What You Should Know Before You Adopt: Being a Responsible Dog Owner

Have you been thinking about getting a dog? A dog really is man’s (and woman’s) best friend, but owning a dog isn’t a privilege-it’s a responsibility. Owning a dog takes a lot of time, money, and commitment. Making a decision to get a dog shouldn’t be taken lightly. Here are some simple questions you should ask yourself before making your decision:

Why do I want a dog?

It sounds like a simple question, but really take the time to think about why you want a dog. Many people will get a dog, because they have had a sudden urge or fell in love with a puppy they saw (it’s hard to resist the cuteness we know), but making a quick decision could leave your poor dog looking for a new home all over again, or, worse case, at the shelter. It's important to understand what it takes to own a dog, so you can give them the forever home they need and deserve.

Am I prepared for the commitment?

When you adopt a dog it’s for life. Depending on the breed, that’s a time commitment of anywhere from seven to sixteen or more years. And keep in mind the time you need to make for your new family member daily as well. Dogs are pack animals and you become part of their new pack when you take them into your home. They are companion animals and need attention every day, even on the days you are tired. They require a lot of care, which includes feeding, exercising, grooming and socializing.

Can I afford a dog?

Owning a dog does cost money and according to the ASPCA, average costs for regular dog care are between/around $600 to $900 per year, not including any extras like emergency treatment, special medication or diets, or other unforeseen expenses. The cost for caring for a dog throughout their life can be costly and the expenses add up quickly.

Can I care for my dog?

Besides the basics; food, water, and the walk, you need to be responsible and take your dog to the vet at least once a year for a wellness exam, and twice a year once they become a senior. Caring for your dog includes making sure that they have all of their vaccinations and preventive treatment (against fleas, ticks, parasites, and so on). Another part of caring for your pet that many tend to forget about is emergency preparedness. In addition to your own evacuation kit/first aid kit, you’ll need one for your dog, whether your area is prone to fires, floods, tornadoes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters. You can learn more about pet preparedness here. The hardest part of caring for your dog comes at the end of their life, especially when they reach their golden years. You need to be emotionally prepared to make the right decision and for the right reasons when your dog’s health declines. That decision is based on their quality of life or lack of it, not prolonging it for your sake.

Is my home suitable for a dog?

What’s your living space like? Are you renting? If that’s the case, are you allowed to have pets? Do you have a yard? Do you have enough space for your dog? Depending on the breed, some dogs require more activity than others. These are all things to consider first before adopting.

Is it the right time for a dog?

Do you have young kids (under the age of 5) at home? Dogs can be pretty energetic, overly so for many young kids; children also need to be mature enough to care correctly for the dog. Do you work a demanding job or are you a student with a demanding schedule? Do you travel for work or are you in the military? If you won’t be around a lot, who will care for your dog? These are all important questions to ask yourself. As you can see there is much to consider before you adopt a dog, and we haven't even listed them all! The AKC is committed to helping dog owners raise happy, healthy dogs and they have created a list containing some of the essential ways you can be the best dog owner you can be. See their list here. Yes there is a lot of responsibility when it comes to caring for a dog, BUT the reward is priceless. A dog will provide unconditional love and loyalty. They will be there to greet you with excitement when you come home from a busy day, and they can even help relieve stress in your life - all you need to do is love them back and care for them responsibly!