Should I Get a Dog? FULL List of Questions To Ask Yourself
September 27th, 2018. Last Updated April 22nd, 2020
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“Should I get a dog?”
You may think you’re ready. You may think you have everything figured out.
Perhaps you already know that owning a dog is more than just those slow, lazy Sunday afternoons cuddled up with your pup.
Perhaps you’ve already foreseen all the possible doggy accidents, scenarios, and lifestyle adjustments you’ll need to make.
You’re ahead of the pack! You’ve got this perfect image of how your life is going to adjust around a new dog.
But then the dog arrives, and your perfect image shatters.
Exorbitant vet bills. Inconsistent eating. Leash aggression. Separation anxiety. All the things.
You see, all dogs are different. You may think you’re ready, but then your dog comes packaged with behaviors and personalities that are wildly different from your expectations.
Maybe your family and friends weren’t prepared for your dog’s antics, and various “doggy fragrances.” Maybe you realized you should’ve stocked up on more cans of enzymatic cleaner and Febreeze.
Or maybe she’s not as obedient as you expected. Maybe you’re unable to enjoy a peaceful walk because she lunges hard at every dog she meets (cough, Yuna).
Even the things you thought were cute that other dogs did, like gnaw on a shoelace, suddenly aren’t so cute now that it’s YOUR dog that’s doing it.
Then comes the inevitable question–have I made a mistake? Should I have gotten a dog in the first place?
Should I Get A Dog? 10 Essential Questions
In this post, I will take a very deep dive into 10 key questions you need to deeply consider before getting a dog.
The questions are fairly general, and my intent is for each one to get you thinking and assessing your current situation.
They’re not meant to scare you away from getting a dog! But hopefully after seeing these questions you will uncover some previously unanticipated surprises.
After all, getting a dog is supposed to be one of the greatest joys you’ll ever experience. It just helps to be fully prepared!
1. Would Any Family Members Or Household Members Object?
Roommate situations are sticky enough as they are, and there’s no need to exacerbate problems in that department by introducing a dog if not everyone is on board.
One particular thing to note is dog allergies. If anyone in the house is allergic to dogs, that’s a sure dealbreaker.
Also, chances are, you’re not always going to be able to keep a watchful eye on your pup 24/7. You have a life to live too.
In these situations, the responsibility of caring for the dog may fall to your family members or roommates. Are they ready to take one for the team?
There are so many other nuances in just this question alone. Would they be okay with the distinct “smell of dog?” Could everyone handle the additional pile of pet hair in each laundry load?
If anyone has an objection, it’s best to know about it upfront before it’s too late.
I listed this question first because if the answer is yes, then you’re pretty much out of luck. You could try pulling some strings and doing some persuading, but most likely, the timing just isn’t right for now.
Don’t worry–maybe in a few years, in a new set of living circumstances, you’ll have that golden opportunity to get a dog. It doesn’t have to be now.
2. Does Your Living Situation Allow For You To Have a Dog?
Once everyone in your household is on the same page, time to deal with this equally important question!
If you’re renting an apartment, you’re going to have to check with your landlord on what the pet policies are for your unit. Some places have breed or weight restrictions, and other places prohibit pets entirely.
If you live in a house, this shouldn’t really be a problem.
However, in either case, you should also consider the size and layout of your home.
You should think twice if your house or apartment is small. If you’re intent on getting a large dog breed, remember that many dogs (large and small) are pretty active in general, and are a lot happier with more room to roam around.
The obvious limitation to an apartment is lack of access to a yard, a dog’s haven (bathroom). This was no problem for me as Yuna was very well-housebroken upon adoption, but you should never assume a new dog is potty-trained.
Even if you do have a yard, make sure it’s puppy proof! This includes any dangerous flowers or yard products. And that there are no cracks in the fence to allow a puppy to escape.
Another dimension to consider: what about children? Do you have any, or are you expecting any within the dog’s lifetime?
Not all children know how to properly interact with dogs, and vice versa. Many dogs like to play rough. Would you be able to keep your eye on both your children and your dog?
Finally, neighbors. You best hope they’ll be okay with a couple barks here and there.
3. Can You Afford A Dog?
Money. If it’s important to you, it’ll be even more important when you get a dog.
