You've Done Your Research
If you’re wondering, “Am I ready for a dog?” the first step is to get educated. One of the most important things you can do before adopting your first dog is research, research, research, says Victoria Schade, dog trainer, speaker and author of "Bonding with Your Dog: A Trainer’s Secrets for Building a Better Relationship."
“Talk to people who have gone through the rescue process if you plan to adopt a mixed breed dog, or talk to owners of the same breed if you have a specific type of dog in mind,” she says. “Read current information about dog care, even if you’ve owned a dog in the past—things have changed so much in the past ten years.”
Fortunately, there’s no such thing as being over prepared, she adds, so gather as much information as you can as soon as you decide you’d like to add a dog to your life.
You've Got the Time
If you’ve got a rigid, packed schedule, the answer to “should I get a dog” is, well, maybe not. You know you’re going to have to make some time for your new pup, but you’ll want to include time for training, vet visits and plenty of regular walks, even on those days when the weather won’t cooperate or you don’t feel like going out.
“A person is ready to be a dog owner when they’ve done a significant amount of soul-searching to determine that they have the time and energy to welcome a dog into their home,” Schade says.
You're Ready to Get Up Early ... And Often
Okay, so you’ve got time on your hands. But are you ready to make time in the wee hours of the morning and waning hours of the evening to take your dog out? If you bring home a puppy, they’ll need to go out every three to four hours until they’re fully house-trained, so you’ll want to anticipate a few nights of interrupted sleep.
If you’ve got your eyes on a puppy, you’ll need to make sure your home is puppy-proofed from top to bottom before bringing the little guy or gal home. Put away shoes, valuables and anything else your puppy may chew on, cover exposed wires and outlets, make the garbage can inaccessible and use baby gates to narrow the area where the dog can roam around your home, Schade says.
Even if you aren’t planning to bring home a young dog, you’ll still want to do some house proofing and make sure you’re stocked with gear to keep them busy.
“Prepare your home as if you’re bringing home an 8-week-old puppy, even if your new dog is an adult,” Schade says. “Invest in busy toys that you can stuff with treats and pick up bones to keep your dog busy.”
You've Had "the Talk" With Yourself
“A big indicator that a person isn’t ready to own a dog is attempting to juggle their life in order to make a dog viable,” Schade says.
You’ll want to be honest with yourself and make sure that, even if you do have the time, you’re ready to commit to being a responsible pet parent. Sit down and take a look at your family, job and other life commitments. Ask yourself, “am I ready for a dog,” and, if it seems like you’re not prepared to focus your attention on raising a dog, it may not be time to take one home.
You're Open to Learning
A skill Schade says is most important for new pet parents is to learn is how to read their dog.
“By learning to understand your dog’s body language, you can tell when he has to go outside, when he’s feeling overwhelmed and when he’s signaling discomfort, which can help to avoid any number of mistakes,” she says. “Our dogs work so hard to understand us, so we should do the same for them.”
Do some research on understanding a dog’s body language before you take one home and be open to learning as much as you can about your new pet’s behavior in the first few days and weeks you spend together.
You're Ready to Deal With Poop. And Mud. And ...
Dog parenting means dealing with all kinds of icky fluids—like drool, vomit and urine. You’ll deal with waste daily as a dog owner and, if you happen to take home a particularly mischievous pup, may deal with a variety of other unpleasant things on a regular basis.
Prepare yourself for this particularly fun part of pet parenting by stocking up on poop bags, wipes and carpet cleaner before you actually need to use these items.
You've Got Some Cash to Spend
From their dog food, to their dog toys, to their vet bills and any other unexpected costs or medications, dogs carry considerable expenses with them from puppyhood throughout their lives.
While some puppies may have had their first rounds of shots or may even be spayed or neutered by the time you take them home, you’ll want to check in on these things before leaving the breeder or shelter.
You've Sat Down With Your Family
You’ll want to make sure everyone in your household is on board with welcoming a dog into the family by discussing it together and outlining a plan for each person’s responsibilities. Talk to your children about the role they can take in caring for and raising the new dog and make sure you’ve got a schedule in place for walks, mealtime and playtime that works in conjunction with your family’s calendar.
You've Found a Vet and Trainer
Talk to pet parents in the neighborhood or do some online research to find a vet and a trainer that you can bring your dog to within the first few weeks of bringing him or her home. Feel free to take a visit to the vet to take a look at the facilities in person and talk to your potential vet about any questions you may have about bringing home a dog.
When it comes to looking for a trainer, consider registering for puppy kindergarten or obedience school classes as early as possible so that you can begin socializing them as soon as they come home.
Have you checked all of the above off your prospective pet parent list? If so, we have good news for you: Your answer to “Should I get a dog” is a resounding yes!