If you know me, you know I am the first person to tell you how great dogs are and how much I love my dogs. So the fact that I am going to tell you that you maybe shouldn't get a dog may come as a surprise, but bear with me. If there is anything I love comparably so to dogs, it is responsible dog owners.
When you get a dog, whether you buy it or adopt it, you make a commitment to love that dog and that dog makes a commitment to you. If you can't follow through on that commitment, it might not be the right time for you to be a pet owner. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you make the decision to get a dog:
1. Do I have the time for a dog?
Most people these days live pretty busy lives, and that is normal, but dogs are a time commitment. Do you have time to let them outside to play and use the bathroom? Do you have time to take them for walks? Do you have time to cuddle? Do you have time to give them the attention they need?
Some dogs need more attention and exercise than others, so really do your research if it is a puppy or talk to the shelter attendants about this dogs demeanor. Do I have time to train a dog? Your dog is going to need you to make time for it in order to stay happy and healthy.
2. Do I have the money for a dog?
Adoption fees, vet bills, food, kennel, leash, collar, etc. Dogs are not cheap. I'm not saying you need to be rich to own a dog, but I am saying you need to really consider if you have the budget or if you can make room in your budget for the things your dog needs.
Even if you find affordable veterinarian care things add up between spay/neuter, vaccinations, heartworm and flea preventative, ear infections, and check-ups just to name some of the most common things that come up.
3. Will my housing accommodate a dog?
This question asks several different things: Will my landlord let me have a dog? Sneaking a dog in and out of the house is not fair to the dog at all. And if your landlord finds out could you be evicted, with nowhere to go or somewhere that won't let you bring your dog either? Again, not fair to the dog.
Maybe you don't rent, but is your house big enough for the dog you're thinking of getting? How is your yard? If you don't have a fence are you ready and willing to take your dog on a leash or get a tie out for bathroom breaks? If the answer to any of these questions is, "I'll have an outdoor dog" then please do not get a dog. Dogs are pets, not lawn ornaments or security guards.
4. Do I know how to train a dog?
Maybe the pup you want to adopt is already grown and trained, that's great! But there are still going to be things you need to learn, like dog handling and confidence so that your dog will confidently follow your lead as their owner. If you are getting a pup check out some classes or trainers in your area to have a plan of action. Do some research on this before getting a dog to be sure your dog gets the best start to training and socialization that it can.
5. Do you have other pets?
If you have other pets already it's important that these pets be introduced to your new potential dog before you make things final. It isn't fair to the pets you've already made a commitment to, to bring in an animal they don't like and don't get along with. And it isn't fair to your new potential dog to bring them into a dangerous or stressful situation if there isn't harmony between all the animals in the house.
6. Do you have children?
Just like # 5, if you have children it's important that there is a meet and greet between them and your new potential dog to make sure there is harmony between them. Some dogs don't do well with children and it isn't always a matter of training. Whether it's excessive energy, jumping, rough play, or an aversion to little hands poking and prodding (this last one is so common), it's important that you know beforehand so you can make an informed decision about what is best for you and your family.
7. What breed, age, or size fits your lifestyle?
Are you a couch potato? If the answer is yes then you have no business owning a herding breed dog or another breed that is notorious for needing a lot of physical activity. But, fear not! There are plenty of dogs out there that would love to be a couch potato with you. You just have to do your research. And this is not to say that you should get a purebred dog so you know what it will be like. This just means that if this dog is a mixed breed, but its majority breed is known for needing a lifestyle you can't provide, think twice before making that decision.
Also, are you more suited for an older dog that is past its puppy stage, or do you have the time and commitment level to raise a puppy? What about a big dog versus a little dog? If you live in an apartment that allows dogs a Great Dane or a Mastiff probably isn't your best option.
8. Can you see yourself caring for this animal 10 or 15 years from now?
This might be the most important question, in my opinion. When you make the decision to get a dog. You need to think about what this dogs lifespan could potentially be. For most dogs (depending on size and breed) it's going to be around 10-15 years, maybe more. Deciding to get a dog means signing up for all of these years. Not a couple years until you need to move, or you want to have kids, or you take a new job, or all of the other excuses I've heard for abandoning your dog. This dog is going to love you with all of its heart.
This dog is going to trust you with every sense in its body. You will have your own life, aside from your dog; your dog's entire life will revolve around you. Think about that before you get a dog. Are you really ready for that long of a commitment? If the answer is no, please don't do that to this dog. It just isn't fair.
If after reading this, you've decided getting a dog just isn't in the cards for you at this time
that is okay, and I am proud of the responsible decision you've made! But there are other ways to get the dog fix you're looking for. Dog sit for your friends and family or offer to take their dog for a walk. You could volunteer at your local animal shelter or veterinarian's office. There are so many dogs out there waiting for homes, you could help them get there and get the doggie time you want in the meantime.
Being a responsible dog owner begins before you even get your dog, so please take the time to consider whether or not you're really ready for the commitment that you are making.