Let's be honest, college life is crazy, even if you aren't the partying type, but we all know dogs make life so much better. Here are a few things to consider before you bring home your fur baby:
Beginner or Veteran?
Some of us grew up with dogs, but not all of us were directly responsible for them. Do you have experience training a dog? Or was your childhood responsibility for your family pooch limited to feeding time? Some breeds are easier to train and are good for beginners, and some breeds are incredibly stubborn and require an experienced hand to train them. Consider how much time you will have for training.
HOT TIP: You will have to spend time training your dog no matter what breed or age you adopt. Check out YouTube for free training tutorials and make sure you have the time to train and the patience to teach.
Beginner-Friendly Dogs: Golden/Labrador Retriever, Yorkshire Terrier, Bichon Frise
What is Your Activity Level?
This is the most important time to be brutally honest with yourself! The last thing you need with a busy college schedule is a dog (or puppy) that is highly active, unless you are also highly active. And I'm not talking about time you spend at the gym! Dogs need to run, walk, hike, and swim. If you are a gym rat and are willing to swap out treadmill time for a walk in real-life nature, a high-energy breed could be a good fit. If you'd rather stick to the machine routine, go with a lower energy pup.
HOT TIP: Corgis are all the rage right now, but they are actually VERY high energy dogs who need a lot of exercise and training. Don't let their small size and adorable butt fool you!
High energy breeds: Corgi, Australian Shepherd, Siberian Husky, Golden/Labrador Retrievers
Low energy breeds: Basset Hound, Pug, Shih Tzu, French Bulldog
Where Do You Live?
If you live in a small apartment, then a big dog might not be the best decision for you. All dogs, no matter their age or size, get bursts of energy (affectionately called "zoomies") and they will run laps around your house a few times a day. If you don't have a fenced-in backyard for big dogs to run around in, then a smaller breed would be best for you.
Similarly, if you live in a small apartment that has noise restrictions, make sure you pick a neighbor-friendly pup. No one likes listening to tiny dogs barking all night.
HOT TIP: There are ways you can help keep your dog calm while you are gone to cut down on barking when you aren't at home. Bark control devices will emit a high-frequency noise when your dog barks, discouraging him from yapping the day away.
Small, Quiet Dogs: Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Bolognese, Wheaten Terrier
Adopt or Shop?
The phrase "Adopt, Don't Shop!" is plastered on bumpers everywhere, but there are pros and cons for both adopting from a dog shelter vs. buying from a reputable breeder.
Shelters often have puppies, but if they don't, they more than likely have a variety of dogs to choose from that are already potty-trained and may even have training beyond that. Shelters also have many different types of dogs to choose from, including pure-bred pooches. If you are looking for a specific breed, you can also look for Rescue Shelters dedicated to certain breeds (i.e., Ohio Fuzzy Pawz, whose mission is to find forever homes for Shih Tzu's and other small breeds.) It's okay to visit more than once before you decide, because the shelter workers want their furry boarders to go to loving homes. Shelter adoption fees can also be much cheaper than breeder fees, and all shelter dogs come up-to-date on shots and have been fixed/neutered/spayed.
Buying from a breeder is a viable option. It will be much more expensive, but you will have access to the dog's lineage and will have a guarantee on the dog's overall health. Doing breeder research is incredibly important, because "backyard breeders" dominate the market. Backyard breeders need to be avoided, as they often cannot produce lineage information OR provide falsified documents to make the puppies seem more desirable. Reputable breeders will require two or more visits before the puppy goes home, and may even include the first round of shots with their puppies.
HOT TIP: NEVER buy from a pet store! Pet store puppies come from puppy mills and highly susceptible to disease due to poor living conditions and inbreeding. Don't buy a pet store/puppy mill puppy because you "feel bad for them." Instead, fight to get puppy mills shut down!
Adopt: local dog shelter, Petfinder
Shop: Do your research! Make a few visits without expecting to go home with a puppy right away. Ask your local vet if they have recommendations.
Puppy or Adult?
Puppies can be a LOT of work and may not be doable with a full course load, extra curriculars, student org meetings, a part time job, and partying on the weekends. If you are a super busy student, wait until after you graduate for a puppy. If you don't have a lot going on or you take online classes and are home most of the time, a puppy could be a great choice. Puppies require patience, repetition, and a lot of paper towels, but the bond you form is well worth the work!
Adult dogs, or any dog over the age of 2, can be a really great choice for a college student. Adult dogs have usually burned through their "puppy energy" and, as a result, need slightly less exercise than a puppy or young dog. They also may already be potty trained (bonus!) and know some tricks and commands such as 'sit,' 'down,' and 'stay,' before you bring them home.
If you are leaning more towards an adult dog, consider adopting a senior canine citizen! Many senior dogs are surrendered to shelters simply because they don't have as much energy as a puppy. Senior dogs are any pup over the age of 7. They require low-intensity exercise (such as leisurely walks through the quad) and are quietly content to lay on the couch all day. Many shelters are FULL of senior dogs, and according to this article, the adoption rate for senior dogs is 25%, less than half the adoption rate for young dogs and puppies! Consider adopting a senior dog, and give them an amazing loving home during their retirement years without sacrificing hours of study time.
HOT TIP: The old adage, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks" is completely FALSE! Any dog can learn new tricks and commands so long as the trainer/owner is patient and willing to teach. Find out what motivates your dog- some dogs are motivated by food, and others are motivated by tummy rubs! Giving rewards is key to training dogs at any age.
No matter which options you choose, make sure you can afford to care for your four-legged angel. Dogs are living beings and should never be an impulse buy. Whatever you decide, remember that there is no such thing as too many pictures of your dog!