5 things to consider before getting a dog

Before you add a dog to your life, there are some factors you’ll definitely want to consider.

Before you add a dog to your life, there are some factors you’ll definitely want to consider.

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Dog-less dog lovers, I see you. You're the ones bending to pet every dog on the street, your heart overflowing when one comes up to you, wanting a scratch under the chin. And you're thinking, what could be better than this? Than a four-legged fur-ball who considers you their human? I don't mean to put a damper on your doggie dreams, but before you add a dog to your life, there are some factors you'll definitely want to consider.

Can you afford to have a dog?

There are the obvious costs of food, dog bed and toys, treats, dog-walker services, and an annual veterinary appointment. Depending on the breed, you may need to budget for grooming or appointments so that their anal glands get expressed. (Yep!) Monthly pet insurance premiums are another thing might drain your pet budget, and most dog owners have emergency (read: pricey) vet appointment stories they can share with you. If you travel, pencil in the travel and accommodations costs to have your pet travel with you or of a dog sitter or kennel (because even if your sister promised to keep the dog while you're out of town, it's always better to err on the safe side so you're not caught out budget-wise).

Is your lifestyle conducive to adding a dog home?

Whether you're single, married, with or without kids, consider everyone in your life and how adding a dog to the family will impact not just you but everyone. Have serious discussions with the people in your household--stay strong and don't get too distracted with cooing over how cuddly the dog will be! Is everyone genuinely on board with a dog joining the brood, being in their space and inevitably, their things. This is an especially important discussion if someone's office, equipment or related valuables reside in the home.

Do you have time for a needy dog?

Because you might end up with one. It's natural to daydream of the daily walks as the time you'll spend with your new best friend, but your new dog may need obedience classes, for one, as well as your full attention while they're adapting to their new home, house-training, and getting used to your routines. If you've chosen an active dog, the few short walks daily you've had in mind won't cut it for a dog that has boundless energy it needs to work off. Any bad habits your dog has will mean a significant time investment from you to help train them, whether it's teaching it to not chew your things or coaxing them out of their shell. If you work a 9-to-5 job, owning a new dog means not having the same freedom to go out after work any longer, at least not without knowing who will be home to walk and spend time with them.

Are you up for the task of disciplining your dog?

As their owner, it's up to you to train them and set boundaries for them, which will only work if you're able to enforce the limits you set. If you're wishy washy when it comes to discipline, your dog will never learn, and this will result in poor behaviour and stressful or even dangerous situations. You need to provide a sense of structure and organization so your dog will thrive.

How have your trial runs gone?

If you've never taken care of a dog for an extended period, you might want to before making the commitment to getting one. Consider fostering a rescue dog--a win-win situation where you get to try dog ownership out and a dog experiences being trained and socialized outside of a shelter environment as he is prepared for a permanent home. Alternatively, consider dog sitting a friend's dog over a typical week in your life as a test run. It may help you decide if you're ready for the leap, or want to stick to hugging strangers' pets on the street for a while longer.