There are few things more rewarding than caring for a dog, and there are many ways getting a dog could change your life for the better. Of course there are some drawbacks of being responsible for a pet as well, but we’ll get into that shortly.
Brimming with personality, fun, affection, and unconditional love, there’s a reason why canines are man’s best friend. However, before you decide to adopt the first puppy you see, it’s worth remembering that bringing home a new member of the family will mean you encounter some major changes in your life.
Getting a dog should be a decision that is made carefully, slowly, and thoughtfully.
A dog requires a lot more work, focus and attention than virtually any other common pet. You can’t leave them alone all day like a cat and expect them to thrive. Plus, they need a lot more exercise than your average goldfish or bunny rabbit.
Understanding the kinds of changes (both good and bad) you’re likely to encounter when you become a dog parent is crucial to making sure you’re ready for this game-changing life experience.
Below are just some of the transformations and changes you might experience when your dream of getting a dog becomes a reality:
1. Your Schedule is Now Your Dog’s Schedule
From the moment you bring your new puppy home, your schedule will change. You won’t always be able to sleep in when you have a day off, or put in extra hours at work on a whim. Your dog needs to follow a consistent routine, including times set for play, bathroom breaks, eating, and so on.
If you already have a relatively hectic lifestyle, you might find it difficult to adapt to the complex needs of a dog. This could influence what kind of pet you choose to adopt. For instance, if you live alone and work long hours, and you don’t have someone who can come to your home to let your dog out for bathroom breaks, a puppy is likely to be out of the question. Getting a dog when you live alone is a big decision, because of the responsibility.
Keep in mind that younger dogs can only hold their bladder for short periods of time, such as 1-2 hours, making them more suited to people who work from home, or spend most of their days in the house. The average adult dog usually needs to relieve themselves every 8 hours or so. If you can’t get home to let them outside in that period, you may need to reconsider your adoption.
Yes, you can get puppy pads for them to pee on while you’re not home, but ideally you’d be home with a puppy as much as possible.
When it comes to your social calendar, planning certain events will force you to think carefully about your dog’s needs. For instance, if you want to go on vacation, you’ll need to hire a pet sitter, or look for a kennel or dog boarding facility. If you’re having friends over, you’ll need to ensure your pup is comfortable around new people, and vice versa. You’ll need to find out if any of your loved ones have dog allergies or a fear of dogs.
2. Getting a Dog Means You’ll Get a Lot More Exercise
If you’re not the kind of person who goes out for long walks frequently, that’s all going to change when you get a new dog. Your canine friend needs to go out and explore regularly, so you’ll need to commit a decent amount of time each day to walking and play time such as time spent at dog parks.
There are certain breeds of dogs which don’t require quite as much exercise, such as pugs and chihuahuas, which might be ideal if you don’t have a lot of time for excursions. In general, however, you can expect to spend much more time on exercise.
Researchers from Michigan State University conducted a study which found around half of dog owners exercise at least 30 minutes a day, at least 5 days a week. This could mean getting a dog helps you to get your recommended activity levels into your schedule. Some studies even suggest dog owners exercise around 30 minutes more each week than people without a four-legged friend.
Getting a dog will certainly have you walking more and sitting less. This is one of the benefits of getting a dog, and why many people say their emotional and physical health improved once they got a dog.
3. You’ll Spend a Lot More Cash
People who already struggle with their budget generally aren’t well-suited to owning a dog. All pets require some investment, but dogs can be particularly expensive. We’re not just talking about the costs of food and toys here, there are countless costs to think about, such as:
Pet sitters: If you’re the kind of person who travels a lot, you’ll need someone to come and watch your dog when you’re gone. Usually, dog sitters cost around $20 to $40 per day.
Kennels: If you’re going to be away for a longer period of time, you may need to “board” your dog at a kennel. The average cost here can vary, but you should expect to pay around $30-$50 per night for a basic facility.
Food: The price of food for your furry friend will often depend on the kind of dog you get. Larger breeds usually require more food, which means bigger bills. There are also certain breeds which may require additional supplements or specialist foods.
Training: Want your dog to sit on command, and walk without tugging on the lead? You’ll need someone to help you train them. Training costs can vary, but the average price is usually between $30 and $80 per class.
Vet bills: Dogs get sick, suffer from injuries, and encounter other problems which may require medical attention. Some dogs are even more prone to certain conditions, based on their DNA. Just as you might be more predisposed to diabetes, based on your DNA, your dog could have a higher risk of heart conditions or muscular problems.
Insurance: Vet bills can cost thousands of dollars depending on the issue your dog faces. To reduce the costs, you can pay for insurance, which will help you to pay your bills. Once again, your insurance costs will depend on the breed of dog you have and any prior illnesses they may suffer from. However, the cost of dog insurance can be double that of the average cat.
Cleaning supplies: Dogs make messes – particularly in the early years. You’re going to need to stock up on enzyme cleaners and other products to help remove urine and other stains. This could cost around $30 or more each month.
Travel supplies: If you’re travelling with your dog, they’ll need special accessories to keep them safe in the car. You might need to get a crate for your vehicle, or a harness solution to keep them strapped in with the seat belt.
Grooming: Whether you’re grooming your dog yourself, or paying for a professional, you can expect to rack up some decent expenses. You’ll need to spend cash on shampoo (and conditioner), combs, brushes, clippers, and even shaving equipment.
This means that the best dog owners are people who have extra money, not people who find that money is very tight. Dogs cost money, and you absolutely should learn just how much it costs before getting a dog.
4. You’ll Make More Friends
Similar to having a new baby, taking a new dog out on walks is likely to capture the attention of other like-minded pet parents, and just friendly strangers in general. When you’re out at the park, or walking down the street, you’re likely to encounter other people with their own dogs. This will usually lead to conversations about your pup, their breed, their behaviour and more. As a result, having a dog can help you to open up and enjoy more social interactions with strangers.