Be ready for a flurry of expenses the first week you get a new dog. Although many of them are one-time payments for things that should last you many years, you’ll still need to brace for swipe after endless swipe of your credit cards.
We compiled a list of 35 dog product necessities that every aspiring dog owner must look at. It’s the most comprehensive list of its kind on the Internet.
The bills really will stack up. Before I got Yuna, I had no dog supplies at home. Nada.
Starting from scratch, here’s what I had to pay for just to get her in my apartment door.
Adoption/Breeder fee. It goes without saying that this is unavoidable, but please do not mistake this as the only large expense you are going to make.
Spay/Neuter fee. You should do this if not taken care of already.
Vet fees. Are you ready? These can get CRAZY! The cost of just a checkup is non-trivial. Tack on all potential tests you need to take (i.e. blood test, fecal float, heartworm test), and this bill could easily cost you hundreds.
And then there are vaccines and medications. Expect to go to the vet once within the first week of getting your new dog. Come prepared with a bunch of questions to make the vet visit fee worth it.
Daycare fees. While optional, it’s not ideal to leave your pup at home the entire day while you’re gone at work. Daycare gives your dog a great opportunity to socialize with other dogs, and prevent them from tearing up your home!
Even if you don’t choose daycare, it’s a good idea to hire a dog walker during the day. Either way, it gets expensive quickly.
Pet Supplies!! Do you know just how many new things you’ll need to buy? The cost of everything is easily hundreds of dollars, especially if you’re going for quality (and you definitely should).
Miscellaneous. So your old, cranky vacuum cleaner wasn’t ready for a dog, and now you need a new one. Or a longer handheld shower head for baths. Training lessons or 1:1 training.
Oh and don’t forget–you’ll want to document your dog’s growth. Maybe a new camera for your dog’s new Instagram account (Yuna’s is here)!
Our First Month Dog Related Expenses
To give a concrete example, I’ll share my cost estimates in adopting Yuna. For context, I live in Seattle, WA in the United States. Costs may vary drastically depending on where you are.
Adoption Fee: ~$1400. Yuna came from Korea so this covered her ticket here, as well as her spay, microchip, vaccinations, and other fees associated with the adoption. This also covered one training session with a dog trainer.
She wasn’t a cheap dog by any means, especially for a rescue. This cost comes close to that of a new puppy from a certified breeder.
Vet Fee: ~$700. Yuna had to do a bunch of tests in the beginning–blood test, fecal float (required by daycares), and heartworm test. This totaled out at around $300.
Then there was a whole day dental appointment to clean her teeth–another $300.
Yuna came down with a minor case of kennel cough about three weeks in. Antibiotic shot and prescription of medicine for 10 days cost around $100.
Daycare Fees: ~$250. This covered 5 full daycare days (valid for 3 months), as well as initial temperament tests.
Pet Supplies: ~$600. I was nearly making daily trips to Petco during the first week for supplies. I decided pretty early on that I wanted double of most things–two bowls, two leashes, two Kongs, etc. so that I always had one at the ready.
And toys–buying a variety of toys is essential. I spoil Yuna in this regard, but I was trying to figure out what she was into.
That totals out at around $3,000 just out the gate. I would like to point out that this seems to massively surpass estimates out there (ASPCA saying around $1,000 first year out of pocket costs??).
But that’s fine–I suppose you should consider our figure the worst case if you’re deciding whether to get a dog.
4. Do You Have Time For A Dog?
If you’re chasing the clock day in and day out, you’ll probably have to put off your dog dreams for another time.
Just walking Yuna everyday takes at least an hour to two hours of my time. Every day, rain or shine, exhausted or not.
You have an extra being to prepare breakfast and dinner for. You are the one that gives them access to the bathroom. If you don’t give them that access you’ll spend even more time cleaning accidents off your floor… hope you don’t have carpet!
Those things are just the bare minimum. Do you dream about having the perfect obedient pup who can amaze your friends with snazzy tricks? It’ll take a lot of consistent training.
In fact, when teaching a dog a new behavior, you should aim for multiple short training sessions a day, each around 5-10 minutes in length. This video goes in-depth on suggested training schedules and technique.
Expect to pour even more time into teaching your dog multi-step processes like fetch.
