This evening, a dog lover who is considering adopting her first dog sent me an email asking for advice. My advice to people on the precipice of adopting a dog is to ask yourself 15 questions and to be very honest. I say be honest, because when confronted with an adorable puppy, it’s tempting to forgo what’s right for you and just bring home an arm full of cuteness. This list will help someone who is thinking about adopting a dog start really thinking about their life and if this is a good choice for them.
So here goes…15 questions you should ask before adopting a dog…
1. Do you live in a house or an apartment?
- If you live in an apartment, does your apartment manager allow dogs? If so, can you afford the deposit?
- You should look for a dog who will be happy being in a smaller place and doesn’t need a big yard.
- You should also consider how much time you’ll be spending away from your dog during the day; can you budget for doggy day care or a dog walking service?
- Do you have a yard? Is your yard fenced? If so, how high. If you have a 4′ fence, then you don’t want to adopt a dog that can jump over your fence.
- Do you live in a neighborhood where you can walk your dog? If not, are trails or a park nearby?
2. How active are you?
- If you’re not very active, then you definitely want to stray away from a dog breed that requires a lot of exercise and activity.
- Are you prepared to walk your dog daily and for how long?
3. Do you work full time?
- If you work full time, how long will your dog be on his/her own during the day?
- Are you going to select a doggy day care or hire a dog walker?
4. Do you have the time for a dog?
- If you have an active social life, if you work full time and go to school, or if you have a big family and a ton of responsibilities, ask yourself if you can fit a dog into your schedule.
- A dog is like having a small child. Would you leave a small child alone for hours at a time?
5. Can you afford a dog?
- The cost of dog ownership can be intimidating, but it’s not impossible. Make a list of all possible costs and make sure that you can budget for that monthly.
6. Do you want a puppy or an adult dog?
- A puppy comes with the added cost of training, puppy vaccinations, spay/neuter surgery, accident clean up, and destroyed shoes.
- An adult dog may have his/her vaccinations and may have been fixed, but you’ll still need to consider training.
7. Do you live with someone?
- If you live with someone, are they on the same page? Do they want a dog too?
- Is anyone allergic to dogs?
- How are you going to split the responsibilities and cost of a dog?
- How solid is your relationship? Are you prepared to take on the full responsibility of your dog should your relationship end?
8. Do you have children?
- I hear of many people who want a dog to teach their children responsibility? This bothers me because children aren’t equipped to care for a living being. If you want a family dog, research breeds that are good with children and make sure the adults take on the responsibility of the dogs while including the children. But don’t place the responsibility on the shoulders of a child.
9. Are you prepared for behavioral challenges?
- Dogs need training. Are you prepared for a dog bed destroyed out of boredom, a shoe destroyed for fun, or a potty training taking longer than expected? We experienced all three with our dogs and it’s not easy.
- If you feel that there’s certain behavior that you can’t tolerate and will lead you to returning your dog to a shelter, then you need to make a list so that you can make certain that you’re prepared to deal with these behavioral problems (hire a professional dog trainer).
10. Do you want a snuggler or a dog who is more independent?
- Although it’s hard for me to imagine, not everyone is like me. Not everyone wants dogs who never leave their side. I’ll be honest and admit that sometimes having more independent dogs sounds nice.
- Based on my experience with our dogs, a dog who is very attached to his/her owner may always be underfoot, may not like being left alone, and needs a lot of attention and affection.
11. Do you have other pets?
- We have two cats and three dogs. We won’t be adopting any more pets. But when we introduced our puppy, Blue we had to train him not to chase the cats and monitor his initial interactions with our littermates, Rodrigo and Sydney.
12. What about grooming?
- If you don’t have grooming in your budget, then you want a low maintenance dog.
- Even with a low maintenance dog, there are baths, nail trimmings, and ear cleaning.
13. Are you prepared for a lifetime commitment?
- I know people who have had dogs live up to 18 years. Are you prepared to care for your fur kid for that long?
- Have you considered your future? Marriage, children, job changes, moves? You must keep your dog’s happiness and wellness in mind when making those changes.
14. Dogs get sick, are you prepared for health challenges?
- Rodrigo developed arthritis due to poor bone growth before he was a year old. Sydney pulled a muscle and it took months to heal and she struggled with some weight issues thanks to too many rewards. Riley contracted canine parvovirus. And Blue had multiple bouts of puppy pyoderma.
- Pet insurance is a fantastic investment to help cover the cost of health challenges.
15. Have you been researching breeds?
- Before we adopted our dogs, we read a few dog breed books. We chose several, because each one contained slightly different information.
- These books were helpful, because they shared temperament personality, activity level, known health issues, and life span.
Dog breed books I recommend are:
I wish you the best of luck in your search for your perfect dog. If now isn’t the time, that’s okay. Take all the time you need to make yourself and your home ready for your fur kid. And, if you don’t mind, please adopt.
Dog lovers! What other tips do you have for potential dog owners?