What to Consider When Getting Your First Dog

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Getting your first dog is exciting, but it's also a lifelong commitment that merits a second thought before any final decision is made. Jumping the gun and getting a dog without considering the day-to-day responsibilities that come with pet ownership can lead to issues later on. In many cases, the dog ends up getting returned to the shelter or abandoned. In fact, each year, an estimated 3.3 million pets end up in U.S. shelters, half of which end up being euthanized. Here are five things to consider before you get your first dog:

Consider Adopting Versus Buying

Despite the recent increase in the adoption rate at animal shelters due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there is still a large number of homeless animals that rescue organizations are currently trying to re-home. By adopting from a kill shelter instead of buying from a pet store, you are helping save the life of an animal that's about to be put down while also cutting support from an industry that is known for inhumane breeding practices. Aside from adoption, you can also find the right pet through responsible breeders. Organizations, like the Humane Society, provide a list of top trusted breeders in the country.

Consider the Costs of Caring for a Dog

Some pet owners make the joke that raising a pet costs as much as raising a child, and there can be a sliver of truth to that. While pet care is definitely cheaper, the cost can add up to a hefty sum over time. The initial process of getting a dog home, for instance, will already cost you an adoption fee, neutering/spaying fee, vaccinations, and ensuing booster shots. Then, you have recurring expenses, such as food, flea shampoo, monthly tick repellent, and vitamins. It also makes practical sense to buy affordable pet insurance, especially if you are getting an older dog, to help cover the cost of regular checkups, medications, and possibly even surgical procedures that your dog might need in the future.

Consider the Time Investment Required

Having a dog is rewarding, but it also requires devotion of your time and energy. Regular walks are needed to give your canine companion a chance to pee and poo as well as get all their energy out. Like humans, dogs need plenty of physical exercise to maintain a healthy weight and to get much-needed mental stimulation. If you work the 80-hour grind every week, you may not have enough time or energy to provide for your dog's basic needs. In addition to regular walks, you'll also need to schedule him/her for vet checkups and take him/her to said checkups. Lastly, your dog will need regular grooming, including ear cleaning, nail trimming, and teeth brushing, and the occasional haircut.

Consider Potential Behavioral Concerns

Some dogs, especially those whose background involves abuse and neglect, may have undesirable behavioral qualities that you can't immediately identify when you meet them at a shelter. Some dogs may lash out when approached by another dog of a specific breed while others are triggered by skateboards or children. In other cases, the dog learns an unwanted behavior as he/she grows older. Regardless, it's your responsibility as the dog's owner to train your pup to behave properly in and out of the house. Again, this requires time and energy to consistently train your dog in order to instill good behaviors, such as off-leash recall.

Consider Compatibility

Your prospective dog should be compatible with your living conditions, including family members, housing, work schedule, and personal health. For instance, bringing home a high-shedding breed, like a Siberian Husky, to a house with a family member who has asthma can make for an incompatible living situation. Another example is bringing home a dog that's not child-friendly to a house with a newborn. Lastly, if you are renting an apartment, you may also find that certain landlords or rental companies do not allow specific breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls and malamutes. Research what dog breed fits all your lifestyle restrictions before choosing any particular one.

Getting your first dog should not be done on an impulse or spur of the moment. Sure, they look cute through the glass mirror of a pet store or on a Craigslist ad, but a dog is a companion you'll be bonded to for life. Make sure you are physically, mentally, and financially capable of caring for one before taking the leap.

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