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Can You Afford a Dog?

The cost of taking care of your new best friend can add up. Your costs may include veterinary care, food, and boarding or pet sitting while you're away. 

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals puts the average yearly cost of owning a medium-sized dog at just under $700. Bigger dogs cost a bit more; smaller dogs, a bit less.

You'll probably pay more than that during the first year, especially if you bring home a puppy, with expenses like spaying and neutering and vaccinations.

Don't cut corners. "People bring home puppies and they can't afford the parvo vaccination, and then the puppy comes down with parvo, which costs hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to treat," Nelson says.

What Dog Is Right for Your Family?

If you've decided that you're ready to bring home a dog, the next step is finding the right match for you and your family.

The most important thing, McConnell says, is to make sure your dog's personality matches your needs.

"People often confuse personality with breed," he says. "Even though there are some breed consistencies, every breed has different personalities within it."

You can start your search for a dog by looking for certain breeds that have characteristics you want, such as:

  • Active or mellow
  • Cuddly or independent
  • Good with kids

But ultimately, every dog is unique.

Also consider whether you want a puppy or an older dog. "A lot of people are getting older dogs, which is great," says McConnell. "They think that the dog may be calmer and less hyper, which can often be true. And they assume the dog will be house-trained. But just because a dog is house-trained doesn't mean it's trained in your house"

When your new dog comes home, expect that it will be a lot of work for the first few weeks.

"You're bringing in an entirely new living creature into your home, one who's probably in shock," McConnell says. "Imagine if you moved into a stranger's home and you couldn't tell them things like, 'I usually eat breakfast around this time, and I really want to get outside after lunch.' If you can, plan on someone taking at least a couple of days off to help your dog settle in."