The decision to get a dog is a huge one and not to be taken lightly. You are taking on responsibility for a living creature - one that needs you to be able to meet all of its needs and provide it with appropriate nutrition, training, and exercise. It’s easy to get lost in the thrill of bringing a new furry member into your family (especially if it’s your first dog), but preparing yourself and knowing if you’re really ready for a dog will make the transition easier on everyone. Here are a few things to consider before you bring home a dog!
Take An Honest Look At Your Lifestyle
Choosing to get a pet is often an emotional decision. Many times, people see a cute dog online or in a pet store and make a spur of the moment choice. This can work out just fine, but too often it results in dogs being returned, abandoned, or neglected. Taking a good hard look at your lifestyle can prevent this!
Some important things to consider are:
Why do you want a dog? Are you looking for companionship, a working dog, or an exercise partner? Some breeds are better suited for different tasks.
Do you work long hours and are away from home more often than not?
Do you live in a small apartment with no outdoor area? Is there an outdoor area close by?
Do you like to spend the majority of your free time away from the house? Do you want to attend pet friendly events or prefer to leave your dog at home?
Do you have children or intend to within the lifespan of your dog? Children require a lot of time themselves. You’ll have less time to spend with your dog and not all dogs are “kid friendly.”Consider what accommodations will need to be made when adding any new member to the family.
Do you have the time and patience to commit to not only basic care, but also training and the transition period? Puppies and adult dogs will often need weeks or months to settle in a new home. They’ll need your patience and support to become comfortable.
Do you have a consistent and reliable source of income?
You might find that your lifestyle isn’t really suited for a dog at this time unless you make some changes, but be realistic with your expectations. It is highly unlikely that you will drastically change your lifestyle to fit a dog’s unique needs. If you prefer to relax on the couch on the weekends, don’t expect to start running 5 miles every day with your new Australian Shepherd.
Is Everyone In The Family On Board?
Dogs require a lot of work. They need feeding and exercise and lots of attention. If you have a partner and/or kids in the home, is everyone committed to caring for your new family member? Figure out who will be responsible for what tasks. Have a plan to ensure your dog’s needs are being met and what you’ll do when schedules get busy. If not everyone is willing/able to help out, are you prepared to be the sole caregiver for your new dog?
Having a dog provides an excellent opportunity to get older children involved with basic animal care. They will learn about responsibility, respecting animals, and following directions. Whether it’s feeding, walking, or cleaning up the yard, giving everyone a task makes the workload easier for the family.
If you have roommates, they need to be consulted as well. Are they willing to share their space with a dog? Will they require your dog to be crated or kept in your room when they’re home? Are there any other pets in the house that may create conflict? Prevent future problems by confirming that everyone in the household is in agreement.
Decide On Your Dog’s Diet
There is a huge variety of foods available for dogs, and the choice can be overwhelming at first. Before you bring a dog home you should decide on what you plan to feed. This will help you in the next step (creating a budget) and give you a better understanding of caring for a dog.
Remember, the time to research dog food is before you have a hungry one in front of you. Luckily for us, the internet can provide a world of resources!
Dogs are carnivores and require a diet that is biologically appropriate to live their best lives. We recommend a raw diet as the most appropriate!
Conventional dog food as we know it (kibble) is highly processed, contains unnecessary fillers, and many contain questionable ingredients. And while a dog can survive on a kibble diet, they will truly thrive when fed the diet they were designed to eat.
While we believe raw food is the best choice for dogs as a whole, realistically it might not work for everyone. Maybe it’s too expensive or perhaps it’s just not something you want to pursue at this time. There are other options available including freeze dried, dehydrated, cooked, and canned. Take the time to research brands, ingredients, sourcing, and recalls.
Regardless of what you choose to feed, doing your research is time well spent. Below are a few resources to help you out.
And if you have any questions about diet you can text Real Dog Box for guidance at 858-348-5954!
Create a Budget
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting a new dog and forget the little (big) details. One thing that often gets overlooked is how much your dog will actually cost. Before you even look at potential dogs, you need to figure out how much you can afford.
First of all are the upfront costs involved with getting a dog. Adoption and breeder fees are vastly different. Some shelters run free adoption specials but typically it’s anywhere from $100-$300. Buying from a breeder will almost always be over $1000, sometimes up to $5000. After you have your dog, vaccines, spay/neuter procedures, licensing, bedding, crates, bowls, and collars/leashes all add up very quickly!
Next, look at your monthly budget. How much is left over for dog food, poop bags, treats, training classes, pest prevention, vet bills, and any other things your dog might need regularly like grooming or medication?
Remember, the bigger, and more active, the dog the more food it needs, and the more that will cost you. Will your dog need daycare or a dog walker to come by while you’re at work? Add that into the budget!
