetahs as pets in one place in the world. Eventually they stopped and now collectively everybody except a select few douche bags now do not care.

    That being said, there is nothing stopping you from owning a dog. I have read time and time again on this blog MMM do things that he himself says are not necessary. He says he buys expensive food and what not, simply because he can afford it and doesn’t care. That’s the key. He can afford it and it’s something he wants to do and is not outrageous so he enjoys himself.

    If you are a dog person and reading this, especially if you are a crazy dog person then please take away these important things from this long un-thought out post. Dogs are a luxury, and, now this is really important, just like is stated on this blog over and over again luxuries are not necessary, but if you are financially independent and fiscally responsible do whatever the fuck you want to do. MMM isn’t going to come to your house and scream in your face “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING WITH THAT DOG IT COST MONEY” just because you bought a dog.

    By that same virtue somebody who cannot afford to take care of a dog should not have a dog. A poor person should not be able to have a dog. As nice as it may sound to you to say “a poor person should also not have a child,” that is wrong and inhuman. You are stripping a person of a basic human right just because they weren’t born as a middle class American. Humans deserve to have children, even if they are poor. (They should not have tons of children, but that is an entirely different issue.)

    Dogs are not people, and no matter how much you like your dog that is not going to change. However nobody is going to tell you, the financially responsible dog owner who cares for their dog like a brother they cannot or should not be able to do what they want because it’s, quite frankly, none of anybodies business.

    Thank you for your time.

  • Frugal Bazooka September 17, 2015, 11:06 pm

    lol…pinching a cyber nerve eh Mr. Must? such a brouhaha over lassie and his cousins (or was lassie a…um…lass?) I guess it was bound to happen since there is so much latent love for the 4 legged overlords – esp in the Western world where we seem to have run out of things to buy. I like to read posts like this to analyze not just the reaction of the readers (mostly emotional and somewhat illogical), but the state of mind of the OP. What occurs to me is that TripleM thinks much more like an engineer in real life than I would have guessed. When I say “engineer” I picture a spock like human who has near total control of his emotions and reacts to nearly every situation in a strictly logical manner. This doggy post forced a whole bunch of potential/fledgling hairy lippers to question exactly how far they are willing to delve into their comfort zone to reach dinero nirvana. “Yes I am willing to eat rice and water daily for 7 years to save $250/month, but as far as my dingo goes…no price is too high to keep him/her floating in biscuits and kibble.” I suspect Spock/Mustache is giggling uncontrollably, and yet the evidence is strong that we humans have a limit as to what we are willing to give up to reach even the most desirable economic goals. We might be willing to run around naked and afraid, starving and near death just to increase our “Reality Show Idiot Quotient” by 2 tenths of a point. However, giving up the unconditional love from a 4 legged wolf mutant – that’s a line that cannot and must not be crossed. I, for one, am glad that most of my fellow humans have a line in the sand about something. It certainly makes life – and this blog – more interesting.

  • John Norris September 18, 2015, 3:19 pm

    Hi Pete, not dog related (I prefer cats) but just to say THANK YOU for your blog. I FIRED today at age 57 1/2. Two years ago I was planning on age 65. Your blog changed that. Just got back from my Cheese & Wine retirement party. Beautiful sunset overlooking Cardigan Bay in Wales. Thanks Again ~John.

    PS Couldn’t find a place in the Forum to post this. Sorry.

    • Eldred September 18, 2015, 3:53 pm

      Awesome! May I ask what change(s) you made two years ago to move your retirement date up so much?

  • Mark September 18, 2015, 5:22 pm

    Alright, already. Enough about dogs and bicycles. May we have something else, please?

  • Vicky M September 19, 2015, 11:26 am

    I am one of those introverted people who like dogs. If you tell me your name and your dogs name, I will likely remember your dogs name long before I remember yours. Sorry, but it is true. But this post…1,000x YES! I don’t know when it became a societal entitlement to own a dog. What makes people think they “…deserve to have that most cutest puppy ever!” yet ignore the fact that you have to spend hundreds if not thousands of hours to make that puppy into a good member of society. If this doesn’t happen, what happens to the dog who doesn’t have good manners or worse, actually causes problems? Justifying “saving him/her from the shelter” only goes so far when they go from a small dog kennel to a large house kennel because you are too busy working/socializing to take care of them. Then there is the fact that you may need to invest more time in it to re-train it out of bad habits. Also, no matter how much you like to think that your kids will be the one taking care of the dog….they won’t. It will last for a few weeks in a majority of the cases and how much time do you want to spend nagging your child to do them? And more to the point of your post, COST! It is not cheap, and it has a cascade to other areas of your life. Aside from the financial aspects for the human component of this equation, please don’t forget about the dog component of the equation. Every time I see a post about a re-homing a pet because “we don’t have time” or “they are too expensive” or “we are moving and our new place doesn’t take pets” I get pissed off. YOU SHOULD HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BEFORE. It is a commitment, one that lasts 10-15 years.This entitlement and dog craze only adds to an already significant problem of overpopulation.

  • TomTrottier September 19, 2015, 2:07 pm

    As well as Sis MMM’s reasons, there is another you mentioned. They bring microbes into the house. This might be useful for adults, but is most useful for raising kids. A dog in the house means that kids, even babies, are less likely to develop allergies and illnesses. See http://abcnews.go.com/Health/dogs-cats-kids-avoid-respiratory-illnesses/story?id=16735622 and https://www.pediatrics.wisc.edu/featured-stories/allergies.html (get the dog before baby comes home) And if you have kids, you are tied down anyways….

