Before going any further, read this.


A dog is a 10-15 year commitment in the life of an intelligent being who forms attachments and is capable of experiencing – and inflicting – emotional pain.

The money is kinda cute, I can kind of understand paying $9,000 for it.Credit:bark breakers

Lest I look holier than you, I realize this because I recently strongly encouraged someone close to me to get a pet to ease their loneliness and gain companionship.

They had company…as well as enormous expense, initial and ongoing hardship and stress, of which we hadn’t anticipated much. I did some research in good faith, but a lot of it missed the mark and was about how to vet your breeder and choose a dog breed.

This type of research completely misses things like what breeds are actually available and whether small dogs and/or puppies are really good ideas for people who need an easy dog.

In case it helps anyone else, I’ll explore these questions and issues over the next few columns and how WA (along with the other states, most likely) ended up here.

For starters, the costs.

Animal Medicines Australia latest pet owners report of 2019 found that the average household spends $2,158 per year on their dog. The RSPCA estimates closer to $2500.

This includes food, veterinary services and health care, insurance, accessories, grooming, boarding/sitting and training.

If you take the average lifespan of a dog at 13 years, you’re looking at about $30,000 and that’s before you bought the actual dog.

We recently detailed Perth locals paying $4,000-5,000 for border collie puppies and $10,000-15,000 for puppies online in what were often scams.

Maureen Guelfi, coach of Bark Busters in Perth, with Jasper.

Maureen Guelfi, coach of Bark Busters in Perth, with Jasper. Credit:bark breakers

My personal search for a poodle mix for my loved one showed an average of around $6,000 and puppies were rare.

Maureen Guelfi, Perth dog trainer at Bark Busters, told me one of her clients spent $9,000 on her pug, hence the name: Cash.

“Heroic” breeds such as blue Staffordshire puppies often cost $4,500. Caddlepoos ranged from $6,500 to $7,000 or $7,500 for a groodle or labradoodle. Many paid an extra $1,000 to transport the dogs to Perth.

“Farmers are rubbing their hands together,” she said.

In my experience, it is difficult to find a breeder in Perth who will tick all the boxes suggested by the RSPCA to ensure that you are not frequenting a puppy farm or buying a dog susceptible to health issues. (See the full guide here.)

It’s hard to insist on documentation and proof while a pup is bouncing, knowing that demand is so high that there’s plenty behind you online to ask fewer questions.

On the other hand, Karen Rhodes, president of Shenton Park Dogs’ Refuge Home, says many more dogs are being abandoned than normal and almost three-quarters are victims of the rental squeeze in Perth.

“We get about 30 calls a week in … local and regional books … five to 10 surrender calls a day,” she said.

She said many regional pounds had no choice but to euthanize dogs if Perth’s no-kill shelters were full.


“There are hundreds, thousands of dogs a year that are put down,” she said.

Perth’s median home rent hit $572 in May and rising interest rates are expected to trickle down as rents rise.

Domain predicts that house rents in Perth will hit a new record high in the current quarter.

And neither the state nor the federal government has offered a credible response to the country’s housing crisis.

So before shopping, think. Do you have a reserve of $30,000-40,000 over the next 10 years?

If you are renting, do you have a significant safety net – think three months of living expenses – that will allow you to deal with emergencies: job loss, serious illness, homelessness or overcrowding, for you and your family ?

If you don’t, this dog will be the first thing to go when the going gets tough.

I understand the desire. I miss having a pet. As I write this series, I will see many pictures of adorable dogs. I will want them. But I’m not going to have any. Because I don’t have the time, space, money or emotional bandwidth to give them what they need.


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