The idea of bringing home a “new” dog is thrilling to all dog lovers. The notion is so enticing, in fact, that we often forget to consider what it involves. Whether you are planning on bringing home your first dog of your own or whether you are finally ready to bring home another dog after losing your last, it’s important to consider whether you are really ready for the commitment.
There's a number of articles out there on “what you should consider before adopting a dog,” so we've decided to give our own take on this, and present it to you from a different angle. First, here's what you must consider before ever bringing home a dog.
All the Commitment
Depending on the dog that you bring home, their health, the care that you provide, and a number of other things, your dog has an average life expectancy of between seven and seventeen years. This span is the same as raising an infant from birth to second grade or through to the end of high school. Let that sink in for a moment.
1. The financial commitment
Lifelong costs of owning a dog can get really, really high. For seven to seventeen (and maybe more) years, you have to foot the estimated $500 per year cost of living ($1270 for the first year) for your dog, plus any additional veterinary emergencies, accidents, or health conditions that occur. This is not optional; it is mandatory simply to provide basic healthcare, other necessities, food, and preventative care for your pooch.
You don’t have to provide a champagne-and-caviar lifestyle, but a failure to provide your new pet with a basic financial commitment can put their life at risk. In the very least, it will make their life uncomfortable.
2. The Time Commitment
In addition to the financial cost of having a dog, you must also be prepared to invest the time necessary to keep your dog healthy and happy. The general consensus is that your dog requires an average of 30 minutes to two hours of exercise per day depending on their age, breed, and health.
Are you able and willing to set aside that time for your dog’s lifetime? Are you willing to walk with them even when it’s raining, or hot, or cold outside? Are you willing to hire a pet sitter when you are unable to do the job yourself? Are you also willing to invest the time required to train your puppy and to keep up with that training?
A trained and tired canine is a happy canine, and a well-behaved pet. Without the necessary time commitment, your dog will quickly develop behavioral or emotional complications that will leave both of you miserable.
3. The Family Commitment
When other similar articles are written, they often neglect to include the “family commitment” consideration. The truth is though, that this is equally as important as being able to provide your pup with the exercise and basic care that they need.
Dogs are “pack animals”. This means that they live in families as social creatures. When you bring home your “new” dog, if your intention is to chain them in the backyard, leave them home alone for full days while you work or socialize elsewhere, or isolate them to certain areas of the home for long periods of time, you are not providing that dog with the family commitment they crave.
As a part of your “pack,” your dog should be included in everyday life. This is what some future owners fail to consider; a pet is not a toy – you're adopting a new family member, and just as you would with a child, they become a part of your daily life and part of your overall lifestyle.
Your newly adopted dogs should have the companionship needed to feel cared for, safe, and happy. Again, keep in mind that this family commitment is a lifetime deal: there is no pushing a family member out because someone new came along, there is no changing your mind when they get older and you no longer want the responsibility of care. Family is family.
4. The Health Commitment
When you accept responsibility for the care of a dog, you aren’t just accepting the everyday or “basic” circumstances; you must also accept responsibility for the unexpected. If your dog develops diabetes, a thyroid condition, or heart disease, you have to be committed to providing the care that those conditions require. Almost all pet owners will have to deal with health issues of their dogs, and it's unavoidable, and it can be expensive.
If you cannot afford that care, it is your job to find a way to fund it or to provide it for them. It won’t always be easy, but it’s what family do for each other and your dog is part of the family, remember? So you must be not only informed about the care and finances that relates to it, but actually be ready financially to provide the necessary healthcare, particularly for financial emergencies that may arise.
Just like humans, dogs can develop health conditions for various reasons and sometimes they come out of the blue. Despite being unexpected, as a pet parent, it’s your job to provide for your dog despite this condition and not to hand them off to a shelter when they show signs of frailty.
As someone who has had to turn to fundraising when their dog’s prescriptions reached a whopping $200 per month, I can tell you that it won’t always be easy, but with a commitment to make things work, you’ll find a way. It's just important that you think about this before you adopt your future pet.
5. The Friendship Commitment
As well as being your dog’s caretaker and their teacher, it is also your job to be your dog’s friend. You are going to be the center of your dog’s world and it’s your responsibility to understand that and fill that role.
Yes, you are going to be a parent, a trainer, and a disciplinarian, but you are also going to be your dog’s source of stability and comfort. This may sound like we are giving our dogs too much credit for feeling emotions in the way that we do, but research has evidenced time and again how strong of a bond dogs develop with their owners.
So, even when your dog has just chewed your favorite pair of shoes because they are still learning the ropes and even when they have “deliberately” ignored your commands, if your dog seeks your comfort, it’s your responsibility to provide it, for a lifetime.
Consider Your Life Situation
In light of the hefty commitments required of you as a future dog owner, it’s also important to consider your current life situation before adopting and bringing home a dog.
To meet the basic (and not so basic) requirements of providing for an animal, you must be in a position in your life to do so. This means that even if your entire existence revolves around bringing home a puppy, if the timing isn’t right, you have to be able to recognize that and wait until it is.
How do you know if your life situation is right? The answer isn’t the same for everyone, but if anything about the way you live now or plan to live in the near future will get in the way of providing the commitments we already covered, then the situation isn’t right.
There are many things that can cause a situation to be the “wrong time”, but some of the most common include these four below.
If you are focused on a difficult course of study or if you like to go out to party with your friends, you may not be able to properly provide for a dog. Those long classes mean that you will have limited time to devote to your dog’s care and studying means limitations on recreational time together after classes. Then we have the social life of a college student to consider – it’s just not the ideal situation for you or a dog.
Beginning a new career
Starting a new career is demanding on your time and your patience. It is no life for a dog in a new home to have to sit and wait for you to get home after overtime at the office while you learn the ropes, and it’s not fair to only provide your dog with half of the attention they deserve because you’re simply exhausted. Give things time to settle down before bringing home a dog so that you can both enjoy your time together.
Going through a major life change
Sometimes having a dog around during a major life change can really help – this is true for people going through the loss of a loved one and grief in particular. That said, sometimes, a new life change like a divorce can leave things so up in the air that it’s just not the right time to bring home a dog. It’s understandable to want to feel companionship and to feel the draw of having someone there when you get home from work, but give things time to settle first so that you can bring your dog home to a life of stability.
A new baby
For a reason that is unfathomable to many, a lot of new parents make the decision to bring home a puppy at the same time as bringing home their new baby. The theory is to have the child and the dog grow up together but having a baby and a puppy to care for at the same time is draining in every way you can imagine. If are already feeling stressed and overwhelmed, rather than trying to give more of yourself than you have to give, realize that this may not be the right time to bring home a dog.
If you look over this article and you don’t think you are ready for a dog right now, it’s important that you know that it’s okay to wait.
You may feel pressured by friends who work in rescues, by other dog lovers, or by your own desire for a furry companion, but know that it is more important that you are able to provide fully for your “new” dog than it is for you to bring home that dog today. When you are ready and able to commit to a dog fully, there will still (sadly) be many dogs in need of a forever home like yours.