    Without kids, you may make friends of fellow dog walkers, so you can all go on adventures together! You don’t have to stay in the neighbourhood for your walks.

    Dogs can usually be left at home while working, especially if they have means to amuse themselves other than chewing shoes, eg, http://getcleverpet.com/

  • Carolyn September 20, 2015, 10:09 pm

    I read this post a while back, but started scrolling through the comments on MMM’s facebook link to this post and was amused/entertained by the extent of controversy surrounding this topic. Some folks seem to have taken this article way too personally. I’m a proud dog owner (2 years in the running). Don’t have kids so I can’t draw any comparisons in that regard.

    Perhaps some of the traps MMM mentions in this article are associated with the vanity of irresponsible dog owners. Most likely most of the problems can be attributed to non-rational folks making emotional decisions and not understanding how to fulfill a non-human companion’s needs.

    Perhaps individuals need more education before they are allowed to own a pet. Many problems arise out of individuals picking a particular dog without understanding its energy levels and needs.

    We chose a dog from the Humane Society who was super timid (he hid under a table in the meet n’ greet room at the shelter). We had knowledge of dog psychology from watching YouTube videos and reading articles so we knew what we needed to do from the get-go to create well-behaved dog.

    Our ~5 yr dog is one of the most chilled, low energy dogs so our lifestyles are not handicapped. He doesn’t need to be let out for washroom needs for less than a 12 hr window (that is somewhat cruel, and this is the furthest from a habit).

    The experience of rehabilitating our pup has been rewarding. He is now a vital contributor to our quality of life. We go on outdoors adventures – camping, swimming, hiking, canoeing. It’s amazing to see him experiencing new things and working hard (we make him carry his own food and water in a little backpack on hiking excursions). My most recent project has been to take him on bike rides. I had a volleyball game that was 4km away from home and I wanted to bike there (how Mustachian ;)) but also wanted my pup to be there. It was a great experiment to test him out and MacGyver the best way to tether him to the bike. The dog loved the round trip bike ride although it was a bit too much for his virgin feet and now I have to bandage his paws since I gave him blisters :(. It won’t be the end of our bike adventures.

    Long story short. I agree that dogs are optional, but a great additional to your life if you’ve done due diligence.

    For data purposes:

    Dog adoption cost (Jul 2013): 307
    Food (Bartleby used to be on a raw food diet – raw chicken and green tripe. Now’s he’s on vegan kibble):
    – raw diet: ~40$ / mth
    – vegan kibble (1/2 bag /mth): ~35$ / mth
    Vet vaccines/checkups (since Jul 2013): 300$
    City Registration: 20$/yr
    Kennel: 0$ (Never sent Bartleby to a kennel as we have relatives/friends in town who watch the pooch while we travel.)

    We haven’t had any major health costs associated with owning him but it would suck if he came down with something terrible and we would have to make a cost/benefit analysis and decision should the occasion arise (don’t worry, we would never try to give him away or make him someone else’s problem).

    Would be interesting to see some tips/data on how to be more Mustachian if one were to own a dog or companion animal.

  • Crystal September 21, 2015, 1:00 am

    My small companion dog is a luxury item. I fully understand that. I don’t have other luxury items (that require ongoing cost).

    Most people, spend more on one meal at denny’s than he costs me in a month.

    The trade off is worth it.

    For most people, however, I see your point. Most people, as we know, are not thinking about costs of things and aren’t reading this blog

    I doubt many people already here are going to have an AH HA moment reading this. Those who really need to read it will never see it, and probably be very offended if they did.

    I don’t see the point of owning a dog and completely ignoring it either, which is equally illogical, yet many many owners do so.

    TL DR Most people don’t know what they want or why

  • Andrew September 21, 2015, 10:30 am

    I’m writing this from beautiful Victoria, BC surrounded by three adorable cocker spaniels. Best part? They’re not my dogs; my wife and I have been house-sitting in the Victoria area for the past three months. Yes, you too can 1) avoid paying rent 2) care for animals 3) experience many of the pleasures of travel without spending any more than you would sitting around at home. My wife and I prefer trustedhousesitters.com, though there are plenty of sites out there. Caveats: we both work from home, so while a good internet connection is mandatory, beyond that we’re glad to care for any animals anywhere in the world.

    Sister MM makes some extremely valid points, and everyone reading this post will have to weigh these against the basic financial responsibilities of caring for another’s every need, whether it’s a child, pet, farm animal, etc. If you’re thinking of getting a pet, PLEASE consider house-sitting and pet-sitting first. This is the absolute best way to take pets for a trial run before you dive in with both feet. This way you can see what it’s like to pick up poop, give puppies their medicine, brush them down, and endure barking at odd times of day. After these past few months I can definitely say 1) I love being around animals even more, for all the reasons Sister MM mentions 2) My wife and I are (financially) not quite ready to have our own.

    Much badassity to you all!

  • Curious September 25, 2015, 6:03 pm

    I agree 100% that dogs, like children and cars, are totally optional. But I have to take issue with this data: “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.”

    How long are you estimating a dog lives? 10 years? So that’s 20k over the life of the dog? That’s a crazy high numbered. I’ve done the math with my dogs and have never come anywhere close to that (I’m an accountant–I know how much everything in my life costs). I’d just like to know how you came up with that number.

