Finding the Right Pet: Dog Edition
Most of us classify ourselves as 'cat' people or 'dog' people, and there's a good reason for that. Cats and dogs have distinct personalities that are very lovable. They're affectionate, loving, and provide us with a source of companionship that we just can't imitate in human interaction. But they are a big responsibility. Even if you had a dog growing up and helped take care of your family pet, it's just not the same when you have to tackle it all yourself. There's a lot of time, money, and some paperwork even that goes into having a dog.
The first thing to consider before anything else is...can you give the dog a good home? Different breeds have different needs, but if you're constantly traveling and aren't sure if you can take your companion with you, it's probably better to hold off until you're more stable in your living situation. If you're going to be living in apartments, will it have enough space and is there the worry that if you move it might have to be to a pet-free apartment? Are you a gardener or a person who loves plants that's willing to forgo the many many species that are poisonous to pets? Like I said, each breed of dog has different needs and personalities and you can probably find one that fits your needs and lifestyle, but its still an incredibly important aspect of dog ownership to consider.
Dogs live a long time, some breeds even into their late teens. So it's no small commitment to own a dog. If you're determined to own a specific breed or to raise a dog from puppyhood, it's a good idea to look for a reputable breeder. A breeder will minimize your chance of health issues later in life, since they'll have screened for genetic factors. They can educate you on breed health issues to be on the watch out for, which will give you a much better shot at your pet living a long and healthy life, and they'll also help you by asking you about your lifestyle, the environment you can provide the pet, and how you plan to take care of your new puppy. Yeah, it can be frustrating to answer the questions, but it will also help you figure out how ready you are and if you need to make any adjustments before even bringing the dog home.
There's also the nitty-gritty of pet ownership: pet visits and licensing and such. It's important to take your pet to the vet on a regular basis and it can run up in costs. The average cost for regular care is between $600-$900 annually. That's $50-$75 per month. Not including emergencies or anything else (like a required change in diet) that might run up the cost even more. Many areas have pet registration and licensing laws that will require you to regularly update information, possibly microchip your pet, and have up-to-date tags on your pets collar (you should do the last two things anyway). There's spaying and neutering that, if you have no intentions of breeding your dog (an endeavor that shouldn't be taken lightly, there's a lot that goes into being a responsible breeder), you absolutely should do to prevent contributing to the overpopulation of pet animals in shelters and rescues.
One last thing that should be obvious but is sadly often looked over: dogs need exercise. They need the outdoors and the fresh air. They need to be walked. And walking is a great chance to bond with your furry companion! If you know you simply won't have the time or energy to give a dog one of its most basic needs outside of food, please hold off. When you're finally able to get around to it, both you and your dog will be thankful for it.