Am I ready for a dog? If you’re considering bringing a dog into your family, you’ve probably asked yourself this question. If not – you should! It’s a decision that comes with a lot of responsibility.
There are many important factors you should consider before getting a dog. So let’s just get right to it and start with the basics. And please – if you’re unsure if you can handle the years-long commitment to a dog, wait until the time is right.
Am I ready for a dog?
Getting a dog is going to impact your family in so many good ways. The love of a dog is unconditional. And you’ll be the giver and recipient of so much love for around 10-13 years. Depending on the size of the dog and breed, you’ll be looking at at least a decade of loving your dog.
Be prepared to bring your new family member along for whatever comes your way in the next decade or so.
Average Life Expectancy of Dog Breeds
There are many factors that play into the life expectancy of dogs.
- In general, large breeds don’t live as long as small breeds.
- Spaying or neutering your dog can increase their lifespan.
- Inbreeding can decrease the lifespan of a dog.
I found this incredible resource from Canine Journal to give you a good idea of the average life expectancy of the most popular breeds.
Of course, you can’t guarantee how long you’ll get to love on your dog, but it’s definitely something to consider when choosing a dog.
Think about the next decade of your life. Where will you be in three years, five years, or even 10+ years? Because wherever you’ll be is where your dog should be.
I understand that sometimes there are uncontrollable circumstances that cause loving owners to have to surrender or rehome their dogs.
But, deciding you’d rather live somewhere else by choice that doesn’t accept Fido or realizing that your dog actually grew out of the adorable puppy phase is not an uncontrollable circumstance.
Do you plan to quit your job and travel the world in a few months? Probably not the best time for you to get a dog. Are you heading off to college in a few years to live in the dorms? Probably not the time for you to get a dog. Is your schedule so jam-packed every day that you barely have time to breathe? Nope – it’s not the time for you to get a dog.
I’ll tell you from personal experience – Dogs cost money. If you can barely feed yourself or pay your bills each month, now might not be the right time to get a dog. You need to be prepared for the financial commitment of getting a dog.
- Adoption Fees (or cost if you’re buying from a reputable breeder)
- Food – this cost increases significantly with bigger dogs
- Fence (if you end up with an escape artist as we did)
- Boarding or Pet Sitting if you go out of town
- Dog Walker if you have to be gone for long periods of time each day
- Well visits/sick visits with a vet
- End of Life Care
Over a decade or more, these costs can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. I’m not saying only the wealthy should own dogs – not at all. But make sure you are committed to spending money on your new family member.
Real Life Cost Story
Here’s an example of a real-life situation that we endured with our sweet dog, Charlie. He became very strange acting one night – not crying out, but pacing and continually going outside to the very back of our yard. It was late at night and that wasn’t normal behavior for him.
He had a long history of having every problem under the sun, so at first, we thought we might just need to take him to the vet in the morning. However, the last time he came inside, I noticed that his midsection was noticeably shifted. We rushed him to the emergency vet and it turned out he had GDV – Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), otherwise known as bloat.
Long story short – this is where their stomach dilates and rotates or twists. It’s a true emergency that often ends in death. We had emergency surgery and some very touch and go monitoring for two days at the vet. Thankfully, our sweet pup pulled through and lived another 5 and 1/2 years after the surgery.
Total Cost – $6000
Yep – Six grand.
Was it worth it? 100% and I’d do it again in a second.
Not everyone can pay for a surgery that may not even save their dog’s life and I completely understand that. But, this was one of many costly expenses that we incurred over the course of 13 and 1/2 years with Charlie.
The most important thing is to realize that you’re taking on the responsibility of your dog for the duration of his or her life. It can be costly and you have to make sure that you can afford to provide the proper care for your new fur baby.
Take a look at your monthly budget and make sure you have enough in there to cover the necessary expenses. Consider starting a separate account just for your pet babies. Even if you can only put an extra $20 each month, it will start to add up over the course of the years.
Daily Time commitment
Not only do you have a decade or more of a time commitment to caring for your new baby, but you need to make sure you have ample time in your daily schedule to devote to your new dog. If you’ve ever had children, you know what it’s like to get up several times a night for feedings and diaper changes.
Well, a new puppy is going to bring those memories flooding back. You’ll feel like you have a newborn again with all the getting up and letting them out to go to the bathroom.
If you’re bringing a brand new puppy into your home, you’ll need plenty of time devoted to training. Dogs don’t come with instruction manuals and they have to be taught proper behaviors. There’s crate training if you choose that route, behavior training, potty training, leash training – the list goes on and on.
You might choose to crate your dog during the times you are away from the house. We did this and it worked wonders. As he aged, we didn’t even have to close the crate door for Charlie – he loved it there. It was his safe space at night or when we were gone. But it takes time and patience for some dogs to love a crate.
Charlie got to the point that he didn’t need it during the day at all, but up until he was around 12, he still slept in his crate every night voluntarily. We never used the crate as punishment – it was meant to be his safe haven.