  • Wealththroughdogs September 29, 2015, 11:18 am

    I bought a house because of my dog, and it has been the best financial decision I’ve ever made. He was a rescue and life was miserable taking him out in the city where I was renting. Moved to a quiet street with no landlord, a great move that I would not have done then if not for the dog (because I felt too “young” and didn’t have a partner yet). In addition, staying home more, spending those 100’s of hours training and playing with your pup, and flying as little as possible are all part of the joy that contributes to a mustachian way of life. Wooded adventures and extra night security patrol are big bonuses that don’t cost anything extra. When I sell that house (for a big gain), you can bet he will get one awesome treat!

  • Ander October 2, 2015, 9:31 am

    I loved this post. I live a very happy life (not saying that people that aren’t like me don’t), and have never had a kid, a pet, OR EVEN A PLANT in my life. Nobody mentions plants, but they are also a living thing, that requires attention, feeding and care. I can take off and do whatever I want at any time, and not worry about any living things at home. That makes me happy. I am 46 years old.

  • Carolyn October 13, 2015, 8:19 pm

    I used to use our dog’s expenses as an example of ‘considering tradeoff costs’ in workshops and talks I gave for the Your Money or Your Life program. Nothing ever got people more riled up than that! “You can’t put a price on pets,” one woman called out, and my speaking partner (mother of three) replied to her–“Oh yes, you can and you must. Like children, they do have a cost, and when you don’t recognize that, you’re limiting your ability to think clearly about your relationship with your money.”

    At the time of these workshops, my husband and I were tracking categorized expenses so I had clear information on all of our dog’s 14 years of expenses–from the purchase price through years of dog food, gifts to people who kept her when we travelled, boarding charges in hotels and the very occasional kennel, her flight costs for the year we lived in France, vet bills, the works, rounded up to include damage to furniture and rugs. At that time (1988-2002) the expense averaged to $65.00 a month–it would be much more now, as MMM indicates. I ran the numbers showing the lost opportunity cost of not applying that money towards our mortgage principal over that same period of time. Can’t remember the details, but even I was surprised at how many years longer we paid on our mortgage because we chose to have a dog instead. We loved that dog and I wouldn’t have missed having her with us, no mistake about it, but MMM is right–almost nobody considers the real tradeoffs and lost opportunity costs when deciding to get a puppy. And then another one, or two, and maybe a cat.

    We haven’t gotten another pet but offer to help our friends out when they go away, and enjoy having a well-behaved dog in the house for a weekend when it’s convenient. That and visiting in homes with pets gives us our dog fix. The relative freedom of movement of not owning a dog is something we still appreciate years later, much as we cherish the memories of our very special dog. And considering the financial tradeoff of taking on a dog has helped us be clear about not getting another one, maybe ever, especially now that we are largely retired.

  • Doug October 28, 2015, 3:50 pm

    In the Oct. 23 Globe and Mail (a Canadian paper) in the Report on Business there was an article titled: Young families must put saving on hold. It profiled a couple in Winnipeg with one child and a dog. When I saw they had a dog I thought, that’s part of their problem. Today, there was an article on the same subject with a couple in Edmonton, where they said they have very little free time and aren’t able to save much money. You probably guessed it, they also have a dog. Either that’s a big part of their problem or they are lying and have more money than they know what to do with.

    • The Vagabond October 28, 2015, 3:57 pm

      Careful about equating correlation and causation… Just because both families have dogs doesn’t allow us to conclude how or whether the dogs are a problem. As an example, we have two large dogs and a 60% savings rate.

      In general, I would wager that for otherwise high-earning families with spending/saving problems, there are a great many larger holes in the boat than the dog (housing, dining out, relentless upgrading of electronics, expensive vacationing, etc).

    • SteveC October 29, 2015, 3:08 pm

      Having dogs is a commitment and a lifestyle. The only correlation between not saving money and owning dogs is that people that don’t know how to save money own dogs too… It is likely rare that the only thing standing between a person and financial freedom is a dog.

      The questions you have to ask when getting a dog is the same ones you have to ask whenever you chose to enlarge your family. Is this a lifestyle I want and can I afford it? But getting a dog is also usually partly and emotional decision, kind of like having kids.

  • Derek November 4, 2015, 1:13 pm

    Please delete this post about pets ASAP.
    My wife and I travel full-time and we just ran across a site for people who want to vacation but need someone to look after their pets. Offering free lodgings to anyone who will look after their pets. My wife and I enjoy maximum freedom with neither kids or pets and while we haven’t actually tried this service yet(offered in nicer homes all over the world) we have signed up and are planning our first free stay. I don’t want people aware that pets are optional, because we have a lot of free lodgings on the horizon :)

  • RTBinFFM November 28, 2015, 8:16 am

    I live in Fort Myers, FL and have been reading MMM for a couple of weeks now. Love it and trying to implement positive change for the family using the guidance. Crushing through as many articles as possible.
    The dog issue around here is lunacy as well. Most outrageously, our favorite beer hangout now almost always features annoying and yowling dogs, people who feed their dogs from the restaurant plates on their laps, etc. Now we don’t go much.
    Besides the financial silliness, its downright rude to other patrons and people to drag these dogs everywhere. You certainly love muffin a lot … some of us do not.
    And like you said, in the hyper-sensitive universe of instant outrage we seem operate in now, usually one cannot even express these opinions without the torches and pitchforks coming out.
    Keep up the good work and hope you can keep adding content.

