A Dog Owners Guide


Deciding To Get A Dog

We put this page together to help people decide if they should get a dog or not. Getting a dog is a really, really, really big decision that will change your life! Its amazing being a dog parent, but there will be times when your love and patience for your furry family member get tested. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, keep on reading for all the things dog parents wish they knew before adopting a dog.

That Pikachu had it coming!! 😀

I love this picture because it really highlights alot of the things I wish I knew before our dog Dango joined the family. At the time, Dango had recently gotten neutered, which was one of the hardest things Dango experienced in his short life. He was just about a year old at the time, so we were still working through various behavioral issues. Something Dango enjoyed at the time was creating a mess by digging into plush toys. Dango’s animal instincts drove him to be super curious about what was inside plush toys and he compulsively pulled out the stuffing and spread it all around the house.

Before Dango actually arrived, I never realized I’d be making life changing decisions that would impact Dango’s quality of life. I didn’t realize the amount of time and effort I’d need to devote to his care, and to teaching him how to behave properly around other humans and other dogs. But most of all, I underestimated the extent to which Dango would become a member of our family, and just how much we would grow to love him.

So while bringing a dog into your family is extremely rewarding and adds so much joy and love to your life, I’d invite you to think about the following considerations before taking on the profound responsibilities of dog ownership.

Your Dog Will Be A Full-Fledged Family Member

Something that’s hard to understand for people who have never experienced being a dog owner is that your dog will become a full member of your family. For most people, after spending a few weeks with your dog, the amount of love, trust, and fellowship you build with your furry friend is kind of unimaginable.

When you cuddle your pup for the first time, your heart will melt and your life will change.

Once you experience this bond with your pet, you’ll realize that as a dog parent, you are responsible for your dog’s quality of life and happiness for the rest of your dog’s life. This is such an important point, its worth repeating:

As a dog parent, you are responsible for your dog’s quality of life and happiness for the rest of your dog’s life.

Family members have a responsibility to provide unconditional love and support to one another. Before getting your dog, consider if you’ll be able to put their welfare ahead of your own. Consider if you’re going to be able to provide a steady home where they can be safe and healthy. If you feel uncomfortable with this level of responsibility, take time to think about if you are ready to be a dog parent.

You Could Be Responsible For Your Dog for Up To 20 Years

If you’re dog is a puppy when you invite them into your family, its possible you could be a dog parent for the next 20 years! According to Wikipedia, there were even some dogs that lived to be nearly 30 years old!

A picture of August, a Golden Retreiver who turned 20 as of April 2020. (Source)

And while it’s probably unlikely your pup will live past 2 decades, there are quite a few dog breeds that live well over 10 years on average. Some of the most popular dog breeds, including pugs, mini-poodles, Pomeranians, and Shiba Inus have life expectancies of 14 years or more. On the other end of the spectrum, some dogs (typically very large breeds) have life expectancies between 6 to 8 years. (Wikipedia, Aging in Dogs)

Given that your dog might be with you for the next decade and a half (or more), its worth considering where you might be in your life in 10 to 15 years, and if you’re going to be an able dog parent for the entire duration. For example, if you’re planning to go to university or enroll in postdoctoral studies, will your dog be allowed to live in university housing? In 10 years, where might your career be, and will that be compatible with dog parenting? Do you plan to be traveling frequently or for long durations, and how will that impact a dog in your household? If you’re older, will you be able to care for an aging dog as you’re aging yourself? If you pass, will there be another friend or family member who can be trusted to take care of your four-legged family member?

Before you get your dog, every prospective dog parent should think about all the direction your life might take and have an answer for how you would take care of your dog in each scenario. Thinking this through might impact, for example, the type of dog breed you get, or you might decide to adopt an adult dog instead of getting a puppy.

