Getting a dog is a big decision.
There’s so much that does into deciding whether a dog is the right pet for you — and then choosing the right dog at the right time.
And while the internet is full of guides that are meant to help first-time dog owners navigate the process, many of them skip over some of the most important things to know before getting a dog.
Those guides tend to gloss over some of the very reasons it’s such a big decision to adopt a pet — but not us. We’re here to tell you all the most important things, so you can know as you make this decision that you’re ready to provide the best home possible to your new pet.
If you want to give your new dog the best home possible, these are the things you need to know.
7 Things to Know Before Getting a Dog
There’s so much to consider before adding a dog to your family or your home. It could be overwhelming even for experienced dog owners.
For those that are new to dog ownership, there’s a steep learning curve. Dogs are complex animals who require a lot of planning, resources, and love to thrive in any home.
Before you bring your new pet home, read this list. It will help prepare you for some of the challenges you might face. And remember: Although you will face challenges as you adjust to your new life as a pet parent, the joy will far outnumber the struggle. To help make things as easy as possible, here are seven things to know before getting a dog.
Dogs Are Time-Consuming
Your new dog will need a lot of time and attention.
The amount of time a dog needs is highly variable, and depends on a lot of factors, including the dog itself. A young puppy will need nearly round-the-clock care and attention while it adjusts to your home and is housebroken. An older dog might need just as much attention if it has separation anxiety or is a high-energy breed.
Some dogs may tolerate being left home alone for eight hours a day while their people are at work, but for others, this just won’t be possible. At the very minimum, know that even the most independent dog will need at least a few hours of dedicated attention each day, whether that’s in the form of a walk, play time, training, or just cuddling on the couch.
Dogs Are Expensive
The next thing you need to know is that a dog is a major financial commitment.
First, there’s the dog itself — and all the supplies you’ll need to give it a good, safe home. This can vary depending on your area, but you should probably count on spending $300-$500 just on the first set of supplies you need.
Depending on where you get your dog, adoption fees or breeder prices will be on top of that.
Your dog will likely need a vet checkup right away (and several visits for vaccines and wellness checks, if it’s a puppy). That’s another $50-$100, roughly.
As for ongoing costs for things like food, supplies, and medical care, you should count on at least $500 a year, though this will be more if you have a large dog that needs more food. And that’s assuming your dog is healthy — if he needs a lot of ongoing medical care for a chronic condition (or even just has an accident or illness that results in a trip to the emergency vet), you’ll probably be looking at thousands of dollars more.
Different Breeds Have Different Needs
Something many new dog owners don’t realize is how much a dog’s needs can vary just depending on its breed.
How much space you need for your new pup, whether it needs regular grooming, how much exercise it needs, whether you should have an active lifestyle or can be a couch potato — this can all depend on the breed of your new dog.
This is why it’s essential for new dog owners to do careful research into the needs of any breeds they’re considering. If you dream of having a large, high energy dog but live in a small apartment, you may want to reconsider. Similarly, if you want a dog that can keep up with an active outdoor lifestyle of running and hiking, a very small breed might not be the right fit.
Dogs Are Messy
There’s more to cleaning up after a dog than just scooping its poop (though that’s a very necessary part of being a responsible dog owner… and it can be pretty gross).
Dogs can actually make a lot more messes than that. They’ll leave toys all over your home. They might spill food and water while they’re eating or drinking. They might drool on you and your furniture. Most breeds will shed, leaving their hair behind on the floor, furniture, and your clothes.
There are also messes that can come with behavioral issues: Digging in the backyard, or destroying things in your home. You never know if your dog might develop those behaviors, so before getting one, you have to be prepared to clean up any and all types of mess.
Dogs Need Regular Healthcare
New dog owners might be surprised by how much medical care the average pup needs.
Your dog should have regular check-ups at the vet, where you can make sure he stays current on vaccinations, heartworm medication, flea and tick prevention, and more. You’ll also need to be prepared to take him to the vet if he ever gets sick or hurt — and most dogs will at some point in their lives.
Dogs Need to be Trained
An inexperienced dog owner might have the misconception that not every dog needs to be trained. This is 100% false.
From house training to obedience to leash training to behaving in public places, every dog needs regular, consistent training. Without it, they’ll be much more likely to develop behavioral issues that can be tough to break and make them very difficult to own.
When considering getting a dog, take into account the time and resources it will take to train them — including training classes or sessions with a professional trainer, if you’re not experienced.
It Takes a Lot to Keep a Dog Safe
One of the last things to know before getting a dog is that the world can be more dangerous than you might think for a pup. There’s a lot you have to account for when making sure your new pet will be safe in your home.
First, there’s puppy- or dog-proofing your house. This means moving breakable objects out of your new dog’s reach, securing chemicals and cleaning products where curious pups can’t get to them, and making sure you have a plan to ensure human food is never left out in reach of your new dog.
You’ll have to be aware of potential toxins, which can be certain human foods and houseplants.