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Am I Ready for a Dog? How to Prepare to Become a Pet Parent

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not you're ready for a new pet – your lifestyle, financial status, living situation, and emotional readiness. 

Am I Ready for a Dog? How to Prepare to Become a Pet Parent

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not you're ready for a new pet – your lifestyle, financial status, living situation, and emotional readiness. 

Many people love dogs, but how do you know when you're ready to get your own? Getting a dog can be an exciting time in a person's life. It's also a huge, life-altering decision that shouldn't be taken lightly. Instagram and Tiktok can make dog ownership seem like a walk in the park (no pun intended), but it can be more challenging than it looks online. While having your own dog can be incredibly rewarding, it can also be difficult – you have to make sure you're willing to take on all the factors that come with having a dog, not just the fun ones.

There are a few factors to consider when deciding whether or not you're ready for a new pet – your lifestyle, financial status, living situation, and emotional readiness. We'll be diving into each point, so you'll feel more comfortable making an informed decision when the time comes. 

Man hugs Sharpei dog

Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is the first thing to consider when deciding if you're ready for a dog. This involves things like your daily routine, your work schedule, and your availability. It takes a lot of time and energy to care for a dog, and it's up to you to decide if you're willing to dedicate the time daily to keep them happy and healthy.

If you love to sleep in or stay out late, consider how a dog might change that schedule. If you work long hours in the office most days of the week, you'll have to consider whether you're willing to pay for a dog walker or doggy daycare. If you have a busy and unpredictable social schedule, consider whether that's the best environment for a dog. Someone who travels a lot might also consider how dog ownership can impact vacations and travel plans. It can be challenging to factor your dog into your trips, especially if you travel by plane. Accepting that you might go on fewer trips once you get a dog is also essential.

Many shelters hesitate to let a younger person adopt a dog because their lifestyles tend to be less settled. If you're more settled and ready for the lifestyle change, that's a step in a great direction. 

Financial situation

Dogs are EXPENSIVE. Of course, there are the initial costs – adoption fees, a dog bed, toys, spay and neuter procedures, vet visits and vaccines, etc. – but the ongoing costs will really get you. Annual vet bills, dog food, grooming, and treats could quickly run you up a few thousand dollars a year, and that's not even considering a doggy daycare or dog walker if you need to hire one. We recommend setting up an emergency fund before you get a dog. This will give you something to fall back on if something happens.

Statistically, the first year of a dog's life tends to be the most expensive – they're growing up, learning right from wrong, and may eat a sock or two – and those emergency vet bills pile up quickly. In addition to an emergency fund, looking into pet insurance could save you thousands throughout your dog's life. If a sudden emergency would put you in debt, it's probably not the best time to get a dog. You want to ensure you can take care of yourself before taking on any additional responsibilities. 

Time and commitment 

If all goes well, your dog will likely live for 10-15 years. That's 10-15 years of planning your life around your dog, whether that's your vacations, living situations, or your day-to-day life. You also have to remember that you're not just adopting a cute, cuddly puppy – you're adopting a dog who will (hopefully) one day be a senior and could rely heavily on you for things like going to the bathroom and getting up and down the stairs if they have any health problems. If you're not prepared to commit at least a decade to a dog, you should reconsider adopting until you're ready to make that commitment.

Every dog is different, but most dogs require a minimum of 2-3 hours of dedicated attention per day, which includes walking, playing, feeding, grooming, etc. You can tailor your dog's schedule to fit your own, but the time commitment will generally be the same. 

Living situation

There are a few things to remember when considering whether your living situation suits a dog. The first and most important is if you're even allowed to have a dog where you live – many apartment buildings or complexes with landlords don't allow dogs in the first place. You want to ensure you live in a dog-friendly space before bringing a dog home, and it's even better if other dogs live nearby. Living in a place that encourages and celebrates dogs is very different from a place that merely tolerates them.

Some articles or people will tell you that apartments are unsuitable for dogs, but we disagree. In fact, sometimes apartment dogs get even more walks than dogs with big backyards. But what is essential is that your place is spacious enough for the basics – a comfortable dog bed, food bowls, water bowls, room to play, and windows to let in natural light.

Whether in a home or an apartment building, you also want to ensure you have ample access to the outdoors. Living close to a park guarantees your dog will spend plenty of time exploring and getting fresh air.

Australian Shepherd puppy chews on a stick

Understanding the breed

Every dog breed is different. Some breeds require way more time and energy than others, so it's crucial to pick a dog that fits your lifestyle. For example, Australian Shepherds are popular right now – they're gorgeous dogs, so it's easy to understand why. However, some people might get one without realizing how intelligent they are, their energy levels, and how much attention they require. If you're looking for more of a couch potato than a running buddy, an English Bulldog or a Basset Hound might be a better choice.

We recommend doing a ton of research before deciding on a breed. A pro tip is if you're in the market for a rescue dog – you can usually foster it before you decide to adopt. This way, you get to see firsthand how that particular dog fits in with your lifestyle and if they are the right dog for you and your family. 

Emotional readiness

Most people think about the time commitment when getting a dog, but few are prepared for the emotional toll pet parenthood can take - especially in the first few months. The 'puppy blues' are extremely common, which refers to feelings of anxiety, depression, or both after getting a dog for the first time. Adjusting your life to a dog may sound easy, but it can actually make you feel completely isolated from your previous life while you settle into your new routine.

You also have to be prepared for hiccups along the way – potty training, teething, and reactivity are all extremely stressful, and it's normal to feel stressed in those moments. Just know that if you feel this way, it won't last forever – when you get a dog, you're signing up for all the ups and downs.

Golden Retriever runs towards one of its owners

Family and household dynamics

If you live with roommates or family members, all household members must be on board with the new furry family member. If anyone doesn't seem thrilled, or if children are scared of dogs, that won't be the best environment for a dog to thrive.

If everyone is excited about the dog, you have to start discussing the split household responsibilities. Determining this before a dog arrives is necessary because you need to be realistic about how everything is going to get done. For example – you do the morning and afternoon potty breaks, while your significant other does the evening and before-bed potty breaks. You want to make sure there's always someone home to take the dog out, make sure the dog gets fed and can keep the dog company for a good portion of the day.

Preparing for a dog's arrival 

If you read this entire article and are still deciding to go forth with your decision to get a dog – wonderful! Now comes the fun part – preparing for your dog's arrival. Every dog’s needs will be different depending on their breed, whether they are an adult dog, senior dog, or a new puppy, and what their previous home life was like.

You'll, of course, want to do a lot of research about where you're getting your dog. Ensuring you're getting a dog from an accredited dog breeder or a reputable rescue is critical – ask for a complete health record and try to get as much information as possible.

Bringing home a new dog for the first time can be highly stressful for a dog, so remember to have patience and go slow. Remember the 3-3-3 rule when taking any dog home – it will take three days to stop feeling overwhelmed or nervous, three weeks to fully settle in and feel comfortable, and three months to build trust and a bond with you.

There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before you decide to get your own dog. Before making the big decision, consider your lifestyle, financial situation, living situation, family dynamics, and emotional readiness. Being a dog owner is truly the most rewarding experience, but we want you to be prepared for the not-so-glamorous side of it as well. And remember – even if now is not the right time, that doesn't mean it never will be! 

illustration of dog's tail & the dog is digging

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illustration of dog's tail & the dog is digging
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