Have you been dreaming of becoming a dog-mom or dad in the near future? If you're an animal lover, you'll probably ask yourself at one point in your life, "Am I ready for a dog?" Maybe you grew up surrounded by dogs and want to continue this tradition in your adult and family life, or maybe you were deprived of puppy love as a child and it's finally time to see what all the hype is about.
Whatever your reasons for adding a dog your family, it's a significant decision that brings plenty of responsibilities. While planning to add a new furry family member to your brood can be an incredibly exciting time, it's important to ensure that you are 100% ready to take the plunge. Before committing to bringing home a puppy or adult dog, be sure you're more than ready for the responsibility by going through our checklist below.
1. YOU HAVE ENOUGH SPACE, AND THE RIGHT SPACE
Whether you're brining home a Yorkshire Terrier or a Great Dane, you've got to have enough space for you pooch. While large backyards aren't a prerequisite for dog ownership, some sort of safe space for your dog to roam and relieve himself is recommended. Your chihuahua may not need a yard with lots of room to run, but you'd probably prefer to let your pup do his business right outside your home in a private area, rather than having to walk across the street to a green space or a park.
If you live in an apartment complex, you should double check with the leasing office or your landlord for any restrictions. Some complexes and landlords do not allow any pets at all, while others restrict by weight or breed. Keep in mind that some cities or regions do have breed bans.
2. YOU'RE NOT STRAPPED FOR CASH
There's no use in beating around the bush. Dogs are expensive. Depending on where you get your dog, the acquisition of the dog itself can cost several thousand dollars (while we're at it, we recommend researching adoption and rescue options).
Once your bring your dog home, you can expect even more costs to come rolling in. Vet bills and common medications such as flea, tick, and heartworm prevention can be costly for even generally healthy pets. Older pets, special need pets, certain breeds with known issues, and medical emergencies can incur additional costs. Spaying and neutering, while elective, can be quite costly too.
While prices for supplies such as dog food, toys, and waste supplies like poop bags might not run quite as high at first glance, these expenses are ongoing and can eat up a good chunk of your budget.
3. YOU'VE GOT TIME . . . AND PATIENCE
Owning a dog isn't all cuddles and kisses. Whether you've brought home an eight week old puppy or an adult shelter dog, you're going to need to devote a significant amount of time to training. While dog training can certainly be fun, it requires a lot of patience. If you're brining home a puppy, you'll want to puppy proof your house. If you're dead set against spreading potty-training pads across your living room floor, you may want to reevaluate your readiness.
If you're a creature of habit and follow a schedule to a T, bringing a dog home may shake things up. You might be used to waking up at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, but your dog might need to pee before the crack of dawn. Daily walks are essential for nearly every breed, and depending on how packed your schedule is, you may need to squeeze these into the early hours of the morning or the late hours of the night.
4. YOU'VE GOT ENOUGH ENERGY & HEALTH
It's no surprise that dogs tend to be better suited to owners with active lifestyles. You don't need to commit to a strict workout regimen, but dogs expect (and deserve) their daily walks, rain or shine. If you have limited mobility or can't commit to regular activity with your dog, you may want to consider a smaller, lower energy breed or reconsider getting a dog altogether. Regular walks and consistent training require a good chunk of physical and emotional energy.
It's also important to remember that playtime is a very important part of a dog's life. If you are getting a puppy, make sure to provide your puppy with plenty of toys to chew on and play with. If you are getting an older dog, you'll need to learn what motivates him or her to play and then find toys that motivate them into play. If your dog like to play fetch, consider ordering a Chuckit! Launcher. If the dog is more of a chewer, consider some tough, durable Pet Qwerks Nylon Bones for your dog to chew on. If your dog like to play tug-o-war, consider a tug toy for dogs.
5. YOU'RE COMMITTED
This section has multiple components, but as the subheading suggest, pets are a significant commitment. The thought of brining home a brand new puppy can excite almost anyone, but sadly, some people fail to think beyond the "honeymoon phase." Puppies do not stay puppies forever, and the excitement surrounding a new family member eventually settles with daily life. You should be prepared to take care of your dog for the rest of its life and be willing to provide a stable home. Dogs are not commodities to be tossed out when situations change, and you will need to be prepared to adapt, as you would with a child.
It's important to brush up on proper care practices such as regular grooming and baths. You are also responsible for researching breed specific needs such as common medical ailments and behavior issues, as well as advocating for your pet at the vet.
6. EVERYONE IS ON THE SAME PAGE
If you share your home with others, this is a non-negotiable. No matter how committed you are to taking care of your dog and no matter how many times you promise to handle all of the responsibility, you owe it to your housemates to ensure they are comfortable with the situation.
You also need to examine the context of your current living situation. If relationships are currently strained or fragile, brining a new dog into the home may not be the best idea. If you live with your partner, is your relationship in a stable enough place to welcome such a big change? If you have small children, do they understand how to approach an animal and respect its boundaries? If you have older children, are they expected to contribute to the dog's care? These are all questions you need to ask yourself and others in your household.
SO, ARE YOU READY?
Now that you've reached the end of our list, you might find yourself in one of two camps:
"I'm sore ready for a dog!"
or . . .
"Wait, am I ready for a dog?"
Whether this article reinforces your desire to get a dog or encourages you to think on it a little bit longer, the most important takeaway is that every dog deserves an attentive, loving owner. If you're willing to put in the time and effort to learn and grow together, you'll build a foundation for a strong bond and happy life together.