Of all the things you shouldn’t purchase impulsively, dogs should be at the top of the list. While dogs are wonderful additions to the lives of most people, they aren’t right for everyone, and while it may be possible to find a loving home for a dog that doesn’t work out for your family, it isn’t easy to do so. This is also very hard on the dog – she just started getting to know you and now she has to go live with a whole new family.
This means that you should always weigh the decision to purchase or adopt a dog carefully, soberly and deliberately. To help you accomplish this, we’ve put together a list of the 8 most important things to consider before adding a four-footer to your family.
- Can you afford all the food, veterinary care and equipment your dog will need?Most people underestimate the financial burden dogs can represent. In addition to the purchase price of your dog (which you can almost entirely avoid by adopting a dog from a shelter), you’ll need to purchase a variety of items, including food dishes, crates, collars and leashes. You’ll also have to purchase food every few weeks and you’ll need to pay for your new pup’s veterinary care. While the love of a good dog is easily worth the costs, you can’t pay bills with love.
- Are you reasonably confident about what lies ahead of you for the next 10 to 15 years? If you know that you’ll be moving, starting school or changing jobs within the next few years, you’ll have to ensure that your dog’s needs are met in the process or avoid acquiring one in the first place. Adding a dog to your family is a long-term commitment and not to be taken lightly. Any significant life changes that occur in your life will also affect your pooch.
- Do you have the room to add another family member?While the average family dog probably weighs less than 50 pounds and stands less than 2-feet-tall at the shoulder, they require quite a bit of space to move around. If you live in a very small or overcrowded home, a new dog will only exacerbate these problems. Those that lack a lot of space, yet can be dissuaded from adding a dog to the family are wise to select a small breed, with a relatively low energy level.
- Do you have the time to dedicate to a dog?Simply walking, bathing and feeding your dog requires a significant amount of time, and you’ll have to perform many of these duties several times per day. Additionally, dogs need plenty of time, attention and love from their people, to ensure they do not develop emotional problems. Failing to give your dog the kind of attention she deserves is likely to cause serious problems down the road, which will compromise your available time even further.
- Are you willing to deal with the (often gross) aspects of responsible dog ownership?There’s no delicate way to put this, but dogs occasionally create messes of one variety or another. Their bodily functions may spill out onto your floor or they may dig up, play with and re-bury animal carcasses in the backyard. They’ll surely get crumbs and slobber all over the house, and they may even harbor fleas or other biting pests from time to time. If these types of things cause you to wince, you may not be cut out for dog ownership.
- Is everyone in your home or family supportive of the idea?A new dog will become a member of your family, and it is wise to ensure that everyone is on board with the decision before adding a new four-footer to your crew. Failing to do so all but guarantees tension, which isn’t good for the people or dogs in the house. This is not to suggest that everyone in your family must be equally excited about the prospect, or willing to help with the dog’s care, just that your family members must all be supportive of the notion.
- Do you have a vehicle suitable for transporting a dog?Although urban dwellers often get through life without a car, dog owners will normally find that having access to a car is necessary. Dogs are typically prohibited from mass transit and it is a rare cab driver that will allow your St. Bernard to hop in. Additionally, you must consider the possibility that your dog will need emergency veterinary attention.
- Do you travel frequently? Just as parents must make accommodations for their children before leaving town for business or pleasure, pet parents must make arrangements for the care of their dog before traveling. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a young neighbor willing to walk and feed your dog in exchange for a small fee, but most people will find it necessary to board their pet at a professional facility whenever they are unable to take their dog with them. Boarding is not exactly inexpensive and your dog probably won’t love the idea of going to a strange new place for several days at a time, so it is important to consider your traveling schedule before adding a dog to your family.
Consider each of the issues above before deciding to add a new pup to your home. If none of these considerations give you pause, you’ll probably enjoy your new pet thoroughly. Just remember that adding a dog to your family is a serious decision, which will affect the feelings of everyone in your family as well as those of the new dog.
But what about you? Have you ever purchased a dog that turned out to be a bad fit for your family? Have you ever made a hasty decision about a dog that you later regretted? Tell us all about it in the comments below.