As soon as you decide to get a dog, you start tallying up the things you need to make them feel at home. A fluffy bed, the best kibble you can find, and about a million chew toys make the list. But all the excitement can make people forget about some of the logistics of adding an animal to your life, and the lack of forethought can be detrimental to you and the pup. These are some of the factors you'll most likely forget when getting a dog.
No matter what kind of dog you add to your family, there will be a transition period as everyone adjusts to the demands of caring for another creature. Many parts of that transition will be fun — getting doggo kisses whenever you walk in the door, running with your new buddy, having a built-in blanket whenever you sit on the couch. But making sure you're home to feed, walk, and play with your pup pal as much as they need means you can't be as spontaneous, and your lifestyle will definitely change.
Plus, there are a myriad of other ways dogs change your life that you probably haven't considered, and it's important to think about how your routine and the pup's will match up to ensure the animal is getting the care they deserve. Read on for some of the most common things new dog owners forget to consider before bringing a pup into their lives.
1. Breed Disposition
All dogs have positive and negative qualities (just like all people), but it's important to think about the general demeanor of whatever kind of dog you get and how that will fit in with your family. For instance, according to Lauren McDevitt, co-founder of Good Dog, an online resource that helps connect people to reputable dog breeders, "those with small children, other pets, or a low-energy lifestyle will want to consider calm and friendly breeds like Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, or Bernese Mountain Dogs," as these dogs will be less likely to increase the stress in your home. On the flip side, "for people who are constantly on-the-go and want a dog they can bring along on their adventures, active and social dogs such as Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and related mixes such as Australian Labradoodles would be a great fit."
Whatever your family's needs are, "be sure to research breed dispositions, talk at length with your breeder, shelter, or rescue and pick a dog that matches your energy level," McDevitt tells Romper.
2. Your Lifestyle
Because bringing a dog into your life is such a big commitment, it's important to be realistic about your needs when you're looking at dogs. "If you need a dog to have certain characteristics to suit your life, please don’t feel like you 'have to' get a mutt from the pound," Dr. Jaclyn Levin, DVM of Arkle Veterinary Care in Atlanta, GA tells Romper via email. You may have allergies that mean you have to get a hypoallergenic dog, for example, or boisterous kids who need an active, non-skittish companion. It can be easier to find a dog with specific qualities from a breeder.
But keep in mind you don't have to go to a breeder to find a dog that will fit your needs. Remson Omotayo and Sarah Aitken, adoption specialists from Best Friends Lifesaving Center in New York, tell Romper via email that they (and other organizations) see "plenty of mixed breeds and those who appear to be purebreds alike! If you're looking for a specific breed, that doesn't mean you need to purchase a dog to find what you're looking for."
So whether you choose to go to a breeder or adopt from a shelter, be honest with yourself about your own needs when you're adding to your family, as it will be better for both you and the pup in the long run.
3. The Waiting Game
Acquiring a dog from a breeder can be time-consuming, leading to frustration as you wait to bring your new family member home. But as McDevitt points out, rushing the process makes it more likely that you'll end up getting a dog from "an irresponsible but quicker and more accessible source — like a puppy mill or a backyard breeder."
You can also adopt if you want a safer and quicker route, but as I mentioned, that's not always an option if you need a specific kind of dog. McDevitt went on to say that if you want to get your dog from a breeder, it's likely that "investing a little more energy in researching and waiting longer to bring home your dog will save you money down the line." (I suggest tiding yourself over by watching videos of dogs being adorable on YouTube on repeat.)
All dogs have to get their hair cut or nails trimmed sometimes, but some dogs require more grooming than others. As Dr. Levin says, "If you aren’t prepared to have a dog groomed every 2 months and/or [provide] daily brush sessions, don’t get a 'froo froo' dog" that requires a lot of cosmetic care. Dr. Levin points to Shih Tzus, Yorkies, Poodles and Doodles, and Havaneses as some examples of dogs you'd have to brush and take to get groomed frequently. If you don't think you have time for that kind of upkeep or can't afford frequent trips to the groomer, you'll be better off with a more low maintenance breed.
