Are You Ready for a Dog? Here’s the Checklist to Find Out.

For You

There are so many great reasons to bring a dog into your life. They offer humans a healthier lifestyle (think of all that extra walking), a wider range of friends (you’ll meet fellow dog lovers everywhere you go), new and unusual dog-focused events (try Strut Your Mutt or Corgi Con), and they are the best company in the world (a dog won’t fight you for the remote control or laugh at your obsession with chick lit).

But dogs are also a commitment: You will be responsible for your dog’s wellbeing for as long as your pup lives. If you think you’re ready to bring a dog home, first make sure you can check off every item on the list below.

You’ve done your homework

Before getting a dog, you should devote a significant amount of time to research. Read books about training, dog care and nutrition. If you’re thinking of a puppy, read up on what to expect and what you will need to do. If your heart is set on a buying a purebred puppy, find out how to identify a responsible breeder (rather than a puppy mill dog from a pet store).  

Related: The Complete Guide to Reading Your Dog’s Body Language

For those thinking of adopting from an animal shelter, talk to people who have rescued a shelter dog. If you’re in love with a particular breed, research the breed and consider your lifestyle; don’t get a breed, for example, that needs tons of exercise if you’re someone who likes to spend weekends on the couch watching the game. Talk to people who own that breed and read information on the websites of breed clubs. Essentially, read everything you can get your hands on about caring for dogs.

You have the time for training, walking and socializing your dog

It may come as a shock, but most dogs don’t come pre-trained (if it does come as a shock, refer to the item above). Puppies and even some older dogs will need to be housetrained, correctly and humanely. This will take time. Some dogs learn faster than others, but all training requires commitment and patience.

Your dog will need regular walks every day, and could be up to three times a day depending on their energy level. If you work long hours, you may need to budget for a dog walker. Finally, you need to remember, your dog is part of your life now. If you’re into going out every single night to places that don’t allow dogs, this is probably not the right time to bring a dog into your life.

Related: How This Training Technique Can Teach Your Dog the Life-Saving Skill of Self-Control

You’re willing to learn

You’re interested in learning about caring for a dog. This means you want to read about nutrition, training, food and substances that are toxic to dogs, first aid, medical conditions, seasonal care, grooming, dental care and doggy behavior. You’ve asked other dog owners about their veterinarian, researched puppy groups and/or obedience classes and have puppy-proofed your home. You’re resourceful and ready to ask questions.

You have enough money for food, veterinarian care, toys and other necessary gear

Caring for a dog can be expensive. Your dog will need food, toys, supplies, like leashes and collars, and potentially sweaters and winter coats. But the most expensive cost will most likely be medical care. Your dog will need vaccinations; spay or neutering; grooming; any medical costs for injuries or illnesses; medications including flea, tick, and mosquito repellant, along with dental cleanings, which are expensive. According to the AKC, the average lifetime cost of owning a dog over the course of 10 to 15 years ranges from $14,480 to $15,782. Money magazine breaks it down by year: $1,001 for a small dog, $1,214 for a medium-sized dog and $1,448 for a large dog — and that doesn’t include extras or one-time expenses.

Also, a main reason why dogs are brought to shelters is because of behavioral issues. Many people, rather than spend the time and energy training their dog, will just give up. They don’t have the patience or realize that trainers are expensive.

If these expenses are a concern for you, set aside money every month to take care of your dog and consider getting pet insurance.  

You can commit to a dog for her natural lifetime

A dog can live for 10, 15 or even 20 years. Are you ready to be there for her – from the crazy puppy stage to the terrible teenager period to when they get old and need your help more than ever? If you can honestly promise to take care of a dog for the rest of her life, no matter what happens in that time, then you’re ready for a dog. That means, unless there are extraordinary circumstances, you will continue to care for your dog if you have a baby. If you have to move, you will find housing that will allow your dog, and if your dog gets sick or disabled, you will be equally — or more — dedicated to her care and quality of life.

Related: How to Teach Your Children to be Gentle With Dogs

You’re ready for a dog if you can check off every single box on this list. If you feel one or more are not something you’re ready for, it’s probably not the right time to bring a dog into your life.