Am I Ready for a Dog?
by Jessi Larson
Dogs are a big commitment. Dogs are expensive. Dogs will change your lifestyle. You’ve heard the warnings. And yes, they’re all true. But don’t let the naysayers scare you. When you’re truly ready, owning a dog is the best thing in the world.
But how exactly do you know when you’re ready?
When we hold a super sweet dog in our arms, all rationale goes out the window. Before you rush out to pick out your new pup, however, make sure you meet these basic criteria.
You can be home often
The biggest challenge with new pet owners is that they underestimate just how much they have to be home for their dog. This is especially challenging when the dog is being potty trained. An 8-week-old puppy can only hold its bladder for two hours. At 12 weeks (three months), that number is three hours. It only goes up to four hours at 16 weeks (four months). Not taking your dog out sooner impedes their training, or even worse, causes health problems.
We’re not saying you have to take a leave of absence from work, but it’s important to have the option and flexibility to run home to let your dog out. Or, you have others in your home who can help out and it’s possible to rearrange schedules for your dog’s care.
If you just can’t be there for your dog this frequently, there are alternatives. You can hire a dog walker to let your pup out for you or drop them off at a doggy daycare. Be warned – neither of these options are cheap, but they do provide a very valuable service when you’re in a bind.
You want to be home often
If your social calendar is booked solid, and your evenings and weekends are filled with fun plans, it may not be time to commit to a dog just yet. Like kids, dogs will keep you tied to the house for a much greater portion of your time. It seems to be a natural progression of life for many where we slow down and start spending more time at home. If and when you reach this point, you’ll know. This is the time to consider getting a dog.
You have a solid savings account
Food, supplies, toys, treats, grooming, vet bills. Our furball friends aren’t cheap! Many expenses you can plan for. Others you cannot. Take for example, our trip to the veterinarian over Christmas when our dog Toby fell ill with pancreatitis. (Yes, apparently dogs can get pancreatitis, too. We learned something new.) That was a nice $400 bill we weren’t expecting.
Before you get a dog, make sure you’re in an OK place financially and have some extra dough in the bank in case of doggy emergencies. Believe us, they will happen.
Speaking of that, you can mitigate the risk by purchasing pet health insurance. Our friends over at Canine Journal put together an in-depth analysis of what this is, how it can help you and which providers are the best. Very helpful!
You’ve spent time around dogs
This may sound like a silly question. Everyone has been around dogs before. But have you really spent time with them? Like had to let them out, feed them, clean up their doo-doo, take them on walks? It’s a whole lot of work, my friend.
If you haven’t spent an extended period of time with a dog, we highly recommend petsitting for a friend or family. See what it’s like and whether you’re up for it.
You aren’t allergic
Before you welcome a dog into your home, you’ll definitely want to check whether you or a person in the house is allergic. Believe us, it is so painful to have to return a dog due to allergies. Just last year a co-worker of mine adopted a super sweet Corgi/Labrador mix named Minnie, spent a week bonding and then realized her husband was highly allergic to dogs. They sadly had to give up Minnie. She went to a very loving home and has a great life, but the whole ordeal was incredibly painful for my co-worker and her husband. Avoid this possible situation by getting tested for allergies first.
You’re OK with messiness
Dogs are sooooo messy. Having grown up with an energetic Chocolate Lab, I knew this, but it’s not until you have your own home (one you’re solely responsible for cleaning and maintaining!) that it really sinks in. If you have a dog who sheds, the hair is EVERYWHERE. Then there’s the slobber and the drool. And the digging into things. And creating a general mess everywhere they go.
As dog owners, we can definitely do our part to keep the house clean and tidy, but you just have to accept that things will never be pristine. Like ever.
You can commit for 10+ years
If all goes as planned, dogs live a good decade, sometimes more for smaller breeds. That’s a big chunk of your life. When you map out your next 10 years, do you see a dog there by your side? The answer must be a resounding “yes”!
So how did you do? Did you answer “Yes” to all of these? If you did, congratulations, you are ready to get a dog! If you said “No” to some, don’t fret – the timing might not be right just yet or you have a little more research to do. Also, don’t forget to trust your gut. Your instinct will steer you in the right direction!