Adopting a dog isn’t always sunshine pixie dust. There are, in fact, a lot of beautiful and fulfilling moments in animal rescue, but there’s also a lot of work involved in caring for a pet. Before I adopted Django I was adamant on doing as much research as possible, so I feel as though I was pretty prepared, but there are still some things that felt to me like a bit of a slap in the face. If you’re planning on adopting a dog pay attention to these points, and you’ll find the transition to be much smoother. Don’t make the same assumptions that I did!
I wish I knew:
How expensive it is.
Adopting a dog can be very pricey. Many of us know this already, and certainly if you have a dog it’s something that you’re acquainted with, but I wish I knew EXACTLY how much it would cost so that I could have adjusted my budget properly beforehand, instead of after the fact. Expensive is a relative term of course, and from the perspective of a 20-something year old recently out of university, expensive is the right term in this case. Disregarding the price of adopting the dog (a couple hundred bucks), you have to pay for vet bills, yearly check ups and flea/tick medicine (another couple hundred), food (typically $80 for a large bag), toys, dog sitting when you go away and walking when you’re at work. That isn’t even including all of the unexpected medical cost that will arise, and that’s where things truly get pricey. Many rescue dogs have behavioural issues that will need to be worked through, so factor in the price of a good dog trainer. All in all, having a dog will cost anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 per year minimum.
Some people will opt into pet insurance in the case of a medical emergency. This is a great idea, but it’s important to note that the insurance company won’t cover any PRE-EXISTING conditions, so any medical problems that you dog had before purchasing the insurance will not be covered. Other people will have a bank account that they add money to specifically for their dog to cover the extra costs.
How much time it takes.
Having a dog is like having a part time job. You need to walk him, feed him, keep him stimulated throughout the day, and give him all of the cuddles he requires. It’s a lot of work and it takes up a lot of your time! Dogs require routine, so you’ll need to set a schedule for your dog to follow in order to keep him happy. Many rescue dogs have behavioural issues that you’ll need to work on. This can often take a fair bit of time and patience to adjust. If you’re planning on adopting a dog be prepared to devote lots of your time and energy to them.
You’ll have to sacrifice your social life.
Your dog needs consistency, and he needs you to be around for him. It’s irresponsible for you to leave your dog at home alone for long stretches of time as your out with your friends. In order to give your dog a happy life, you may need to sacrifice some of your social life. Before having a dog, I would be out of the house all day long, filling my day up. Now that I have a dog I need to factor him into my schedule so that he’s being taken out regularly and has companionship. Now, I almost always suggest to friends that we go somewhere dog friendly, or that they come over to my house, so that I can give my dog the care that he needs, while also getting in my social time.
I’ll be the first to admit that my social life wasn’t wildly hectic before getting a dog, and one of my reasons for getting a dog was so that I’d always have a friend around. If you’re a home body this is a huge bonus, because you finally have the perfect excuse to hang out around the house.
You’ll never sleep in ever again.
Dogs wake up with the sun, and they don’t like to hang around while you get your beauty sleep. All dogs have different tactics for encouraging you to wake up, from jumping up on the bed to whining at the door. Django wakes me up everyday between 7:30-8am by barking right next to my face until I take him for his morning walk. To a certain degree, your dog will adjust to the schedule that you set for it, so, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a little bit of leeway.
If you like sleeping in, prepare to shift your schedule for your dog, even if that means going out for an early morning walk and then curling up in bed again afterwards.
You’re going to hate your dog sometimes, and that’s okay.
There will be times that you feel as though your dog is holding you back. There will be times that you’re tired and frustrated, and there will be times that you hate your dog. It’s okay to admit it, and it doesn’t make you a bad dog owner. It’s very difficult to live with someone and not have moments of frustration. As long as the love is outweighing that frustration then I think you’re in a good place.
Adjust future plans to fit your dog.
Each dog has a different lifespan but in some cases they can live for 15 years. That means you need to factor them into your life plan for the next 15 years. Depending on your life stage, this could either be a big adjustment, or a small one. If you’re planning a big trip, you’re either going to have to plan to take them along, or have a solid place for them to stay while you’re away. This is especially hard for people who don’t know where they’re going to be in the next years of their life. I used to dream of jetting off to all ends of the world, and then I got a dog. Now I have to limit myself to places that he can come with me. My life/travel plans have drastically changed since getting a dog. It’s irresponsible for you to send him back to the rescue the second you want to live a travellers lifestyle. You’ve decided to take this dogs life in your hands, so you need to prepare for that in the long term.
I should probably add that adopting a dog has been the best decision of my life. Although these things are all hard, the reward has been tenfold, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m sure that many dog owners would agree with me here. Adopting a dog will change your life drastically. There will be some things that will be very difficult, but there will be a ton of things that will be positive. Make sure that you do your research so that you fully understand the responsibility of owning a dog before you bring your new friend home. Doing that research will save you from the same slap in the face that I got.