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I’ve told you guys so many times before about my first dog, Jake. My parents got me a dog as a kid, and except for a few brief months when I was transitioning from “kid” to “adult”, I’ve always had a canine companion. I’ve never wondered if I was ready for a dog because there was always one already there. But looking back, there were some times in my life when maybe it would have been better to be dog-less for a little while.
We have talked before on this blog about how to know if your child is ready for a dog. But what if you are curious if You are ready for a dog? How can you tell if your lifestyle really allows you the time and energy you need for a dog? In this article today, we’ll go over some of the key signs that you are ready to adopt a dog, and some red flags that may warn you that you aren’t quite ready yet.
Sign Number One: You’ve Done Your Research
One of the reasons we do so many Breed Spotlights and Breed of the Week posts here is that I think it’s important to help people understand how different dogs can be. Not all dogs require hours of exercise every day – but some dogs certainly do. If you think you can adopt a Dalmatian and continue working 12 hours a day, seven days a week, away from home – think again. This breed, like many others, needs a lot of exercise and attention.
However, some breeds do quite well with just a quick trot around the block on the leash and some playtime before bed. If you have considered what type of breed would be best for your lifestyle, and have started doing research into what you’d need for the breeds you are considering, then that’s a good sign you’d make a responsible pet owner.
Keep in mind that if you plan to adopt from a shelter or foster home, you may not find a purebred dog, or the breed you necessarily want. It’s a good idea to have several breeds in mind, and to know what type of personality you want. You can ask the foster home or kennel workers to direct you to a good match.
It’s not necessarily super expensive to take care of a dog – but you do need to be stable enough to cover their needs and emergencies. Dogs need plenty of water, high quality food that meets their nutritional needs, and your attention.
However, those are just the bare minimum. What about a collar, a food bowl, a bed, a crate, or toys? What about training treats or a clicker? And that doesn’t cover things like vaccinations, vet check ups, grooming costs, boarding facilities when you go on vacation, and anything else that your dog may need.
If your dog may possibly have health problems in the future, you may also need to have a bit of emergency savings, or have a pet insurance policy, to ensure that you can cover any medicines or medical bills. If you feel that you have a good handle on your finances, this is a great sign that you’d be comfortable bringing a dog into your life.
Sign Number Three: You Have Considered All the Long Term Possibilities
Dogs are not pets that come and go very quickly. If you adopt a very young dog, chances are they’ll be with you for another decade, or maybe even two. If you don’t know what your life will be like for the next 10 to 15 years, consider if you have the stability you need for a dog. If you tend to move or travel a lot, and don’t see that changing any time soon, you may not want to adopt a dog yet.
On the other hand, if you are fairly settled, or are secure enough to know that you’ll always be able to get a home that allows dogs, then go for it! Make sure you consider any future goals you have. Do you and your spouse want to have a baby in the next year? Maybe now is not the time to adopt a brand new puppy, who will still be young and in need of lots of attention in a year’s time.
Sign Number Four: Your Entire House Wants a Dog
Keep in mind that a dog is a brand new family member. They aren’t just your new friend, but a living creature that the entire household has to live with. If your spouse doesn’t want a dog, for example, it could cause tension that will make the dog very uncomfortable when they come to live with you. Be sure that everyone in the house at least wants the dog. Ideally, everyone in the house should be willing to help you care for the dog too.
If you have roommates, family that lives with you, or even frequent visitors (for example, if you babysit several times a week as a permanent gig), you may need to consider their health and safety. Are they allergic to dogs? Could a dog harm a small child in your care? If you are certain that your home will be welcoming and appropriate for a dog, then you are likely ready to consider adoption.
Sign Number Five: You Have Time to Spare
Dogs need attention. That is a fact of life, and even a dog that is very laid back needs some of your time every day. If you are adopting a puppy, you need to have quite a bit of free time to spend training him to behave properly, as well as time to toss around a ball and help him get out all his excess energy. If you are adopting a dog from a shelter or foster home, you may need to have more time to spend with them to help them through moving anxiety.
