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Thinking of Getting a Dog? Here’s What to Consider First

July 5, 2019

When it comes to unconditional, faithful friendship, you can rely on a dog. It’s a sympathetic pair of ears when you’re working out a dilemma and a trusted confidant for whatever is running through your mind. The decision to get a dog, however, is not one to be made lightly. You’re committing to take care of its health, natural behavior, companionship, diet, and environment. You could also find yourself spending over $40,000 over the course of its lifetime, depending on the breed. Here are the main factors to consider before getting a dog.


Joining the Pet Set Costs Money

Whatever the cost of that doggie in the window, be prepared to double or triple it in a relatively short period of time. Setting aside around $1,500 to cover the first year would be prudent, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. For a start, there’s the price of the dog itself, ranging from a couple of hundred dollars for a rescue dog to around $3,000 for a rare breed puppy. Next, you’ll need to splurge on a full canine kit to keep your pup safe and happy.

Things You’ll Need

  • Walking accessories: leash, collar, etc.
  • Home gear: bedding, bowls, and chewing bones
  • Toys
  • Kibble, canned food, vitamins, etc.

A budget of around $250 a year for food is reasonable, depending on the size of your dog. You’ll also need to have your puppy spayed or neutered, which costs around $200.

Typical Running Costs

On average, most dogs live for 10 to 13 years. That means a decade or more of blissful companionship and unconditional love, but it also means a steady stream of bills. Count on $2,000 for vaccinations over your dog’s lifetime, as well as $50 to $100 a year in vet bills for dental checkups, flea treatment, and worming. The biggest single cost would be an emergency trip to the vet, which can easily run into thousands. To offset this, you can either invest around $400 a year in pet insurance or steer clear of the breeds that are most prone to emergency care, including Newfoundlands, Rottweilers, cocker spaniels, and Dobermans.

Regulations and Restrictions

If you’ve never owned a dog, you might assume that you can live where you choose and go where your whims take you. Once there’s two of you, however, things change. Every travel decision must include a plan for your dog. Your favorite bars and restaurants could become off-limits, and you might even come up against a strict no-pet policy in your apartment or building. Some states, including California, ensure access to public buildings for service dogs, but your dog might limit your freedom to wander and roam as you’re accustomed to.

Not Everyone Shares the Love

Over time, your dog will integrate itself completely into your lifestyle and routine to the point that you’ll forget how you ever managed without your best buddy at your side. But not everyone will get it, which can come as a shock. Other house members or partners, for example, might be allergic. Similarly, other pets around the house or neighborhood might not click with your dog, often with dramatic, noisy results. Before you dive in and commit to bringing a new four-legged friend home, test the waters by borrowing a friend or family member’s pooch.

How Much Time Do You Have?

If you’re already struggling to fit in work, exercise, commuting and family into your day, finding room for a dog might be tricky. You must be able to guarantee time every day for walking and pampering, which are essential to your dog’s well-being. Many people, however, find that getting a dog helps them reconfigure their life balance in a healthier way. The daily walk becomes an opportunity for exercise and de-stressing, and it’s valuable time away from the phone, computer or TV.

Assess the Lifestyle Impact

There’s an unspoken bond between dog and owner, but certain issues can be lost in translation. For example, picture coming home to your once meticulous apartment to find it chewed, tossed, and shredded. If that’s likely to be a problem, you may want to start off with tropical fish or a plant instead. Dogs are high-maintenance pets, but the rewards outweigh the risks. If you live alone, they provide companionship while you’re awake and peace of mind while you’re asleep.

Dogs and the Law

You have a legal responsibility to provide for the physical and emotional needs of your dog. You’re also liable legally for your dog’s behavior. That means you could face legal action if your dog bites someone, and excessive barking might violate a public nuisance ordinance. Depending on your community, you’ll also have to comply with licensing regulations. That could mean a mandatory ID tag, microchip, or tattoo that must be attached to your dog’s collar. Sadly, there won’t be any riding up front in the passenger seat on road trips, either. In California and many other states your dog has to be secured in a crate or cage while you’re on the road.

Once you’ve welcomed a dog into your home, you’ll no doubt discover that it calls the shots. You might lose your spot on the couch and the occasional pair of sneakers, and you’ll be second in line when the snacks come out. At the same time, your four-legged friend depends entirely on your ability to take care of the needs it cannot express. It’s a huge commitment, but one that reaps enormous rewards.

Written by Nick Marshall for Knockaround.

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