“Should I get a dog?” They’re furry and sweet, they look at you with those big eyes and waggle their bums with joy with you walk in the room… but is a dog for you?
After years of dog sitting, I made the leap and decided to get my own dog. I had moved to a new town, away from my friends, and knew that I would have the time to devote to an animal and also need the companionship.
Enter Lady Bird, the number one hound in my life. Like Pringles and popcorn, you can’t just have one, so within a year I found myself with dog number two- Davy Crockett.
Since then I have become involved with several local animal rescues as well as “dog culture” in general. If you are wondering if a dog would be a right fit for you and your family, here are some questions and factors to honestly consider.
Should I Get a Dog?
1. Am I committed to this animal for its lifetime?
My dog, Lady Bird, was adopted as a puppy by another family. However, she was returned when she started growing bigger. In working with rescues, it is sadly common to see dogs adopted as puppies returned as adolescents or adults.
You need to ask yourself if you’re ready to work with this animal through the training and discipline required through youth and adolescence, activity required through its adult life, and health issues that may arise as it ages.
Animals are not disposable. You should be ready to take them when you move, when your relationships change, and when you have kids. They quickly give their full hearts to their family, and deserve the same in return!
2. Can I afford this animal?
Pets aren’t cheap! Based on the size of the animal, you can do the math to determine approximately how much it will cost to feed and medicate the animal every month. Some costs to consider are:
- Heartworm and flea/tick preventative
- Annual vaccines
- Grooming (if your animal requires that)
- Training (initial cost, more if needed)
- Boarding/Petsitting when you are away
So you have an idea, I will share how this breaks down in my household with two dogs.
- Food ~$35 per month
- Heartworm and flea/tick preventative ~$120 per year
- Annual vaccines ~$200 per year
- Grooming (if your animal requires that)
- Training (initial cost, more if needed) ~$150
- Boarding/Petsitting when you are away ~$40 per night
3. What kind of dog should I look for?
I unapologetically advocate adopting from a rescue or shelter. There are a lot of great animals waiting for homes. That said, go in with a clear idea of what kind of dog you have in mind, based on your lifestyle.
There are a lot of quizzes online that help match your needs with specific breeds of dogs. Do some basic breed research so you know which kinds do best with a lazy lifestyle, which can handle outdoor activities, which need frequent exercise, and what potential health issues lie ahead for different breeds.
When I looked for my first dog, I took it very seriously and I’m glad I did. I knew I wanted a larger dog that could be a hiking buddy- athletic, active, friendly.
I looked for two weeks and saw a lot of great dogs, but none that were the match I was looking for. Then I saw Lady Bird. Her demeanor is what immediately clicked. I went back and visited her several times over the next two weeks to try to get a good sense for her personality, and it was a match.
You don’t have to get a puppy!
I’d also like to suggest not just looking at puppies. Yes, they are ridiculously cute. But keep in mind puppies are MUCH higher maintenance than adult dogs.
Both of my dogs were adults when I got them, and I loved it. They were housebroken, more or less past the insanity phase, and were generally able to be trusted. One day I hope to adopt an older dog; many times they are overlooked, but make amazing companions.
Don’t be afraid to take your time and not take home a dog that just doesn’t feel “right”. Much like love of any kind, when you know you know.
I don’t write this to scare you away. Anyone who knows me knows that my dogs are my family, and I cannot imagine life without a dog. Going in with clear expectations and prepared for the logistics of dog ownership will allow you to have a much more full and stress free experience with your new furry family member! Just don’t call me when they steal your spot in bed and a bite of your sandwich.
Originally published July 27, 2015