Puppies are so damn cute. And those old geriatric dogs? Aw man, they leave me with all the warm fuzzies.
I have always been a sucker for a sweet ol’ black lab with grey chin hair. There are so many great things about pet ownership, which you know because you are debating getting a dog. However, there are also some realities about it that we should discuss. So, if you are curious as to whether you should add a four-legged friend to your family, read on.
Let’s start with mad props to you. You are asking the question before you make the commitment. That’s the best time to ask a question, in my opinion. You may be shocked to learn that not everyone thinks before they leap. Myself included, based on that empty container of ‘Americone Dream’ ice cream in my trash can (… I did not think that one through). So, I am glad you are here and we are talking.
I will assume you know the good cuddly stuff. You know that dogs make great companions. That they love unconditionally, and that they are a truly judgment free friend. I want to talk to you about the other stuff. The tough love part of the conversation. Let me be clear, this tough love talk is not because I don’t want you to get a dog. I think they are amazing for so many reasons. I mean I am a veterinarian because I think they are so damn fantastic. But after years of working in this industry, I also know that not every person is in the right place in their life to add a pet and those situations have bad endings. I hate bad endings. I want to make sure your pet story has a happy ending.
Time frame and goals
Let’s get this conversation started with the obvious, but sometimes overlooked, fact that this is a 10-15 year commitment. Which is ah-mazing if you are all in on your decision. However, if you aren’t all in on your decision, 10-15 years is very long time. So, as we discuss the following needs and requirements of doggy parenthood, remember to think about your answer now and in 10 years. Consider your goals and the lifestyle you live now as well as the lifestyle you plan to live. Moving, renting, traveling, all of those things can be more complex when you have a dog.
Schedule Commitments: Be available every 4-8 hour
Depending on the age of dog that you plan to add to your family, your canine companion is going to need you to be available every 4-8 hours for potty breaks. Puppies, small dogs, and old dogs require the most frequent breaks.
Remember, even if you don’t get a puppy, some day you will own an old dog (you know, because we can’t stay young forever). Make sure that your work or school commitments will allow for that. There are also pet sitting options to consider if your schedule doesn’t allow for mid-day puppy breaks. Just remember to calculate for those services in your financial commitments.
Financial Commitments: $600-$1400/year
Your new furry friend is going to give you love year after year. But you also need to provide for your furry friend year after year. They need to eat, they need to play, and they need to go to the doctor.
Food requirements can vary. On the low end, if your pooch does great on a typical over the counter diet, you can expect to spend about $300 per year. If, however, your pet has medical issues like allergies or bladder stones, your pet may require a prescription diet which will cost more than an over the counter diet.
Along those lines, don’t forget about your annual medical care.. Annual medical care will include an exam plus or minus vaccines and blood-work depending on the age of your pet, as well as monthly flea/tick and heart-worm prevention. Meaning some years will cost a bit more while others will cost less. Be prepared for an average of $300-$600 per year in medical care.
Beyond routine care, you need to be prepared for the off chance of a medical emergency. Hopefully you never find yourself in an emergency veterinary clinic at 2 am, but if you do, you will want to be prepared. Emergency treatments can vary greatly depending on the situation, but we recommend having $1000-$3000 in pet savings for emergency situations.
Lastly don’t forget about lifestyle options like boarding, pet-sitting, dog-walking, and behavior classes.
Activity Commitments: Daily Exercise
Love to binge on Netflix? Me too! But, your new furry friend won’t. They will want to go on walks, runs, and play fetch. Even in the winter. Be prepared to get out and get active. Which is great! If you are 100% in on that. You don’t get to change your mind when the new wears off. Activity requirements are breed dependent. If you plan on getting a high energy breed be prepared for a lot of physical activity or a dog that is miserable and eating your shoes. Be sure to research the activity needs of the breed you are looking into getting.
Okay, I think that covers the tough love part of the conversation. If you find that your schedule, activity level, and financial commitments are in-line with getting a pooch, we are so excited for you. Adding a canine companion can absolutely make a house a home. If you find, however, that the requirements of pet parenthood don’t align with your goals right now, we get it. It is better to be cautious than find yourself in a situation that doesn’t end well. Whatever the decision, I am just so excited you are going into informed.
Sheena Christensen, DVM
Husband-wife veterinary team, Drs. Christensen are talking all things pets. We hope you come, learn a few things, and leave with a smile.