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How to know if your family is ready for a dog

Whitney Coy is a freelance writer and editor based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. She writes frequently for SheKnows, as well as several other websites. She writes on topics including parenting, pets...

Consider these factors before committing to a family pet

Bringing in a new, four-legged member into your family may seem like a fun idea, but it's not a decision that should be made lightly.

In fact, it's a step that should be weighed carefully before you act. We spoke with small-animal veterinarian and behaviorist Dr. Jeannine Berger, head of health at Wagfield Academy, to learn what it really means to your family to bring in a dog.

Adjustment period

The first few months with your new dog will not be all flowers and rainbows. "It can take several months for a dog to adjust to a new lifestyle. Are you prepared to give the dog that adjustment time?" asked Berger. It's important to consider whether or not your schedule allows for you to spend extra time with the pooch during this needy period.

More: How to tell if your dog needs more of your attention

Lifestyle changes

It's hard to understand how much your lifestyle will change when you adopt a dog but it will — big time. Your dog needs your time and attention every day, so you have to be willing to devote that to it. Day trips and late nights become a lot more difficult and can no longer be spur of the moment. You're going to have to find someone to watch your dog or come feed and let it out if you plan to be gone for a long period of time.

"Vacation planning will also require thinking about if you can take your dog with you or not — you will need to plan ahead either way," said Berger.


Dogs, especially larger ones, take up a lot of space. Berger recommends holding off on getting a dog if you live in a tight space, especially if you're considering a larger breed.

More: 6 Signs your dog desperately needs obedience training

Financial commitment

Most people don't consider the financial ramifications of getting a dog outside of the initial purchase or adoption costs. Berger warns potential owners that dogs require spending associated with food or supplies, veterinary and medical costs, licensing fees and more. Plus, owners should be prepared to spend money on emergency medical care if the need arises. In fact, the ASPCA estimates the yearly cost of dog ownership to be anywhere from $580-$875, and those numbers more than double during the first year.

"Dogs do come with financial requirements, so you need to make sure that you're ready for them and for any potential sacrifices to afford said doggie costs," added Berger.

Civic responsibilities

Not only will you have an obligation to care for your dog, but you'll also have several responsibilities to your community as a dog owner. According to Berger, some of these responsibilities include licensing your dog within your county, obeying leash laws, cleaning up after your dog, training your dog and providing exercise to keep your dog from acting out.

More: How many dogs are too many?

Long commitment

All of the above considerations are big commitments, and it's important to remember that these changes will affect your family for a very long time. Berger says the lifespan of a dog averages 10-17 years, so you need to be able to make these adjustments for the foreseeable future.

Future possibilities

Since it's likely your new dog will be sticking around for the long term, consider any changes that might come up during that time. Do you plan on having a first child or more children? Are you planning a big move or changing jobs? If so, think about how your dog would be affected by those changes.

If you can seriously weigh all these factors and still feel like a dog is a great option for your family, congratulations — you may just be ready for a dog. On the other hand, if some of these notes sent you into a panic, it may be wise to table the decision for now.

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