Adopting a dog is one of the single best decisions Dave and I have ever made. It’s also one of the single biggest undertakings of our life because dog ownership is a lot of work. I will tell anyone who will listen about how much joy and fun our border collie Leia has added to our home, and I love hearing stories of other people’s dogs. Maybe you’re thinking of getting a dog for yourself! As much as I recommend adding a furry family member to the mix, make sure to ask yourself these questions to make sure you’re really ready for a dog.
How Much Time Do You Have?
It goes without saying that dogs require love and attention. Before committing, consider how much time you spend at home (and how much time you want to spend at home). Sure, Leia is home alone during the day when we’re at work. But you better believe that at least one of us is rushing home as soon as the clock strikes 5. After-work-activities are pretty much a thing of the past for us.
And while Dave and I travel on the weekends, we’re lucky that virtually everywhere we go, Leia can come with. Consider whether you’ll be able to bring your dog with you, or whether you’ll have to board them regularly. It’s not as ideal for the pup, and also gets expensive!
Some Humane Societies will actually interview you thoroughly about your work schedule and the amount of time you have at home, and I’ve heard of them refusing to adopt animals to people who work long hours and live alone!
How Much Disposable Income Do You Have?
Dogs cost money. There’s simply no way around it. They’re particularly expensive in the first year when it comes to your introductory vet appointments, have them fixed and microchipped, and buying all the necessary supplies. Because trust me, dogs can require a lot of stuff!
Once you get past the initial costs, you obviously have the regular expenses such as food, toys, and recurring medical expenses. Then there are any boarding costs for when you travel. And you might decide to purchase pet insurance as well. In addition to the normal vet visits, you definitely need to be prepared for an emergency!
For reference, the ASPCA anticipates that a dog will cost you $1,500 in the first year of ownership.
How Much Space Do You Have?
This should be a major contributing factor in deciding whether you’ll get a dog, as well as what kind of dog you’ll get. You might love big old labs, but if you’re living in a 500 square foot apartment with no yard, then it might not be the dog for you. Consider if there will be room for the dog to play in the house, or whether they need a more open space. Consider whether you have a yard, or if there’s a grass space outside your apartment that is easily accessible.
In addition to the dog itself, be sure to factor in space for its belongings. Dogs have stuff! Leia has a small corner for her food and water bowl, as well as a cupboard dedicated to treats, poop bags, vet information, etc. Plus there’s her toy box and the giant crate. Funny story. Leia is a border collie. When we adopted her, the Humane Society anticipated she would weight around 40+ pounds fully grown. Well, just a few months later she topped out around 22 pounds. We bought a crate meant for a 40+ pound dog, and Leia takes up a fraction of it. Girl could throw a party in there.
What Will Your Life Be Like in 5-10 Years?
It’s easy to consider how a dog fits into your current lifestyle. But it’s also important to consider how they will fit into your long-term plan. Dogs are a long-term commitment. Anyone adopting a dog should do so with the expectation that they’ll be caring for that dog its entire life. It breaks my heart to see people giving away pets because they decide it doesn’t fit into their life anymore, so please don’t.
Who Else Lives In Your Home?
A spouse? Roommates? Kids? Other pets? All should be taken into consideration! Make sure everyone is okay with the new member of the family. All adults in the household should agree together to take on this responsibility. As far as kids, keep safety in mind. A dog with aggression issues or a troubled past might not be the best choice if you have small children at home. And be respectful of the pets you already have, and be honest with yourself as to whether you think they could handle another pet around.
Overall, pets are a ton of work and require a major lifestyle change. Dogs are great snuggle partners and playmates, but that’s not all they are. They require a ton of exercise, they require you to take them outside regularly (regardless of how tired you are – say goodbye to sleeping in all mornings), and they require tons and tons of attention. If you’re going to adopt a dog, you want to give them the absolute best home you can!
What tips would you share for adopting a dog?
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