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How do I know if I am ready for a dog in my life?

golden retriever with its family having a picnic outside

Maybe you grew up with dogs and now want one of your own, or you've seen all the lovely wagging tails of your friends dogs and would like to raise your own friend. Whatever the reason, it's important to consider whether now is the right time in your life to get a dog.

Can you afford a dog?

Dogs aren't cheap pets and there's a whole load of outlying costs before you even bring your dog home. Let's have a look at a basic list of one-time costs for a medium-sized dog, as these costs will vary depending on the size of your dog, and in the case of the exam, the price of your veterinary surgery.

One-Time Costs

  • Dog Bed or Dog Crate - $90
  • Collar and Leash/Harness (and ID tag) - $30
  • Neutering - $200 (spaying tends to be more expensive than castration as the procedure takes longer)
  • Initial Veterinarian Exam - $70
  • Training Classes - $100

And, let's not forget the actual cost of purchasing your dog which will vary on whether you're adopting from a shelter or buying a pedigree puppy from a breeder.

Total One-Time Costs: $490

Long-Term Costs

In terms of rough annual costs, these are ongoing and will repeat every year for as long as your dog lives (therefore longer for smaller breeds and shorter for larger ones), and will also vary according to the size, breed, and age of your dog.

  • Food - $120
  • Annual Veterinarian Exam - $235
  • Toys and Treats - $55
  • Pet Health Insurance - $225
  • Miscellaneous (replacing broken items etc.) - $45

Total Annual Costs: $680

Overall Costs

As you can see, owning a dog can cost you well over $1000 in the first year, and then over $600 every year after that - and that's just for a healthy happy pooch. If your dog gets in an accident, injures themselves, or falls ill, you'll be faced with a much higher vet bill which is why insurance is highly recommended, where you'll only have to pay for the excess and any exclusions (so check your policy terms carefully!).

Other costs that could be included are boarding kennels or pet sitters if you travel and leave your dog at home, or pet hotel fees and passport fees if you take your dog with you. In short, this is no means an exhaustive list and I urge you to double check your finances and have savings set aside before committing to a dog.

If you can afford a dog, do you have the time for a dog?

So you've made it through the most major hurdle and decided that you can indeed fit a dog's needs into your budget. Great! The next step is considering whether your job and lifestyle allows for the time to take care of your pooch.

It is a myth that you can't have a dog and work full-time, but it does require a certain level of organisation.

Physical Activity

Depending on the breed of dog, your new friend could need up to several hours of exercise every day, rain or shine. This might not necessarily need to be outside if the weather's bad, as racing through your garden or around your house is good too, but you can't just keep your dog cooped up all day while you're at work and then ignore them when you return home.

Day Care Needs

It's your choice whether you consider a day care facility or are happy leaving your dog home alone, but I highly recommend having an emergency pet sitter on call if you do need to leave for a short notice work trip or similar.

Thinking About The Future

It's also a good idea to consider whether you have any life-changing events coming up in your near future. If you haven't got kids already, are you likely to try for some anytime soon? If you do, do you have plans for any more? Are you approaching the relationship stage of getting married? Are you considering moving houses (or if you are planning to continue renting, will your landlord have any issues with dogs)? Are you looking to change your career (and with that, possibly relocate or reduce your hours spent outside of work)? If any of these answers are yes, it might not be the best time in your life for a dog right now, but that doesn't mean a dog is out of the question if you're willing to ensure their needs at met.

What kind of dog is right for you?

As I've mentioned previously, the breed and size of your dog will vary the exercise needs and the costs associated with the care of the dog. Some breeds have certain health defects while will lead to larger vet bills, whilst a mixed breed dog may be healthier. Larger breeds will tend to require more food and if dispensed medication, will require higher doses leading to larger bills.

Some Questions To Ask Yourself

Your best option is to do plenty of research on a breed (or type of mixed breed) that will fit in well with your expectations and lifestyle by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have children in your house or children that regularly visit your house?
  • Are you or anyone close to you allergic to dogs or other animals (or prone to allergies in general)?
  • What kind of lifestyle do you lead? Plenty of walking, hiking, camping, or a more sedentary relaxing life?
  • Are you happy to groom regularly and put up with fur moults around your home?
  • Is your dog going to be used for a specific purpose (such as a working farm dog) or just a family pet?
  • Do you have any other pets in your house?
  • How much room and space do you have in your house and is it a house or a flat?
  • Are you able to be home for the best part of a month to toilet train a puppy or do you need an adult dog that will settle in quicker?

While there are other things to consider, working out the answers to the above questions will help you vastly in figuring out exactly which dog is right for you!