Beyond all that, you HAVE to set aside time to just play with your dog!
Yes, despite the fact that you might work a full-time job. It may seem like a no-brainer (“Of course I’d play with my own dog everyday!”), but after a long tiring day, your dog will be expecting some engaging playtime, even if you’re not necessarily in the mood.
Overall, for me, I have to designate an extra hour to hour and a half per day just tending to Yuna. I’m lucky enough to be able to bring Yuna to work, so our commute is her exercise.
If you can’t fit a schedule like this into your lifestyle, you won’t be able to build that strong bond you so desire with your pup. Make sure you can afford the time to make your dog happy!
5. Can You Be Committed To Your Dog Throughout His Entire Lifetime?
Time to think long-term. You are about to get a pet that will be with you their entire life. If you are starting from puppyhood, that is easily a 10, 15 year commitment.
You will experience life-changing scenarios during that long time window. Maybe you’ll move across the world. Get married. Have kids. Go back to school. Pursue a personal dream.
Just being ready for those things can mentally drain a person. How will having a dog affect those plans, or change them entirely?
So many dogs end up in shelters because their owners didn’t fully consider things like these down the road (9). And the shelter is if they’re lucky–many dogs are on death row right now, like Yuna was.
Let’s get one thing straight though–it’s hard to know where you’ll be 15 years from now. I mean, it’s hard enough to decide what you’re getting for lunch tomorrow.
All you can ask are the things you’ll know for sure, in this current moment. If anything you foresee comes at odds with getting a dog, the responsible thing to do would be to leave it for another day.
6. How Will You Adjust Your Lifestyle Around Your Dog?
If you’re thinking of getting an active breed, you better be an active person!
Yuna is a Labrador. Labs are the most popular breed in the United States, for the 27th year in a row (10). They are also one of the most active.
At the very least, Yuna takes two 30 minute walks per day. Tack on a couple of possible potty breaks in the morning, lunchtime, and evening. That’s a lot of walking to get used to!
Sometimes I get winded while Yuna is still budding with energy.
If you want the best out of your dog, you’re going to have to put them on a consistent schedule. This includes shifting things around in your schedule to make time for daily exercise.
This applies to feeding as well. If you’re getting a puppy, they likely need to be fed four times a day instead of the standard two.
Say you spend your day hanging out somewhere… you’re probably going to have to make a trip home just to feed your pup!
There is no day where you can entirely just kick back and relax. You always need to be mindful of your dog and its most basic needs–bathroom and food.
Your life will never be the same again! Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to adjust your lifestyle to give your dog the very best.
7. Will You Be Patient With Training And Teaching Your Dog Desired Behaviors?
Dog training is a beautiful thing to witness… when you see results. But it’s exactly that which throws some people off.
Results won’t come immediately. Training is a gradual process, like so many other things. You need to develop behaviors slowly, and it requires a LOT of patience.
You may see on YouTube other dogs learning their names, or learning how to give paw in a matter of minutes. Encouraged, you take those techniques and try them on your dog, but emerge frustrated after they still haven’t “gotten it” after a lengthy 30 minute training session.
This described one of my first training sessions with Yuna. I thought she just wasn’t smart enough to get it, despite having gone through so many reps.
Never mind–just call it a day and try again the next. Don’t vent out your anger on your dog.
If you’re doing things consistently and correctly, dogs DO learn. A week later and Yuna has nearly mastered “shake.”
Yes, positive reinforcement is a wondrous thing. But again, it takes patience on your part.
For many dogs, it’s a lifelong effort to instill some of the “good dog” behaviors we seek.
If you’re not seeing results after hours, days, weeks, and perhaps even months or years of training, are you prone to calling it quits? Dogs don’t learn manners overnight.
Constant, steady communication and unwavering patience are key.
8. Are You Looking To Buy From a Breeder or Adopt?
This question forces you to be realistic.
Many people are attracted to the idea of buying a purebred puppy of their desired breed. It’s the “full” dog experience.
I myself initially looked at getting a purebred Golden Retriever puppy. But I had to admit that I just wasn’t ready for that at the time.
For me, it was because I worked full-time. Even though my office was dog-friendly, I couldn’t offer the attention and care that a Golden Retriever puppy would’ve required.
