Thinking about getting a new dog? The prospect of welcoming a new furry companion into your life usually means imagining the joy and unconditional love they will bring.
Certainly when we added Flint to our family the excitement was not just because we were going to be getting a puppy and I imagined what delightful shenanigans that would bring. But also because the anticipation of adding a working cocker to our family was one that had started over 7 years before. For many reasons it had been put on hold, and now it was finally going to happen! I mean look at him, how was I ever going to resist that boopable little schnoz?!
But before you rush to get your next dog, it’s important to take a second, slow down and really assess if this is the best time for you and your family. It’s important to recognise the responsibility that comes with owning a dog. Dogs are a lifetime commitment and, even though you can’t predict the future, it’s important that you make sure you have fully considered the amount of commitment, time and resources it takes to ensure their wellbeing and happiness.
What You Need to Take Into Account Before Getting a New Dog
Dogs take up a lot of time. And not just time spent with them. Hell, I swear I spend hours each week preparing stuffed Kongs, ordering food, supplements, medications. There’s the fun stuff I enjoy – walks, training useless tricks, endless cuddles and games. Then the stuff I don’t like so much – grooming, washing bedding on an endless loop, needing to find care for them if we go out for a whole day, or on holiday without them.
And that’s not considering the amount of time it will take to get your new dog acclimated to your home and your household rules and schedule.
- A new dog will need time to learn the new environment. You may need to dog-proof areas, or learn how to keep counters clear, make a bin inaccessible.
- A new dog will need time to adjust to a routine. You will need to make a concerted effort to teach them what you’d prefer they do in certain circumstances. For instance, I prefer my dogs to lay on their beds in the kitchen when I load the dishwasher. Their natural preference is to be in the dishwasher licking the plates, so I had to put the effort in to teach my preferred alternative.
- A new dog will need time to get to know each family member and become comfortable with other pets or children. Kids Around Dogs have some great resources.
- You’ll need the time you need to grieve the loss of a dog before getting a new one. How much time you need will be personal to you and the circumstances. We’ve added dogs almost immediately after losing one, both planned and not. But right now we don’t feel adding another is right, so our last addition was Flint almost 8 years ago.
Buying a dog costs money, whether you’re adopting an adult or getting a puppy from a breeder or something in between. You’ll also need to invest in some basic equipment and necessities. For example, a new dog will need bed, collar and ID tag, harness, lead(s), food, bowls, a couple of toys at the very least.
You’ll also need to budget monthly for their caretaking. Food, toys, groomers, vets, insurance…they all cost money. I spend more than I care to think about on medications, supplements, food, hydro and other regular therapy treatments every month.
If you don’t have extra money to spare at the end of the month, can you really afford another dog?
Even the best behaved, cuddly furball will require some extra TLC and patience from their new human! Puppies generally have more energy than adult dogs, so you’ll need to consider your potential new dog’s age and energy levels before committing to them.
We all know life can be stressful. Right now I’ve taken on more responsibilities at the day job, and I’m working to build more offers in Tails We Win. There’s no way I can take on another dog and be sure that everyone was getting what they need.
If you’re new on a job, about to move, or going through any other major life event that increases your stress levels, you might not have the patience to train or bond with a new dog. And that’s okay!
4. Catering to individual needs
Every dog is unique, and will have needs personal to them.
Some dogs need regular, professional grooming. Others don’t. Some dogs will need to be walked 3+ times a day. Others don’t. Some dogs have medical conditions that must be consistently monitored. Others don’t.
Finding the right service provider—whether a vet, hydrotherapist, physiotherapist, day care, kennels, trainer or behaviourist—it’s good to consider your prospective dog’s needs and find folks to help you in advance of bringing your new dog home. Many providers have waitlists, so it’s good to get ahead!
Is there extra living space inside and outside your home? Different breeds need different amounts of space, and younger dogs often need more room to play than the sleepier, cuddlier older dogs.
Before choosing a new dog consider, where will they be able to relax and hangout, play, go to the bathroom. What if any help will they need to access certain things – will they need ramps, or a dog door so they can get outside no matter what you’re doing? It’s a good idea to research which types of dog might do best with what you have available.
When you choose to take on a new dog, your life will never be the same again! This can be an amazing thing, but it can also be stressful at times. Consider your level of commitment to what it will take to keep your dog happy and healthy – and the lifestyle changes you’d like to make and those you’d rather not.
For instance, if your potential dog has separation issues, can you manage that? If you often stay out late at night, will you need an evening dog walker or pet sitter? If you travel a lot, you may want to consider a smaller breed who could fly with you and be accepted in more locations, or consider what boarding facilities you may need if your dog won’t be able to accompany you.
Life gets lifey, and that means despite spending the time considering all of the above there will be times when you need help and support. Not just from the professionals for physical health care needs, or who’ll care for your dog when you are apart. But the people who’ll have your back when everything hits at the same time and you’re out of patience and your dog becomes something on your long list of responsibilities to figure out instead of a delightful family member.
In these times when there’s an emergency and you need someone to care for your dog and your usual boarding choices aren’t available at short notice, who do you have that you trust who can step in for you? The list may be short. It may have different names depending on different circumstances, but make sure you’ve got *someone*. Especially if you live alone some or all the time.
Personally I’ve had to rely on my list because my van was in the garage, my husband away, and I had to take my dog to an emergency appointment where I had to say goodbye. Or when I’ve had to drive to an office where I can’t take my dogs with no time to organise care and I’ve had to ask someone on my list to check in on them to let them out while I was stuck in traffic.
And community is especially important when you need to vent when you’re living with a dog that has some spicy behavioural needs. When you need to unload about the crappy walk you just had, or to celebrate the fact you had a walk with no outbursts. It helps to have people who get the highs and lows, because sometimes you need to have lived it to truly get it.
Having a dog is an incredibly fulfilling experience that brings joy, companionship and a myriad of activities and perks. The sheer happiness in their wagging tail and wiggling excited greetings when you come home creates an instant connection that warms your heart. Their presence provides unwavering loyalty, comfort, and a constant source of unconditional love. Long walks in nature, playing fetch, or simply cuddling on the sofa become cherished moments that strengthen the bond between you.
Dogs have an incredible ability to lift your spirits, lower stress, and bring a sense of purpose to your life. They become your confidant, ready to listen without judgement. The laughter they inspire with their antics and the comfort they offer during challenging times is truly priceless.
Whether it’s the comforting feeling of their warm body curled up beside you, or their infectious enthusiasm for life, having a dog enriches your world in countless ways, making each day brighter and more fulfilling.
If you’re thinking about adding to your family soon, or maybe you already have and you could do with a regular dose of helpful insights into living your best life with your canine best mate, my email newsletter is what you’re looking for.