A question everyone has asked themselves at some point is, “Am I ready for a dog?”. A milestone that usually marks the beginning of a responsibility-ridden adulthood, and more often than not is accompanied by “What the hell was I thinking??” While the answer is never a simple yes or no, there are a few things to keep in mind before heading down to your local rescue or shopping around for reputable breeders and bringing home your new pup.
Do you have any big trips or life changes in the short-term or long-term future?
Dogs are big commitments, with the average dog living for 10-13 years. Make sure you have identified any possible changes that may occur during this time such as moving, having children, or excessive travel for work.
What kind of activity level do you like to keep?
All dogs are not created equal, there are many types of dogs that would be perfectly happy living in a studio apartment and lounging around with you most days, with a walk around the block once a day being sufficient. There are many more dogs of which this would not be a good scenario, and a lack of exercise can result in serious behavioral issues stemming from boredom, inactivity, and insecurity from lack of ‘responsibilities’ given to the dog. Working dogs like German Shephards, Border Collies, and Malinois, to terriers like the cute Jack Russel in the pet shop window need tons of exercise, both physical and mental, in order to live a full and happy life. On the other hand, if you are someone who often hikes mountains, runs marathons, or bikes everywhere, a breed like an English Bulldog or Pekingese may not be the right choice for you. In choosing to get a dog, keep in mind how much exercise you want to commit to daily, and pick a breed that fits appropriately.
Patience and Preparation
Whether you decide on a dog from a local rescue or a puppy from a breeder, the first couple months are hard work. As cute as an 8-week-old Golden Retriever is, the late nights up potty training, the sometimes constant whining, and the stress of proper socialization is sometimes enough for people to return their puppy. It doesn't matter if the rescue said ‘potty trained and good with dogs’ two months ago. This doesn’t necessarily mean that is the dog you’re going to get after your new pooch settles into their new home and gets comfortable. I often recommend a selection of reading materials for those thinking about welcoming a new canine friend into their home, among those are Think Like Your Dog , as well as the classic The Art of Raising a Puppy.. Patience and preparation are key to have a well-transitioned puppy or dog that eventually matures into a responsible family member.
Is everyone in the home on board?
Getting a new pup requires commitment and some level of participation from everyone in the home. Before bringing home a new pup, get together with your significant other, kids, or roommates and discuss rules that will be expected of your new pet; Will they be allowed on the furniture? Whose job is it to feed him? Walk him? Is everyone in the home clear on training the new member will need or willing to learn from a trainer after the puppy has joined the home? A dog strives on clear and consistent rules in the home, and if little Suzy lets him on the couch to lick her plate whenever he wants, but your husband scolds the dog for begging, this will lead to a very confused and insecure dog.
There will never be a ‘perfect’ time!
While there are a lot of things to consider when thinking about bringing a dog into your life, much like having kids, there may never be the ‘perfect’ time. Owning a dog or puppy is a learning process and there will always be something new you may never of thought to prepare for. Don’t be afraid of not knowing what to do! Reach out to local trainers, talk to friends, or take a puppy socialization and training class to meet fellow new owners and prepare to have a whirlwind of new information and support.