If you have arrived here, you have probably already answered the question of whether you want a dog with a resounding yes! But, before going any further, you have to ask yourself an even more important question: “Am I ready to be a dog owner?” The answer to that question is the one that really matters.
In this chapter we will help you ask yourself the questions that you really need to ask in order to decide if dog ownership actually is for you. These topics are designed to help you take a realistic look at your life, lifestyle, and family situation, so be sure to be honest with yourself. In the end, you should only get a dog if you are completely ready, and that decision is one only you and your family can make.
In chapter one we will cover:
- Is your whole family ready for a dog?
- Will your living situation allow for a dog?
- Are you ready to make the financial and time commitments required for dog ownership?
Assess Your Family Situation
1. Do you have young children, or are you planning to?
A dog can be a great family pet, but if you have young children, or expect to have an infant soon, sometimes your puppy’s needs can become overlooked. Consider if NOW is the right time, or if it would make more sense to wait a little while before getting a dog.
2. Will you or someone else be home most of the time during the day?
Sometimes the dream of a new puppy can fog the reality of your working life. If you and your partner are both gone for 7-10 hours during the day, what is your plan for your dog?
Some dogs that are left alone for long periods of time can suffer from a number of issues including separation anxiety, even becoming destructive. Are you willing to pay for puppy day care or a dog walker?
3. Can you take time off of work to be with your new puppy?
Leaving a brand new puppy alone in a strange environment is a bad idea. Ideally you would want someone to be around the pup for at least a week before leaving it alone at home for very long. Are you willing and able to take a week off of work?
4. Short video on the time requirement of a new puppy:
5. Is everyone on board with this decision?
You will need the support and help of everyone in your family to provide a loving home for your dog. If your spouse is anti-dog, even if they agreed to let you get one, it can be a bad situation, not only for the puppy, but for your relationship.
It takes a whole family to raise a pet. You won’t always be able to do everything for your little guy, and even if you could, it is a lot easier with help (puppies are a lot of work!).
Make sure that this decision will not only make YOU happy, but will make everyone in the family happy. And never assume that your spouse will love the puppy once they meet it, because that is not always the case.
Assess Your Living Situation
1. Are you an owner or a renter?
If you are a renter, ALWAYS check to make sure it’s okay with your landlords before you emotionally commit yourself to getting a dog. My wife and I made that mistake when we assumed that our family members (who we rented from) would be fine with us getting a puppy at our farmhouse. However, my wife was crushed when (after picking out our little guy) her aunt said no. We were forced to make a decision: give up the puppy, or move out… a classic “no-win” scenario. Fortunately for us, we were allowed to keep the puppy at the house for a month until we found a new place to live.
2. Do you know if anyone in your family has dog allergies?
Sometimes, especially with kids, you may not even know you have allergies until you are around a dog 24/7. Be sure that no one in your house has any dog allergies and if they do, try to figure out how severe they are. Some people develop a dog allergy later in life, so even if you think you are in the clear, it’s better to be sure.
Ask to borrow a friend’s dog for a couple nights or spend some time in the home of a dog owner (preferably the same breed or a similar breed to what you are looking for). All of the following are possible symptoms of dog allergies:
- Sinus congestion
- Running nose
It’s better to find out early, because it’s heartbreaking to have to give up a puppy simply because someone is allergic to them.
However, there are hypoallergenic options for dog lovers. Be careful though; hypoallergenic doesn’t mean no allergies.
As you can see above it means less likely to cause allergies. Several breeds, and many cross breeds, are considered hypoallergenic, simply meaning they have a lesser effect on those who suffer from allergies.
3. Do you live in an apartment or a house?
This doesn’t have to be a deal breaker for getting a dog, but it will have a big effect on what breeds you should consider. If you only want a Lab, but live in an apartment with no yard or parks nearby, you should probably wait until you move to get your puppy.
Driving twice a day to the park to run around might work for a week, but after a few months it becomes very tedious and you will probably wind up skipping it on some days, which isn’t fair to your pup.
In cases where you don’t have access to a yard or nearby park, you will want to consider a less active breed that is more suited for apartment living.
Asking the Tough Questions: Finances and Freedom
1. Have you ever had a dog before?
Past experience can be a huge benefit, even if it was back when you were a kid. If you have had a dog before, then you will have some idea of the type of commitment it takes and the amount of time and energy the dog will demand.
If the answer is no, then you need to spend some time (preferably a few days to a week) with someone else’s dog. Ask a friend or family member if you can borrow their dog for a week and get a taste for all that goes into dog ownership. Most people will be happy to let you borrow their pooch for a week because dogs are often a lot of work, and it’s nice to have a break once in a while.
If you love your time with the dog and don’t mind the constant neediness, destructive rampages, or room-clearing farts, then you’ll know you are ready.
2. Can you afford a dog?
Dogs are expensive. Adopting a dog usually costs between $100-$300, and buying a new puppy can cost much more. The vet bills the first few months start to add up, and so can the initial costs of toys, kennels, and other necessities. Before you know it, you have spent well over $2,000 on your dog during the first year. Costs don’t get much cheaper as your puppy grows up.
April Dykman wrote an article for Forbes in 2012 that detailed the recurring costs of pet ownership. She found that she spent just over $1,300 in 2011 on her dog, or about $110 a month. Almost 75% of that cost was just in food, so those numbers won’t be too much different no matter where you look. Are you prepared financially for the expenses associated with your newest family member?
3. Are you willing to give up part of your freedom for a dog?
This question is most important to singles and couples without kids, as parents are well aware of the sacrifices that come with being responsible for another family member’s well-being.
- Are you prepared to take your dog on trips or arrange for him to stay someplace else while you are gone?
- Will you be okay with having to run home to let the dog out, rather than staying out later at a social event?
- Can you give up a couple of hours a day to play with your puppy?
Note: Be sure to watch the video to the right with sound! Click the sound icon in the lower right hand corner to toggle sound on and off.
Shayna Meliker wrote a great article for VetStreet entitled Seven Signs You Shouldn’t Get a Dog. It’s a short, quick read, and I recommend looking it over to see if you see yourself in any of her points.
On the flip side, Huffington Post wrote a 2013 “Picture Article” on the 21 Reasons a Dog is the Best Investment Ever! It offers a humorous and heartwarming look through pictures at the good and bad sides of having a dog. It’s guaranteed to warm your heart.
Consider if the positives of having a dog would outweigh the negatives for you. Then do what you believe would be the best for you, your family, and your future puppy.