By Eileen AJ Connelly — AP Personal Finance Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Speculation about what kind of puppy the new first family will get has intrigued the nation since President-elect Barack Obama publicly promised his daughters a pooch.
A Google search of "Obama puppy" yields sites featuring naming contests, online petitions to rescue a shelter pup and even a cartoon dog singing "Pick Me!" on YouTube.
But as every dog owner knows, there's plenty to consider when bringing a dog into the family beyond what breed to take home.
From preparing your home to veterinary care and big bags of kibble, the costs can mount rapidly. Annual expenses for large breeds can top $2,000 a year, and depending on the path a dog takes to your house, it could cost that much just to get it there.
President-elect Obama has said the family was hoping to adopt a dog, but daughter Malia's allergies mean they'll need to look for a breed considered hypoallergenic. This factor could lead them to opt to buy from a breeder, as Vice President-elect Joe Biden did with his German shepherd puppy, Champ.
One breed that may cross the first family's radar is the Cairn terrier, a non-shedding dog that averages about 12 to 15 pounds: Think Toto in "The Wizard of Oz." Tricia Griggs of Sudbury, Mass., bought her Cairn, named Tucker, a few months ago from breeder Marly Lucier for $1,600.
"There's nothing snooty, if you will, about buying a dog through a breeder," Griggs said, noting that owners of purebreds need to be concerned about breed standards — such as the dog's color, size and temperament.
Tucker recently won "Best Puppy" in his first dog show, where breed standards are particularly important, but careful breeding can also help avoid certain genetic health problems and behavioral issues. Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club said it is important to seek reputable breeders or breed-specific rescue groups, because puppies sold through pet stores are frequently the products of puppy mills and may not be appropriately screened.
"The most important thing is to engage in a relationship with a breeder," Peterson said. "Ask if you can come visit the facility where the mother lives and puppies are cared for."
Lucier, who has bred Cairns for about 15 years, said she likes to be peppered with questions. "That means I know they're very serious and they're going to be very good owners," she said.
Depending on the breed and your location, a purebred puppy from a breeder will generally cost between $800 and $2,000. This often includes initial veterinary examinations and vaccinations.
If that sounds prohibitive, Joanne Yohannan, senior vice president of operations at North Shore Animal League America, a Port Washington, N.Y. shelter, said about 25 percent of the dogs in shelters are purebreds. "There are plenty of cost affective ways of getting a purebred dog without spending thousands of dollars," she said.
Adoption fees at shelters, which typically include some vet care, and also often include spaying or neutering, generally run between $100 to $250, she said.
Once the dog is picked out and paid for, it's time to open the wallet again.
Among the one-time costs new owners can expect:
— Basic supplies. Food bowls, a leash, toys and a training crate can add up to $200 or more. Crates alone can cost as much as $150, depending on the size needed. The other items are less expensive, but with myriad choices it's easy to run up the bill.
— Transport. Small dog owners may want to get a carrier, so they should add another $45 or so to their budget.
— License. Most municipalities also require licensing, which typically costs $10 to $20.
— Training. Puppy training or obedience courses cost $150 or so for an initial series of classes. Yohannan advises that prospective owners, whether they're considering adopting an adult dog or a puppy, should factor in training as part of their budget.
— ID Tag. One optional cost is having a microchip implanted under the dog's skin, which provides a permanent identification tag if the dog is lost. The chip itself costs about $50, and providers charge varying rates for activating it. The AKC's service requires a one-time $19.95 activation fee. Some companies charge annual fees, about $15, to maintain the tracking service.
Recurring costs include:
— Food. What you can expect to pay to feed your new pet will vary depending on size of your dog and the quality of the food. A 15-lb. bag of dry food from a well-known national brand should cost about $16.99 at a grocery store, and will last two to four weeks, depending on the size of your dog (an average of about $225 to $450 per year). Canned, or wet, food tends to be more expensive.
— Health care. Expect to pay $200 to $300 a year for non-emergency vet bills, including an annual exam and preventive care for common problems like heartworm, and fleas and ticks. Yohannan points out that there are places like her shelter's pet health center that will provide low-cost services. Owners should also anticipate if there's ever a need for emergency services, they can be very expensive.
Peterson said if vet costs are an issue, the AKC recommends pet health insurance. Coverage runs about $250 to $550 a year depending on the dog's breed and age, and should be carefully researched before purchasing.
— Grooming. Professional grooming services are a necessity for certain breeds. Prices vary widely depending upon location and breed. It's advisable to do some Internet research as to what groomers in your area charge. Pay particular attention if you're interested in a large dog with long hair, like an Afghan Hound.
— Sitters, Walkers. Extras like doggie day care can cost $25 to $50 per day, depending on region. Dog walkers typically charge $15 to $20 per walk, based on the length of time they're out.
— Boarding. Sometimes the family vacation may require you to leave your four-legged friend behind. Again rates can vary widely, but as a benchmark expect to pay $20 to $60 per day, with rates rising around holidays and during peak summer periods.
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