8 Signs You’re Not Ready for a Dog


There are so many good reasons to say “yes” to adopting a dog. But there are just as many reasons to say “no”—or maybe even just “not yet”—to taking on a canine companion. Here are eight signs you’re not (yet) ready for a dog.

1. A Dog Is a 15-Year Commitment

When you accept the responsibility of having a dog, you are saying “yes” to his entire life. Where will you be in 15 years? What will your life look like then compared to now? Most importantly, are you ready to bring your dog along on the journey with you?

2. Your Schedule Is Unpredictable

Do you work long hours? Do you stay out late? “Dogs take time, and few do well being alone 8 hours a day,” Abbey Weimann, Foster Coordinator at Ames Animal Shelter and Animal Control, says. “The expense of doggie daycare or the inconvenience of coming home on your lunch break is another commitment you have to make.”

Brie Goldman

3. It’s an Investment

“Even a free puppy from the neighborhood costs money,” Mick McAuliffe, Director of Behavior and Enhancement for Animal Rescue League of Iowa, says. Weimann agrees. “Dogs take $100 to $200 a month. If you don’t have that wiggle room financially, don’t do it.”

4. Travel Plans

If you travel for work or vacation frequently to a place that doesn’t welcome dogs, you will need to board your dog or hire a sitter. And even when you’re lucky enough to have wonderful service providers, it’s not the same for your dog as being at home with you.

5. No Fixed Address

If you move often or if you anticipate needing to move several times in the next few years (heading to college, applying to graduate school out-of-state, accepting a new job), now may not be the right time for a dog. “It’s hard to find pet-friendly housing, and that’s one of the most common reasons people surrender their pets to us,” Weimann says.

6. Major Life Changes

If you can foresee big life changes in the near future (having a baby, relocating, getting married), you might want to tap the brakes. Adopting a dog is a big life change in and of itself. Waiting to get a dog when life calms down a bit is probably a good idea.

7. Your Child Really Wants a Dog

As much as the kids may want one, is your family (or are you) really ready to care for a dog? Those adorable little furballs also make a mess (think housebreaking accidents and the occasional shredded stuffed toy). Plus, dogs are morning people. Puppies don’t sleep through the night. And a dog of any age needs to move his body daily. “Dogs require lots of exercise, and at minimum need to be taken out to potty multiple times a day,” Weismann says. “If you don’t have a fenced-in yard that allows you to just open the back door to let the dog out, there’s a very real commitment to exercise that the owner must adhere to as well.”

8. In Case of Emergency

“If something happens to you, what backup plan do you have for your pet?” McAuliffe asks. “If you break your leg, who will walk the dog?” Even less dramatic happenings such as a change in your job schedule or a traffic jam may require someone you can trust to help care for your pet. It’s important to have someone you trust available for unexpected and potentially frequent emergencies.

McAuliffe suggests making a pros-and-cons list to help weigh the decision. “Generally dog ownership is about being responsible and providing the care and time the dog needs. You want to be sure you can provide your dog with everything he needs.” Weismann says she totally understands someone who has a love for dogs but is not in a position to adopt. And there are other ways to indulge your love of dogs: “Shelters desperately need volunteers, and it’s a great way to get the doggy fix without the commitment,” she says.

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