So you want a puppy? 10 Things to Consider First.

Waffles kisses on couch

I don’t blame you. Getting a puppy was easily the greatest decision I have ever made. Waffles, who you may be sick of seeing pictures of by now if you follow me on Instagram, has brought me so much joy, responsibility, and unconditional love that I can’t truly describe how thankful I am that he joined my little family.

But, I also am glad that I waited until I was ready to accept all the responsibilities that come along with puppy motherhood before finally becoming a mom. While they seem like a lot of fun and snuggles, puppies are also expensive, time consuming little fur balls that require a lot of commitment, both financial and personal.

Before taking the next step and adding to your family, keep these ten things in mind:

1. It’s a big financial responsibility – and not just to take him or her home day one

You’ll have multiple vet visits for puppy check-ups and shots, as well as ongoing vet trips that are planned and sometimes unexpected. Waffles broke his leg at just 15 weeks old which cost us a few grand over the course of two months! Not only did we have the initial vet visit expenses right after his accident, but every Monday for 8 weeks I had to take him to the vet for a new cast since his leg was growing.

Waffles in his cast and cone after a fall that broke his leg.
After his accident, Waffles needed a new cast every week for two months!

Sure, you’ve factored in the cost of getting your puppy. There’s an adoption fee, or a price if you’re going to a breeder. But have you considered the initial toys, food, crate, dog bed, collar and leash, tags, and initial vet visits as well? Not to mention that these typically aren’t one time purchases.

You’ll have additional vet fees early on if you decide to spay/neuter, additional food to buy, and more toys (if you’re like me and spoil your new baby you’ll be spending a lot on these).

Plus, if your puppy is going to grow, you’ll eventually need a bigger dog bed, larger crate, and bigger collar and leash as they outgrow their original ones. We just hit this stage with Waffles.

Are the dollar signs adding up yet? I’m sure there’s more, but I think you get the point.

Exhausted after a sleepless night, but for Waffles it was worth it.

2. Say goodbye to beauty sleep

If you decide to get a puppy you’re also deciding that sleep is a bit overrated. Think of a puppy like a baby – how often do they need to be changed? The same goes for your puppy with walks.

When we first got Waffles – at 8 weeks and 4.4 lbs – he needed to go out every two hours. If we tried to skip this or extend it we had an accident to clean up.

I’m sure this already sounds obnoxious for during the daytime, but then take into account that puppies can’t magically hold it overnight. That means every few hours you’ll need to wake up to walk your puppy.

Depending on how quickly they learn to control their bladder this can take up to a few weeks – so you have to get used to waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, or have a plan with your significant other or roommate to help divvy up the walks.

For example, Alex took the late night walks while I stuck with early mornings. It’s worked for us, but the learning period was brutal.

Now that he’s older, Waffles is able to hold it for 6-7 hours, so we keep him on a walk around midnight (Alex’s job) while I handle the 6:30am walk.

You read that right – 6:30am. And don’t forget that dogs don’t change their schedules on weekends to accommodate you – so even after a long night (maybe with too many cocktails), or a day when you’re not feeling well, your puppy still needs you to get yourself together and take it out.

Are you ready for that frequent of walks?

3. It’s a big time commitment

All walks aside, you have to be ready to invest a lot of time into puppy parenthood. You also need time to train them, take them to vet visits, and be home with them.

You can’t just bring home a puppy and expect immediate perfection. They’re going to have accidents, they’re going to need to learn to walk on leash, they’ll need to learn what’s a chew toy and what isn’t, and they’ll need to go to the vet frequently for puppy shots and eventually to get fixed (if that’s something you decide to do).

You have to be ready for all of this if you want to bring home a new member of your family.

4. Goodbye social life 

You may have figured this out already, but a puppy is going to put a damper on your social life.

The good news is, having a puppy at home is the BEST reason to stay in – IMO at least. But you do have to be ready to turn down invitations to dinners, parties, and more.

Like I mentioned with the big time commitment, getting a puppy requires a lot of your attention. You need to be home for frequent walks, training, and to give your puppy the love it needs. Which means you can’t leave for extended periods of time.

When Alex and I first got Waffles we had to be home every two hours for a walk – which meant nothing more than a quick dinner out if we absolutely needed to. We couldn’t stay out with friends after or run errands for a long time without making a pit stop home.

Now Waffles can make it 6 – 8 hours without a walk, but we still try not to make plans for that long unless it’s necessary because we don’t want him home alone all day. Speaking of all day…

5. Have a plan for during the day

If you work full-time you need a plan during the day – even if the plan is a good group of dog walkers. Like I’ve mentioned a lot already, your puppy will need frequent walks, which means while you’re working you’ve likely missed 3-4 walks.

When we got Waffles, Alex was working from home full-time. That meant while I went to work he was home to take care of the mid-day walks, training, play time, and helping keep Waffles out of his crate all day.

And while he no longer works from home full-time, he still has a flexible work schedule and can stay home often times during the day so that Waffles has a buddy.

