Are You Ready for a Dog?

A Guide for First-Time Dog Owners

Two yellow lab puppies asleep on the floor with a blanket over them

Do you love dogs and are thinking about leaping into dog ownership? We get it! Dogs enrich our lives, are our constant companions, and are a joy to have around. But caring for a dog full-time is also a serious responsibility that requires time, energy, and money. How do you know if you’re ready for a dog? 

 

As a first-time dog owner, let the questions below help to guide your decision before you research dog breeds or fall in love at your local dog rescue. Having a good idea of what dog ownership entails will help you plan for that exciting addition.

A woman leaning down to give her dog a treat

Do you have time for a dog?

Between house training, socialization, and basic obedience, puppies require a lot of time and constant supervision. However, even adult dogs need regular feedings, exercise, and lots of love. If you can’t give a dog sufficient attention to meet those needs, wait to get one until you can.

Looking up at a dog wearing an orange collar and its owner

Can you afford a dog?

It typically costs between $400 and $700a year to feed a dog, but many other expenses come with dog ownership. Make sure your budget includes routine veterinary care with room for unexpected medical expenses. Investing in quality supplies like a supportive dog bed and durable collars and leashes will save you from rebuying later. And don’t forget the rugged toys and healthy treats

An older golden retriever standing by a wall

Are you in it for the long haul?

Getting a dog is a long-term commitment. Dogs live about 10 to 16 years and require food, fresh water, and exercise multiple times a day, plus regular grooming. 

 

Keep in mind when looking for a dog that care requirements vary between breeds and individual dogs. Dogs with facial folds, such as pugs, require special cleaning to avoid infections. If you get a high-energy dog, you’ll have to schedule a few extra walks and play sessions each day. And the needs of your dog will change through different life stages.

A small black and white puppy running through green grass

Do you have space for a dog?

When looking for a dog, consider the amount of indoor and outdoor space you have and the breed and energy level of the dog. Energetic sporting breeds need an hour or more of vigorous exercise each day; an enclosed backyard gives them the room they need to romp, but a studio apartment with no outdoor access isn’t ideal. Choose a size and energy level that matches your lifestyle.

A small brown-and-white dog sitting inside a black crate

Are you ready to prep your house and car to be dog-friendly?

Between accidents, hair, dirt, mud, and moisture—preparing your home and car for a dog is essential. Ready your space with sturdy mats at the door, moisture-resistant furniture protectors, and durable seat and cargo protectors for your car. 

 

If you get a puppy or if your new dog is prone to chewing, providing them with appropriate toys for teething can help mitigate chewing damage, but there’s no substitute for crate training and direct supervision.

Two children giving two dogs treats on a wooden deck

Is the whole household ready for a dog?

Finally, children in your household should be a factor in your decision. Dogs and kids make fast friends, but very young children are sometimes unintentionally rough with dogs and can’t understand boundaries. 

 

If you have children, research good family dog breeds, or talk with shelter workers to find a rescue dog with an easygoing personality or experience with kids. Finally, teach your kids dog safety to help them understand dog behavior and limits.

Next Steps

You know yourself, your life circumstances, and your capabilities best—let these questions and considerations help guide your decision-making. 

 

If you’ve considered the above and feel ready to take the next step into dog ownership, read on for our quick-start guide for new dog owners.

Four brown and white puppies lined up outside near a branch

First-Time Dog Owner Tips

Congratulations on your decision! Make sure you’re prepared before you bring them home.

Should first-time dog owners get puppies?

A new dog brings joy into your life whether a puppy or an adult dog, and there are downsides and benefits to both. Adorable, snuggly, and hilariously awkward, puppies are easy to love!  

 

But while dogs of every age need your time and attention, puppies require more—much more. Puppies need to be supervised and socialized and require time-consuming obedience and house training. Plus, vet care for essential vaccines and spaying or neutering can add up.

Should first-time dog owners adopt or buy?

Responsible dog ownership starts at the source. If you’re looking for a particular dog breed, breed-specific rescues and responsible, ethical breeders can both be excellent sources. A breed-specific rescue will likely have young and adult dogs to choose from. Just be sure to research the breed you’re interested in before you fall in love to make sure it’s a good match for your lifestyle. 

 

Adopting a puppy or dog has many benefits. Adult dogs may already be housebroken and could have obedience training, plus you’ll be able to determine if their personality is a good fit for your home. Shelter workers or rescue volunteers are a great resource and want to match the right dogs with the right people. They’ll be able to help guide your decision, give you the low-down on each dog’s temperament, and facilitate meet and greets. 

 

Tip: Some rescues and shelters will allow you to foster-to-adopt or take a dog home for a sleepover so you can get a better sense of the dog’s personality. Just know that it takes longer than a night or a few days for a dog to truly settle in. 

First-Time Dog Owner Supplies

Whether you choose to buy or adopt, you’ll need to stock up on new dog necessities before you bring them home. Use this checklist as a guide and stock up on supplies to keep your new dog healthy, safe, comfortable, and happy. 

  • Collar—consider a personalized collar for added peace of mind, no risk of losing ID tags! 
  • Leash 
  • Harness—our harnesses are made for pups on the move 
  • ID tag with contact information, we love these rattle-free, durable silicone tags 
  • Dog bed—your dog’s den will help them feel safe while resting up after the day’s adventures 
  • Food and water bowls 
  • High-quality dog food—ask your vet for recommendations 
  • Dog toothbrush and toothpaste (be sure to get a dog-specific brand; toothpaste for people can be toxic to dogs) 
  • Brush and/or comb depending on your dog’s coat 
  • Nail clippers 
  • Dog-specific first aid kit, keep one in your car for use on the go 
  • Tick and flea preventatives—your vet will prescribe these based on your dog’s size 
  • Dog-safe shampoo 
  • Dog crate  
  • Dog gates, if sections of the house are off-limits 
  • Toys—from fluffy, squeaky toys perfect for play and cuddling to durable designs for fetch, tug, and chewing 
  • Dog treats—treat them well with healthy rewards they’ll gobble up 
  • Dog safety harness for the car 
  • Biodegradable dog waste bags 
  • Dog-safe household cleaning supplies 

Tip: Some “people” foods are poisonous to dogs, be sure to check before you feed your dog any table scraps! 

Stay Curious!

As a new dog owner, learning to care for your pup takes time, patience, and a good dose of humility. But putting in the work to learn the basics is so worth the effort. Once you’ve got it down, the only surprise is discovering that life with a dog is even better than you expected.