Saving money: tips and tricks

I just brought home a lovely new water bowl for my dogs. It’s heavy duty glass, not plastic, so it won’t leach scary chemicals into the water they drink so much of, and it’s big enough that I don’t have to refill it every 2 hours when I’m boarding dogs.

It’s a punch bowl. It cost me $6.

Here is my first tip and trick: if you want nice bowls for your dogs, even ones that match your house, head to a Goodwill or Discovery Shop second-hand store and pick up dishes, bowls, etc. These won’t have the fancy no-tip qualities some dog bowls do, so if you’re in need of a no-tip dish, then you might have to shell out the cash to a pet store. But if your dog eats or drinks and doesn’t paw or nudge his bowl, then this might just work for you! And my pretty crystal punch bowl is so much more attractive than the plastic red bowl they were using before…

Does your dog, like mine, go through toys at an alarming rate? I swear, Lily’s favorite thing in life is to DESTROY AS FAST AS POSSIBLE whatever toys I’ve given her. There are a couple of fixes for this.

1. The dollar store. You’d be surprised how many dollar stores have dog sections! No, the toys there aren’t high quality, but I don’t care. Lily can destroy anything; she might as well destroy something that cost me a dollar, and therefore isn’t going to make me whimper.

2. Old clothes. This is not as safe as getting actual dog toys, because if your dog ingests the clothing it’s not specially made to pass through. (Of course, I’ve heard about PLENTY of dogs who end up in emergency for eating dog toys anyway, so…) I take my old jeans, once I can no longer wear them, and cut off the legs. Those legs can be braided, tied in knots, shredded into different patterns — anything that makes them look like something other than jeans! My favorite is to tie either three knots or to braid them, so that Lily can’t rip them apart right away. One pair of jeans makes about four toys, so that’s a pretty good deal! (I cut the legs off and then quarter them.)

“But,” I hear you cry, “doesn’t that make them go after your clothes?” Nah. That’s why you change the shape, so the dogs don’t relate it back!

As a dog trainer, I go through A LOT of dog treats. One of the handy things I’ve learned is to buy bags of really super fancy dog food (I use Ziwi Peak dog food), preferably something that’s been freeze dried or is high in protein. Something that tastes nice and meaty! There are a few brands that work well, among them Ziwi Peak and the food-in-a-tube, Natural Balance (this must be cut up and kept cold). I find most dogs LOVE those two foods. Sure, $35/5lbs of dog food is expensive… but 5lbs worth of treats would be much MORE expensive! (Potato chips make good dog treats, too, but don’t tell your vet I said so!)

And speaking of dog food, if you’re looking for a decent but inexpensive alternative to feeding your dog, try the Costco or Sam’s Club brands of dog foods. They aren’t spectacular, but you can’t beat ’em for the price. (On a scale of 1-10, they’re a 6 or 7.)

Finally, of course, check out your local pet stores. Pet Food Express has buy-one-get-one-half-off days, and every day is buy-three-get-one-free. The Pet People of Los Gatos have a $5 coupon on their website, which they can scan right off your smart phone. (One of their clever employees suggest I bookmark it, so now I walk in and pull it up!)



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