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Am I ready to own a dog?

Alicia is a freelance writer who covers everything from pets to cocktails, with cocktails being her favorite. Her loves in life include cheap wine, overpriced lattes, and avoiding exercise at all costs, all while trying to stay slim. She...

Questions to ask before you add to the family

You are on your own with no one to answer to and no one to get permission from before you make big decisions. One of the most common decisions people consider is whether or not they should get a pet. As fun and adorable as our furry companions are, they are a big commitment too. Before you fall in love with a dog, considering several factors will likely make both your life and a new pet's life better.

Woman with her rescue dog

Adding a dog to the family is like having a child. They have needs, they are expensive and they live for a long time. Bringing a dog into your life only to realize you really don't have time for it is going to be hard on both you and the pet. Consider the big picture before you take the puppy plunge.

Living arrangements

Do you live in an apartment or a sprawling home with a large backyard? Is the yard fenced? Do you rent? Several factors play into whether or not you have the right space for a dog and if so, which dog is the right breed for you. Large, high-energy dogs need room to roam or frequent walks. Dogs who are cooped up all day are likely to let out some of their energy by destroying your furniture, shoe collection and any electronics they can get their paws on. If you don't have access to a lot of space or a ton of time for frequent walks, a lower-energy, smaller dog is probably a better choice. If you are a renter, be sure your landlord approves dogs before you bring one home. Trying to keep your new pup a secret will be stressful and could lead to a hefty fine or even eviction if you are caught.

Learn about the best low-maintenance dog breeds >>

Time

Most 20-somethings are likely in school or working, possibly both. If you spend long hours away from home, a dog probably isn't in your future. All dogs require both physical and mental activity to be healthy and happy, so you should be prepared to spend as much time with them as possible. If you do work long hours, consider doggie day care or take your dog to a friend's house with other dogs or people for company. No dog should sit at home all day.

Cost

Dogs will cost, on average, $2,000-$3,000 per year, assuming they are relatively healthy. Food, toys and routine vet visits add up. If your dog does fall ill or suffers an injury, you could easily be looking at hundreds if not thousands more in medical bills for your pet. If you are on a tight budget, taking on the financial responsibility of a dog probably isn't a great idea.

Freedom

If you like to head to the office happy hour after a long day of work, that can get a little tricky when someone needs to head home to let the dog out. Want to take a weekend getaway at the last minute? Who will watch the dog? Being able to make plans on a whim or stay away for long hours can be compromised when you have a dog at home who can't wait to see you. Boarding facilities cost money and they can be stressful for pets. If you like to do a lot of traveling and don't have anyone to rely on to watch your pup, now may not be the best time.

Adopt

If you've done your homework and decided you are ready to take on the responsibility of a dog, head to the local shelter or a rescue group and adopt an animal in need. Shelters are overflowing with puppies, pure-bred dogs and adorable mixed-breed dogs that people decided they no longer wanted or could no longer care for. You are sure to find a dog that will love you unconditionally and become the most loved member of your family. If you want to do a test run first, consider fostering a dog with a local rescue group. If it doesn't work out, you still have the option to give the dog back with no harm done.

Learn more about fostering animals >>

More on owning pets

7 Tips for being a perfect parent to your pet
How to choose the right size dog for your home
5 Tips for happy, healthy pets

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