Studies show dogs make us more open to other people, and more comfortable in conversations with those we don’t know. At the same time, the activities you engage in with your pup will place you in a lot of new environments, ideal for making connections.
You’ll need to socialize your dog regularly to ensure they’re comfortable around other pets, which could mean meeting up with other dog owners for “group walks”. You could also join various dog groups on social media to learn more about caring for your pet.
Hopefully, you won’t mind all the petless people who stop to befriend you and your dog. Many people who don’t have pets because getting a dog is not allowed in their apartment complex – or whatever the reason – will yearn to befriend you and your dog.
In other words, making new friends should be exciting to you if getting a dog is part of your plan.
5. You’ll Stress Less About Mess
While some dogs are definitely messier than others, they all come with some extra muck to think about. Even if your pup is perfectly house-trained, and you choose a breed with limited shedding, you’ll still need to clean up after them pretty regularly.
Dogs can run around the house, scratching up your floors and carpets, as well as tracking mud in from the outdoors. They often chew on furniture, and accidentally destroy items left in easy-to-reach areas, which could mean you need to replace the occasional sweater or remote control.
Wondering if getting a dog is something that suits your personality? If you’re the kind of person who’s extremely concerned about messes in your home, you might find it difficult to live with any dog. However, if you’re already comfortable with a little mess, your dog will make it so you’re even less worried about things being completely ‘pristine’.
6. Your Emotional and Physical Health Could Significantly Improve
There are countless ways bringing a dog home can improve your health. First and foremost, more exercise means stronger muscles, better cardiovascular fitness, and a reduced risk of obesity. If your DNA test reveals a genetic risk of developing obesity, having a dog could help you prevent obesity by getting your total daily energy expenditure higher.
At the same time, studies show dog owners are less likely to visit the doctor than those without a pet, which could have something to do with the improved longevity you’ll get from extra exercise.
Having a dog can even reduce your risk of falling victim to certain unhealthy practices. One report conducted by the Henry Ford Health system found one in three smokers said worrying about the repercussions of smoking on their dog would prompt them to quit.
Further research into dog ownership and pet ownership in general have also found that pet owners may be more protected against cardiovascular risk. Plus, some experts even believe dogs can help to sniff out problems such as cancer!
Furthermore, you’ll likely find your emotional and mental health improving due to your dog’s unconditional love, companionship, and cuddles – which leads us to our next point:
7. You May Experience Reduced Stress and Anxiety
It’s no secret that dogs make us happy. Their adorable mannerisms and unique personalities are enough to make anyone smile. Coming home to a happy dog each day can easily chase away the stress you feel after a hard day of work, and science proves it.
According to an article in the Frontiers in Psychology publication, nursing home residents had reduced symptoms of depression after interacting with a dog. Other reviews indicate dogs can increase our levels of oxytocin – the love hormone, which assists in boosting our psychological well being.
As an added bonus, dogs can prevent you from doing things which might allow your anxiety or depression to fester. It’s hard to isolate yourself or withdraw completely when you know your dog is relying on you to get outside and enjoy some exercise.
Getting a dog can work wonders for your mental health. Some doctors even recommend a pet such as a dog as an emotional support animal for those struggling with depression or anxiety.
8. You Could Develop a Stronger Immune System
Scientists believe exposure to pets, particularly dogs, could be beneficial to our immune system. Getting extra exercise naturally boosts your immune system and gives your body more endurance, so you can fight off various ailments and diseases.
Researchers at the University of Arizona are also conducting studies to prove kisses and cuddles from your dog can enhance your immune system too. Scientists believe living with a dog, and the various bacteria they bring into your home can encourage the growth of positive gut micro-organisms. These help to improve your resilience.
In simple terms, having a dog at home could be just as good as taking a probiotic each morning to power up your health. However, extra research is needed to fully understand the influence dogs have on our ability to avoid illness.
9. You’ll Become More Responsible
Getting a dog can help you grow up faster, and become a more responsible adult faster than you otherwise would have. Dogs teach us patience and responsibility.
Responsibility is something many of us develop over time, as we’re exposed to various challenges and expectations in life. Sometimes, however, you can lose your sense of responsibility when you’re living on your own, without anyone to care for but yourself.
When you have a dog to look after, you need to commit to making sure they stay happy and healthy. You can’t just brush off going for a walk because you don’t feel like it, or stay in bed and forget to give your pet their meals. This helps to cultivate a better sense of responsibility.
Loving and caring for a pet forces you to adjust your thought processes to consider the needs of another living thing. According to an article from the Washington Post, having a dog can actually help children and adults to be more empathetic. We learn how to assess the non-verbal cues of our animals to determine what they need from us, which boosts emotional intelligence.
10. You’ll Never Be Bored
Finally, while owning a dog can have its fair share of headaches and challenges, it’s a good way to ensure you’re never sitting at home feeling bored. When you have a pup to keep you company, you’ll always have a source of entertainment. If you don’t know what to do with yourself, your dog will always be there for a walk or a bout of tug-and-war.
Dogs can also inspire us to be more productive. According to one study, bringing a dog into the workplace can increase creativity, collaboration, and make people more active. If you’re constantly feeling listless and out of place, a dog could be just what you need.
Are You Ready For the Life Changes That Come With Owning a Dog?
Having a dog of your own can be a wonderful way to enhance your life, improve your mental and physical health, and expand your social circle while strengthening your social skills. However, it’s worth remembering you’re going to go through some pretty significant changes when you adopt your new pet.
Before you dive in, make sure you can live with the changes above, both good, and bad.