With many Americans still sheltering in place, staying at home has become a new norm for many of us.
It can be stressful, but there is a silver lining: with commutes, social activities, and classes canceled, many of us have extra time on our hands. The perfect time to get a dog, right?
If you’re tempted to add a furry companion to your family right now, you’re certainly not alone. Shelters across the nation, from LA to NYC, have seen record numbers of people showing up to foster or adopt.
The benefits are hard to argue with: dogs can provide an amazing emotional boost (especially important as we’re more socially isolated than normal), as well as a good excuse to get more exercise.
However, before you get too far along in the process, it’s important to think about if a dog will truly fit into your life—not just now, but after quarantine restrictions are lifted.
Below are four key questions to think about.
1. Can You Afford a Dog Right Now?
Let’s face it: owning a dog can be expensive, especially if it’s your first. According to the ASPCA, the annual costs for pet care can range from $737 to $1,040— this includes items like pet health insurance, toys and treats, and dog food, but doesn’t include any one-time costs, such as the equipment and supplies you’ll need, or the unexpected costs that come up, like trips to the vet.
Take a good hard look at your finances, and make sure your budget can handle it.
2. What Breed is Best for You / Your Family?
If you’ve been endlessly scrolling through listings, it can be easy to fall in love with a pup based on cuteness alone. It’s equally important to think through which breed will fit your lifestyle best.
Different breeds have vastly different personality traits, exercise needs, and grooming requirements. Herding breeds, like Aussie Shepherds and Border Collies, need a lot of exercise—are you and your family prepared for that? If not, you might want to consider a smaller, more low-key breed, like an English Bulldog, or even a mixed breed!
Not sure where to start? The American Kennel Club has a great guide to breeds here.
3. Will a Dog Fit Into Your Schedule, Even After the Quarantine?
Sure you may have a lot of extra time right now, but will that still be the case when you need to go back to school or the office?
Dogs, especially puppies, require a lot of your time. From daily walks to training time and vet visits, you can expect to spend 1-2 hours per day giving dedicated attention to your pup. And, remember, that’s a commitment you’re making for the rest of the dog’s life.
If you anticipate being gone for long stretches of time, or if you travel a lot throughout the year, that’s not a dealbreaker—you’ll just need a bigger budget for doggy daycare/boarding or neighborhood dog walkers!
4. Are You Prepared for Training?
Speaking of training… it can be harder than you think! Even for breeds that are commonly “easy” to train, every dog is different.
If you’re getting a puppy, you may need to potty train, spend time teaching him or her which areas of the house (or which items) are off-limits, and so on. Socialization is also important at an early age, but may be difficult right now if you don’t already have a dog in your home. Group puppy classes can be helpful, but keep in mind many pet stores and training facilities have canceled classes.
For the time being, try focusing on “non-social” socialization strategies, such as introducing your pup to new sounds, scents, and experiences (like clipping their nails).
Is Now the Time?
If you’ve considered the four questions above and are ready for a lifelong commitment with a pup, we say go for it! There’s nothing quite like cuddling with your dog after a long day, and pretty soon, you’ll never be able to imagine life without your furry friend.