  • Kim Rosa January 9, 2016, 1:10 pm

    Pet ownership is a luxury that many people with limited means think they are entitled too. Unfortunately, I also feel the same about children. I think MMM wrote an article as well about “You don’t need to have more than 1 child”.. because that is what he has. But I don’t believe that anyone really needs to have any. With children, you never know what type of child you will get. A special needs child that will require very costly treatments? Pets are a huge expense and a burden, but they are also a hobby and source of enjoyment. My dogs have destroyed furniture, ruined wood floors and carpeting, cost us many security deposits, in addition to outrageous vet bills, doggy daycares, and pet sitting. They have also limited our freedom substantially which also means that we have taken a whole lot less spur of the moment lavish vacations. Pets cost a fortune that most people simply can’t afford. But are they comparable in costs to children? No way!

  • Catherine January 12, 2016, 6:23 am

    Sadly, we recently put our 15 year old cat to sleep after health problems. After adding it all up, I spent at least $15,000 on her during her lifetime. It was worth it…but my goodness that’s a lot of coin. Additionally, we have a Great Dane and another cat that we’ve spent thousands on…not to mention it’s hard to go out of town with animals. The husband and I have decided that through attrition we won’t get anymore until we are FIRE.

    p.s. I too live in a mountain state, and agree…it’s almost mandatory to have a dog.

  • Fred Meissner January 20, 2016, 2:31 am

    “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.”

    Nope. The majority of dog and cat food is the waste of the factory farm industry, with exists almost entirely to feed humans. Though some (very few) people may feed their dogs raw meat and fish, most feed them conventional dog food which consists of parts of the animal people don’t like, the meat of sick and dying animals, what they scrape off the floor, the list goes on.

    Yes, we have a dog. I think we all (Mustachians) try to make decisions that balance our best financial intentions with what makes sense for our lives. Though having a dog is definitely an extra burden in terms of money and time, it’s an easy trade for us. She’s a blast to run, swim, and hike with. For me, not much beats cozying up on a snowy evening with a dog curled up on the carpet in front of you. And it’s challenging and fun to have responsibility for another living, breathing creature!

    So while my dog might pee on some flowers and kill them every so often or leave a poop smudge on grass, which is a bummer, I like to think that my being vegan (and the dog eats vegan dog food, so no animals scraped off the floor) helps the environment and animals out a hell of a lot more than my dog may somewhat hurt those things. It should be clear now that animal agriculture is horrendous for the environment and leads to the unabashed exploitation of billions of animals that really aren’t that fundamentally different than dogs, and even people (you believe in the Theory of Evolution, right?).

    I will end this by saying that I also do not agree with the endless breedings of dogs, cats, hamsters, etc., which happens on an industrial scale (just like food) simply for the purpose of our “pleasure” in owning a pet. 90% of dogs born in the USA do not end up in a permanent home. Does that make me feel conflicted about having a dog? A little bit, but we adopted her and are trying to give her a great life.


  • Reed January 21, 2016, 9:45 am

    My family had dogs when I was growing up, but I have chosen to not have them as an adult. Facts: I have been bitten three times by dogs, all unprovoked, and the last dog had previously attacked a two yr old child, I found out later. My wife and I finally spent a half a million for an acreage after two decades of sleepless nights because of barking dogs in town. Then we later spent 10000 to upgrade to sound resistant windows on that country house, because of barking. Responsibledog owners are a distinct minority, based on the criteria of whether they let them bark for hours outdoors while they’re gone on errands. Each year thousands are maimed and many killed by dogs.In most cases, when a dog is adopted from a shelter it means a decade or more of misery for dozens of neighbors.
    Mr. MM was very gentle in his comments. Dogs are a public nuisance and a threat to public health. I would gladly pay a surcharge of 100000 to live in a dog-free city. A used car from a dog owner has zero value to me because you will never get the smell out, ditto for a house, which we learned the hard way. Dogs totally suck! If you don’t believe me, just ask the parents of that two year old child I mentioned.

  • Seakaitoronto March 1, 2016, 8:43 am

    I read somewhere that if humans were rational creatures, we’d all be thin, rich and married to the first person we kissed.

    But we’re not. Thank god. As I read this, I like a dog because I like to get outside, but need a reason. The dog is my reason. I am healthier, mentally and physically, with a dog. So for me, the cost-benefit ratio is clear. Add in medical expenses to treat depression, a gym membership and entertainment costs when I’m not with my dog, and the balance sheet isn’t quite as simple as you say.

    I think my dogs have pulled their weight over the years – and, by the way, I’ve had two labs and no car at all, so it can be done. Especially in the city.

    I also find this idea that I would trade a happy everyday life with my dog for instant gratification with a hook-up rather insightful – into your world.

    Meh. Don’t have a dog if you don’t want one. Ranting against dogs is optional too.

  • lexie March 6, 2016, 6:08 am

    I have to say I love this post. Before anyone looses their shit at me I have a dog who I love. HOWEVER. I bring my 37 pound shar pei to work EVERYDAY in a trailer attached to my bike. I am an engineer and made my own modified “houndabout” trailer that the dog just fucking loves, and it also doubles as my trailer for my grocery runs/costco runs. And I live in one of the snowiest coldest cities in new england and ride a bike pretty much every day (last year it was 340 days with the exception of massive snow storms in which case the pei put on his snow coat and so did I and we trudged it the 2.5 miles I live from work). Having a dog is a hundred percent optional. However I would also like to say having your animal just chill in the house all day while you are at work and then you give it a half assed walk at the end of the day just sucks. I see so many of my friends from college (i’m twenty five so some are still in or just starting graduate school adopting dogs) just not in a financially safe place to have one and it drives me nuts.

