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Millennial Money: Do this before adopting or buying a puppy

COURTNEY JESPERSEN of NerdWallet
·4 min read

Puppies provide us with comfort, happiness and love.

But bringing a four-legged friend into your daily life is quite an investment — a pup requires a considerable amount of your time, money and attention.

Here’s what to know and do before bringing Fido home.

DIG INTO YOUR BUDGET, LIFESTYLE

Ensure that you’re ready for a puppy and everything that goes along with one.

Your new family member will need to fit into your home and budget, points out Kristen Levine, founder of the Pet Living blog.

To get in the right mindset, ask yourself questions — and be honest with your answers. Levine, who is based in Tampa, Florida, recommends these: Do you really have time for a puppy? Will your family’s lifestyle accomodate a puppy? Can you afford to feed, train and care for a puppy? And are you ready for a 12- to 15-year obligation (the potential life span of the dog)?

“Puppies ...are fun and adorable,” Levine says. “But they’re a puppy only for about a year. Then you have an animal that you are responsible for and that is completely dependent on you for everything it needs.”

Aside from the upfront cost of getting the puppy home and other one-time expenses, anticipate paying about $150 in average monthly expenses, according to a 2018 analysis by Rover.com. That includes food, toys, flea and tick prevention, dental chews and more.

FIND A PUPPY THAT NEEDS LOVE

If you still feel like you’re ready for a dog, visit your local shelters and rescue groups so you can consider adoption first before you shop.

Through an adoption, Levine says you’re saving the life of an animal that was at some point unwanted. You’re also freeing up space for another animal to be rescued.

If you’re not ready to decide, some shelters offer foster programs. In this arrangement, you can take on the responsibility of temporarily caring for an animal until it has a permanent home.

“Oftentimes you fall in love with the animal you’re fostering and you end up keeping it, but you’re not making a commitment to keep it just because you want to foster,” Levine says.

Still, there are some reasons you may want to buy a puppy instead of adopting one. For example, you may be looking to show a dog or you might have an affinity for a specific breed.

SNIFF OUT TRICKS

Buying a puppy is usually more expensive than adopting (which often comes with a minimal fee), so research breeders thoroughly before making a purchase or putting down a nonrefundable deposit to reserve your spot in a future litter. You can look up breeders online or rely on word of mouth.

Ask potential breeders what they’ll provide you with so you can set expectations and get clear information.

Reputable breeders like to show off their puppies, so they’ll likely send pictures, take videos, talk to you on the phone and encourage you to visit in person, according to Brandi Hunter, vice president of public relations and communications at the American Kennel Club.

And if the breeder claims to have purebred AKC-registered dogs, the puppies should come with paperwork, Hunter says. Make sure you get a registration certificate at the time you get the pup.

Whether you’re buying a purebred Yorkshire Terrier or a hybrid Goldendoodle, watch out for scams.

You could stand to lose hundreds or even $1,000 in a puppy scam, depending on the price of the dog, according to Lori Wilson, president and CEO for Better Business Bureau serving the San Francisco Bay Area and Northern Coastal California.

To avoid being scammed, Wilson recommends doing a web search on any pictures the breeder sends you of the supposed puppy to ensure they’re not fake stock photos.

Don’t get reeled into a purchase decision based on the appearance of the breeder’s website. A fancy online presence isn’t an indication of whether the breeder is legit. After all, Wilson says, scammers will set the stage right.

Perhaps most importantly, the experts say not to hand over money too soon. If you do, you might risk never seeing your deposit or payment again.

“You want to see (the puppy) first,” Hunter says. “You want to know it exists. You don’t want to be taken for a ride.”

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Courtney Jespersen is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: courtney@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @courtneynerd.

RELATED LINK:

NerdWallet: Don’t let puppy love blind you to the expense of a dog https://bit.ly/puppy-expenses