Dogs are tough not to love. Whether we grew up with one in the house or just loved stopping to pet the neighbor’s pet when we were kids, canines are easy animals to have a long-lasting affection toward.
This doesn’t mean we all can or should own one though. There’s a great deal of responsibility that comes with owning a pet, from financial accountability to making sure they get plenty of exercise and of course, doing our best to ensure they live a happy and healthy life. For some people, these needs can’t be met and the consequences can be painful and severe. Realizing you adopted or went to a breeder and are no longer able to fulfill your duties as a dog owner can result in having to give that dog up, leading to behavioral and health problems for the dog in their second home.
"For pets, it may end in euthanasia or behavior problems in their next home as a result of anxiety and stress from neglect and abandonment." Keeping a dog you weren't ready to own isn't always great either, says Dr. Georgia Weber, DVM, a veterinarian at Riverside Animal Hospital in New York City. ”Over 90 percent of behavior problems come from well-intentioned owners that love their dog but didn't consider what the dog needed in order to thrive."
So what are the main factors that can determine you either are or aren’t ready to be a dog owner, according to actual experts themselves?
Beyond stocking the cupboards with dog food, there’s of course always the occasional unexpected and unwanted vet bills when your pup gets sick. According to Dr. Weber, if you don't have a "stable financial plan," you might not be ready for a dog because "dogs are expensive even when they are well. Feeding, insurance, preventative health care, walkers, toys, it all adds up.”
"You might have a pet who house soils, barks or destroys things if you don't have enough to time to care for their mental health," says Dr. Weber. And if you’re the kind of person that either despises cleaning up after others, then having a dog isn’t going to do you any favors. When a dog has behavioral or emotional problems, they regularly act out and tend to be messier and more destructive than normal. That makes this part of the equation — cleaning up after your pet — more than just a matter of staying comfortable in a tidy home; their mental health is actually at stake here.
You’re Willing to Make Them a Priority
"Be ready to walk your dog three times daily, forever. Be ready to spend time each day playing with your pet and training [them] for life. Be ready to have finances set aside for your dog at all times in case of health care needs, which might impact your vacation plans or spending that money on yourself or your family and friends. Be ready to change your plans in order to come home and feed, walk, medicate and cuddle your dog," says Dr. Weber.
All this includes a willingness to put travel plans on hold or make simple, often daily sacrifices for your dog. If you’re the sole owner this means making sure you’re home for those daily walks, not staying out with friends or going for a spontaneous outing after work. If your lifestyle involves a lot of travel or long work hours you’ll, of course, need to have other contingencies in place to ensure your pup gets all the same care it needs.
You’ll also need to understand that this isn’t just a simple matter of them getting out to go to the bathroom when they need or making sure they’re fed regularly. Inconsistencies in their schedule or even who is around to take care of them can be a trigger for anxiety and stress in dogs, making this another factor in their emotional health.
"It’s one thing to want to bring your dog everywhere, it’s another thing to teach them how to act in a manner that allows them to do so without stressing you or them out," says dog expert and founder of Dream Come True K9, Blake Rodriguez.
Pairing an appropriate breed with your existing living space and environment is a must. All breeds have different exercise needs and temperaments that can be impacted by their home environment. Naturally, a Great Dane isn’t going to do too well in a 300 square foot fifth-floor studio. Of course, some dogs are perfectly fine in this environment, which is why you should always consider your home as well as the layout of your neighborhood when picking out the dog that fits your lifestyle best.
Do You Want the Breed or the Dog?
Rodriguez points out a common occurrence for prospective dog owners that can often be a sign they’re not actually ready to own one: they’re only interested in owning a specific breed of dog. Rodriguez suggests the overall temperament of the dog should be a top consideration over the breed, regardless of how cute it may be. Being aware of this can ensure you find a dog that’s the best possible match for your lifestyle, giving both of you the best chances at living together happily and healthily.
It’s Not a Temporary Decision
It’s really tough to see a tiny, excitable puppy and not get the instant urge to run straight to the pound or start researching local breeders. Of course, that honeymoon period after bringing home any new addition to the family is a great time but that will eventually settle into a life choice that impacts both your and your pup for years. It’s something we don’t naturally think of when we see that puppy for the first time: you’re signing up to care for them for a long time.
"If you aren't ready to commit yourself to another creature for the next 15 years," you might not be ready for a pup, Dr. Weber says.