  • Levi March 22, 2016, 5:45 am

    As a current dog owner (and a pet owner most of my life) I agree with mr. MMM on a lot of points. While growing up we lived mostly on farm land, our pets got the basic needs (shelter, food, and companionship), we did not take our pets to the vet four times a year to get shots and what not. Now in current day times I live with my girl-friend who is a little “dog-crazy” and our dog (golden retriever) gets his vet visits, heart guard, and flea & tick control. This is mostly due to our current location of a dog friendly community. We do spend minimal amount of money on toys (mostly bones) that are picked up at the butcher ($5 for good solid soup bone vs. 20 dollars for a dried soup bone at petsmart).

    I love owning a dog and working from home allows me to spend a lot of time with him so it is worth it for me but growing up where animals passed because of accidents (cars, wild animals, etc) I cannot say I would pay an extreme amount of money for an operation or medicines to extend his life, I would go to about his purchase price and then would have to let him pass, it is part of life and some people try too hard to stop or slow it (as we do with our own humans). While my girl friend wants to get another animal, I am against it because of the cost and the work associated with it, we watch her parents dog frequently and two dogs are a lot of work and a lot of energy! Most things are good in moderation and that is how I think pet ownership should be but the media has allowed us to think our dog deserves everything under the sun and many people treat their dogs better than people (example, parents that purchase expensive dog food but allow their kids in the cart to eat McDonalds). I do buy more premium dog food but it matches my own lifestyle of eating healthy whole foods (bought from costco) and making sure to keep the crap at a minimal- moderate level.

  • Eric April 4, 2016, 12:46 pm

    This post (at least, the part against dog ownership) makes so much sense. Thank you MMM!

  • Dan April 9, 2016, 11:59 am

    Just as MMM tried to do in the article itself, people need to try to view “dog ownership” from both sides of the fence. Why do you have a dog? Because the neighbors do? Your parents? Because that’s just what you’re supposed to do in your Middle Ages?

    I am one of the exceptions that your sister was describing. The “socially abnormal”. Not around humans per se, but around animals. I once had some deep looming anger issues that led me to become an animal abuser. I have abused 4 dogs, until I actually killed my wife’s beloved companion. I have undergone intensive therapy and psychological evaluation because of it. Living with what I have done is equally as hard as trying to find an answer for why it happened. Finding the underlying causes and solutions for animal abuse is about as easy as finding the cure for every type of cancer. However, under close supervision, and the absolute un-deserving support of my wife, I was forced to raise a puppy from literal birth until now (he’s about to turn 3).

    Words, photos, descriptions, and medical logs can not even begin the describe the positive effects this journey has had on my life. That little guy has taught me more about respect, morals, character, and emotions than any human being I have ever known.

    So for me, as an outlier, my answer was easy. There is NO price I could put on my dog. I already know that when his time comes to pass- it’s going to be hard. Much harder than the average dog owner.

    For some people, like me, owning and raising a dog can be a completely life changing experience.

  • Lusali May 17, 2016, 1:20 am

    You are right on the money on this MoneyMustache. My mom has a dog that I take care of, a little chihuahua terrier mix, who is by most standards a pretty good dog and small enough to be considered low maintenance. She doesn’t bark much. She is obedient (when we don’t leave her unattended), and she’s quite sweet. BUT she is incredibly needy and clingy as most dogs are. The benefits just don’t overweigh the negatives in this case and getting a dog was a big mistake.

    Our home is always dirty. Even when we vacuum, there is a lingering smell and residue in the carpet. When I take her on a walk around the block, she is always five steps ahead of me, stopping twenty times to sprinkle two drops of piss onto every lawn in the neighborhood while making sure I see it. Just today, she hopped onto the dining room table while no one was looking and helped herself to a leftover brownie. When I leave her outside, she howls and whines to guilt-trip you into letting her back in. She has become a huge source of stress for me personally.

    It’s not like this routine will ever stop. Dogs don’t suddenly grow up and start giving themselves baths, pick up their own feces, and learn to be productive on their own. This sort of stuff just goes on for 12 years while I get sick of the dirty carpet, the poop-covered lawn, and watching my dog marking everything in sight while jogging. I’m also faced with nagging guilt and concern whenever I leave her alone that never goes away. I can’t just ignore her but I don’t enjoy spending time with her. Dogs are expensive, high-maintenance pets. They wear out your patience, your wallet, and your time. They are affectionate and intelligent but definitely not for me. I need my personal space and I prefer exercising alone. On the other hand, I have a betta fish and he brings me great happiness.

  • Charles Hogsett May 26, 2016, 12:10 pm

    Enjoyed this article. The point isn’t to criticize people for choosing to have pets or children.

    The idea is that having pets or children is a choice and should be recognized as such. Only you can determine the value each thing in life has to you. Make whatever choice is best for you.

  • Wallace Green July 13, 2016, 10:08 pm

    I love my dog and I’d literally give a kidney for him. I know it’s stupid and It really is a big limitation to my freedom, but it’s a sacrifice. I did not expect the sacrifice would be so large and I was stupid to not think about it more clearly. But dammit, I wouldn’t sell him for a trillion dollars.
    They are worse than kids because kids go to kindergarten, school, etc. By the time your child is 6, they pretty much take care of themselves. A dog might mean 8-15 years of “spoonfeeding”. Then they don’t grow up to see you out of this world, they just die and absolutely destroy your heart.

    But grief is the price of love, and absolute freedom is a lonely hell. I know that in my deathbed I will not regret getting a dog. It’s a much better memory than a few pictures of my travels stored on a thumb drive.

