Before you get a dog, make sure that you are ready for the commitment. Dogs are living creatures, not property to be discarded when someone decides they are no longer needed or wanted. They take time and money. They require food, water, grooming, veterinary care, exercise, training and socialization. Adopting a dog means making a commitment for the life of the dog. Too many dogs end up in shelters because their owners decided they no longer wanted the responsibility of caring for them. Before you take home that cute little puppy, be sure that you are prepared to make the necessary adjustments to your budget and lifestyle for the next 15-20 years.
Consider your current living arrangements. Do you own your home, or do you rent? If you rent, does your lease allow pets? Do you have a fenced in yard? If not, are you prepared to take the dog on long runs or walks so that it gets sufficient exercise? A tired dog is a well-behaved dog. A dog that doesn’t get enough exercise can easily become destructive, and your home may pay the price.
Make sure that everyone in the household wants the dog and that there is an understanding about who will be responsible for feeding the dog, grooming the dog (or taking it to the groomer), taking the dog to the vet, taking the dog for walks and training and socializing the dog. Parents, before you give in to your elementary school age child’s pleas for a dog, remember that even if he or she promises that they will feed it and walk it and clean up after it if you will only let him or her have a dog, realistically, a child under the age of 10 is probably not old enough or mature enough to be consistent in attending to these responsibilities on a regular basis. Having said this, I do believe that pets can play an important role in children lives and help them to learn many things,, but you will have to be prepared to monitor to make sure that the dog is being properly cared for and to gently but firmly remind the child of the commitment that he or she made and of the fact that the dog is dependent upon him or her to meet its needs.
And while you’re at it, be sure to consider any pets that are already part of your family. Is your current dog a social butterfly who enjoys interacting with other dogs at the dog park or doggie day care, or is he an introvert who prefers lots of quiet time alone with you. Is your older cat accustomed to living with a dog? If not a new canine housemate will be a major adjustment for your senior feline family member.