Owning a Dog Is A Big Financial Commitment

Just like every other family member, you’ll need to spend money on your dog’s health, well-being, and entertainment. In fact, every expense category for new children has an analogous expense category for a new dog. We’ll dive deeper into a budget for your dog, but in summary its enough to say that you’ll need to plan to spend a bit in each of the categories below:

New Human Family Member ExpensesEquivalent Canine Family Member Expenses
FoodDog Food
ClothesHarness, Rain Jacket, Booties
Hygiene (wipes, diapers, toilet paper)Dog Wipes, Dog Ear Wipes, Toothpaste/Toothbrush
Medical Costs (Insurance, Medicine, Co-pays)Vet Costs, Dog Medicine, Pet Insurance
Crib, BlanketsDog Bed, Playpen/Crate, Blankets
Toys & EntertainmentDog Toys & Chews
Other Gear (Strollers, High Chair, Baby Monitor)Doggie Gear (Leashes, Collars, etc)

In our opinion, dog owners should expect to spend an average of $150-200 USD per month on their dog’s food, care, hygiene, health, and entertainment in the United States (as of 2022; regional costs may vary). Of course this varies by dog breed, location, quality of doggie goods purchased, and many other factors, so there is no one size fits all number here. However we think the $100 to $200 range per month is a good informative reference price.

OK…its possible we spoil our dog a bit….

Additionally, when your dog first arrives you should anticipate spending even more initially as there will be startup costs to buy durable goods that your dog will use for a long time (think crates, playpens, dog gates, leashes, etc). Paying for medical checkups and childhood vaccinations is another 1st year cost for those of you getting puppies.

Another thing to consider is that there will be occasional large one time expenses, such as medical bills. Dogs do put their faces into just about everything to sniff around and explore the world, which means even healthy dogs get sick from time to time. Just like humans, they suffer an occasional injury. And of course you’ll need to consider if you’ll spay or neuter your pup, which can be quite an expense. With all that in mind, it suffices to say you’ll need some savings to deal with occasional costs.

Dango recovering from “the operation.” ???

So consider if you’re likely to be financially stable, not just for when your dog arrives, but throughout your dog’s entire life. Can you take on an additional $100 to $200 commitment every month for the next 6 to 15 years? If you think the answer is no, focus on reaching a stable financial situation first before bringing a dog into your family.

Luckily the team at K9handbook.com have your back, and we’ll share all our cost saving tips with you on this website, so read on!

Dog Parenting Takes Time Every Day

On most days, I’ll wake up to the sound of “click clack click clack” on our hardwood floors, as Dango strolls back and forth our hallway. On other days, I’ll wake up to Dango licking my face and ears, gently reminding me that its time for his morning walk. ?

TCOB (or Have a Doggy Potty Plan)

As a general rule, your dog should never be forced to wait more than 8 hours to go to the bathroom. For most folks, this means, that you’ll need a potty plan for your dog.

Now some folks might just be able to open the door to a backyard to let their dog go potty in the backyard. Your dog may even be able to let themselves out via doggy door. But if you live in an apartment, or don’t have your own backyard (i.e. apartments/townhouse dwellers), you’ll need to plan time to walk your pup several times a day to help them find places to relieve themselves. Your dog’s breed and size will factor into how long they can hold their bodily functions. You’ll need to walk your dog each morning, and if you work long hours you may need a dog walker to take them for a walk during the day. You’ll need to walk your dog at night, and you might even take them out just before bedtime so they get a chance to potty before everyone goes to sleep. Before you even have your new dog in the house, think about how you will set time aside each day so they can do their business.

Finding Time for Play & Exercise (Or Face The Consequences)

In addition to taking walks to make sure your dog can go to the bathroom, walks also help to make sure your dogs get enough exercise.

It’s true that your dog is a domesticated version of a wolf, but the “wildness” hasn’t completely been bred out of them. All dogs, regardless of breed, need some amount of exercise, play, and stimulation on a daily basis. Depending on your dog breed, you may need to go on longer walks, play fetch, and find open space for dogs to work out their “zoomies.” It’s hard to say exactly how much exercise your dog will need, but one way to gauge it is to monitor your dogs behavior. If your dog starts to have behavioral problems such as aggression or destructive tendencies (towards your furniture, walls, or clothing), there is a good chance they haven’t gotten enough exercise.

