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How Do I Know If I’m Ready for a Dog?

It’s a scene that’s all-too-familiar (both in the movies and IRL): Child sees puppies for sale. Child begs parent for dog. Parent counters with “the amount of responsibility” that comes with owning a dog. Child pleads. Parent caves. Happiness ensues. Puppy kisses all around. Roll credits.

And while we wish deciding to get a dog was this simple and serendipitous, there are a lot of other factors prospective owners would benefit from considering. What the above scene doesn’t show is what happens if there isn’t someone around to help take on dog ownership responsibilities, if the pup unexpectedly gets sick, or if it develops challenging behaviors.

While thinking through these aspects of dog ownership may not be as glamorous or “fun” as making a spur-of-the-moment decision to buy a puppy or adopt a dog, they’re important to consider—and can help prevent problems from arising in the future that result in a pup being rehomed.

Today, we’re digging into three questions future dog owners can ask themselves to help evaluate their readiness for a pup.

1. Can I commit to all aspects of dog ownership?

Many aspects of dog ownership are wonderful (long walks, companionship, training and playing, etc.) Some aspects of dog ownership are less wonderful (middle-of-the-night pee breaks when potty training, working through problematic behaviors, dealing with unexpected illness and injury, etc.) It’s important to consider whether you can commit to supporting a dog through everything—ideally, for its entire lifespan—before you get a dog.

Dogs do best when they have a consistent, supportive home for their entire life. Rehoming a dog can lead to significant behavior challenges (not to mention, mental and emotional distress for both you and the pup). As such, it’s important to consider if you’re ready for all parts of dog ownership and to ensure you can support your future pup for its entire life.

2. Am I at a place in my life where getting a dog makes sense?

There’s a reason that dogs are known as [wo]man’s best friend: They are great companions and bring significant joy to their human counterparts. As such, it can be tempting to get a dog during times of change or emotionally-charged periods. Think: after a breakup or divorce, during a pandemic, when moving somewhere new, to celebrate a holiday or birthday, etc.

And it makes sense, right? Feeling lonely after a cross-country move? A dog provides companionship! Excited to surprise your husband for Christmas? What better gift than a dog!

But what happens when you’re at work all day after your big move with no one to look after your new pup? And what about when your husband isn’t completely on-board with having to train or go on walks with your new dog every day?

Often, dogs adopted or purchased on emotional whims often end up being rehomed. Take, for example, the fact that animal shelters see a spike in relinquishments after major holidays like Christmas, or that many of the 23 million US households that got a dog during the pandemic have since given their pet to the shelter.

Why does this happen? Many who opt to get a dog for purely emotional reasons romanticize dog ownership and overlook its realities. Not to mention—getting a dog during times of significant change or for a purely-emotional reason can lead to behavior challenges. Dogs thrive off consistency and discipline, and, if you’re in a place (physically, mentally, or emotionally) where you won’t be able to provide that, dogs could develop problematic behaviors.

As such, it’s important to take the time to evaluate if you’re in a place where getting a dog truly makes sense.

3. Do I have the financial means to support a pup?

Real talk: Owning a dog isn’t cheap. In addition to the cost of buying or adopting your pup (which can range from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars), here are some other up-front expenses to consider:

  • Collars

  • Leashes

  • Grooming materials

  • A kennel

  • Initial vet visits

  • Vaccinations

  • Spay/neuter surgery

Additionally, future dog owners should budget for the following expenses that extend beyond those up-front expenses:

Though expenses can vary widely, you should be prepared to budget a few hundred bucks a month for your pup.

Wrapping Up:

Getting a dog is an exciting life event. And, by taking the time to carefully consider if you’re ready for all aspects of dog ownership, you can set yourself—and your future furry friend—up for success. Though there are many things to consider before getting a dog, these three questions are a good place to start.

Looking for more resources on how to choose a dog? Our newest guide covers everything you need to know about choosing a dog—and includes a ton of worksheets and resources to help you make a well-informed decision. Sign up for our newsletter today (at the bottom of this page!) and be the first to know when it goes live!

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