Getting a dog is an exciting decision. You’ll be adding a new member to your family – one who will need lots of love and belly rubs. But it’s also the first step in a lifelong commitment.
Giving a dog a home certainly shouldn’t be an impulse decision. Yet, a study by The Kennel Club found that only 10% of dog owners had checked whether getting a puppy would suit their lifestyle.
If you’re considering getting a dog, here’s a checklist of questions to help you make the right decision before you start scrolling through pup pics.
Can you and your family make a long-term commitment?
Dogs can live for up to 15 or 20 years. So, if you get a puppy, you’re committing yourself to feeding it, walking it and giving it love and attention daily for a very long time.
Everyone who will be living with the dog needs to understand that commitment. It’s vital that your family, or anyone that you live with, is involved in the decision. If someone is unsure about getting a dog, then you may need to think again.
Do you have enough time?
Dogs require a lot of attention, especially while they are young and need training, so ask yourself if you will you have the time to feed, train, exercise and care for your dog.
Dogs don’t like to be left on their own for too long, so if you or the people you live with are out of the house all day, or may need to travel a lot for work in the foreseeable future, then a dog might not be right for you - at least not for now.
You will also need to consider if your dog will be going on holiday with you when the time comes and come up with a plan if it can't.
Can you afford it?
Dogs can be surprisingly expensive, as there are a lot of costs that you might not think of at first. According to vet charity PDSA, a dog can cost you at least £4,500 to £13,000 over their lifetime - and possibly as much as £30,000 - depending on their size, breed and how long they live.
According to the Wood Green Animal Charity, here’s what you need to budget for:
- Pet insurance
- Vet costs
- Vaccinations and yearly boosters
- Regular worming and flea treatment
- Dog food, a food bowl and water bowl
- Leads and collars
- Identity tag and microchip
- A dog bed
- Socialisation classes and training classes and aids
- A harness or crate for the car
- Dog toys
- Kennel or dog sitting fees
- Dog walker fees
Other expenses might include puppy proofing your house and garden.
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Do you have enough space?
The size of your home should be factored in if you’re thinking of getting a big dog. Also, do you have a garden? If so, is it safe and fully enclosed? If you don’t have a garden, are you able to make sure the dog can get outside when it needs to?
Are you up for walkies every single day?
Come rain or shine, all dogs need to be walked every day, or they can get unhappy and overweight. The amount of time your dog needs to spend exercising will depend on the breed you choose. Walking a dog can be a real pleasure, and keep you fit too, but you need to know you can commit.
Will a new dog get along with your other pets?
If you already have other pets, how might they react to another animal in the house? Think about how comfortable they look when you have visitors over.
Also, if you have young kids who aren’t used to having dogs around, you will need to teach them about how to behave with a dog.
Is your home safe for a dog?
You don’t need to live in a mansion or have a football pitch-sized garden to have a dog, but you do need to provide a safe environment for them.
Do you have a balcony or stairs? Could they escape through a hole in your garden fence or hedge? Are there any poisonous plants or toxic substances in your home? Many of these hazards can be fixed, but it’s something to bear in mind.
Time to make a decision
If you answer no to any of these questions, then perhaps now isn’t the right time to get a dog. Maybe you could reconsider again in the future, if your circumstances change. It’s not a decision that should be rushed into.
On the other hand, if you feel confident that none of these questions are a problem, and you can give a dog a happy, safe and caring home, then you might just be ready to welcome a new canine member into your family.