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Getting a new puppy isn't a decision you'll make casually. After all, you're considering a furry, four-legged toddler who needs you to provide for his every tiring, goofy—and yet adorable need. You know a puppy comes with a lot of responsibilities, but you're still wondering "am I ready for a dog"? Here are some things to consider when deciding if you're prepared for this energetic best friend.
Can I Afford a Dog?
Dogs can be expensive, beginning with the adoption fees. When first getting a new puppy, you can expect to invest a hefty sum just in the privilege of bringing your new puppy home—and that's just the beginning. In addition to basics such as a nutritious diet, vaccinations, and spaying or neutering, your puppy will also need his own bed, toys, and similar occupying items that make life more comfortable and enjoyable.
Depending on the breed of dog, you may need to incorporate regular grooming into the budget, as well. Don't forget the cost of boarding or pet-sitters if you travel frequently. If you are gone most of the day, of course, consider hiring a regular dog-walker or look into an attentive doggy day care.
Health care costs are also an important consideration. Many dogs, especially as they get older, develop chronic health issues that might require medications, prescription diets, and frequent visits to the vet for conditional exams. Even if he remains the poster puppy of good health, though, he'll still need routine checkups and dental care. And just like children, accidents happen, and sometimes dogs get sick. It's a good idea to purchase animal health insurance to help mitigate the cost of emergency medical treatment.
Do I Have Time for a Dog?
Asking if you're ready for a dog should also prompt the question, "Am I ready for a dog schedule?" A puppy requires a lot of time and hands-on attention. Dogs thrive on human companionship throughout their life, and can become anxious when left alone for too long. Although breeds vary as to how much activity they require for good health, all dogs deserve a certain amount of exercise and play time. Puppies also need proper house training and lessons in obedience. Be realistic when considering not only whether you're ready for a dog, but also what type of dog you should get. If you don't have a lot of time for long walks or diligent daily training sessions, avoid breeds that require these activities for their physical and emotional well-being.
Do I Have Space for a Dog?
Although a small living space doesn't necessarily mean you won't be able to accommodate a dog, it should be a factor in determining what type you bring home. For example, you probably shouldn't raise a St. Bernard puppy to a tiny efficiency house share. On the other hand, according to Mom.me, bulldogs are much more accustomed to the mellow setting of an apartment.
The size of the adult breed isn't the only thing to consider, though. Different breeds have different requirements for the amount of space they need both inside and outside in order to fulfill their natural physical tendencies. It's a good idea to research these traits in puppy breeds before deciding which would fit best in your living quarters.
Are My Kids Ready for a Puppy?
Still asking "Am I ready for a dog?" Well, it extends to your children too, if you have any. Age is one thing to keep in mind; puppies under the age of five months are very fragile and also tend to have sharp baby teeth—both of which make it a bad idea to let them interact with young children without adult supervision.
Pets can be a great way to teach kids things like responsibility and compassion, but if your plan is to have the kids take primary responsibility for the pup's care and feeding needs, you should be sure that the kids are truly ready to take it on. It's unfair to evict the puppy from his new family because a child loses interest in taking care of him.
Whether you're getting a new puppy specifically for your kids or a pet for the whole family, it's a good idea to consider breed temperament. Some breeds tend to be better suited than others for living with kids. In households with very young children, however, toy breeds tend to be a bad match for the same reason that young puppies are. Labrador retrievers, in particular, are one of the best breeds for the mutual benefits of living and entertaining.
Another thing to consider if you have children is that a new puppy can be disruptive. Kids who are going through a time when it's important for them to maintain a stable routine—a new school year, for example—might suggest that it's better to wait for when they can handle looser structure and more flexibility.
Other Considerations to Help You Decide
Can your lifestyle accommodate a dog? If you travel a lot, spend long hours away at the office, or have an active social life that means you're rarely home, it would be just as unfair to adopt a puppy that you'll hardly ever see. Another item to keep in mind (and you surely have) is whether you or a family member might be allergic to dogs. Luckily, this can be easy enough to find out: Simply spend some time with a friend's or relative's dog, or pay a visit to an animal shelter specializing in dogs, and keep an eye out for adverse reactions. Usually, they manifest in the form of a mild cold or rash.
Lastly, consider whether there are any big changes in your immediate future, such as having a baby or moving. Dogs can become stressed out by major changes in either environment or routine, leading to anxiety and similar problematic behavior. It can even cause them to forget their potty training.
Getting a puppy can be a big change in and of itself. Raising a puppy requires lots of patience and love, followed by more patience. But the outpouring of love and faithful companionship you'll receive from your puppy in return makes it all worthwhile. So, "am I ready for a dog?" That's up to you, your family, and the nature of your new best friend.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is fiction author and freelance writer and editor living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She writes frequently about pets and pet health in her home office, where she is assisted by a lapful of furbabies.