Am I Ready For A Dog? You Should Be Able To Answer These 7 Questions If So
Thinking of adding a canine fur baby to your household? There are some things to consider before signing the adoption papers — for instance, asking yourself some questions that will help you determine if you can afford having a dog if you work full-time. While this might seem counter-intuitive because a full-time job equals more money, you'll also have to factor in a potential dog walker or doggy-daycare membership, vet bills, food, toys, pet security deposits and pet rent, and boarding for your four-legged friend when you're traveling.
All of these things can add up pretty quickly. According to the ASPCA, the cost of adding a dog to your crew can range between $1,400 and $2,000 in the first year. Money Under 30 Editor David Weliver detailed his experience adopting a cat without understanding the hidden costs on the Money Under 30 website.
"Along the way, we’ve spent thousands on food and veterinary care including a $2,000+ surgery that fell while Lauren [Weliver's wife] was an even poorer law student," he revealed. "We certainly don’t regret having pets — in fact, we’ve now adopted a dog, too — but we obviously were not thinking about the potential (and not insignificant) costs of pet ownership when we were young and looking for a cat." Whether you're considering adopting a cat or a dog, ask yourself some questions first to make sure you're financially ready to take on this responsibility.
1. Can I Afford An Unexpected Vet Bill?
If you're living paycheck to paycheck, you might not be ready to take on the financial responsibility of a dog. Even if you've averaged out the costs of food, boarding and dog walking, an unexpected vet bill can really throw a wrench into your finances. What's more, in my experience, a dog medical emergency seems to come when you have the least amount of money to pay for it.
If you still plan to adopt a dog, it's a good idea to look into pet insurance. This is basically health insurance for your dog. For a low monthly fee the insurance will cover vet visits and serious medical emergencies. If I could have a do-over, I would definitely opt for this.
2. What If I Have To Move?
While your current pad might be pet friendly, if you have an unexpected move and have trouble finding a dog-friendly apartment in your price range, you could find yourself in the heartbreaking predicament of giving up your dog so you can find a place to live.
According to Petfinder, moving is the number one reason dogs are surrendered to shelters. Before you take on the responsibility of a dog, make sure you can afford to shell out the extra cash for a pet friendly place. Aside from limiting your options, a lot of rentals now charge pet rent and a non-refundable pet deposit. That's money you'll never see again so make sure you can realistically afford to part with it.
3. Do I Travel A Lot?
If you have a job that takes you away from home on the regular, and you live far away from family and friends, you're going to have board your dog or hire a pet sitter. Both of these options can costs a lot, more than $100 a day in some cases depending on where you live. If this kind of financial commitment is out of your reach, it probably isn't the best time to add a dog to your life.
4. Can I Afford To Put Money Away Every Month?
Even if you have a steady income, TIME magazine's Money section reported that Dr. Erin Wilson, medical director of the ASPCA Adoption Center in New York City, suggested that pet owners put some away money each month that they can access for unexpected emergencies.
If you can't afford to put some money away, and you need to pay a big deposit or you lose your job, you might not be able to afford to keep your dog because the ASPCA estimated that the lifetime costs of having a dog can top $15,000. Yikes.
5. Can I Afford Dog Training?
While not all dogs need to be professionally trained, some breeds and some dogs who come from rescues need this extra instruction to learn how to do things like walk on a leash, greet strangers, and meet other dogs.
6. What About Grooming?
While not all dogs need to be professionally groomed, if you get a long-haired breed or a dog that doesn't allow you to bathe it at home, you could be in for some salon bills that rival your own. This additional cost can usually be avoided by doing a little bit of research first.
Make sure you're familiar with the specific needs of the breed of dog you're adopting. If you're getting a dog from a rescue or a shelter, ask a lot of questions, including how the dog handles baths. I have never had any of my dogs professionally groomed, so you can definitely avoid this cost if you do your homework up front.
7. If You Answered No, There's Another Option
As someone who's had dogs since I was 21, and definitely could not afford it at times, it's important to ask yourself these hard questions to make sure you're making the best decision for you and your potential pooch.
If you can't afford the added cost of having a dog, there is another way to bring a four-legged friend home without spending very much money: Consider becoming a foster parent. Rescue groups almost always need foster homes to house dogs who are awaiting adoption. In many cases they will pay for the dog's food, and they cover the vet expenses.
"While the commitment isn’t lifelong, people are still hesitant to jump on the foster wagon, concerned they don’t have the time needed to give the dog the attention it deserves. Have no fear. You can make it work having a full-time job," Sarah Braksy wrote for the website This Dog's Life. "Think about it: a dog would much rather be with someone in a home, rather than a loud, noisy kennel. They will take your full-time schedule over that environment any day of the week."
If you think you can handle welcoming a dog into your life only to give it up a few months later, call or email rescue groups and shelters in your area. In addition to helping saving a dog's life, you can also see if you're ready for the responsibility of having your own dog. Because, while it's pure joy, it's also a huge commitment (20 years in some cases) and a lot of work.
If you can't foster, these same organizations rely on volunteers to walk their dogs too. If you love, love, love dogs, this is a great way to get your fix for free.