What To Know Before Adopting Your First Pet #HeresToFirsts

February 2, 2016

What To Know Before Adopting Your First Pet - How To Estimate Pet Costs, And What To Consider Before Becoming A Responsible Pet Parent

Adopting your first pet is another stage of adulting that can be exciting but freaky at the same time.  So, how do you determine if you’re really ready to take on the responsibility of a pet?

Before we launch into that, as a momma of a pug and Boston terrier who were adopted from rescues, I highly recommend looking into rescues before you go the breeder route.  Yes, it may take longer to find the perfect fit, but on the plus side- you may not have to potty train and you can have a specific breed for a fraction of the cost.

Can You Afford A Pet?

If you doubt that you can afford a pet but the rest of your life has been smooth sailing, I would say it’s time to adopt. Are you making your rent payments on time?  Are you working regularly at a job that’s stable?  Do you already know how to make cutbacks or tradeoffs in order to afford new things?  Great!  Do you also have about $1-2k saved in an emergency fund in case something happens? Go for it.

If you’re living paycheck to paycheck or you don’t know what would happen if a $100 veterinary bill came up unexpectedly, give it more time and start saving.  A trip to the vet if your dog is limping mysteriously or has a wound that won’t heal can easily cost $300+, plus regular veterinary costs.

Are You Mature Enough For A Pet?

No, you absolutely don’t have to sacrifice a social life if you’re going to have a dog. But if you’re working long hours and used to going out after work for cocktails, a dog is not for you.  Your dog will need food, a walk and yes- play time when you get home after a long day of work.  If you know you have an office party on Friday, plan ahead to send your dog to daycare or hire a part-time dog walker.

I travel quite a bit, and have some tips for traveling with pets. However, if you travel a lot for work or pleasure, think about how you will handle caring for your pet. Will a friend or family member help out or will you need to constantly keep your pet at a local kennel?  It can be stressful for your pet to be in a strange place for long periods of time and costly for you.  You can still travel with a pet, but be sure you have a plan for providing the best care possible. 

Will You Be Moving or Having Kids In 8-10 years?

I volunteer with two local rescues and can say that you should not take the decision to adopt lightly. Often I see people take in puppies only to underestimate the time and structure needed to train them properly, giving the dogs up for adoption when they’re a year or two old.

Additionally, I’ve also seen people give up dogs past their prime “adoption window” (age 1-4), and relinquish elderly dogs simply because their lives have changed with kids or work. When you adopt a dog, you take on the responsibility of “til death do you part,” regardless of kids or health issues of older dogs.  If you are giving up a dog at age 7+, that can be a death sentence for an animal that gave you years of love and affection (depending on the rescue).  You love for life, friends!

Research Breeds to Find the Right Fit

Building on the fact that you have a 9-5 job to afford said pet- there truthfully will be some breeds, more than others, which will have separation anxiety or destructive habits when left alone for too long. Some dogs need significantly more face time and play time than others. My weekday routine with my pug is pretty straightforward- feed, walk, play, and then snuggle by the TV.  On the other hand, our Boston terrier could seriously play tug, fetch and run a half mile before even getting slightly tired. He gets stir crazy if not taken for a long walk or played with frequently, so we have made adjustments in our routine.

If you live in an apartment, how big, and how vocal is your breed?  If you leave to go and get dinner, how will you handle howling or barking? Will the dog be crated?  Would you feel safe going for long evening walks in your neighborhood, or do you live near a dog park where your pup can play?  Some dogs require socializing time outdoors. Playing tug indoors just doesn’t cut it for super active, larger dogs.  Be sure to prepare your pet for extreme winter temperatures, or be aware if they’re sensitive to heat.

Take Pet Ownership for A Test Drive

If you’ve been wanting a dog, but aren’t sure if you’re ready for full-time responsibility for 7+ years, consider fostering a rescue.  Some dogs cannot be kept in public kennels for safety or personality reasons, and for some rescues that don’t have a centralized facility, utilizing foster homes is how the organization operates.   If you’re not 100% sure you can handle a dog for 10+ years, consider fostering for temporary placements, or taking in an older dog that simply needs companionship and special care for a few years.

There are lots of ways to earn the friendship of a pet without having to commit to one for its lifetime- including being a foster parent or volunteering at a local rescue.

Party Animal Matilda Pug

Not every day as a pet parent is a party, but life with my Matilda is worth the work! 

The Allstate Blog also has a great list of tips to help you when adopting your first pet. You can never be too prepared!  Truthfully, I think if you’re committed to having a pet and planned ahead (which includes planning for potential changes in lifestyle or emergencies) then you can totally make it work- we have!

Be thoughtful before you adopt. Can you adopt a shelter pet? Are you adopting responsibly to ensure your pet doesn’t end up in a shelter later because you weren’t responsible?  Planning is key- of course.  Plan for the work and responsibility ahead in taking care of a pet, but plan that a pet will change your life for the better.  There is so much joy a pet can bring into your life which you may not be able to picture until you have one.  Pets are great stress relievers, and can be a very special part of your family!

This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. Allstate is here to help protect your firsts and the moments in between. Share your firsts with #HeresToFirsts.

4 comments so far.

4 responses to “What To Know Before Adopting Your First Pet #HeresToFirsts”

  1. Amen to the “going out for cocktails” after work point. Your social life will change with a dog. On the other hand, it’s a great excuse for getting out of stuff you don’t want to do 🙂

    “Sorry, I would love to, but I have to go home and let the dog out.”

    Love this post!

  2. Emmie says:

    These are all really great tips. I adopted a 5 year old dog from a shelter and didn’t research the breed – I love her more than life and she’s still her attitude-full self now at 13, but it’s a lot to consider. A massive commitment that is totally worth it, but only if you’re entirely prepared!

  3. Awww so cute!!! Unfortunately my building has a no pet policy (whatsoever), but I am thinking that the next place I live in will definitely be where I get a pet!!

  4. Adopting our dog was a life changer for me and hubs. We really had to grow up and it was good “practice” before having kids.


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