  • Greg August 28, 2016, 7:56 pm

    You can’t put a price on dog ownership. Like kids, they are invaluable.

    You’re selling yourself short big time if you make this an economic rather than emotional decision. The guy who wrote the slogan for MasterCard said it all when it comes to dogs. I have a 5 month old Labradoodle and he was the best collective decision my family ever made, and I’d rather be homeless on the street with him vs living in my nice house without him.

  • Joanna September 12, 2016, 2:53 am

    Dogs are wolves that humans selfishly bred to become our slaves.

    They are no different from a person being abducted at birth, then held in a home to serve the abductor. As they serve, the abductee is kept in the dark about any other aspect of what it means to be human, no option to be saved, no where to go. A dog escapes once and that is enough for him to realize, I have no where to go. There are no other places for me but here, and even though I hate it here, I will die without staying here. So they go back to their owners, often the way abductees do when they know nobody else, nothing else, but the life of an abductee under their abductor.

    Pet ownership is sickening and selfish and pathetic.

    • Mr. Money Mustache September 12, 2016, 9:42 am

      Wow! That’s a refreshingly extreme perspective on it.

      I’d sort of agree with you, except that dogs are so much less intelligent than humans that it’s hard to make a direct comparison. It would seem like ethical decisions like this would be on a spectrum – most people would agree that keeping a tomato plant enslaved in one’s garden would not be cruel. What about a grasshopper? snake? chicken? What about raising a child, but under the strict rules of a religion that comes with stigmas against doing a lot of core human stuff?

      Also, is the average wolf’s life happier than the average domesticated dog’s life?

      I definitely don’t know these answers, but I think the answer to the ethical side, if you really cared about finding such an answer, would have to be found by measuring Dog Happiness. And they definitely form strong bonds with humans, which has got to be a positive thing in their lives.

      Meanwhile, I’ll continue not having any pets, just because I’m selfish and like having more free time :-)

    • CubertAC September 19, 2016, 4:34 pm

      I know many dogs living the life of Riley (vs. scavenging for food in -30C) who might disagree with you. Though you could try setting all 5 billion of them free at once and see how that works. Now I’m wondering if bees are slaves too. Cruel, cruel world.

    • Kate September 20, 2016, 7:14 am

      Points for the boldness of your claims, but the science of human-dog co-evolution would disagree with you: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/03/130302-dog-domestic-evolution-science-wolf-wolves-human/

      Dogs =/= wolves

      • Krista October 8, 2016, 12:33 pm

        Truth. Wolves domesticated themselves, we just took advantage of it from there.

  • CubertAC September 19, 2016, 4:25 pm

    Pet Ownership and Dealing with Loss. There’s maybe a lesson in stoicism; subjecting yourself to the eventual deterioration, and loss of a pet that is later repeated with parents, or tragically ill friends or family. “We learn to care for people by caring for a dog.” That’s a good thing, if we recognize it as such.
    On the other hand, I’ve certainly witnessed cases where a dog or cat simply becomes an old nuisance, and when that nuisance becomes intolerable (“My carpet!!!”), a final trip to the vet ensues.
    Either way, there’s clearly a lot of emotional cost, but also certainly the monetary cost of this process. Pet owners cite all the benefits, and I agree with a bunch of them. But boy, you do get attached, and it’s hard to deal with a pet in decline.

  • Be September 20, 2016, 12:29 pm

    My husband (and I, actually) has ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder, previously known as Asperger’s) and some severe mental illnesses that his dog really helps with to the point where he doesn’t know if he could manage without a dog.
    I LOVE cats. Well, love is too weak a word for it – more like worship. But I am LAZY. I do not want to feed, groom, clean up after, vaccinate, spay/neuter, so on and so forth, a feline. I would not have any pets if it were solely up to me – I have never adopted an animal of my own volition (only caved to a partner’s decision or accepted an existing pet situation).
    At this point my husband’s dog, childhood family pet that he is, is almost 16 and I’ve become irrational about him so we’re running out the clock on that one. But I don’t know how to express to the spouse my absolute repulsion to committing time, energy and funds to a new baby animal of any species (especially an actual baby human) in such a way that it will penetrate his extremely nurturing brain. Then again, actual human babies are much more expensive (and resource intensive especially for the female of the species) than dogs so maybe I should count my blessings there.

  • Krista October 8, 2016, 12:32 pm

    And from a semi different perspective.

    As someone who works at an animal hospital, is also a professional dog trainer, and of course a loving dog owner… I could not agree more! People just don’t know what having a dog entails. Well some people do, but many don’t! Just last week I was teaching one of my puppy classes, and one of my clients in it is an elderly woman, probably late 70’s, who asked me exasperatedly, “Is it normal for them to run this much?” …yes. Yes it is. That’s what a puppy is. A running, pooping, jumping, biting ball of joy. I see time and time again people get the wrong dog for themselves. A family with young children gets an Australian shepherd and then gets upset when it tries to herd their kids, an adult who works full time gets a chocolate lab and can’t stand how much energy it has, and the young couple who gets a frenchie then is shocked that 2 years later it needs $5000 surgery for its bad back. If you’re going to get a dog, get the right breed, get the right age, and get the right temperament. If you’re not willing to put aside at least $2000 every year for this creature, as well as countless hours training, playing, and taking care of them… don’t get one. I see the results of lazy owners every damn day, so don’t get a dog just to have one. It’s said all the time, but no one believes it, having a dog is a HUGE responsibility.

