Should I Get A Dog?
44% of Americans own a dog, so it’s unsurprising that a common debate is whether or not you should get a dog, too. Getting a dog should not be a spur-of-the-moment decision; there are a lot of things to take into account.
Dogs are huge responsibilities. They’re basically helpless, and they never grow out of that stage; you have to care for them and make sure that they can take care of themselves.
However, similar to a child, making the decision to buy or adopt a dog can be very rewarding, too. Dogs are called “man’s best friend” for a reason.
While making the decision of whether or not to own a dog, you should weigh the pros and cons.
- Companionship! This is the main reason for why so many people have dogs, and why they’re called “man’s best friend”—they make excellent companions. Dogs are known for being ridiculously loyal. It doesn’t matter if you accidentally step on their tail or give them a much-hated bath; they’ll still come back to you with their tail wagging, ready to romp with you, and they always have more love to give. They feel like real friends, they are always available, and they are terrific listeners.
- Health! Dogs are great for your health. Besides for being able to sniff out life-threatening illnesses, like cancer or an imminent seizure, dogs will greatly improve your health in general. Studies show that people who have a dog are less likely to get heart attacks, lower blood pressure caused by mental stress, and are in general great for getting exercise. (One study found that dog owners are 60% more likely to get the recommended amount of exercise per week.) They can even boost your immune system!
- Mental and emotional wellbeing! Dogs can overall improve mental and emotional wellbeing. Studies have shown reduced signs of anxiety and depression in dog owners, as well as reduced stress levels. The science doesn’t lie!
- Being social! Studies show that dog owners have higher self-esteem and are better at resilience after a social rejection, and they tend to feel less lonely, reducing feelings of social isolation. Dog owners also often meet each other during walks and such, so other than just feeling more social, dog owners actually tend to be more social.
- You’re happy! Dogs literally make you happier. One study monitored how many times people laughed in a day, and dog owners scored much higher than non-dog-owners. Dog owners are also less depressed and lonely, less stressed, and in general have better mental and emotional wellbeing than people who don’t own dogs. Also, interacting with your dog can spike your oxytocin levels, a chemical in your body that makes you feel happy, similar to how you might feel when interacting with a baby.
- Cuddling! Dogs are great cuddle buddies! If your dog is small enough, it can curl up on your lap; if it’s not, you guys can still lie down next to each other. Dogs love to be petted and cuddled, and they’re always down for a cuddle session.
- Cuteness! Dogs are downright adorable to the point of making your heart melt, and honestly, who doesn’t like the “warm and fuzzy” feeling that accompanies the rush of oxytocin that occurs upon laying eyes on your beloved puffbutt? If you fawn over your dog when your dog is a puppy, beware that this will not wear off.
- Responsibilities! Dogs are huge responsibilities. You must make sure your dog is fed and watered, caught up on hygiene, up-to-date with all shots, and well-loved and cared for. You also have to clean up your dog’s messes, including when it slips up and pees or poops in the wrong place, and unlike a child, your dog is fine with intentionally throwing up on your expensive, one-of-a-kind rug. They are similar to small children in this respect, and worse, they do not grow out of most of these things. They will never reach the age of being able to get their own food or brush their own teeth or bathe themselves; you will be forever destined to take care of them.
- Vet visits! Vet visits are a huge part of having a dog. Vet visits are an expensive—yet necessary—evil. Worse, if your dog is acting strange in any way, it’s your responsibility to take them to the vet and figure out what’s wrong. Your dog can’t speak; it can’t tell you if something’s wrong, and if you notice abnormal behavioral patterns in your dog, it also can’t tell you what’s wrong. Sometimes, your dog will get sick and you will be compelled to pay $700 USD for a vet visit, only to find out that your dog never needed the visit in the first place and will get better on its own. (These expensive emergency visits are also why people buy pet insurance, though that doesn’t mean that they won’t be a financial strain anyway.)
