Owning a dog can be expensive.
We spend an average $269 per year just to feed our pooches, according to the American Pet Products Association. When you factor in in grooming, boarding and other expenses, you’re looking at a total of between $500 and $1,000 per year, depending on where you live.
But when you need to offset these costs, pocket a little extra cash or even find a steady stream of revenue, man’s best friend may be your best bet.
Here are five ways your dog can earn money — unless, like mine, he’s too busy napping to contribute to his upkeep.
1. Social Media Star
Trotter’s owner, Sonja Yu, doesn’t talk about how much her wig-wearing French bulldog earns for her, but the hip pup with more than 209,000 Instagram followers is a brand ambassador who has appeared on The Today Show and Good Morning America.
Trotter obviously earns a little something, in addition to raising money for local animal shelters.
Even if your dog doesn’t go viral like Trotter, with enough followers, you can benefit financially.
Baldwin Cunningham says he’s received the equivalent of $5,000 in products for in-kind sponsored content featured on his Labradoodle’s 17,800-strong Instagram account (plus one small monetary payment). Product obviously isn’t cash, but if you don’t have to buy a new leash or the next bag of dog food, it’s the next best thing.
All it takes is a camera, an Internet connection and a personable pup to get started and help your dog become an online sensation. (It doesn’t hurt to be a professional photographer, like Yu, either.)
Bodhi, the 5-year-old Shiba Inu known as “Menswear Dog,” got his start modeling men’s clothes on Tumblr and Instagram, but he’s more than just a social media sensation today — he actually models extra-small male attire for name-brand clothing lines.
It’s definitely profitable. Between photo contracts, guest appearances and sponsored content, Bodhi earns $10,000 to $15,000 per month for his owners, David Fun and Yena Kim, who quit their full-time jobs to focus on his career.
While there isn’t much of a call for clothes-wearing animals, your dog can earn money as a model in advertisements for anything from dog food to a family vacation. To find work, register online with a reputable agency like Le PAWS or Lucky Dog Models, and be prepared to provide professional photographs.
The typical photo shoot pays as little as $100 per day, minus the agency’s cut, so in the end, you won’t make a lot of money. But you’ll have the bragging rights that come with having a model in the family!
It takes a special dog to be an actor, but if your pooch has what it takes, acting in commercials, television shows and movies can be even more profitable than modeling.
Expect to earn $200 to $300 per day, unless your dog becomes a star and you can negotiate for more. (Keep in mind that even household names, like Eddie from the television show Frasier, earned far less than their human counterparts.)
Many of the same agencies that work with dog models represent dog actors, so if you register your dog to model, chances are he’s already in the running for acting jobs.
Or, you might get lucky like Gary Castelle, who was spotted by a German film company walking his dog, Junior, in Manhattan. The director loved Junior so much he created a part for him and paid Castelle $250 per day.
Another option: If you live in a city where a lot of filming takes place, like New York or Los Angeles, you may be able to get work for both of you. Productions often put out calls for background actors who can walk their dogs in film and TV scenes. The pay is usually $100 to $150 per day.
4. Fur Producer
Does your dog seem to shed his weight in fur every day? You’re in luck! There’s a market for Chiengora (pronounced she-an-gora), or dog-hair yarn.
It’s not as simple as sweeping the floor, and you probably won’t get anything for your dog’s hair if you simply list a bag of it on eBay.
However, you can turn the hair into yarn and either sell the yarn or use it to knit sweaters, scarves and other products to sell. This throw pillow made from Chiengora fabric is listed for $150, and tons of sellers on Etsy list socks, hats and more.
5. Performer or Athlete
Depending on the competition, you might actually lose money trying to make your dog a champion.
That’s because most dog shows award, at most, $100 for Best in Show. Even the Eukanuba National Championship’s grand prize of $1,000 barely covers entry fees, grooming services, handler fees and travel expenses to the show, and money from product sponsorships and stud fees are usually far less than you might think.
You’ll have a better shot at agility, field and other performance-based competitions. The prizes are still small — USDAA’s Grand Prix of Dog Agility World Championships awards $1,000 to each first-place winner — but you don’t have to pamper your pet quite so much.
Whatever competition you enter, you’ll have to put in countless hours in training and performing, so weigh whether the return is worth your investment.
Your Turn: Has your dog ever worked for his kibble? Tell us about it in the comments!
Teresa Bitler is a freelance writer whose German Shorthair Pointer spends his days sleeping under the desk. He has never earned a dime.