There’s no question dogs are fun and adorable, but sharing your home with a furry family member is a huge commitment that should not be taken lightly, especially if you have not had pets before. So, if you’re one of the many new pet owners out there, is a dog the right fit for you?
Regardless of your experience as a pet owner, a dog is a big responsibility. Before adding a dog to your family, you should make sure you have the time and finances available to fully commit to taking care of your new pet. This includes making sure your dog will not be left alone for long periods of time, committing to providing basic training, physical and mental stimulation, and being able to afford routine and emergency veterinary care. You’ll also want to make sure you find a dog that is a good fit for your family and lifestyle. This will include taking into consideration its size, breed, age, and individual temperament. But if you are looking for a loving (albeit slobbery, loud, and messy) companion to share the next 15 or so years with, you may make a great dog owner.
Table of Contents
- Considerations When Choosing A Dog
- Tips For First-Time Dog Owners
- What To Do If You Have Concerns About Your New Dog
- Conclusion: Is A Dog A Good Pet For New Pet Owners?
Considerations When Choosing A Dog
As a first-time pet owner, there is much to consider before bringing a dog into your household. Per the American Veterinary Medical Association, the primary reason dogs are surrendered to animal shelters is unfulfilled expectations. Therefore, the following things should be considered carefully.
Size And Breed
There are numerous breeds (and mixed breeds) of dogs. Not only do they vary greatly in terms of size and temperament, but a dog’s breed can also influence its life expectancy and the type of medical and at-home care it may need. Some breeds are predisposed to developing certain medical conditions, such as Golden Retrievers and hip dysplasia. Other breeds, such as Border Collies, are high-energy working dogs. They require a significant amount of space, physical exercise, and mental stimulation.
There’s nothing cuter than a puppy, but these furry rascals are a lot of work. From house training to socialization to obedience training, it is a huge commitment to help your puppy grow up into a well-mannered dog. Puppies require constant attention and supervision and cannot be left home alone for extended periods of time. You will need to prepare to clean up accidents in the house. That, and to accept that some of your favorite possessions may become chew toys.
Just like us, dogs are individuals with their own temperaments, anxieties, and preferences. While some dogs may be loving companions for young children and cats, others would do best as an only dog or with an experienced owner. While it can be difficult to determine a dog’s temperament, observing a puppy’s parents or adopting an older dog may provide more information.
Your Family, Living Situation, And Lifestyle
The makeup of your family (young kids, other pets), living situation (apartment, house, fenced yard), and lifestyle (long work hours, travel) are all important considerations. You should think about things like who will let your dog out during the day if you work long hours. You should also consider who will watch your dog if you go on vacation? Also, if you don’t own your home are pets allowed per your rental agreement, and are there any breed or size restrictions?
Where To Get A Dog
There are many places to obtain a dog. Rescues and animal shelters are excellent places to find both mixed and purebred dogs. You may also consider getting a dog from a reputable breeder.
According to CareCredit, a veterinary financing company, the average cost for the first year of owning a dog ranges from $1,207 to $2,803.29, including pet supplies and routine veterinary care. The average cost over a dog’s lifetime may range from $19,800 to $55,000.29. A dog is a significant financial commitment. Furthermore, you never know when your dog may have a sickness or injury requiring costly veterinary care. Therefore, vets advise all pet owners to consider pet insurance or having an emergency fund in place.
Tips For First-Time Dog Owners
If you’ve decided a dog is right for you but are not quite sure how to take care of one, there are many resources available including your veterinarian, trainer, and reputable online sources (including ours!) and books. Below are some basics first-time dog owners may find helpful.
All dogs have basic needs, such as proper nutrition, shelter, physical and mental stimulation, and social interaction.
There are many diet options available, and choosing the right diet for your furry family member can be overwhelming. If your dog is otherwise healthy, there are likely many diets they would do well on. Be sure to choose a diet that is AAFCO (The American Association Of Feed Control Officials) certified to be complete and balanced for your dog’s stage of life. Avoid raw diets and grain-free diets as they can lead to health complications. If you choose to change your dog’s diet, do so slowly to help avoid gastrointestinal upset. Also, make sure to consult with your veterinarian before doing so.
As a new pet owner, you will need to stock up on supplies including food and water bowls, a leash, collar (or harness), identification tags, bedding, toys, treats, poop bags, enzymatic cleaner, a crate, and more.
Exercise And Enrichment
If your dog sits around with nothing to do all day, it will quickly become bored. Dogs need to exercise their bodies and minds! There are many ways you and your pup can accomplish this while spending quality time together. Check out these tips from the Indoor Pet Initiative including puzzle toys, walking/running, and training. If your dog is a social butterfly it may also benefit from Doggy Daycare.
Training And Socialization
This is especially important if you have a puppy, but it is also good information for adult dog owners to understand. Puppies go through a developmental period known as the socialization period, between approximately three and 14 weeks of age. This is the best time to expose them to many new people, experiences, and environments. After eight weeks of age, your puppy may be more fearful of new situations. Housetraining and puppy classes are also extremely important during this stage of life. Be sure to find a trainer who utilizes positive reinforcement training techniques.
It is also critical to address any behavioral issues (such as aggression, separation anxiety, and excessive barking) in adult or senior dogs to ensure your dog is a safe and well-behaved member of your family and community.
A critical part of keeping your dog happy and healthy involves routine veterinary care, as well as the ability to provide for your pet if they get sick or injured.
Wellness care includes things like vaccines, flea/heartworm/parasite prevention, spaying/neutering, annual physical exams, dental care, and routine screening tests such as fecal, urinalysis, and bloodwork. Just like with people, puppies and senior pets will need to see the vet more frequently, while healthy adult dogs may only need to go once a year. You should schedule a veterinary visit as soon as you bring your new dog home to establish care, make sure vaccines are up to date, and discuss any additional recommendations your veterinarian may have.
Sickness, Injury, And Emergency Care
Of course, your dog will also have to see the vet if they become sick, get an injury, or have a medical emergency. This can have a significant financial impact, which is why it’s important for pet owners to plan ahead with pet insurance or an emergency fund.
Cleaning up after your dog, taking care of your dog’s needs, and training your dog to be a safe and productive member of your community, is all part of being a responsible pet owner.
What To Do If You Have Concerns About Your New Dog
If you are struggling with your dog’s behavior or find that a dog is not a good fit for your current lifestyle, discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. Many times there are medications and training that can be beneficial. In some cases, an owner may need to consider rehoming or another option. The more research you do before deciding to bring a dog into your home, the better off you will be.
Conclusion: Is A Dog A Good Pet For New Pet Owners?
While a dog is a lot of work, it can be a wonderful companion for new pet owners, as long as you have done your research and are aware of what you’re getting into! If a dog is not the right fit but you’re still looking for puppy cuddles, consider volunteering at an animal shelter or borrowing a friend’s dog for the day.
So, do you think you’re ready to take on a dog as a new pet owner? Let us know your thoughts and why in the comments below!