    • Be October 17, 2016, 7:49 am

      Our 16 y/o Lhasa apso is costing around $2,400 ($200 per month) annually so I wanted to second that estimate and add that costs will likely increase with age.

  • Matt (Semper Fi) December 12, 2016, 6:56 am

    MMM said: “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.”

    Dude. We are in COMPLETE agreement here.

  • Monk December 12, 2016, 11:03 am

    Me= Charles Grodin from the beginning of “Beethoven”
    Me= Tom Hanks from the beginning of Turner and Hooch

    Our media, movies and literature make this way worse as they often portray the bad guys and jerks as the people who don’t appreciate animals. This time of year my wife starts watching friggin Hallmark Christmas movies and starts to think of me as the antagonist because I wear a tie, don’t drive a pickup truck, and don’t want a dog!

  • Lea March 6, 2017, 3:15 pm

    I know this is an old article, but with all the pros being thrown around about dogs– there are also cheaper pets to have.

    As an example, I have a pet dove (a ringneck dove, a bird that has been domesticated for thousands of years). To try to summarize their advantages…

    Doves are small enough for apartment living– rather than invest in a huge cage, I let mine happily wander about the house whenever I am home; they coo, and can’t scream or bark as loudly as other animals; and they are vastly less capable of causing damage to your belongings or to other people, given their lack of strength (having been bit in the face by a dove before… at worst, it feels like getting pinched with chopsticks)– and lack destructive instincts like the need to shred thing, need to sharpen claws on furniture, need to mark territory, etc.

    As for costs…
    They breed incredibly easily (as evidenced by how common pigeons are in most cities), so even buying one from a very reputable breeder cost me a whopping $25. The cage (used) and his other supplies cost me another $50 at most. He eats through a $5 bag of seed every 3 months, supplemented by bits of whatever vegetables I’m preparing for myself that day. Toys are a moot point, because he prefers to play with bits of string, paper, or our hands scurrying across the carpet in “play mode.”

    Their vet costs are minimal, as they don’t need to be vaccinated and are very healthy and robust; he hasn’t needed to visit a vet even once. Despite this, his life expectancy is about 20 years (know that in some cases they can get as old as 30). I keep a fund for medical emergencies, and that extends to both the humans of the house and to the bird, should he ever need it at all.

    Major downside: if you rent, a lot of apartment complexes will still charge you pet rent/ pet deposit, even for such a small, non-destructive animal. But there are places I’ve seen that only apply deposits/fees to cats and dogs, so your mileage may vary there.

    And for all that, they are extremely devoted to their owners and incredibly affectionate. They do NEED affection daily, but even working full time, I easily meet the needs of my own by allowing him to regularly sit on my shoulder to greet me with kisses, or letting him watch me cook from atop the fridge, or handing him bits of paper to play with while working at my desk. I have owned dogs in the past, and I can honestly say that I see nothing in the way of companionship that would be improved by having a dog instead of a dove, as he is similarly always ready for my attention (and meanwhile content with just my presence if I can’t devote all my attention to him at that moment).

    I mean, of course, still totally optional in my life; but for all the affection and companionship he offers, he’s easily worth the small investment.

    *Footnote/Plea: not all birds make great pets. As popular as parrots, cockatoos, and other hook-billed birds are, the vast majority of people are NOT prepared for the investment of time and money needed to care for one of those birds. Beyond all their intellectual needs and destructive tendencies, parrots can live past 80– so your “investment” often extends past even your own lifetime!

  • Kevin May 24, 2017, 10:38 am

    i agree with you big time here. although i dont mind domestic dogs and cats as long as other people are paying for them and they are well-behaved, i prefer my animals wild and free. a dog would certainly rob me of that enjoyment. try going for a hike and seeing any kind of interesting wildlife with a dog present. leave your dog behind and it costs you dearly in kennel fees unless you are lucky to have friends/family who dont mind being tethered to your animal.

    mostly, owning a dog seems like the height of decadence- at odds with the broke status of the middle class. they serve almost no practical purpose in a modern household and simply cost you ever increasing amounts of money. it’s just another area where our behaviour is deeply irrational, and no they are not at all equivalent to kids, who are actual human beings with the potential to help construct a more positive society. those are optional too, but infinitely more beneficial to society. a dog is more like the placebo effect. they only have value that we irrationally attribute to them.

    as a secondary point, suburban or urban life seem very much at odds with an organism who’s roots are primitive and wild. a dog running free on a large acreage or farm? that seems healthy-ish. a dog running around a postage stamp of a lawn day after day after day or bound by a leash, travelling through concrete jungles? ehh… i’m going to go out on a limb and say that’s probably not healthy. and then there’s forcibly removing their sexy bits, in effect keeping them in perpetual childhood. a sacrifice an animal has to make for our own selfish benefit.

  • natalie July 10, 2017, 6:01 pm

    I felt such relief at reading this article! I just moved from Alabama to California and the strangest thing is how pampered these pooches are! Back home, dogs are mostly working dogs on the farm (herding or protecting against foxes/coyotes), for security (B&E or ‘babysitting’ in the woods, against deer in the garden), or for helping the handicapped (blindness, seizures, autism) . It blows me away to see people throw fits on why they can’t take their dog in a costume who is riding in a stroller into someplace where people prep, cook, serve and eat food.

