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Owning a dog is a huge responsibility and one that requires a massive commitment of time and money. But it’s one of the most rewarding ways to spend your spare time and extra cash. In fact, people who own a dog are calmer, healthier, and all-around happier. Oh yeah, and they tend to live longer, too. According to a study published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, dog ownership is linked to a 21 percent reduction in the risk of death.
Sounds amazing, right? Indeed, investing in a canine companion brings so many benefits. But dog ownership isn’t something you should take lightly. From having enough time for walks, training, and vet visits to ponying up the spare cash for essentials like healthy dog treats and food, pet ownership can take its toll. But if you’re realistic about all of this and are fine with the reality, you may be a great candidate for getting a dog. And there’s no denying it — the rewards are plentiful!
So should you get a dog? Ideally, you should be able to answer “yes” to all of the following questions before you sign on the dotted line. The fact of the matter is that pet ownership in any form — especially the canine form — is a huge responsibility and commitment. You need to be realistic with yourself before signing up to care for another living, breathing being. Here are the questions to ask yourself before committing to dog ownership.
Can You Afford It?
According to the ASPCA, owning a dog can cost as much as $1,471 per year for a small dog and all the way up to over $2,000 for a large dog. If your pet lives to be 10, that’s an investment of over $20,000 over the course of their lifetime. Of course, these costs are nothing compared to the pure joy and love brought forth by a canine companionship for most pet owners, but it’s still important to be realistic about costs. If you’re not willing to spend $20,000 on your dog, you’re not ready for pet ownership.
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Be sure you know exactly what a pet’s costs entail. Sure, there are the obvious expenses, like food, treats, toys, and dog chews to help them release energy. But there are also some unexpected costs that you might not consider when signing up for pet ownership. Remember that dogs also require the costs associated with spaying or neutering, pet license, health insurance, training classes, boarding, grooming, and ongoing medical care. Basics such as flea prevention and heartworm medicine can ring up to over $500 per year.
Not only should you be able to realistically afford pet ownership, but you should also be perfectly OK with the amount of money that it requires. Some people simply don’t believe that pet care costs are “worth it.” If this is how you think, you are not a good candidate for dog ownership. However, if you accept that dogs cost money and don’t mind putting forth the cash, you can move onto the next few questions.
Do You Have the Time?
In addition to a financial investment, pet ownership also requires an investment in time and effort. The fact of the matter is that many of us simply don’t have the time to dedicate to animal care, especially if it’s a puppy or kitten. Juvenile pets require hours and hours per week in the form of training, exercise, and care, so you have to be willing to give up some of your own personal hours if you’re interested in ownership.
Puppies and young dogs in particular are quite time-consuming. They require:
- Daytime potty breaks, every hour or two when training
- Nighttime potty and water breaks, every few hours through the night
- Two 30- to 60-minute walks each day, depending on the size and breed
- Routine 15- to 30-minute play breaks throughout the day
- Three to four hours of obedience training per week
- Several hours of medical care, including time to spay or neuter
If you don’t have a ton of free time but still think you can carve out the hours required for an older animal, just keep in mind that pets at every age require attention and time. Even elderly dogs will require at least a 20- to 30-minute walk each day. Additionally, older dogs tend to require extra time for visits to the vet, surgeries, and routine medical care, so keep that in mind when deciding what age is best for your lifestyle.
We don’t mean to scare you away from dog ownership. Most animal lovers find these time commitments to be enjoyable since they love spending time with their furry friends. But if you’re a first-time pet parent, it’s important to be honest with yourself about your availability before committing to caring for an animal.
Are You Patient? Loving? Responsible?
In addition to time and money, good dog owners require some key characteristics. They must be patient enough to handle high-energy, active dogs who may express their excitement in less-than-ideal ways. Patience is especially crucial for those who want to start off with a puppy or young dog. But dogs at every age require patience and ongoing training.
In addition to patience, animal owners need to have a few other crucial qualities in order to be successful pet parents. They also must be highly loving, caring, and empathetic, making sure to do whatever they can to protect their pet from danger, harm, and pain. Lastly, they must also be relatively stable and responsible enough to provide a dog with routine, shelter, and the necessities of life.
Are You Realistic About a Dog’s Needs?
If you answered “yes” to all of the above questions, you may be a great candidate for canine companionship. But don’t get just any dog. It’s crucial that you get one who matches your lifestyle. If you’re not the most high-energy individual, don’t get a dog that requires a lot of exercises. We recommend visiting your local shelter and talking to organizers or using the AKC’s dog breed selector before settling on a specific kind of canine.