You’ve been considering getting a hunting dog as a loyal companion for your outdoor adventures. The initial purchase price might be on your mind, but have you considered the long-term investment? In this guide, we’ll take a comprehensive look at the true cost of owning a hunting dog throughout its average lifespan.
The Initial Purchase
Let’s start with the purchase itself. Depending on the breed and pedigree, you can expect to pay a minimum of $2,000, and sometimes even more, for a high-quality hunting dog like a Labrador or a pointing dog. If you’re looking for a dog that has already undergone basic bird dog training, the cost will be higher. Alternatively, you can train the dog yourself, which lowers the cost but requires a significant time commitment.
Next comes training. Most dogs require about three months of basic bird dog training to get them ready for hunting. This assumes that you put in the time and effort to continue their development. It’s also recommended to schedule a few weeks for a “refresher” course. If you’re in Texas, you’ll want to consider rattlesnake training, which usually needs to be repeated twice to ensure your dog keeps a safe distance.
Good trainers typically charge around $900 per month, with the best ones often exceeding $1,200. For instance, Run-N-Gun Adventures in Bay City charges $850 per month, with a three-month minimum commitment. Additionally, you’ll need to factor in the cost of an electronic and/or GPS collar, a crate for your vehicle, and training gear. Don’t forget about toys either, as dogs have a knack for destroying them. If you decide to enter your dog in field trials, expect a significant increase in costs.
Routine veterinary care for your hunting dog will cost approximately $500 per year. Towards the end of your dog’s life, this cost may increase. Routine care includes regular examinations, vaccinations, and flea and tick prevention.
Emergency care is another consideration. Hunting dogs are more prone to injuries compared to your average pet. According to Project Upland, if your dog experiences one major incident and three minor ones throughout its hunting career, you can expect an average cost of around $6,000.
A large bag of high-quality dog food from a reputable brand will cost around $55 and typically lasts a month. Over a span of 12 years, this adds up to $7,920. This estimate doesn’t include any special foods for dogs with specific dietary needs or treats.
For quail outfitters, injuries are more common, and training often takes longer. Jay Stine, an avid quail hunter, shared his experience with his dog Bo, who has had multiple encounters with porcupines resulting in expensive anesthesia procedures costing over $1,000 each. Despite the cost, Bo’s disdain for the prickly critter remains unchanged.
“Hates porcupines,” Stine mentioned.
West Texas Quail Outfitters recently highlighted the cost of maintaining a large group of bird dogs.
“Occasionally, someone complains that our prices are too high,” the group explained. “For an operation our size, with 27 dogs, this load of dog food will last about 95 days.”
They emphasized how upland bird outfitters usually spend three to four months of revenue on dog food.
“But the dogs have 12 months of food needs,” WTQO added.
So, what’s the total damage? Over a 12-year lifespan, assuming no serious health problems or additional needs, the cost of owning a hunting dog exceeds $26,000.
Hunting dog owners are well aware of these expenses and agree that newcomers should be fully informed before diving in. However, the overwhelming majority firmly believe that every penny is worth it.
Steve Barber serves as an extreme example. He spent more than $19,500 on his late dog, Raven, and his current dog, Thunder, is currently battling prostate cancer. According to him, the cost of owning a hunting dog is subjective and dependent on personal perception. He believes the estimates are ballpark figures but might err on the conservative side.
“Dogs have been such a significant part of our lives for a long time,” he said. “There’s nothing better than watching a good retriever do its job.”
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So, if you’re ready to embark on this journey with a hunting dog by your side, be prepared for the financial commitment. It’s an investment that goes beyond the initial purchase price and requires dedication. But for those who truly appreciate the bond between a hunter and their faithful companion, the rewards are immeasurable.