  • The Californian May 13, 2018, 5:45 pm

    Given that E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G seems to be about money for the MMM family, I wonder how much more you guys had in your retirement would have in your retirement account had you NOT contributed to the slow death of this planet by means of procreation, one of the most selfish acts there are. Another big step on healing this planet would be to become vegetarians, hereby eliminating the need for most horrible factory farming. Strange that a person so focused on helping the Earth ignores the two elephants in the room.
    As far as my family is concerned, we feel really good about having saved not one, but two abandoned dogs from euthanisation. What’s the price tag for that? How much would YOU sell your child for if it was legal?

    • Tim May 14, 2018, 10:02 am

      MMM has repeated many times that Money is a tool and he is optimizing for happiness not money. Asking about selling a child is ludicrous and takes away from the real point you are trying to make, about environmental sustainability. Limiting the number of children you have does contribute to the well being of the earth, but a couple having one child is a long term population reduction anyway. Personal finance is personal, I’m glad you are in a position to support two dogs, many people aren’t and just as its okay to not have children it is okay to not own pets.

  • Dawg Stache September 10, 2018, 11:15 am

    New reader here, making my way through the posts chronologically. Just some thoughts.

    I understand your logical standpoint on (or should I say, against) dog ownership. I own a Siberian Husky, and for me and my lifestyle, dog ownership is actually a method for sticking to my personal and financial goals. Some examples:

    a) My dog helps me trim my social budget. They can’t be left alone for a long time, so on weekends I cut things off at about 10pm with my line: “sorry, guys, I need to get back and let my dog out. You guys are welcome to come over to my place though.” This has several secondary consequences: I spend less time out, which means fewer drinks, which means more money saved.

    b) My dog obviates my gym membership. Huskies are high energy and have high exercise needs. I get up in the morning and take him for a walk; I get home from work and we go on a longer walk; on weekends we go on hikes. Double bonus: I explore my neighborhood on foot and spend more time outdoors.

    c) My dog makes me cleaner. I have to stay tidy and clean, otherwise we’d live in a fur-infested world. So I have to stay up on my cleaning and take care of my living space daily.

    d) My dog makes me happier. You don’t need kids either, but you chose to have them because you got a reward out of the experience.

  • Kiersten April 7, 2019, 1:40 pm

    This is an older post but as an avid dog owner and dog lover, I agree with it completely. I have chosen where I live, my vehicle, and even in part my job because I own dogs. I should have waited at least a decade before getting my first dog. I loved him dearly but he cost be a graduate degree in primatology (I couldn’t spend months in Thailand with a dog at home).

    I agree too that overall, the dog population in the US is too high. It really is. People get a dog and don’t realize how much work they are if you want to do it right. Particularly if you own a large dog in the city. It’s not easy to get that dog the exercise he/she needs.

    As I said, I’m an avid dog lover, but I wish there were fewer dogs out on the trails, out in public, running after me on the road, just in general. It’s become a thing people do without thinking about it.

    I’m willing to make the sacrifices, but I am planning to limit my dog numbers in the future, partly because of finances, partly because of all the other stuff that comes along with multiple dogs.

    I estimate, that since the time I was 19 with my first dog (had knee surgeries and then got really sick at age 9 or so, up until then had no vet expenses to speak of) to now with five dogs, I’ve spent at least $25 K on vet care alone. Ouch. That could be a downpayment on a better house with land, earlier retirement, etc. Was it worth it? No. In all honestly. Looking back I threw $10K at my old dog, for surgeries, etc. and he died a year later. He and I would have been far happier without advanced vet care. I have learned from that, and wouldn’t do that again, but I regret it.

    Also, stuff just plain happens with dogs, and we now have to make really tough choices.

    So, note to my future self. Keep the dog numbers down to 3 or less. Consider keeping one if family and kids ever happen. Life will be easier, and retirement will come earlier.

    Oh, yes, and travelling isn’t an option for me right now. Which is sad, because I love seeing the world.

    Those sacrifices need to be considered when you see that cute, wonderful free dog at the shelter. And I am a crazy dog person and do really love all the great things dogs give me. But the cost must be considered. And for many, it’s not worth it.

  • Stine Hughes July 27, 2020, 1:29 pm

    ‘Make mindful choices when bringing living things into your life’ is the article that should have been written here.

    The comment section is full of people who have complaints about ‘bad dogs’ (read: shitty human owners) or pointing out the bias this article has vs the kid one. Off leash dogs, jumping barking crayon on the walls property destruction screaming at 2am for some reason…these are all signs of bad caretakers. At least with dogs there would be no ethical qualms with asking potential owners to take a knowledge exam first (which is what our breeder made us do!). Dollar costs, emotional costs, opportunity costs… MMM would have been better off just speaking plainly – make mindful choices when living things are involved. Simple and honest.

    • Mr. Money Mustache July 31, 2020, 10:31 am

      Yep, that title would work too. But to be honest I still think mine is more MMM-Style, and I need to stay true to myself :-)

      I agree with your points about mindfulness, but would discourage shaming and blaming – especially in the world of parenting other humans because that shit is HARD. And shame and criticism are not a persuasive means for social change. And there is a huge genetic variation in living things: “great” parents with the most loving obedient kids could just as easily be “shitty” parents if the chromosomes had happened to mix in a different way and produced a different child.

      Case in point: I’m one of four siblings raised by the same wonderful, intelligent, loving Mom. But ONE of us was apparently a terror to raise, so stubborn that you just couldn’t control him no matter what. Until he reached age 11 or so and then just magically decided to change himself and gradually become a peaceful and contributing young adult.

      Although he can still be as stubborn as fuck sometimes when something is really important to him.

      Can you guess which child it was?


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