Your heart says it's time to add a furry friend to your household, but you've got some practical questions. Is your home right for a dog? What type of pooch fits your lifestyle? Here's what you need to know before taking the plunge.
Do You Have Enough Time?
All dogs need attention. If you travel a lot and are rarely home, a dog probably isn't the best pet for you. But busy people can have dogs too, if they choose the right breed and temperament.
"There are border collie puppies that need to have mental and physical exercise 10 times a day, and there are older Labrador retrievers that just want to lie by the fire," says animal behaviorist Patricia McConnell, PhD, author of The Other End of the Leash. "We're all at different places in our lives, and dogs are no different."
If the dog will be home alone for significant periods of time -- for example, while you're at work for 8 hours -- you'll need to find a dog walker, doggie day care, or other way to make sure that your dog can get outside to do his business while you're out.
You should plan to devote time to socializing and training your dog, especially at the beginning. You'll need to do that even if you're bringing home an older dog.
"People sometimes don't realize how much it's worth to socialize and train their dog early," says Susan Nelson, DVM. Nelson is a clinical associate professor at Kansas State University's Veterinary Health Center.
Do You Have Enough Space?
Space is an issue when you bring home a dog. Other pets, like cats, can often thrive in much smaller spaces. But many dogs need a little more breathing room.
"Do you have a yard?" Nelson says. "In general, the bigger the dog, the more space and exercise they will need."
Do You Have Enough Energy for a Dog?
Dogs, just like people, need regular exercise to stay healthy.
Also keep in mind, a bored dog is often a destructive dog. If you don't give your new friend a good way to burn off extra energy, you may find that he takes it out on your new shoes or your flower garden.
Different types of dogs need different amounts of exercise. Regular walks around the block may be just fine for a shih tzu. But a Siberian husky or Great Dane is going to need more space to roam and someone to keep him company.
You don't have to have a big backyard if you choose a dog with lots of energy. But you should have at least one dog-friendly park or open space nearby.