- Fear and allergies! Many people are afraid of dogs. It doesn’t matter if your dog appears as a five-pound, fluffy white throw pillow; people will be afraid of it, and they will cower in fear. Similarly, many people are allergic to dogs, and it is for these reasons that you will often have to lock your dog up or otherwise keep it away from visiting guests.
- They’re a drain on your finances! I’ve already covered how ridiculously expensive vet visits are, especially unexpected ones; throw in food, toys, overall gear (like leashes and collars), and cleaning supplies. You need to seriously think about whether your wallet can handle that kind of strain.
- You need to be home a lot! Dogs keep you rooted. You need to feed them, walk them, and bathe them. You can’t just leave them alone and expect them to be okay if someone visits a couple of times a day. It’s okay to leave them at home for an afternoon or with a sitter if you’re going on the occasional vacation, but if you regularly leave the house for long periods of time (say, longer than a day), getting a sitter all the time just isn’t viable, and you won’t be able to provide a very good home for your pooch.
- It’s a commitment! Your dog isn’t a hamster; it won’t die after two or three years. When you get a dog, you’re facing the reality that you will probably own this dog for a dozen years or so. You can’t get a dog just for college, and you shouldn’t get a dog if you’re planning an eventual upheaval where you move far away and go on a crazy adventure.
- Fights! If you have children, they may end up fighting over your dog and who gets to cuddle it or sleep with it or pet it. They will also probably make the classic argument when you originally buy the dog: I’ll walk it and feed it and clean up after it! Pllleeeaaaassseee? Well, trust me when I say that they won’t. For the first few weeks, sure. The second you show a sign of being attached, your children suddenly make themselves scarce when it comes time to walk, feed, or otherwise care for your dog.
So, we’re back to where we started:
Should you get a dog?
Firstly, a piece of advice: If someone from your family has an allergy, that doesn’t mean that it is impossible to buy a dog. If your family member has an allergy to the fur and not the actual animal, there are hypoallergenic dogs out there for the very purpose of being best buds with humans who have an allergy to dogs. So, don’t assume that, if a family member is allergic, it’s game over. I personally have an allergy to dogs, yet I own an adorable, hypoallergenic fuzzykinz. Have hope. (If you want a hypoallergenic dog that is small, white, around twelve pounds, and can be mistaken for a blanket or pillow, going for a dog that is a toy poodle/bichon mix is a safe bet.)
Secondly and similarly, if a family member fears your dog, it is also not the end of the world. Several people who are normally terrified of dogs warmed up to my dog when they got to know her. The reason is that my family owns a dog that is small and harmless, and many (though unfortunately not all) people who get to know my dog are charmed by her cuteness and harmlessness. (Again, if you want a dog like this, I mentioned the exact breed in the paragraph above.)
So, now that we’ve gotten the “fear/allergies” con out of the way, we still have to face the question of whether or not to get a dog.
The short answer is a simple it depends; the long one is the process of weighing the pros and cons so that they fit your individual situation. You may have a lot of delicate rugs that you can’t afford to get pee or barf on; you may not have children, or they may not fight often; you may yearn for a cuddle buddy.
Also, if you decide to get a dog, you also have to make the decision of whether to buy or adopt the dog. It is recommended to adopt; the argument that you want a puppy can be refuted by pointing out that shelters also have puppies. Furthermore, adopting a dog saves both the life of the dog you’re adopting and the life of the dog that the shelter now has the room to take in.
The dog may also have already gotten its shots, and it might even be potty-trained. And finally, when you adopt a dog from a shelter, you are denying that business to a store. Stores usually get their dogs from puppy mills, which are known to keep their dogs in revolting and unhealthy conditions; they force the mothers to breed as many times as possible, they keep the dogs in extremely filthy and cramped conditions, they would rather kill a dog than provide medical service to it, and they separate puppies from their mothers way earlier than they should. In other words, puppy mills need to be put out of business.
As it is, dogs make wonderfully sweet, adorable companions that will never leave your side, and though they may be big responsibilities, they may also bring more happiness and love to your life. I wish you the best in making the decision of getting a new addition to the family!