I’ve had quite a few friends recently comment to me that they’re interested in getting a dog because they see the joy my two fur-kids bring and they want that in their lives. Who can blame them?
While I am clearly dog-crazed and think everyone should have a dog to make their life and hearts whole, when I sit down and consider it carefully, I unfortunately start to question if they are all really capable of the sacrifices it takes to be a responsible dog owner. There are so many things to consider before making the lifetime commitment.
As much as it breaks my heart to say it, if any one of the points listed below is an issue for you, please do not get a dog.
1. You can’t afford it
Dogs are expensive and, we’re not just talking about the adoption or breeder fee. Dogs can live anywhere between 8 – 16+ years. Veterinary care is costly, especially during the first year (estimates are generally in the $1,300 range). Canadian Budget Binder estimates that the lifetime cost of owning a dog is about $12,700. And, these estimates are only factoring in basic needs and general yearly wellness check ups. There’s always the chance of an unexpected emergency. Do you have an extra $4,000 lying around? If you’re not the type of person who is prepared to make financial sacrifices for your pet, a dog isn’t for you.
2. You are not home enough, or have to travel frequently for work
Dogs crave attention. They need love, companionship, exercise, and stimulation. If you are gone more than eight hours a day, a dog is not the right pet for you. With the growing availability of affordable local dog walkers and dog boarding, there seems to be an increase in the number of young professionals who believe that they are responsible enough to own a dog even though they are barely home. If you can foresee the possibility of job or social demands causing you to board your pup up to twenty days a month (!!), you should not get a dog. That’s not responsible pet ownership no matter how well cared for the pup may be; it’s having a fashion accessory to use at your convenience. It’s not fair to the dog.
3. Your schedule is inconsistent
Dogs also love consistency. They behave their best when they are on a schedule. Walking them around the same time every day, feeding them at a certain time; these things instill trust in your pup. And, a trusting pup is a well balanced and well behaved one.
4. You have allergies or don’t know if you have allergies
Most people assume that it is dog fur that causes allergic reactions. However, this is not actually case. While dog fur can stimulate allergies by attracting and carrying in dust and pollen from the environment, pet saliva and/or dander (flakes on the dogs skin) are usually the main culprits. If you don’t know if you or your family members have allergies, it’s worth a trip to the doctor for an allergy test before you purchase a pup. Of course, if you are dead set on getting a dog and are willing to suffer a little for endless love, there are things you can do to minimize your reactions. Do your research and find a dog that is known to cause minimal allergies. Just remember – nothing is 100% guaranteed. So, if there’s any doubt whatsoever that you won’t be able to tolerate potential allergies – do not get a dog.
5. You’re not sure if your apartment or condo is pet friendly
We see stories about this issue all too frequently. A person brings home a pup before asking their landlord and not even a week later they’re distraught while trying to re-home the poor pup online. Also, you might think you have more rights if you purchased a condo but, new condo laws are increasingly imposing limits on dog ownership and dog rules/etiquette. Make certain before you bring a dog home that your living situation is 100% dog friendly and you’re ready to work within any guidelines/limitations.
6. You are pregnant, might become pregnant, or just had a baby
While this one doesn’t always end poorly for the pup, it can still sometimes pose major problems. If you’re pregnant or plan to become pregnant, it probably isn’t the best time to bring home a new pup. New dogs are a lot of work and you’ve already got a lot of work headed your way, along with being in a more fragile state. Also, once you have the baby, it will take some extra mindfulness. Your pup, once the center of your world, might show bits of jealousy and act out. In addition to pouring out everything you have to your new child, you’ll have to pay close attention and teach your pup the proper way to interact with the baby. It’s a whole lot of work. It’s not impossible but if you’re unsure, wait until things are more settled to get a dog.
7. Your partner isn’t 100% on board
Bringing a new puppy home is a huge responsibility that requires teamwork. There are a lot of new rules to negotiate and you and your partner need to make sure you’re on the same page. Even if you are on the same page, having a puppy is bound to lead to some relationship growing pains. It is after all, much like having a baby. It is going to change the dynamic of your household. So, if your partner is wishy-washy about being ready to get a dog, don’t force the issue.
8. You don’t know the breed inside and out
So often people like the look of a dog and bring it home without knowing a single thing about the breed. Do your research. Every breed comes with a myriad of breed specific behaviors and health concerns. Know what you’re getting into. Having a dog is hard work. Make sure the breed you choose is right for your family and your living situation. If your lifestyle doesn’t match the personality of the breed you want, the potential of things not working out is highly likely. Do not get the dog.
9. You have specific expectations about how your dog should behave
There’s saying (I’m not sure who said it) that goes, “You don’t always get the dog you want, but you always get the dog you need.” I know that in my experience that saying has always been 100% true. You can do all the research in the world, you can know your breed inside and out, you can research bloodlines and get recommendations from other owners… but you can never ever guarantee the dog you get is going to behave exactly the way you want.
They are a lifetime commitment. Some need more training than others, some have issues that they might never recover from completely. And, really there is no such thing as a perfect dog 100% of the time. Your dog is a living thing and s/he’s going to make mistakes. The one thing that is guaranteed is that if you stick with your dog through the tough times, s/he will teach you things about yourself and make you a better person for it. But, if you aren’t confident that you will be able to work through any unexpected behavioral issues that arise with your pooch, you shouldn’t get a dog.
10. You are not prepared to make a lifetime commitment
Dogs are forever. Period. No excuses. If you don’t believe that – DO NOT GET A DOG.