You might also want to think about pet insurance or a pet savings account as another monthly expense. Life happens and dogs can get sick or injured. Are you financially able to get your dog the medical care it needs if it were to have an accident? The US average for emergency surgery starts at $1800 and can be as high as $5000! With insurance you’ll still have to pay upfront, but you can get reimbursed up to 90% in most cases. If possible, I would recommend having a savings of at least $2000 for pet emergencies. If you don’t have insurance, most vets will work out a payment plan if you can put a certain amount down up front. This will ensure your dog can get the help it needs with no delay.
Once you know how much money you can afford to spend monthly on a dog, you can make a better decision about what dog is right for you.
Deciding On A Dog
This is where all of the other pieces come together. You have decided your lifestyle suits a dog, you have a plan for it’s care, diet, and training, and you know what you can afford. Now the most exciting part! Deciding on the right dog for you!
Purebred dogs have a breed standard so you can expect a certain amount of consistency in personalities and characteristics, and certain breeds are better suited for different lifestyles. Mixed breeds come with a few more questions but can be amazing additions to your family as well. There are even breed specific rescues if your heart is set on a specific type. (Check out our article Before you get your dog. Breeder vs rescue.) No matter which direction you go it’s important to be realistic about the type of dog that will be best for your situation.
Border Collies and other herding dogs are incredibly smart and easy to train. But they’re also extremely high energy, often nervous, and can be nippy with children and other animals. Frenchies and other brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs are adorable, but if you are looking for a jogging partner they are not a good choice as their breathing is negatively affected by their smushed faces. Huskies tend to be large and vocal, so they might not be great for an apartment. Beagles like to wander, so a good fenced yard is a must. Terriers were generally bred to hunt small prey and may not be the best choice if you also keep cats, rodents, or other small pets.
As you can see, each dog breed will have its pros and cons. You can never be 100% sure what your dog’s personality or tendencies will be like, but it’s still smart to do some preliminary research. If you decide on a mutt, ask the shelter or rescue a lot of questions. Try to get a feel for the individual dog’s personality, preferences, and what their lifestyle needs to look like for them (and you) to be happiest.
Besides personality and activity level, some dogs require more regular maintenance than others. Labs for instance need minimal grooming, while poodles and pomeranians will need regular attention to keep their coats healthy and tangle free and you might need to pay a professional for this.
Other breeds, like English Bulldogs, are prone to health issues like skin allergies and cherry eye that may require medication or regular vet visits. This doesn’t mean your dog is sure to have problems, but it is a possibility you need to consider.
Here are a few breed suggestions to match specific needs. Remember, these are averages and common traits for these breeds but every dog is different.
High Energy - Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, German Shepherd, Labrador
Couch Potatoes - French bulldog, Shih Tzu, Pug, Basset Hound, Great Dane
Best Family Dogs - Labrador, Bull Dog, Golden Retriever, Beagle, Pug
Most Health Issues - Cocker Spaniel, German Shepherd, Bull Dog, Golden Retriever
Longest Lifespans - Typically small/toy dogs. Chihuahua, Yorkshire Terrier, Boston Terrier, Dachshund
Shortest Lifespans - Typically giant breeds. Great Danes, French Mastiff, Irish Wolfhounds, Bernese Mountain Dog
High Prey Drive - (May not be suitable for houses with small pets) Rhodesian Ridgeback, Bull Terrier, English Springer Spaniel
This is by no means a definitive list. If there is a particular breed you are interested in, do extensive research to see if their activity level, health, and temperament fit your needs.
Planning For Extra Expenses
Life happens and dogs can get sick or injured. Are you financially able to get your dog the medical care it needs if it were to have an accident?
If it’s in your budget you may want to consider pet insurance. You’ll still have to pay upfront, but you can get reimbursed up to 80-90% in most cases.
What Is Your Training Plan?
There are so many training styles out there and it’s truly a personal decision. Whether you choose force free, balanced, e-collar, or something else entirely, your dog will need some form of training to be a well-behaved canine citizen. It is highly unlikely that any dog you bring home will already be the lady or gentleman you’re hoping for, even if it’s not a puppy. Having a training plan in place before you get your dog will set you both up for success.
Do your research. Contact local trainers to find out rates, references, if they’re taking new clients and what their training experience is like. Decide what type of training you’d like to pursue and how it will fit into your schedule. There’s a lot to learn when getting your first dog, but you might find that training gets easier and can be done on your own once you learn the basics.
Having a properly trained and well behaved dog decreases the likelihood of rehoming. According to the 2015 ASPCA Rehoming Survey, 46% of rehomed dogs were because of pet problems, such as barking, chewing, and aggression towards other pets. Avoiding problems from the get go is everyone’s best bet for a happy home!
Enjoy Your New Family Member
Congratulations on your new best friend! Whether this is your first dog or 5th, it is bound to be a wonderful and exciting experience. Dogs enrich our lives so much. They make us smile, keep us active, and introduce us to a whole new community of fellow dog lovers. Enjoy the journey every step of the way!