If you don’t have the time to spend with your dog, they can turn destructive. Dogs that are bored or lonely tend to take out their energy by getting into things, chewing, tearing things up, and generally causing chaos. Be sure that you can take on the responsibility of spending time with your dog daily before you adopt.
If you did your research, you’ll know that some dogs do very well in small apartments, and others really do need a big yard to keep them occupied. If you don’t have a lot of outdoor space, but you want a dog that is very active, you will have to be extremely dedicated to taking them out for walks, to dog parks, on playdates, and so on. On the other hand, if you like the idea of having a small companion in your small home, then you are thinking like someone who is ready to adopt the right kind of dog for them.
If you do have a large yard, be sure to consider the safety of the yard. Do you have a fence to keep your dog in the yard? Is there an aggressive neighborhood dog that might come bother your yard if they see another dog around? If you have the space, but it’s not right for a dog to enjoy safely, then you may not truly have the right space for a new dog.
Sign Number Seven: You Have a Strong Stomach
Dogs do require a bit of care that can be gross. It’s just a fact of life. When you take a dog on a walk, you have to pick up their poop. When a dog vomits on the floor in the middle of the night, you have to clean it up before they eat it. If a dog is sick or gets injured, you may have to be comfortable doing some basic health care before they get to a vet. (For example: Do you think you’d be okay applying styptic powder to a dog’s bleeding toenail if they tear a nail off?)
If you are a parent, or you have had a pet before, or you’re just someone with a strong stomach, then you are likely going to be just fine. However, if the idea of cleaning up bodily fluids and messes makes you queasy, you may not be ready for a dog. If you really want a dog and you think this could be a problem, consider pet sitting for a friend or family member to get an idea of how much “gross” work you have to be prepared for.
The seven signs listed above can help you know that you are ready to adopt that dog you’ve been dreaming of. However, there are some red flags that you may not notice in your excitement to get a dog. If any of the things listed here describe you, consider thinking a little harder before you adopt:
You don’t like the idea of being woken up in the middle of the night, ever. You don’t like the idea of early mornings, ever. Sleep is important. Naps are your favorite weekend activity. Dogs do like to nap at times, but they need to get exercise every day, and they are often pretty hyper in the mornings. Puppies need to go out at night – they can’t hold it through an entire eight hours yet.
You frequently skip meals when you get engrossed in something. Dogs need a regular feeding schedule to stay healthy.
You have a lifestyle that leads to you not being home all the time on a regular schedule. Dogs thrive on schedule. It prevents anxiety and keeps them engaged in life.
In fact, schedule isn’t really a word you could apply to your life. You are more of a free spirit that comes and goes as the wind blows. Once again, dogs really do rely on having a daily schedule.
You often find yourself losing things, forgetting things, skipping appointments, and just in general being less organized than you’d like to be. Dogs come with things like vet appointments to keep, medicines to not lose, and potty breaks to not forget.
You’re not into cleaning up. Your vacuum hasn’t been touched in a long time, if you own one at all. Dogs are messy, and your house can quickly become a health hazard if you don’t clean up after them.
You don’t feel stable in your career or job, and don’t know for sure if you have a future with your current paycheck. Dogs do have some financial needs.
You tend to get really excited about new things, but then get bored later on. Do you have a bunch of unfinished projects around the house, or struggling house plants that haven’t been watered in a few weeks? This could be a problem for a new dog, who will need your attention and love for years.
You aren’t a big fan of kids. Dogs are basically like toddlers that pee outside. Enough said.
If you find that the seven signs describe you, congratulations! It’s time to go pick out a dog! Be sure that you spend a little time with a dog before you adopt them, in different settings if possible. Ask a shelter if you can take a potential new dog for a walk around the block, or see if the foster family will meet you at a park so you can see the dog outside of the home. This helps you get a feel for a dog’s personality in all situations.
If you aren’t quite ready for a dog yet, don’t despair! Life changes all the time, and you could be ready for a dog in a few months down the road. In the meantime, consider meeting up with friends who have dogs so you can get some furry snuggles in!