Whether you're lonely, are overwhelmed by the cute dogs dressed in snuggly coats walking down the city street, or maybe it's the dogs dressed as Yoda at the Star Wars premiere, before you jump into pet pool grab a hot chocolate and consider these important questions.
Bringing a dog into your life can change you for the better forever, it did for me. Being prepared before you make the leap will set you both up for success, and if you decide you are ready to add a dog to your life, please adopt one from your local shelter or rescue.
Before you get a dog, ask yourself and your family these 15 questions:
- What do I expect from a dog?
So often we have expectations about what we think life will be like with a dog and we set ourselves up for disappointment. Asking yourself this question will help you both in the long run.
- How much time do I have for a dog?
Don't get a dog if you travel a lot and cannot dedicate real time and thoughtfulness to developing and nurturing your bond. Dogs are social creatures, even dogs who need their space. They need to feel secure in their family unit and that means having both adventures and quiet time with you.
- Am I able focus regularly on my buddy?
You need to have enough free time, and attention to play, walk, feed, train and cuddle with your dog at some meaningful level every single day of their life with you. A person ready to have a dog understands this, and is willing to make these moments together a priority.
- Is my home ready for a dog?
Having a dog means having at least one bed, though many have a bed in many different rooms. You'll need to have toys for play time, and training. Having various grooming gear like brushes, nail clippers and shampoos are important. We took our dog to the groomer periodically but we still had brushing parties and used other cleaning products after returning from a muddy time at the park. You'll also need to buy or make a pet medical kit.
- Is it possible that my neighbors will have a problem with my having a dog?
It's key to understand ahead of time how your dog will fit in to your block. If no one else has dogs or pets, you will stand out, and having a sense of what your neighbors response might be to your new family member would a good thing. You will be that much more ready when someone reacts to seeing or hearing your dog for the first time.
- Am I prepared for dealing with people, like neighbors who don't like dogs?
As hard as it is to believe, some people just don't like dogs, and if you are prepared ahead of time first encounters will go that much better. I highly recommend thinking long about your dog's attributes and what they bring not only to you and your family but the neighborhood. This preparation may also help you on dog walks when you encounter someone afraid of dogs.
- Do I have the right car for the dog I want?
Here in San Francisco we have a few car sharing services and taxis that allow dogs in them, but if you have a car or plan on getting one, you'll want to consider how your dog will ride in it. Having the right car is important because at some point you will need to take them to the vet, for road trips and just rides to the park or beach. You'll also need to consider how make sure your dog is safe and secure inside the car.
- Do I have enough money to take my dog to the vet regularly, and if there is an emergency?
Regular check ups for your dog are important, just like it is with people. Prevention can save you money and both of you the stress of dealing with preventable illnesses. However veterinary costs are never cheap and being prepared for them is key. Consider the cost of insurance and learn ahead of time your local options for emergency veterinary care.
- Am I prepared to share my nights and weekends with a dog?
Dogs are social. They do not understand why we don't want to hang out with them 24x7. While it's important to instill confidence in your dog, and to teach them the joy of playing by themselves, you should also be prepared to spend a meaningful amount of time with your dog every single day.
- Will my friends understand when I have to decline an invitation because of my dog?
If you have friends who like to go out a lot, or stay out until whenever, be ready for that time when you have to tell them you cannot go, no matter how much fun you're going to miss. Having a dog means being able to tell work friends, old friends and other family members that you need to choose your dog over them. It happens. Putting your dog and their wellbeing ahead of a friend's party or dinner invitation at some point just happens, and you will need to be ready for it.
- Am I willing to vacuum more or hire a cleaning service because my dog tracks in dirt, sheds, or makes a mess inside?
Dogs get dirty. Dogs have feet that track all kinds of things inside or on your bed. They are like three year olds discovering rainy mud puddles for the first time. Love dogs for being, dogs, and for the pure joy they bring us humans. Instead of sighing over the muddy paw prints on your floor, be prepared to invest in an assortment of cleaners and a good vacuum.
- Do I care if my friends think my priority is my dog instead of them?
Dogs don't understand why everyone doesn't love them and that includes your friends. Experiencing the joy of the human dog bond comes from making them a priority in your life. When you choose to invest your love and attention into your dog, you will learn who your friends are by how they respond to your relationship with your dog.
- Will it bother me if my dog chews up or ruins my favorite shoes?
Sometimes dogs chew toys, our socks or a rock. The important thing is to understand that dogs lead with their snouts, whether it is to sniff or taste something. The object of their affection and interest can vary.
- Am I willing to get up in the middle of the night to take my dog out because she is sick or just needs to pee?
It happens. Dogs don't talk and don't plan ahead so yes, sometimes you will have to respond quickly to their immediate needs, and that can be a midnight run outside. We did it for various reasons over the years. Each time I was tired but cared more about my dog's health.
- What about meal time? Do I cook, feed raw, open a box or what?
Obesity is an issue with dogs today for many reasons. Thinking about meal time and what you will feed your dog is important. Dogs are about routines and having regular feeding times has an impact on digestion and health. Consider the kitchen fun from preparing meals for you and your dog at the same time, or slightly staggered.
And you know, if it has been a number of years since your last dog, I bet life has changed for you so revisiting these questions could be a good idea!
Bringing a dog into your life can change you for the better forever. Being prepared before you make the leap will set you both up for success.
What words of wisdom, or question would you add to this list?