How do you know when you're ready to adopt a dog? The short answer is that you're never ready. There will be surprises that pop up for even the most prepared dog owner, but you can make sure your schedule, finances, and supplies are in place to ensure a smooth start for you and your new best friend.
The American Kennel Club provides prospective dog owners with a quiz that they can take to test the adoption waters. This is a great guideline. If you get every question right, then you're likely ready for a dog, and if you don't get a correct answer, then maybe it's best to hold off for a bit. That said, every dog owner and every dog it different. Like all things, there are exceptions and special circumstances that can apply. It's best to talk to a vet or reputable rescue organization and discuss your specific situation. In general, here are some things to consider:
Do you have enough time?
Even the most well-behaved pup is going to gobble up tons of your time, at least initially, as she gets acclimated to her new environment. If you work 80 hours a week, then adopting a dog at this point in your life could be challenging. Dogs, like people, thrive on a schedule. The most important and effective part of dog training is consistency. Especially if you live in an apartment or are adopting a puppy, a schedule can make your life and your dog's life much happier. Depending on the age of your pup, you can plan to spend at least three collective hours with your dog every day. Many vets recommend the following schedule:
7-7:30 a.m. — Ten-minute walk
7:30-8 a.m. — Breakfast
8-9 a.m. — Play and another 10-minute walk
9 a.m. to 12 p.m — Quiet time/nap
12-1 p.m. — Playtime/Dog Park/ Long Walk
1-5p.m. — Quiet time/nap
5-7:30 p.m. — Dinner and playtime/walk.
7:30-11p.m. — Quiet time/nap
11 p.m. — One last walk before bed.
That's a LOT of work. Worth it, but a lot of work. Make sure you're prepared for that kind of commitment.
Are you ready for the expense?
Owning a dog means you'll be constantly surprised with unexpected costs. Most parents plan for the usual like food, supplies, and vet bills. But often dogs have some other expenses in mind especially if you have a puppy.
Pups love to chew everything, and they're fast. Power cords, shoes, doors ... everything is a chew toy to a puppy. Even grown dogs can get bored and decide that the couch looks better disassembled and unstuffed. Replacement costs can be very expensive. If you're thinking, "not my dog. I'm going to train him". Good job being a responsible pet owner, but training costs add up quickly as well. Training classes often run a couple hundred dollars, and individual trainers are substantially more than that. It's worth it, but it's costly.
Do you know the right supplies to buy?
Your pup will need a lot of supplies. There's the obvious: leash, collar, bed/crate. Hopefully, these will be one-time purchases and last awhile. But there are numerous supplies that your pup will go through quickly and will require you to stay ahead of the game. Bones, toys, and poo bags have a very short lifespan with dogs. While it's true that you can over stimulate your dog with too many toys and bones, being caught empty handed can create behavior problems. Same with poo bags, your neighborhood will thank you if you stay on top of having these on have at all time. (Not to mention avoiding citations.)
Have you puppy-proofed your home?
Once you've got a small dog finding all the nooks and crannies of your house that are filled with trash and treasures they immediately want to eat, keeping them away from it is difficult. Consider the size of your dog as you prepare your home. Small dogs can get into and under some of the furniture (including the bed). Larger dogs can reach the tops of tables, nightstands, and other places where you might've left something. Even if your dog isn't a puppy, being in a new place might cause them to get into stuff they shouldn't, so for the first month at least, try to keep your house even cleaner and more organized than you typically would.
Are you prepared to house train?
Let's get something straight — puppies are adorable. With their tiny little bodies, their curious eyes, and their oversized feet, they could melt even the coldest of hearts. But what new dog owners sometimes don't realize is that puppies are also a TON of work. If you're thinking about adding a new bundle of adorable fur to your life, just make sure you're ready for the new family member that's about to enter your life. Because we can't JUST enjoy the cuteness.
If this all sounds obvious and do-able to you, you're ready to adopt a dog. Congratulations! They are absolutely worth every penny and hour you give them!