A dog can be a wonderful addition to a family. Dog ownership comes with many perks: they teach kids about responsibility, guard your home, and provide loyal companionship. However, owning a dog can also be challenging, so it's important to consider several factors before you decide whether a pet dog is right for you. Here’s where to start.
While having a dog is not as expensive as raising a human child, taking care of a fur baby still costs money. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), ongoing care for a dog can cost over $1,000 a year. Make sure you have funds to cover regular expenses like food, toys, and routine vet visits. You’ll also want backup funds in the case of a pet emergency, like an injury or illness. You can also invest in pet health insurance to help cover your dog’s medical expenses.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), part of your responsibility when you get a dog is to train them. Working with a certified dog trainer can help. Just remember that you still need to dedicate time and energy to reinforce training at home, outside of your pup’s training sessions. Proper training ensures that your dog will behave and obey you, so together you and your dog can enjoy an active, social life.
Sure, we all know that dogs require regular visits to their vet, but they also require routine care and maintenance. Every. Single. Day. You need to have the time and energy to brush your dog's fur, trim your dog's nails, and brush your dog's teeth regularly to keep them happy and healthy. “It helps to train your dog to like the experience, which can take some time and effort," says Amanda Dykstra, DVM, DABVP, clinical assistant professor at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
Even though dogs can entertain themselves some of the time, make sure you give them some time and attention, too. Dogs that don't spend enough time with their humans can develop depression or separation anxiety. According to the ASPCA, this can lead to negative behaviors like barking, howling, and destructive chewing. If you lead a busy life, you can still have a dog —just consider investing in options to keep your dog engaged and active while you’re away most of the day. You can hire dog walker to come at least once a day to take your dog out for a walk and play with them. Or, you can enroll your pooch in doggy day care.
To make sure your dog is comfortable and friendly in a wide range of situations, take the time to socialize them with other animals and other people. “I recommend introducing puppies to all sorts of experiences early to decrease the risk of them behaving inappropriately when they encounter those experiences later," says Dr. Dykstra.
Most dogs do well with all types of people when they’re socialized from an early age. However, if you rescue a dog from a shelter, you may have to consider the dog’s past experiences and practice caution when exposing your pup to new people and places. Also, if you are going to get a dog, take your children into consideration (or future children, if you're planning to start a family someday). Certain dog breeds love kids, while others are tougher to train and don’t always behave around tiny humans.
Once you've considered everything that goes into caring for a pet pup, you can make an informed choice about whether you're ready to take the plunge. Though if you’re still not sure, consider fostering a dog first to see if you’re truly ready to be a full-time pet parent.