You also want to make sure you have dog walkers available, and ones that you trust. We are fortunate that a couple in our building runs a fantastic dog walking service and takes Waffles to the dog park every day at lunchtime so he can go to the bathroom and run around with any other dogs there. They even bring a ball to play fetch with him incase the park is empty.

Having a reliable walker we can count on when needed (including nights and weekends when we’re in a bind) has made a huge difference. And it helps that Waffles loves them so much!

6. Training is as much for you as it is for your dog

You may have a puppy genius. I know the feeling – Waffles was a champion at sitting at just 10 weeks old, and by 11 weeks he would sit and not try to eat his food until we told him he was allowed. He’s the smartest boy in the world (at least I think so).

But he still needs a lot of training, and not just for him. Even if you have a smart puppy, you need training so that YOU can learn how to help command your dog.

Your puppy learning to walk on leash is just as much about them behaving as it is you learning how to properly hold the leash and lead them.

Your puppy learning to sit, stay, lay down, heel, etc. is equal parts your dog learning commands and you learning how to deliver them.

I think you see what I’m getting at here.

7. Adoption vs. breeders

This is a big one, and a touchy subject for many. I am an avid believer that rescue dogs are some of the sweetest creatures on this planet, and actively support many shelters throughout the year.

And while I encourage anyone who is capable to adopt, I also admittedly purchased my dog from a breeder.

Our situation involved more than just wanting to find a dog we loved – we were up against size restrictions from my apartment building, and needed a hypoallergenic dog due to Alex’s allergies.

While we looked at a few shelters to find a dog that might fit our specific needs, we ultimately couldn’t find a dog that would be allowed in both our apartments and not make Alex sick. So instead we did research into breeders.

If you’re in a similar situation, then please do your research before just going to a pet store and getting a puppy. Make sure it’s a responsible breeder and you’ll be able to get proper documentation for the puppy.

Take time to reach out to dog owners in your area, research breeders, visit their location and take time to ensure you’re getting a puppy from a reputable source and not supporting a puppy mill.

And if you are able to adopt make sure to look into shelters in the area. Learn about the different options, go visit them to meet the dogs, see which dog you have a bond with, and give them a furever home.

I know I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see if any hypoallergenic dogs become available.

8. What age dog are you ready for?

Puppies are the most joyous, adorable little nuggets in the entire world, and while it’s tempting to want one, it’s also a huge responsibility.

If anything I’ve mentioned so far has you feeling unsure about your decision then you might want to consider adopting an older dog.

While you miss out on their puppy days, you also get to skip the potty training, middle of the night walks, initial expenses, and teething that puppies are known for.

Adopting an older dog is a great way to not only bypass some concerns you may have, but also helps rescue a dog that might be stuck in a shelter. Puppies get adopted much faster and more frequently than older dogs, which means a lovable, older pup may have been waiting for you for a while.

9. Can your home fit the dog you want?

Let’s pretend your dream dog is an Australian Shepherd. They’re sweet, hard-working and very energetic. A dog like this requires lots of room to run and play, in addition to frequent walks to keep them moving.

Now let’s imagine you live in a studio apartment in the city. Your potential new puppy doesn’t have the space it needs for the active lifestyle it needs. And, if you try to force him or her into that small space, the puppy will start to act out, chew things and more.

In short, it’s not fair to you or the dog.

When determining if you have the space for the dog you want there are a few things to consider:

  • Full-grown dog size: Even the smallest of puppies can grow into large dogs – and quickly. When deciding if you have space for your new addition you need to factor in if you have space for the dog once it’s fully grown (that includes a crate large enough for the dog, space for a dog bed, enough toys for the size dog you want and, obviously, space for the dog itself).
  • Breed: I’ve already mentioned doing research on the shelter or breeder you’re getting your new puppy from, but you also need to make sure to research the breed you’re getting. Some breeds, like Australian Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Border Collies, are extremely active and require a lot of space to run around. If you don’t have a yard or nearby dog park, it might be best to choose a breed with a lower energy level. And, you want to make sure your apartment or home is big enough for an active dog to move around in, and won’t rely on them laying around all day.
  • Members of the household: Another big thing that you need to consider is who else is in your home. If you have children, or want to in the near future, make sure to find a breed that is known for being good with kids. If you have a lot of people living in a small space, consider either getting a smaller dog or waiting until you move to bring home another addition. And if you live with older relatives, consider a dog with less energy to avoid an accidental jumping accident.

10. A puppy is not a toy! 

Puppies are adorable, snuggly, incredible little bundles of joy, but just because some of them look like teddy bears doesn’t mean they are.

When choosing to take a puppy home, you need to be ready to commit to having that dog for life. You can’t just return it when it gets bigger, or replace it with a new puppy when you’re tired of that one.

A puppy should be treated like a member of the family, rather than like a toy that can be disposed of or handed down when you’re tired of it. It’s a giant commitment, but if you decide to make that commitment then you have to fully do so.

Are you a puppy mom or dad? What other tips do you have for someone who’s considering puppy parenthood?

Featured image by Victoria Gamlen Photography

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