7 Things to Know Before Getting a Dog

December 2, 2021


December 2, 2021

Owning a dog can add incredible joy and richness to our lives. But, when new owners fail to understand the work and time involved in dog ownership, the initial thrill fades and the dog is neglected, rehomed, or returned. Successful lifelong canine-owner bonds are built on an awareness and understanding of the following seven concepts.

#1: Dogs are a lifelong commitment

Dogs live an average of 8 to 12 years, with many small breeds living longer. During those years, they require a lot from their owners. Dogs are dependent, and rely on their humans for all their basic resources, including food, water, shelter, and safety. They not only require maximum care and supervision during puppyhood, but also have unique and time-consuming care requirements when they are seniors. 

Whether you add a puppy, adult, or senior dog to your home, their presence will alter your schedule and your life, much like a new baby. When a dog enters the picture, your daily routine may suddenly look completely different, and require that you be flexible with your time and plans.

#2: Caring for a dog is expensive

A dog’s love may be priceless, but their care can be costly, and you should carefully consider the expenses in advance. According to the ASPCA, adopted dog ownership averages $1,000 in the first year. And some estimates put average annual costs between $380 to nearly $2,000. 

These amounts do not factor in emergency veterinary care, which can quickly reach the thousands. Keep the following in mind when budgeting for your future dog:

  • Large-breed dogs are more expensive to care for than small and medium-sized breeds.
  • Veterinary care costs increase as dogs age.
  • Grooming is a regular expense for many breeds.

Pet insurance and veterinary wellness packages can reduce dog care costs significantly. Preventive care (e.g., annual veterinary care, dental care, grooming, and maintaining appropriate weight) is the greatest way to give your dog a long, healthy life, and reduce veterinary costs.

#3: Selecting the right dog requires research

Before you begin looking for a new dog, list the criteria you want and need from your perfect canine match. A written list can help you resist impulse adoptions or breed selection based on popularity or appearance. Answer these practical questions to help you compile your list:

  • Space — Do you have enough indoor and outdoor space for a large dog?
  • Family — Does everyone want a dog? Is anyone allergic to dogs? If so, consider hypoallergenic breeds.
  • Activity level — Can you adequately exercise a high energy breed? What activities (e.g., run, bike, play fetch, hunt, agility) do you want to do with your dog?
  • Temperament — What kind of personality should your dog have? Do they need to be good with kids and/or other pets? 

Talk to adoption counselors at your local animal shelters about your criteria for your dog. If you prefer a purebred, learn everything you can about the breed, and how to identify a reputable breeder. Contact the national breed club for reliable breeder referrals. Avoid online or print classifieds, pet stores, auctions, and large commercial retail operations that sell various breeds, because dogs from these sources may have unknown or untold health histories, vaccination status, and temperament.

#4: Select your veterinarian before you bring home your dog

A great veterinarian is a priceless resource for your dog throughout their life. Begin searching for a veterinarian before your dog arrives. This will give you time to ask friends, neighbors, and other dog professionals for recommendations, research online, read reviews, and meet with potential veterinarians. Visit each veterinary hospital to assess the following:

Visit several veterinary facilities, ensuring you include large and small clinics. Perform similar searches for your dog’s trainer and groomer, if needed.

Have your dog examined by the veterinarian as soon as possible, regardless of whether they need vaccines. A thorough examination is important to confirm your new dog is in good health. 

#5: Dog safety hazards and toxins are everywhere

Puppies and dogs don’t have pre-installed house manners, and they require training and time before they can be trusted with freedom in the home. Create a safe, confined space (e.g., a small room or pen), so your new furry friend does not encounter any toxins or hazards. Then, get down to a dog’s level, and examine their area for:

  • Choking hazards — Small items or items commonly chewed and swallowed, such as toys, curtain cords, door stops, decor items, hair accessories, laundry, and shoes
  • Electrical hazards — Power cords and surge protectors
  • ToxinsHouse plants, medications, household cleaners, candy and gum containing chocolate or xylitol 
  • Trash — Use lockable lids or keep trash cans out of reach

Do not leave your new dog unattended, unless they are confined to a crate or small pen. A dog who is comfortable when crated or confined for short periods is easier to live with. Build positive associations with confinement right from the start, for lifelong success. 

#6: Training is a lifelong process

Training should begin as soon as you bring your dog home. Connect with a certified positive reinforcement trainer in your area for live classes, or online for virtual lessons and guidance. Dogs are always watching us, which means they are always learning. Memorize these three good training principles, and ensure you always set a good example:

  • Reward good behavior.
  • Be consistent.
  • Manage your dog’s environment to prevent unwanted behavior. 

Socialization is another key training aspect for puppies and dogs. Begin introducing new sights, sounds, people, and experiences. Start small, and gradually progress to bigger challenges as they become more confident. If at any point your puppy or dog becomes frightened, remove them from the situation. Consult a veterinary behaviorist if your dog shows excessively fearful or aggressive responses.  

#7: Transitions take time

Effortless relationships aren’t built overnight. Anticipate that your new puppy or dog will have a few difficult days or weeks after coming home. They may experience anxiety, disorientation, or depression from the initial shock of relocation. Be patient, and give them time to adjust. Resist the urge to overwhelm your new dog with toys, activities, and new people. This may trigger fear and anxiety, especially in young, sensitive dogs. Instead, offer them:

  • A safe space — Confine them in a crate or special room where they learn to feel safe and secure.
  • A calm atmosphere — Do not bring your new dog home during the holidays, a new school year, or other chaotic time.
  • A predictable routine — Dogs find comfort when they know what to expect. Establish regular times for feeding, elimination, exercise, and crate training.
  • Exercise and play — Activity strengthens your bond, reduces stress, and improves behavior.
  • Positive training — Teach house training and basic manners to build your new dog’s confidence. 

As your dog settles in, or your puppy grows up, you can gradually allow them more freedom around the home. Supervise them closely during this transition, and don’t be afraid to go back to previous restrictions if your dog behaves inappropriately. Some dogs will graduate quickly, while others take more time, and some may never be fully trustworthy alone. 

Sharing your life with a dog means you will have an incomparable level of companionship and unconditional love. By selecting a dog who fits your lifestyle and understanding their needs, you can return these gifts with a long, healthy, happy life, and a forever home. 


https://www.petmd.com/dog/wellness/evr_dg_how_long_do_dogs_live.PetMD. 2017.

https://www.moneyunder30.com/the-true-cost-of-pet-ownership.Money Under 30. 2021.


https://www.clickertraining.com/adopting-a-shelter-or-rescue-dog. Clicker Training. 2010.

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Disclaimer: Our content is for informational purposes only — it’s not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.