If you’ve waited to get a dog, chances are you were waiting until you had achieved another goal first. Maybe that goal is working fewer hours, having more money, or having a fenced yard. That’s good, because having a dog requires you to change your lifestyle in ways you can’t always predict. Before you do ANYTHING else, you need to figure out if this is the right time for you to add a dog to your home. You need to look at the way you live now, carefully and realistically.
Here are some of the things you need to look at.
- Do you have the time to have a dog? Dogs need to spend time with you. That’s part of the deal. If you have an active social life that includes doing a lot of humans-only activities, you’re going to need to change that. You shouldn’t be leaving your dog at home most nights of the week. Even dogs that might be OK spending a lot of time alone, like Chow Chows, shouldn’t be left alone that long because they need regular socialization
- Is your job dog-friendly? I guarantee there will be days when you’ll have to cut work short to take your dog to the vet, so you need to have an employer who is somewhat flexible. One time I had to tell my boss that I would be late for work that day because I had spent my night in the emergency room with my dog, who had overdosed on cicadas. That was not an easy message to deliver, I assure you. In addition, you need to have a job that doesn’t require you to do business travel on a dime because you are going to need to arrange for care for your dog while you are gone, and that can take time. You might be able to work around that, but you’ll need to set up a very good support system to do it.
- What is your home like? Is it sparkling clean with white carpets and soft wood everywhere? You need to prepare for the idea that once you have a dog, you’ll either have to increase your cleaning time significantly or lower your standards. Do you have a garden? Is it secure? If not, how attached are you to it? My dogs managed to consume all of my Karl Foerster feather reed grass, an extremely hardy ornamental grass, so thoroughly that it never came back.
- How long are you away from home each day? Do you work 10-hour days? That’s not going to work for most dogs’ bladders — we consider 8 hours to be the realistic maximum. If you do have long days, you’ll either need to arrange for someone to let your dog out during the day, or you’ll need a dog door. Also, don’t forget to factor in things like going to the supermarket after work. You might find that your 10 hours is closer to 12, all things considered.
- What is your wardrobe like, and how much do you love it? Attention clotheshorses: your butter-soft Italian leather jacket might be a tempting treat for your dog to chew on. That cashmere wrap you tossed casually on the couch when you got home might have a dog curled up on it the next time you see it. You’ll have to protect your nicest clothes (AND SHOES AND PURSES) from your dogs. If you are distracted and forget, you might no longer have things you really love. If you are a clothing buff, you need to ask yourself how meticulous you are about taking off nice things and immediately putting them away carefully.
- What are your walls like? If you live in an apartment with paper-thin walls, it might not be a good time to get a dog. This is doubly true if you are gone for a long time each day. Dogs get bored and anxious, and when that happens, they bark and whine.
Ask yourself these questions and answer honestly. Otherwise, you are setting yourself, and your dog, up for failure. The reality is that you might not be at the right point to get a dog right now. Don’t worry, though, because there will always be thousands of wonderful dogs looking for homes. You won’t be missing out.