For you, maybe you’re in a similar situation. Or maybe you’re still in school. Maybe a combination of things in life keep you so occupied that a puppy just isn’t the best choice right now.
Puppies require constant attention. The first few months after you get them (typically the first 8-12 weeks), are critical in their development.
You want to get deep into all types of training–obedience, leash, crate, etc. at this time. There is no shortcut–young puppyhood is the prime time to learn these things.
But it’s not just the time aspect. Puppies are brought into this world not knowing anything about how we humans prefer to live.
A big mistake we humans make is that we assume dogs would react as we would to various situations. They’re dogs! Bringing them into our homes is already a little unnatural for them.
They’ll need to be taught how to deal with different situations as we would like them to. You’ll have to tolerate some mistakes along the way.
Those mistakes may come in the form of some chewed up furniture or ripped up clothes.
A more mature, adult dog adopted from a shelter will likely (but not always!) be better in these regards.
In my case, I got really lucky and ended up with Yuna, who I highly suspect is a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix. She has not had an accident in the house since, and never demolishes my furniture.
Best of all, she needed a home and I was more than willing to offer her one.
This question is really worth contemplating and I had to think about it for weeks myself. Be sure you know what you’re getting into no matter what route you take!
9. Are You Familiar With Your Breed’s Health Issues And Other Traits?
If you’re here reading this, it’s likely that you have a breed (or a couple) in mind already. You should do your research to determine what major health risks your breed is subject to.
This way, you’re educated on your breed’s main health issues, and you can care for them accordingly. Here’s a presentation that shows popular dog breeds and their most common health concerns.
Does your breed have large floppy ears? You should be cautious of ear infections.
Is your breed at risk if overweight? Watch the scale and be prepared to keep them consistently exercised.
As for Yuna, obesity could lead to major joint issues, which are prevalent among Labs. Keeping her in shape is super important because Labs are especially prone to hip dysplasia and ACL tears.
She was overweight when I adopted her so I’ve been cutting down her food intake and doing extra walks before taking her on more strenuous exercise activities.
You’ll also want to be ready for any general personality traits common to a breed.
Many leasing agencies prohibit certain breeds in their apartments because they’re more likely to have aggressive tendencies. While temperament tends to be on more of a dog-to-dog basis, make sure you know typical behaviors of your breed so you don’t get caught off-guard.
All in all, you’ll want to fully consider this question to make sure the breed you choose is really the right fit for you.
You and your dog will thank you for it. Your wallet will too, if you manage to avoid those health problems!
10. Have You Scoped Out Where To Go For Vet Visits, Pet Supplies, Etc?
You need to ask yourself where your local vet is before getting a dog! Waiting for when your dog gets sick is a terrible time to Google nearby vets.
It’s easy to find a local vet or Petco, but really scope out your local neighborhood so you can find one that gets you the best bang for your buck.
You’re already going to be spending a lot on your pooch, so keep it as budget friendly as you can, while keeping quality standards high.
Apart from the basics, what about doggy day care? Doggy school? Where will you bring your pup to play? Any dog parks nearby where they can socialize with other dogs off-leash?
All good questions to ask and be ready for.
Conclusion: So, Should I Get A Dog?
We’ve covered a lot in this post. You may have thought of all these questions already, but having the answers to all of them may take longer than a few days or weeks to figure out.
And honestly, that’s how it should be. Getting a dog is a huge life decision that can impact you in more ways than you’d expect.
Approximately 19,400 dogs were abandoned in Chicago alone from lack of foresight of owners, because they didn’t fully consider these questions.
Having shown you all these questions, though, the truth is this.
Perhaps asking yourself, “Should I get a dog?” need not turn into this whirlwind of questions that you may or may not know the answers to.
After all, I think most people aren’t ready for a dog. I sure wasn’t before I got Yuna.
It’s one of those things in life which you kinda just go for if you feel even remotely ready. Many times you can never be ready for what’s next–and getting a dog is one of them.
The questions here are just meant to serve as a guideline for you to be as prepared as you can be.
After your dog actually steps into your new home, that’s when you’ll know whether or not you should’ve gotten a dog! 🙂
Check out Yuna’s Instagram for more photos, dog care tips, and more!