Buying a puppy is expensive, but buying all those puppy-extras doesn’t have to be. True, a whole new and unexplored consumer market has just opened to you but it doesn’t need to bankrupt you. And as a dedicated bargain hunter from way-back, I thought I would share my tips with fellow puppy-parents.
I find that the Reject Shop is excellent value for some dog stuff. Here you can get a high quality hard plastic dog bed, in small, medium or large, for about $15 to $25, if they are in stock of course. This bed should last a lifetime and they are great from a hygiene point of view as they are easy to wipe clean or disinfect.
Also at the Reject Shop you might find packets of rawhide chew sticks hanging up. These look like twisted straws of about 15cm in length. They sell for about $2 for a pack of 12 or so. A similar item is the small knot-bone raw hide chew you will find hanging nearby. If puppy is a big breed, you’ll see some single big raw hide bones that might be better suited and last that little bit longer. Puppy will love the raw hide chews for clean, indoor chewing. This helps him cope with teething, keeping his teeth clean, his jaws healthy and it also saves your wooden furniture legs!
Another item I have found to be good value at the Reject Shop is ceramic dog bowls. Avoid plastic ones, as these don’t stay nice for long and never clean well once they are scratched. Personally, I use stainless steel bowls that I bought for $2 each on special in Safeway – human bowls, not dog bowls. Stainless steel dog bowls can run as high as $10, but there is no need to pay this. They are less heavy than ceramic bowls, but be wary that the human ones can tip over, so no good for puppy’s water.
The Reject Shop also has great value for money plastic feed mats with a nice edge. This helps keep pup’s water and food messes to a confined area. Another great item to pick up is the never-be-without metal pooper scooper: long handled metal scraper together with a long handled pan it clips to for storage. The pooper scooper is a must for that poo-free lawn. Of course you could just adopt my husband’s approach, which is ‘set the mower on low and go-for-it’.
Bedding is whole other consumer area. Enjoy looking at all the pricey items on offer, but fear not; there is a bargain solution here too and your new baby will be more than happy.
I make my plastic dog bed comfy by using pure wool blankets. These I buy from the opp shops for about $5 for a single bed blanket. I then cut them into quarters because I have small dogs. The blankets I buy are the top quality old woolen blankets that are superb quality. Note: ask for HUMAN blankets at the opp shop, NOT dog blankets! ‘Dog’ blankets are the tatty ones with stains or moth holes, or old electric blankets with the cord cut off – yuk!
Another nice and good value bedding option is the polar fleece blanket or throw. You can get quite big ones at Home Art or Sam’s Warehouse for as low as $5 sometimes. This is cheaper than buying polar fleece by the metre at a material shop, I have found. The polar fleece washes well and is nicely coloured and patterned. I also cut these into pieces to suit the size of my dog bed. Generally I have a size that, when folded in half, covers the floor area of the dog bed. These are quick and easy to wash, dry and replace. I would have two or three layers of these at any one time to make a nice warm and comfy bed that my dog can nest into and hide the odd raw hide chew bone.
Something I am currently doing for fun is buying bean bag filling – that’s those little polystyrene beads – from Sam’s Warehouse or Target on special at $11 a bag (normally about $14). I pour the beads into a pillow slip and hand stitch the end. One bag of beads is enough for four doggy bean bags: one for each room! A new flannelette pillow slip costs about $2 at Dimmey’s or Sam’s Warehouse or similar. This makes for nice little doggy bean bags and also can be used as mattresses that the dogs love. It works out to about $5 per mattress. I started doing this after seeing how my three little dogs loved snuggling on my son’s bean bag. They love the way in conforms to their shape and makes a nest. Problem here if your pup is in a destructive phase: you’ll be chasing little white repellent beads into the next millennium!
Food is another huge and confusing consumer area again. Without doubt a balanced diet is important, for humans and all animals. But we can go overboard here and spend a fortune of high priced promises without necessarily making our dog any happier and healthier. Dried foods, including some at whopping prices, are often grains based – yet dogs are essentially meat eaters; carnivores.
My personal preference therefore is to go for whole-foods. It’s not hard, because I can prepare a month’s food all at once and freeze it into one-night servings. It works out as cheaply as $80c/dog/night – for my small dogs – and they love it! Plus they have the healthy coats, non-smelly and quickly broken down poo and terrific teeth.
Here’s what I do. I buy up cheap hamburger grade minced meat from the supermarket when it is discounted. If you shop at the supermarkets near closing time (or later at night) you can get some great mark downs I have found, not just for you dogs but for the whole family actually. I package the mince up into two tablespoon sized quantities for each of my small dogs. This low grade hamburger mince is good, because the dogs need a certain level of fat in their diet. For puppy, I would stock up on canned puppy food when on special (like the Pedigree stuff – I noticed IGA had this on special for $1.07 the other day, and Coles and Safeway do similar specials). Add to this any dinner scraps (but never tomato, onion, garlic or cooked bones), plus the raw meat and a pop some extra veggies on and his coat and health will be brilliant! Well, you can try it and see for yourself if it works.
To complete the diet, I ask the butcher for a bag of raw dog bones – at about $2/bag – and freeze these in two-bone-packets/per dog. Give him one or two bones a week for outdoor fun burying and reburying, for healthy jaws and teeth through chewing, plus the raw meat and any marrow for his nutrition. For puppy and small dogs, the best bones in my opinion are the rib bones: so ask your butcher nicely and you might get these! For bigger dogs/pups, the butcher might laterally cut a marrow bone. Just be conscience of the fat your dog is getting (marrow is fat) because you don’t want him to get pancreatitis (swollen pancreas from too much fat). From my experience, a half or quarter marrow bone once a fortnight is fine. Check with your vet if in doubt.
And this brings us to the last all-important area of…toys! For some reason it seems anything for pets has a big markup. For example, economy tennis balls are one price in a sporting section, but dog balls – that look awfully like a tennis ball to me – are heaps dearer. So, obviously go for the economy tennis balls.
For other toys, opp shops often have plastic bags of kids’ small toys for about $2. Look for a bag with some small soft toys (ideal as puppy ‘quarry’) but make sure they have stuffing and not beads inside, plus soft plastic toys you can toss for them or they can carry about. Avoid (or discard) hard plastic toys that are brittle as these might shatter if puppy bites or plays with them. These can cut puppy’s mouth or – worse – be ingested and potentially perforate the gut.
The as a final treat, puppy might like milk as a treat once a day until he grows up. But I never buy puppy milk! It’s too dear for me. Instead I buy lactose free UHT milk in the long life milk section of supermarket. Buy the normal full strength milk – not the skim stuff.
So, that’s it: puppy on a budget! I hope you, your puppy and your wallet have enjoyed. Would love your feedback! Plus any other doggy bargains out there.
Colourful and large polar fleece throws purchased on special for $5 make long lasting bedding that’s easy to wash and dry.