A good rule of thumb is that “a tired dog is an easy-to-manage dog.” ?

Every dog is different, and some dog breeds will have more demanding exercise needs on average. Very small dog breeds (also known as toy breeds) might get enough exercise running around an apartment or house. Some of the most vigorous large breeds might need at least two long (30 min+) walks / outdoor play sessions per day. Your dog’s play and exercise needs will also change throughout their life as well, with puppies generally having more energy and needing more exercise.

Before you get a dog, ask yourself if you can devote time for your dog’s exercise, health, & play each day. In our opinion, you’ll need a minimum of at least 30 minutes of exercise a day to ensure your dog stays healthy and gets the proper amount of mental stimulation to deter negative behaviors. Depending on your chosen dog’s breed, you may need to dedicate even more time daily.

Healthy & Happy Dogs Need Good Nutrition & Grooming

Another thing you’ll need to think about each day is your dog’s nutrition and grooming. At a minimum, this means making sure they have enough food to eat and water to drink. Depending on the type of food you give your dogs, this could be as simple as pouring dry dog food and water into food and water bowls once or twice a day. As you can see, in this video link however, some dog owners opt to make elaborate meals for their pups. (@36:55). And since you’re dogs are eating every day, just like humans, its recommended that dogs teeth are brushed once a day; this will take around five minutes a day. Depending on how dirty your dog gets each time they go outside, its possible you may need to do multiple daily wipedowns with dog grooming wipes to keep your pup (and your house) clean & tidy.

Elk antlers are a great treat for your dog that will help keep their teeth healthy.

In addition to time spent on on meal prep and brushing teeth, you’ll occasionally need to wash your dog, brush their coat, de-shed their coats, clean their ears, clip their nails, and a few more things here and there. While these may not be daily activities, you should budget some time each week or month to keep your dog healthy and happy.

Making Space for Your Dog

Just like any family member, your dog will need a space they feel is their very own. Dogs are territorial by nature, and they will claim a space to rest and feel comfortable. Consider the experience of this lovely retired couple who thought they had built their dream tiny house, but forgot to consider where their large greyhound would sleep. They actually decided to sell their home in order to upgrade to one that had space for their dog! (@6:25)

Many dog owners opt to provide their dogs with a crate (with a dog bed inside), which doubles as a way to prevent your dog from destroying your home when they can’t be supervised.

Puppy Dango during crate training.

Some dog parents may provide their dogs with a larger playpen style arrangement, which might be setup indoors or outdoors, and provides a bit more space for your dog to move around even if you need to lock them away for a period of time.

Dango passed out in his playpen. ?

Finally, if you have a backyard you might provide your dog with their own outdoor doghouse.

Before getting a dog, consider how large your living space is, and how densely it is populated by people and possessions. Plan to carve out a location where your dog can feel at ease, and feel the space belongs to them exclusively.

So Should You Get a Dog?

While there are many more things you could consider about becoming a dog parent, we think the list above is a pretty good list of the essential things you should think about before committing to dog ownership. In summary, before getting a dog, you should answer the following questions:

  • Am I ready to provide love and care, and be responsible for the health and well being of a living being for the next 7 to 20 years?
  • Can I commit to $150-200 dollars (USD) per month towards the health, wellness, and care of a dog? Do I have enough savings to care for my dog if unanticipated costs arise?
  • Do I have time to walk my dog each day to ensure they get potty breaks and plenty of exercise (a minimum of 30 minutes per day)?
  • Can I commit to a variety of grooming tasks to ensure my dog stays healthy & happy?
  • Do I have the space to ensure my dog can be comfortable in my home?

If you answered yes to all of the above, you might be ready to become a dog parent. But before your new pup joins your family we recommend you prepare yourself by being informed and making clear plans to make sure you can provide a good life for your pup. Your dogs life and well-being will be entirely dependent on whether or not you have the resources, time, and interest to provide them with a good home. We really urge every potential dog parent to think about that level of responsibility before deciding to get a dog. If you’re still interested in being a dog parent, read through the rest of k9handbook.com for tips & tricks on taking care of your new furry friend.