There’s a good reason dogs are called man’s best friend: nothing beats coming home to a wagging tail. But if you ever begged your parents for a puppy when you were a kid, you likely remember them telling you that a pet is a huge responsibility. And in this case, Mom was right.
Yes, dogs need love and attention, but that’s the easy part. They also require an owner's commitment to care for them in every way: physically, financially, and emotionally. On the fence about whether or not you’re ready to take the plunge into pet ownership? Here are six things to consider before expanding your family.
It’s important to assess your finances before bringing home a new pup. Are you ready to devote part of your paycheck to someone else? Caring for a pet can be costly! According to the ASPCA, first-year expenses for a pet can total nearly $2,000, not including adoption fees. Consider the additional costs of food, toys, treats, bedding, vaccines, regular checkups, and grooming as well.
Having a dog is a big time commitment. Healthy pets require multiple walks a day for exercise, stimulation, and, of course, bathroom breaks. Older dogs may need a modified exercise routine depending on their energy levels and health condition, while puppies require extra movement and training.
Speaking of puppies! We all know how undeniably adorable they are, but puppies require consistent behavior correction and attention in order to grow into well-adjusted adult dogs. This kind of time commitment requires planning in advance and can mean skipping socializing after work.
Different dogs have different environmental needs, but all dogs need enough space to stretch their legs. Before getting a dog, it is important to factor in size, temperament, and energy levels. Certain breeds have more relaxed temperaments and tend to do better in cities than dogs with high energy levels. You don’t necessarily need a huge yard, but you want to make sure that your neighborhood has dog parks and walking trails available for your dog to explore.
It is important to be honest with yourself about how adopting a dog will impact your lifestyle. If you like to travel, for example, consider how bringing a dog along may affect your plans. If you like to spend your nights out on the town, keep in mind that you may need to cut your evenings short to feed and walk your pup. Identify your priorities and picture how a pet will realistically fit in with them.
Dogs (especially puppies) can have accidents indoors, track mud onto carpets, and leave their toys all over the house. Are you prepared to deal with the occasional mess? No matter how well behaved your dog may be, mishaps will occur.
You should also consider your own level of cleanliness. Curious pups tend to dig into, well, just about anything. You will need to keep dirty laundry, food, and medication away from your dog to make sure they don’t ingest anything dangerous (or ruin your favorite pair of socks).
Rescue vs. Breeder:If you’re prepared to allocate time, energy, and money to a new pet, the final decision you’ll have to consider is whether to adopt a dog from a shelter or seek out a breeder. Adopting a dog saves animals who don’t have homes and is also much less expensive. Getting a dog from a breeder can cost anywhere from $500-$3,000 not including the cost of vaccinations, neutering/spaying, and other veterinary costs. Some people work with a breeder because they want a specific kind of dog with a certain temperament. Whether you choose to adopt or seek out a breeder, the most important thing is to be patient and consistent with training, and, of course, love your new family member unconditionally.