When I was just a young one, I was obsessed with getting a dog. There was nothing I really wanted more and after years of talking about it with my parents, my mom agreed to take my sister and I to the local humane society to “just look” one day. Not too long after we arrived, my mom called my dad to ask if he wanted to meet our new dog.

Our first family dog was a 2 year old German Shephard/Beagle mix we eventually renamed Penny. We hadn’t planned on adopting that day but my mom frequently says that she now doesn’t understand why we waited so long to get a dog. However, it took us some time to fully understand what having a dog meant.

I tell this story because while getting Penny was one of the best decisions my family made, it was an impromptu one that definitely could have gone in a different direction. Adopting a dog, or any other animal, is a big decision and there are a few things to consider before doing so. Here are some questions and things to think about before adopting a dog:

  1. Do you have the time?

Dogs are time consuming – they need walks, bathroom breaks, and lots of attention. How much exercise a dog needs is dependent on a few different factors, especially their age and breed. Younger dogs will almost always need a lot of exercise to burn through their puppy energy. And depending on the dog’s history/past, you also might have to schedule in some obedience classes and time dedicated on training.

  1. Do you also have the space and money?

Other things to consider when getting a dog is how much space you have in your apartment/house and the cost of having one. How much space a dog needs often depends on their breed and size – the larger a dog is, the more space they’ll need and take up. Dogs also need food, treats, toys, beds, and will also need regular vet visits. Plus, there will probably be a few unexpected medical emergencies that can set you back financially.

  1. Take your time looking for a dog.

Finding the right dog can take some time because finding the right dog for you is critical. Not every dog is going to be a perfect fit for your family but finding the dog with the perfect personality for you can make all the difference.

After we lost our first dog, my family knew we wanted another dog but it took awhile to find the right dog for us. We were always on the lookout but many of the dogs we saw weren’t quite right for our family. It was heartbreaking, both because we knew that there were so many dogs that needed homes and because we missed having a dog in our family. But this process lead us to our second dog, Rooster, who seemed to be destined to be a part of our family.

  1. Consider adopting, not shopping for a dog.

There are many shelters and foster organizations that have dogs that need forever homes. Shelters can be an overwhelming place for dogs but often times, workers get to know the dogs during their stay and understand what kind of personality they have.

  1. Know what your dog will need as far as care.

Dogs will need all sorts of care during their lifetime. This includes getting their teeth cleaned and nails trimmed regularly, getting bathes and being brushed, and having nutritional food. It means getting exercise and attention every day, along with regular and unexpected trips to the vet. Each dog’s kind of care will depend on the dog and their breed and history.

Plus, you’ll also have to consider pet care. If you work, this could mean having a dog walker or someone to let the dog out during the day to pee/poo. If you go on vacation, this means finding a pet sitter or finding a kennel if you aren’t taking the pet with you or finding pet friendly accommodations if you are. This means doing research on the pet care facilities in your area both with what people are saying and how much it’ll cost.

  1. Are you up for gross things?

Taking care of any animal also means dealing with their waste. With dogs, this means picking up poop every day and on rare occasions, dealing with vomit, pee, and poop in unexpected places. Dogs also like to put anything in their mouths and I’ve often had to pull unidentifiable but very gross things from a dog while they’re trying to eat it.

  1. Are you up for a long term commitment?

Depending on the breed, size, and health of a dog (plus how old they were when you get them), dogs will be in your life for a relatively long time. For some reason, smaller dogs will generally live a bit longer than larger dogs. Even considering a few different factors, you could easily have a dog that will be with you for 10-13 years.

I’ve had conversations around wanting to adopt a pet with a few friends over the years because I know I’m not the only one who spends too much time looking at all the cute and wonderful dogs who need forever homes on shelter websites. There are so many social media accounts dedicated to helping animals get adopted and for me, it’s so hard to not cry and then immediately adopt everyone.

But I write this because I really want people to be informed and understand what it’s like to have a dog and I would love to see the end of (or at least a decline) in surrendered animals. No one experience is going to be universal because no one family or dog is the same and so this list is just a starting point to think about what it’ll take to have a pet.

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