Feature photo: Scarleth White; Photo: Randy Son of Robert

Wanting a dog and being ready for one are two different things.

So, you think you want a dog?

Here are four questions you need to ask yourself first to determine whether you’re ready to become a dog owner.

1. Why do I want a dog?

There are many reasons to own a dog, but some of them aren’t right for the dog or the owner.

If your neighbor was robbed last week and you just want protection, an alarm system is probably a better option.

If your kids are nagging you for a puppy, be aware they will usually tire of it in a couple of weeks and Fido will become your job.

“Realize a dog is a dog, not a four legged human.”

If you have an empty nest and the house is too quiet, a dog may fill your time and your heart, but realize a dog is a dog, not a four legged human.

If you want a loving, loyal companion to share your life, there are many dogs ready and willing to apply for the position. Please make sure you’re ready for the 8 to 15 year commitment required.

2. How much time do you have?

Dogs are pack animals and they need to be part of the pack – even if it’s a pack of two. They need at least one long walk a day as well as bathroom walks. Walks can’t be skipped because the weather is bad, you have a cold, or you want to sleep in.

“Dogs don’t understand weekends.”

If you walk Spot at 7:00 A.M. Monday through Friday, be prepared to do it on Saturday and Sunday, too. As my son once told me, “Dogs don’t understand weekends.”

Puppies and aging dogs require even more time and more walks. Are you up to it? On the up side, a dog is a great motivator for that exercise program you’ve been meaning to start.

3. Do you travel a lot?

Will your dog go with you or have to be boarded? Remember, nothing is more traumatic for a dog than being separated from his pack. If you are gone a lot, consider getting two dogs and hiring a sitter when you are away. Or find a friend with a dog and arrange “play dates” for your dogs. Get them used to each other and their respective homes. Then swap dog sitting duties. You will both save money and the dogs will be happier.

4. Can you afford a dog?

Photo: e3000

It’s not the initial cost of the dog or the food that empties your checking account. It’s the vet bills. So, make sure you budget for your dog’s health needs. Doggy health insurance is also available.

As a final test, keep a friend’s dog while he or she is on vacation. This should be a least a week; two would be better. A weekend is not really long enough to experience owning a dog. Then, if you still want one, start researching how to choose a dog. Choosing the right dog for you is even more important than deciding to get one. Shelters are full of dogs from people who chose on impulse and then couldn’t handle the dog.

This article is long on the negative of deciding to get a dog because the positive won’t cause a problem. A dog brings joy, love, devotion, and companionship. Every dog deserves the same in return. Are you up to it?

Community Connection:

If you think dogs are for the birds, check out our guide How to Buy a Talking Bird.

But if you answered the questions in this article and decided that you are ready to bring a dog into your life, be sure to read “Ten Tips for Traveling with Pets” and “Recession-Proof Your Pet,” just two of the thousands of articles in our archives.

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