Your First Dog
Having a dog for a pet is so common that it could be considered a rite of passage. Most Americans own one or more pets throughout their lives and dogs are among the most common. To anyone about to go through the exciting experience of canine cohabitation for the first time, here are some things you might consider:
Man’s best friend is a lot like a girl’s best friend—both are forever. Think of pet ownership as having a lifelong companion, because that’s how your dog is going to carry it on their end of the relationship. As a prospective human for some lucky pooch, it is important to begin thinking in terms of reciprocity with regard to affection, commitment, and devotion. If you are not ready for that, you might not be ready for a pooch yet.
What does your life with a pet look like? How much of an upset to your current existence do you think you can tolerate? For highly conscientious and orderly types with picture-perfect domestic tidiness, a dignified older pooch might be the right fit, as their lower need for stimulation would be more congruent with the china shop vibes. If you’re a teenager who skateboards while their dog runs beside them on a leash, you might want a dog that is a little less subdued. Either way, you’ll know the right one when the two of you make eye contact.
If you are living with other people who will be interacting with your new dog and who may potentially take a secondary role in caring for it, it is important that everyone be on the same page regarding what is allowable and what is not. Is the couch off-limits? Are animals fed human food? Are they fed from the table? These are just some of the questions you should consider, and once you decide your rules it is important that every care-giver work to give your pup consistent constraints so as not to confuse them and set them up for failure.
Did the dog get into the recycling? Your fault. Ate the food left out on the countertop? Your fault. You probably get the point: If you are going to have a dog live in a human world, then you have to help them out by limiting the ways in which they can get into trouble. Loose cordage, leather items, cleaning products, etc.—all must be seen with new eyes. These items are no longer simply that mess you will get around to cleaning, but potential hazards for your dog; hazards because the dog can either hurt themselves getting into things that they should not, or because they can create messes which upset you, leaving them feeling alienated and distressed.
Pet food and accessories are going to be regular and ongoing costs, so you have to be sure you can handle them. Of course, there are numerous different foods out there with varying prices, and since higher prices don’t always mean a better product, these regular expenditures aren’t necessarily going to break you. But pet ownership—like life—throws curveballs at us, and sometimes a pet needs an emergency trip to the vet. These potential surprise expenses can really hit us at inopportune times, so be mindful. Consider setting up a fund you chip into every month so that you’re ready when emergencies happen. Another strategy to off-set veterinary costs is to secure pet insurance. You cannot put a price on peace of mind!
If these ideas have not diminished your enthusiasm, then you are probably ready for a dog. After all, cavemen had pet dogs, so it’s not rocket surgery or anything. Since shelters are a great place to start and easily google-able, why not start today?