You walk by the pet shop window and can’t resist the cute faces. You go to your local shelter “just to look”. Before you know it, you and your new friend are heading to the pet supply store to stock up. That’s really the fun part isn’t it?
Okay, back to reality. The decision to bring a puppy into your life is a big one, and should not be made lightly.
Estimates put the number of animals killed in shelters around the U.S. each year, at approximately 4 million. There are many reasons why animals end up there, including treating them as “impulse” items, then not caring for them as they should. Unlike the shoes that can be returned without consequences, the same cannot be said for the animal that gets returned.
If you really want to share your life with a puppy, the kindest thing you can do for yourself and your new furry friend, is to think long and hard before you act.
How do you know if you’re ready for a puppy?
I have put together an extensive list of thought provoking questions, that will help you figure out if you’re really ready for this big step.
NOTE: The list is in no particular order.
Who will be responsible for puppy care?
If you live alone then all the responsibility will fall on your shoulders. If you live with others will they agree to help? If yes you should work out some kind of schedule so everyone knows who’s responsible for what, and when. When using this question as criteria in your decision making process, please assume you will not have any help at all.
They may have good intentions at the beginning, but when it comes down to it, they may not want to keep an eye on the clock to run home and walk the dog.
Is everyone in the home on board with the decision?
Even if all the responsibility for puppy care will be on you, everyone you live with still has to agree. You may not mind accidents in the house or dog hair on the furniture, but others might.
Can you take time off when you first get your puppy?
It’s recommended to bring home a new dog before the weekend or when you have several days off. This time is used to get your puppy settled in and the two of you used to a new routine.
Does anyone in the home have allergies to animals?
Sadly, allergies don’t seem to prevent some people from adopting the very type of animal they’re allergic to. They actually believe they can rely on allergy medication to make living with him or her bearable. If you or anyone you live with is allergic to dogs, do not bring one home anyway and expect something to change. Allergies will not miraculously clear up, and relying on medication for the next 10+ years is not sustainable.
Have you done your research?
Have you looked into what life is like living with a dog? What kind of training he will need? Type of diet you’d like to feed him? How much and what type of exercise he’ll need? The costs involved?
Can you commit to the level of exercise he or she needs?
Leaving your dog wander around the yard is not considered exercise, neither is a quick walk around the block once or twice a day. Dogs need exercise, and depending on the breed more than you may be willing or able to give.
Don’t assume he’ll get all the exercise he needs when the dog walker comes once a day, and you’ll make up for it with long hikes on the weekend. The “weekend warrior” approach doesn’t work. So little activity during the week and an explosion of it on the weekend can lead to injury, and it doesn’t do anything to help your dog’s boredom and resulting behavior problems the other 5 or 6 days.
How hectic is your life?
Caring for a dog, especially a puppy, is a massive amount of work and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It requires a lot of time, patience and a level of commitment you need to be absolutely sure you are able and willing to give. If you have a great job, work long hours and have an active social life, does a puppy really fit into that?
Do you have the energy for a puppy?
Puppies have a lot of energy, and you’re going to need to help them find a way to work it off. If you don’t, you’ll be dealing with behavior issues which can turn destructive and aggressive.
Think about it. When you get home after a long day, would you rather flop down on the couch or put your sneakers on every single night and go for a long walk. What about getting up at least 30 minutes earlier every morning? How about weekends when you’d rather have a lie in or meet for brunch with friends?
Can you afford it?
The initial outlay is high, especially if this is your first dog or t’s been a long time since you last shared your life with one. Not only will you need to buy supplies, you have to be prepared for unexpected vet visits, illnesses, injuries and medication. I never would have imagined my (at the time) 5 year old dog would become partially paralyzed in the space of just a few hours, and be presented with a $7,000 bill!
You’ll need to pay a dog walker or doggy daycare if you’ll be out all day, and factor in the cost of a pet sitter if you travel.
As dogs age they quite possibly will develop health issues, and frequent vet visits are not uncommon. Blood tests, urine tests and medications all need to be considered.
Do you rent or own?
Sadly, too many rentals are not pet friendly. If you’re renting have you spoken to the landlord about bringing a dog in? A casual “that should be fine” isn’t good enough. Protect yourself and get something in writing.
Is a puppy the right type of pet?
You may have decided it’s time for an animal in your life, but are you sure there isn’t another type better suited to your lifestyle?
Can you cope with a less than perfect looking home?
Nothing wrong with wanting your home to look like a page from Architectural Digest, but how would you feel if your puppy peed on your gorgeous carpet? Will you be constantly shooing your dog off the couch? Be honest, because it’s okay to say it would really piss you off (no pun intended!) and why shouldn’t it? He will eventually be house trained and accidents a thing of the past, but realistically your dog will get sick and throw up and some point. Old dogs have accidents due to health issues. How will you feel then?
Do you have room?
I’ve always believed it’s perfectly fine to have a big dog in a small apartment, because they should be out enough times a day getting exercise it won’t matter. If you feel the same what else are we talking about? Are you living in a one bedroom apartment with your spouse and baby or even just the two of you? Will having a dog and the stuff they require make your cozy apartment just a little too cozy?
Are you planning any life changing events?
Do you see any life changing events taking place within your dog’s lifetime? Do you plan on getting married? Having kids? Moving cities or countries? Traveling extensively? While we can’t predict what will happen, so many things are out of our hands, there are plenty of things we know we would like to do. How would a puppy (or dog if these things happen in the future) fit into those plans?
If you have young children, can you handle added responsibility?
If you have small children in the house life is hectic enough. Do you really have time to add dog walking and training to the list of responsibilities? Don’t think it will only be hard for just a few months, because your dog will always need walks and always need attention.
Will your other pets get along with the new puppy?
If you already have pets in the house, how will they take to a newcomer? Some old dogs would love to have a playmate, but not all appreciate being jumped on. Do you have a cat that is terrified of dogs? Is it fair for him to be in a constant state of anxiety, or spend his life hiding in a closet?
Not ready for a puppy?
If, after all this you’ve realized now is not the right time for a puppy. That’s okay, it’s certainly better to realize it before than after. The good news is, you can still get your puppy fix by volunteering at a local shelter on the weekends. Most are in desperate need of help, they will welcome any help you are able to give.
Here is a downloadable list of all the questions asked in this post. Print it out and take your time pondering your answers.
Click here to learn about my online training and dog care consultancy service.