Sunday, July 28, 2013

Guest Post: 5 questions you need to ask yourself before getting a dog

Much like getting pregnant, adopting a dog is easy enough to do, but problematic in the long-term if one isn’t properly prepared. Some dog owners adopt before they are ready and end up having to give the animal back to the shelter.

To make sure you don’t put a dog in this situation, check off each question on this list before bringing home man’s best friend to be part of your family.

1) Can you afford a dog?

Depending on the size and age of your dog, it may cost you anywhere from $50 to $500 a month, and this amount may spike if emergency veterinarian visits become necessary. These regular costs (including food, flea/tick control, pet insurance and routine check-ups) are on top of one-time purchases like cages, collars, leashes and beds. It’s also a good idea to keep a rainy-day fund in case of an emergency.

2) Do you have time for a dog? 

Before bringing home a new member of your family, ask yourself if you can devote the time to play with, train and teach your new pet. While you no doubt have a career and a social life, it’s crucial to determine if the requirements of your job and lifestyle leave you enough time to give your dog a pleasurable and healthy life. Keep in mind a dog that spends most of its days bored, restless and confined in small area will be less healthy and may face a shorter life.

3) Is the dog’s breed right for you? 

If you’re keen on a purebred dog, you’ll need to seek out a reputable breeder. If you’re fine with a mixed breed, shelters or rescue groups are excellent places to get a new dog. In terms of breed selection, it is important to keep in mind that some breeds are naturally more active than others. Before picking a particular breed of dog, be sure to research the temperament, health issues and any special grooming needs associated with them.

4) Can you train your dog properly? 

If you bring home a puppy, you’ll face months of housebreaking as you cope with accidents on the floor, chewed up furniture and destroyed valuables. Getting adult dogs can be a good option, but adult dogs may also be untrained. With all dogs, it’s crucial to socialize them with other dogs and people. Otherwise, you’ll face serious problems when your dog encounters strange animals or humans.

5) Why do you want a pet?

If you examine your own thoughts and find that you’re getting a pet due to loneliness or the wishes of only one family member, you may want to think twice about your decision. Taking on the responsibility of a new dog means having a new family member, not just someone to play with when you’re in the mood. Getting a pet for someone else when you don’t want one can cause resentment. A little bit of introspection before getting a dog can prevent a lot of heartache later on, so don’t hesitate to think about why you want a pet in the first place.

John Gower is an analyst for NerdWallet, a personal finance website dedicated to helping you save money with financial tips on everything from pets to one year CD rates.

Photo: By Michael McPhee (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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