5. The Double Dog Dynamic
Adding a second pup to your home can change the power structure of your mini pack, particularly if you get two dogs of the same gender. McDevitt says "same sex dogs might have to spend more time working out issues establishing their pack order," which means they might have conflict. "So if someone is thinking of bringing a second dog into their household, the opposite sex should be a factor they consider in their potential new housemate," she continues.
Sean-Patrick Malloy, Manager of Shelter Operations at the North Shore Animal League, seconded this sentiment, suggesting you bring your first dog to meet the potential pet before bringing them home: "If your dog and the new dog don’t get along, it’s a deal breaker. The emotional state of your dog is important," and no one will be happy if the dogs don't get along. Focus on finding a new fur friend the whole family connects with.
6. Questions Are Important
Asking specific questions about a dog before you bring them home can make a big difference in how well your family and the pup match, particularly if you're adopting from a shelter. For instance, Malloy tells Romper that "it's important to ask how a dog is with children or other animals... [because] through behavior assessments, [shelters] can get an idea of how comfortable they’ll be around children," so you can make a more informed decision about what kind of dog will suit your lifestyle. You also might see the dog on an off day in terms of their mood, so it's a good idea to ask the shelter what the pup is typically like so you have a better idea of how they'll act day in and day out.
7. The Initial Adjustment Period
As much as you can prepare for the arrival of your new dog, there's still going to be a transition period when you bring them home (for both you and your pet). You and your house will be totally unfamiliar to the pup, and they could get overwhelmed. "Dogs need decompression time when they come to a new home. It is great when adopters have a few days off to spend with their new dog and help themselves adjust to the rhythm of life as a dog parent," explain Omotayo and Aitken. They also recommend holding off for a weeks on having a lot of friends and family come to meet them, as your doggo will still be adjusting to you at first. Give them time to get used to their new life.
8. Training Takes Time, Too
"People often have a conception of what caring for and raising a puppy or adolescent dog will be like. However, until you experience it firsthand, it's hard to truly understand the level of commitment required for any animal, let alone one with the intensive needs of a puppy," Omotayo and Aitken explain. From potty training to more frequent trips to the vet, puppies need pretty much constant care, especially when they're young.
Realizing a puppy isn't right for you can be disappointing, but not being ready for a baby dog doesn't mean you can't get one at all. "If you can’t commit to training, consider seeking an older dog who may have already gotten some training/socialization," Dr. Levin suggests, as you will have to put in less work for them to get acclimated to your lifestyle.
9. Healthcare Costs
This is a biggie, as a lot of people underestimate the expense of a pet before they purchase or adopt. But in addition to the costs of food, a doggie bed, and the millions of toys you're bound to get them, taking care of a dog with health issues — or a puppy who eats things they shouldn't — can be super expensive. "Unforeseen trips to the vet to address accidents or medical issues can add up to as much as $42,545 over the course of their lifetime," according to McDevitt. And that's on top of the regular costs — just "one year of Purina Dog Chow for a 50lb dog can cost around $3,000," points out Dr. Levin. So those expenses will definitely add up.
Assurance of better dog health is one of the benefits of going to a breeder, as "reputable breeders often health test their dogs for genetic diseases" says McDevitt, so you'll likely have fewer trips to the vet later in your dog's life if you get them from a breeder. But that extra testing and assurance will make the dog more expensive upfront, so that's something you'll want to keep in mind as well.
10. The Longterm
Bringing home a puppy is an exciting experience for many reasons, but a lot of new dog owners only think about the immediate rewards. As Dr. Levin puts it, "the bottom line is a dog is a roughly 10-18 year commitment... If you're getting a dog, you're signing up for a family member for the rest of its life." Make sure you've thought about the ways your life will evolve in the coming years when you think about bringing home a dog, and whether or not you'll be able to properly care for an animal through those changes. If not, you might want to hold off on adding a pup to your life. Considering your down time needs is important too: "Something I find people don’t think about is planning vacations... you may not be able to take a vacation because you don’t have someone to watch the dog. You can’t go to Aruba for 19 days because you have a dog," says Malloy.
Being as honest as possible with yourself about the work you're willing to put into a dog is important for everyone involved. Finding a forever home isn't always easy, but it's always worth it.