Should I get a dog?

Bringing a dog into your family is a big responsibility. Here are a few areas to consider to see if you're ready for the commitment.

by Good Dog - Staff

It’s not hard to give your heart to a new dog, but offering up enough time and energy to be a responsible dog parent can be a different story. When you’re considering the possibility of bringing a dog into your family, you’re really considering one of the biggest commitments you can possibly make. A pup can bring an infinite amount of love into your home, but providing the nurturing home he or she deserves takes a whole lot of work.

The first thing you should reflect on is why you want to bring a new dog into your life in the first place. Sometimes people decide at the spur of the moment that they need a new dog in the same way they get a sudden craving for sweets— the instant gratification of puppy cuddles is incredibly tempting. The prospect of unconditional love is also exciting, and just like people sometimes enter into relationships to fix a problem or fill a void, people often get dogs for the same reason, without thinking of the long-term responsibilities and ramifications.

Unfortunately, this lack of planning often leads to unhappy matches between people and puppies. Dog parents may become frustrated and overwhelmed. Puppies may begin to feel confused without attention and boundaries, and bad behavior might start to develop. When a dog parent can’t devote the energy and resources required, it can make for some messy situations and difficult decisions, from returning a puppy to a breeder or even abandonment.

Dogs live substantial lifetimes (up to 15 years), require daily attention and care, and are particularly high maintenance as puppies. If you feel that you cannot absolutely commit to the tasks necessary in raising a behaviorally healthy dog, it might not be the right time.

Here are a few major areas to consider when thinking about whether it’s the right moment for you and your family to get a dog.

Time Commitment

Getting a puppy, or a grown dog, is no light time commitment. Any new puppy owner can tell you about the nights spent awake, shoes chewed up, or midnight walks around a block with a dog that just won’t go. Then add in all the vet appointments, pet supply shopping, and hours spent training your dog, and you’re giving a serious share of your time to puppy parenting.

A lot like having a child, bringing a dog into your family means you are now responsible for another living being whose needs often come before your own. That means you won’t be able to sleep in the extra 20 minutes because your pup needs a walk or you can’t make those last minute plans because you can’t find a doggy caretaker.

Puppies are especially high maintenance, and like kids, how you treat them early in life determines how they’ll grow and act over the course of their lives. Lots of playtime and the right care can lead to a true best friend; ignoring a pup early on might create bad habits and behavioral issues that cause stress for both you and the puppy.

Financial Commitment

Bringing a dog home is a long-term financial commitment that might even require a bit of sacrifice. Your first year together can cost upwards of $2,000 on top of the initial purchase price or adoption fee, due to all the new gear, toys, and medical care you’ll be investing in; after that, general dog parenting can cost hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars per year. And those estimates, while already a bit steep, don’t even factor in the price of unpredicted, special medical care. As you bond with your dog, you’re going to want to do whatever it takes to keep him or her healthy, which can often turn into very expensive veterinarian bills.

If you work all day and can’t bring your dog into the office, you’re also going to need a dog walker or day care, and that daily bill adds up fast.

We know that there’s nothing like having a happy, healthy pup in your life, but also recognize that sometimes, life throws us unexpected and very expensive curveballs. If that’s happened to you and caring for your dog has become a true financial burden, to the point that you don’t think you can do it anymore, please reach out to us. We can help you figure out your options, from seeking financial resources to finding a safe new home for your dog. Our goal is to help you while reducing the number of animals living in shelters, making life easier and conditions safer for our dogs.

Education & Training Commitment

It’s true that to some degree, certain behaviors and traits are just inevitably going to be part of some dogs’ personalities. Before they became man’s best friend, they were bred for thousands of years to serve different functional purposes, like hunting and guarding, and genetics still play a part in dog behavior. But nowadays, what matters most is how a dog is bred, raised and trained.

If you want a happy and healthy relationship with your dog, focusing on training and socialization (with other animals, humans, etc) from the very start is a must. And we’re not just talking “roll over” and “sit” or other cute tricks. Like a small child, your dog will experience the world in large part through you, which means that it’s your job to prepare and support him or her with attention, love, and boundaries. This not only means time but also dedicated effort to educate yourself and find the best information and resources to care for your puppy.

Spending time understanding the needs of your puppy and training your dog early on will lead to better interactions with humans and other dogs alike, whether you’re at the dog park, on a walk, or at the vet.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind...

It might get a little messy.

You may be imagining a perfect life with your future dog, but it’s not all sunny walks in the park and cuddle-fests. Dogs can be messy, especially when they’re puppies. They might decide to entertain themselves by destroying a couch cushion or surprise you with an unpleasant puddle, and well, it’s going to be on you to clean it up.

You’ll have to have some patience and flexibility with your pup, especially in the early days when they’re still learning the ropes. If that sounds like a little too much chaos for you, you might want to reconsider whether a puppy — or any dog — is the right fit for your home. That being said, your dedication to proper training will help keep things under control but you can’t expect your puppy or dog to be perfect.

Is everyone in your home on board?

It’s important to make sure that everyone in your family or home is on board with the decision to get a dog. If they’re not, it might present tension or issues in the long term. It’s also important to think about things like allergies and make sure you find the right breed if you need a dog that is hypoallergenic.

How might your lifestyle change?

It’s also helpful to think about how your circumstances might change over the dog’s lifespan and make sure you still see yourself in a position where you can provide a loving home for your pup. A move to a big city with a smaller apartment or a new child may change what you’re looking for.

Do your homework on the right dog for you.

If you’re still nodding your head after considering all of that, now might be the right time for you to provide a loving home to a canine companion.

Before you pull the trigger, we encourage you to do your research on the traits of your desired dog and to think about how their needs and personality will fit into your family and lifestyle. For example, you may have fallen in love with a Siberian Husky but didn’t realize they need lots of time and space to run or that the Australian Shepherd you had in mind might end up herding and knocking over your toddler while they’re learning how to walk.

If you’re still not sure, feel free to talk through any and all questions with your breeder, shelter or rescue. Responsible sources love to share their knowledge and have years worth of hard won insights.

Getting a new dog means that there will be a lot of hard work, money spent, and messes cleaned up on the horizon. But it could also lead to one of the most rewarding relationships in your life. If you have the right resources and patience, we can’t wait to help you find a dog. If you want to pause a bit before getting a dog, that’s a great decision, too, and we’ll be here if and when it’s time!