Ever since you saw that couple walking down the street with a puppy, canoodling in their cozy coats and scarves, trading the leash and the shared peppermint mocha back and forth, you’ve had the urge to put a puppy under the tree. It was almost sickening, the charm of it all, and yet, you want it. You want it bad.
So now you’re seriously considering that puppy. After all, you love dogs! You’ve always wanted one! Right? Maybe this is the beginning of everything. Maybe this is exactly what you need. Maybe you’re one puppy away from endless canoodles and peppermint mochas and all the happiness life has to offer.
You think to yourself, why not?
Actually, this “why not” is a good place to start. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of a new dog without considering all the important practicalities it involves. So before you go out shopping for that, puppy-sized Santa hat, here’s a list of questions to help determine if you’re ready for this potentially 10-15 year commitment. More importantly, it can save you the agony of trying to find a new home for your new puppy in February when both of you are profoundly regretful and peppermint mochas are out of season.
Okay, here goes:
Have you owned a dog before? Are you already familiar with the time, care, and attention it requires? (News flash: it’s kind of a lot.) Are you ready to head up the basic training and problem solving involved? There are going to be bumps in the road like chewed up stilettos and carpet stains. Of course, there are also going to be cuddles and delicious puppy dog breath, but still. Chewed stilettos.
Does your daily schedule work with a dog? Do you have a structured routine, or do you like the flexibility of sleeping off a weekend hangover until 2:00 p.m.? (Because while you’re drooling a pool onto your pillow, your dog is taking a dump in the corner and destroying your coffee table books.) How often do you travel? What’s your plan when you can’t be at home? Dogs thrive on structure and routine, so be honest with yourself. And if you have a hard time being honest with yourself, tell your most blunt friend that you’re thinking about getting a dog. His or her reaction will tell you all you need to know.
What’s your living sitch? If your arrangement includes you plus someone else, or you plus kids, or you plus a roommate, or all of the above, make sure everyone affected is on board. And while we’re focus-grouping, now is the time to find out about potential allergies.
Is your home pet-friendly? Think about where the dog can sleep, play and exercise. If you live in an apartment, remember how often a dog needs to pee each day (at least a handful of times). Are you up for elevator rides and walks outside that often? What about your neighborhood? Are there good places to walk, play, and (ahem) defecate?
Are you ready for the financial responsibility? Food, immunizations, medications, grooming, boarding, vet visits--this is all part of the deal and costs actual benjamins. As far as we know, there are no such thing as Trust Fund Dogs. Although, if you rescue a shelter dog, immunizations and spay/neutering procedures are often covered. Definitely something to consider if money is a consideration!
Are you planning to adopt a dog or purchase from a breeder? This is a personal decision and should be made with ample information and consideration. Regardless of your choice, educate yourself on puppy mills and be sure to avoid supporting them with your money. You don’t need any Cruella DeVille juju in your life.
What kind of dog do you want? Have you thought about the size, temperament, and general energy level of the dog you want? A good rule of thumb is to consider a breed with an energy level equal to or lower than your own. A mismatch either way leads to all sorts of terrible stories your friends will enjoy telling at parties about you. Simply put, some dogs need more exercise than others, so if walking twice a day is not your thing, find a dog who agrees that binge-watching NARCOS on Netflix trumps all other forms of activity.
If you’ve answered these preliminary questions in the affirmative, congratulations! You’re not just caught up in a fantasy, but actually ready to take the next steps toward living the dog life. Do your homework, visit shelters, and ask friends or family who’ve walked this path to start preparing. Better yet, go to your local dog park and start talking to people there. It’s a great way to meet new friends (two- and four-legged alike) and gather all sorts of helpful info to start you on your way.
If you’ve answered the majority of these questions in the negative, it’s time to take a step back. Consider volunteering at a shelter or fostering a dog first to try out dog care without a long-term commitment. Maybe you’ll find that a low-maintenance hermit crab is more your style. Or perhaps, at the end of the day, what you really want is just a peppermint mocha.