Here are five questions to ask yourself before you decide to get a dog for the first time.
So, you’re ready to take the leap, and you’re wondering, “Should I get a dog?”
Getting a dog is definitely not something you do on impulse. It’s a decision that takes a little time and consideration from you and everyone in your household, whether that’s family members or roommates.
Don’t worry–you’re in the right place! We can help you figure out whether you should get a dog by asking a few questions to make sure you’re ready for all that a furry little bundle of joy brings with them.
1. Do you have time for a dog?
By “time,” we don’t mean just enough time to feed your dog and take them on a quick walk several times a day. Dogs need quality time. Think about it–their whole world will be you and your housemates, and they need plenty of stimulation, playtime, and attention.
Let’s talk about work or school. Do you work from home or have classes online, where you can spend time with a dog during the day? Or will you be away from them most of the day? If you are away, can you arrange for someone to spend some time playing with your dog and taking them for a walk?
If you don’t have a roommate or someone who lives with you who can do this, do you have the money to hire someone trustworthy? If not, you may not be ready for a dog just yet.
What about the weekends? Are you planning on traveling a lot or being away from your pup a lot on the weekends, too? If you are able to commit to plenty of time with your pup, whether that means taking them with you on your adventures, or being at home enough to play and spend time with them, then you might be ready for a dog.
2. Can you give a pup a “fur-ever” home?
You may be ready for a cuddly puppy or adult dog right now, but what about the future? Getting a dog is a lifetime commitment, meaning you should plan to take care of them for the rest of their life, aka, giving them a “fur-ever” home.
That means thinking of how your new dog will fit into your life now and when you move or your living situation changes. If you rent, will your landlord allow pets, and can you afford the pet deposit or pet rent? If not, you can also check to see if you can get papers from a psychologist stating that they are an emotional support animal, if that is the case.
You will need to make sure that if you move, you are able to take your dog with you, or if a new baby or housemate or significant other moves in, you are committed to working out any issues that come up.
3. Can you support having a dog financially?
This one is a tricky one. Not many people are 100% able at any point to handle a huge bill from the vet if something happens. So it’s not like you have to be a millionaire to have a dog. But you should know ahead of time that caring for a dog is a pretty significant financial responsibility.
In general, plan to spend about $250 per month on dog care. Here are some estimates for doggy costs to give you an idea.
Average cost ranges per month: $177-351
- Food: $75-125 (depends on size, food quality, special diets, where you live, etc.)
- Flea/tick/heartworm: $35 (depends on size, product, retailer)
- Checkups: $7-21 (based on one annual checkup that costs $80-250)
- Pet insurance: $50-150 (based on breed, location, company, age, policy)
- Toys: $10-20
- Average emergency vet visit: $150-1200
- Vet costs:
- Annual dental cleaning: $300-400
- X-rays: $250-200
- Ultrasound: $300-600
- Bloodwork: $200
- Pancreatitis treatment: $1000-5000
- Emergency surgery: $1500-5000
- Wound treatment: $800-2500
- Boarding or pet sitting for 2 weeks: $500-1400
4. Are you prepared to handle training or behavioral issues?
This question is valid whether you are thinking of adopting from a shelter or rescue; getting a dog from a neighbor, friend, or family member; or even going to a reputable breeder. Even if you are looking for a specific, “more trainable” breed, or the shelter has said that a dog is potty-trained, you need to be prepared to put some amount of work in.
This pup will be with you for the long haul, so there’s a good chance that along the way, you’ll have to navigate issues like anxiety, resource guarding, socialization, potty training, walking on a leash, separation anxiety, and behavior changes due to things like aging or changes in the household.
If you can accept that your future dog will probably not be trained like they came from a K9 unit, and will come with their own personality quirks, you may be ready. You’ll just need a little time, patience, and determination.
5. Will you be able to take care of your pup when they are sick or get older?
It’s much easier to care for a dog and to make the decision to adopt when they are young and healthy, but what happens when they get older? Every dog will start to have some sort of issues as they age. You may even be thinking about adopting a senior dog or one that already has some known health issues.
Some of the most common things for dogs are hip and joint trouble, especially for large breed dogs, obesity, cognitive decline, dental disease, lumps and bumps, diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and cancer.
This list isn’t meant to scare you, but you should be prepared for when these things pop up–emotionally and financially. Things like pet insurance or setting aside money every month for your dog’s health can really help with the costs.
If you answered yes to all of these questions, then you’re totally ready to start looking for your four-legged housemate/soulmate.