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Skip the groomer. 3 pricey pet services to do yourself.

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Paul Davis/Daily American Republic/AP/File

(Read caption) Don Sparling bathes his 209-pound English Mastiff, Charlie, in his back yard in Poplar Bluff, Mo.,in this May 2012 file photo. Bathing and grooming your dog yourself can save you an estimated $190 per year.

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’m the proud owner of a stubborn dog who’s a little too smart for her own good. She’s definitely the alpha dog in my house, and she knows it. As I’m writing this, she’s strutting around my home office like she pays the rent.

Except she doesn’t pay the rent – I do. I also pay for all her other expenses, which, according to the ASPCA’s Pet Care Costs chart, is about $875 a year.

So while I probably can’t do anything about my pup’s attitude problem, I can do something about the cost of giving her highness a good and healthy life.

The two biggest ways I’ve found to save on her costs is by not paying for the services I can do myself. Here’s what I’ve cut out …

1. Training

Professional trainers and training classes get expensive. Costhelper, a site that compares people’s average costs, has this to say about it:

  • Cost of group classes - $45 to $125 average
  • Cost of private trainers - $30 to $100 per hour, $240 to $600 for six sessions average
  • Obedience boarding school - $950 to $2,500 average
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Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on training, I trained my dog at home free. And if I can train a giant, stubborn dog to stay when she’s told, anyone can. I learned all of my training techniques online. Here are a few sites worth visiting:

  • WebMD Pets – The pet section of WebMD has great one-minute training videos featuring a certified dog trainer. You won’t learn everything you need to know, but it’s helpful to watch the techniques in action.
  • Petfinder – Petfinder has a training section that covers everything from behavioral problems to basic dog tricks.
  • Perfect Paws – Perfect Paws has a ton of helpful articles on positive reinforcement training. They also have a section on how to train cats.

2. Nail clipping

When I first adopted my dog, I was terrified to cut her nails, convinced I would cut into the quick and cause unnecessary pain and a lot of bleeding. So I had the vet cut them – for $43 each session. When that got too expensive, I started visiting a local groomer who charged $5 per nail, or $20 per session. But even at the reduced rate, six visits a year cost $120.

So I learned to trim my dog’s nails myself. The first try didn’t go too well – there was some snarling and lots of apologies – but after viewing a few how-to videos and reading some extremely helpful articles from the ASPCA, I now expertly cut my dog’s nails myself and save that money.

Before you start, check out the Nail Care article from the ASPCA that covers all of the basics you need to know, including buying supplies, proper trimming amounts, and how to handle fear in your dog. Then watch a comprehensive how-to video from the Self-Help Dog Training Blog to get the technique down .

3. Grooming

The American Kennel Club surveyed 1,000 of its online visitors on dog ownership costs. On average, respondents spent $190 a year on grooming.

While I wouldn’t suggest shaving a dog yourself (unless you have experience), you can easily give Fido a bath and eliminate the need for a groomer. I bathe and brush my dog myself using a $7 bottle of shampoo and a $10 professional brush I bought from a groomer. I go through three bottles of shampoo a year. Counting the brush, I spent $31 on supplies the first year, a savings of $159 over a professional groomer.

For help and advice, check out:

  • Grooming FAQ from the ASPCA
  • How to Groom a Dog from Beneful
  • Grooming Your Dog’s Hair with Clippers from Dummies.com

By learning to do those three things myself, I save about $400 per year – enough to pay for my dog’s pricey organic food for almost seven months, or buy dozens of toys and handmade treats from the doggie bakery in my neighborhood. I could even do something really crazy and spend some of that money on myself!

Angela Colley is a writer for Money Talks News, a consumer/personal finance TV news feature that airs in about 80 cities as well as around the Web. This column first appeared in Money Talks News.


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