If you’ve ever potty trained a dog or a child, you know how trying this can be. It can feel like you’ll never get there. There will be accidents in the house most likely. And I can promise you that you’ll do your part, take out your new fur baby, you’ll think the business is over, and then he/she will come straight into your house and pee.
You’ll need to take them out first thing in the morning, after eating or drinking, at night before bed, and depending on the size and age of a puppy, they could need to go out every 2 hours. You can’t expect to get a puppy, leave it at home all day alone and not have accidents in your house.
If you can’t manage the time of potty training a new puppy, consider adopting a dog that’s already house trained. There’s still going to be a learning curve with a new environment, but not nearly as much as a tiny puppy.
In our first house that we brought Charlie home to, we had his crate in our bedroom on the main level. When he had to go out multiple times a night, we had to get him out of the crate, go through the living room, onto the back deck, and down lots of stairs into the yard. There were many nights of us running through the house and dashing down the stairs like crazy people.
I can’t say we ever mastered the art of behavior training with our sweet boy Charlie. But we gave it a solid effort. He didn’t have a good start in life. When he and his siblings were rescued, they were found tied up outside and left after someone had moved. He was a brand new puppy and left alone pretty much to starve to death.
Thankfully, they were rescued by an amazing group and all were adopted. But we had to deal with some behavior issues from the start. We enrolled in a 10-week puppy class and I’m pretty sure he was the worst one there. He was aggressive with food, with putting a collar on, and pretty much anything else you needed him to do. But – he was our baby. We were committed to him for the long haul.
There were many days and nights of tears or frustration – it once took me and my husband 15 minutes to get a collar on a 15-pound dog. Think about that one. 15 minutes to snap a collar around his neck. We had to hand feed him to solve his aggressive food behaviors (which worked like a charm). But we also endured lots of bites and nips along the way.
We invested a lot of time out of our lives to making sure he was happy and healthy and that we could all live together in peace. Be prepared to invest some time into behavior training if you plan to get a dog. I’d say you need at least a minimum of 20 minutes a day devoted solely to training your new baby for the first few weeks or months.
Dogs need exercise. Just like us, they need to get out and move. Not only does it tire them out, but it keeps them from getting bored and looking for trouble like chewing up your furniture.
They need stimulation, socialization, and the health benefits of daily exercise.
If you aren’t willing to walk them, play fetch, or some other type of exercise every day, then now is not the right time for you to get a dog.
It’s a daily commitment, rain or shine – you’ve got to be able to let them burn some energy off each day and sometimes multiple times a day depending on the age and breed of the dog.
When we first adopted Charlie, my husband and I didn’t have little kids at home. And we both had daytime hours at work and he had the flexibility to come home at lunch and let Charlie out. This made it easy for us to fit in plenty of exercise for our new dog.
Think about your daily schedule. Do you have time to spend an extra 20 minutes each morning walking a dog before you go to work or school? Are your nights so crazy with activities, sports, or a job that you don’t even get home until late every night? Now may not be the right time for you to get a dog.
Or if you absolutely hate exercise and can’t ever see yourself going on a walk – you might be better suited to a different type of animal. Because dogs are movers – endless balls of fluffy and furry energy that need exercise during certain phases of their lives.
Do You Have Room For A Dog?
Think about your current living situation and where you anticipate living in the next decade. I know we can’t predict the future, but just know that wherever you live, you have to be able to accommodate a dog.
You don’t need a huge house and acres of land. But if you have no yard and live in an apartment, you need to consider all the aspects before getting a dog. It’s 100% doable to have a dog in an apartment. You’ll just have different methods of exercising and potty training your dog than someone with a yard. There are millions of happy and healthy dogs that don’t have big yards.
If you have three roommates and everyone is not on board with having a dog in the house, then it’s not the right situation for you to get a dog.
Consider the fact that you may need to put up a fence or install an underground fence. Does your housing situation allow fences and if so, can you afford it? You could need a few thousand bucks for a fence at a minimum depending on the size of your yard.
Our dog was a flight risk. For whatever reason, he became psychotic the second he ever escaped from our house. And he didn’t just take himself on a leisurely stroll – he was one of those frantic crazy runners (kinda like Phoebe from Friends).
A fence wasn’t optional for us. In three houses we lived in with Charlie, we had to put a fence up in all of them. Of course, this isn’t the case for all dogs. There are plenty of dogs that never stray from their owners or their yards without a fence. I’m jealous of those dog moms and dads!
Your housing situation is a deciding factor in when you get a dog and what type of dog you get.
So are you ready for a dog?
When you ask yourself “Am I ready for a dog?”, I hope you’ll think carefully about being a responsible pet parent. It’s an amazing and rewarding decision. A dog’s love is unconditional. They don’t care what your house looks like, how much money you have, or if you’re the most successful person around. Nope – no judgment from your dog!
They just want to love you!
I’ve never regretted a single day with my sweet Charlie. Not even when he was old and we had to make the toughest decision ever that his time here was coming to an end. He brought us so much joy and happiness and I can only hope we did the same for him.
In loving memory of our sweet Charlie 1/12/2006-8/28/2019