Adopting a Dog – The Essential Checklist for Couples


Adopting a dog can do wonders for a relationship – but it’s a big responsibility with a lot of “gotchas.” If you’re not on the same page about some important considerations like the financial investment, time commitment and more, it can also be a disaster. Thankfully, the recipe for success is easy: Talk through everything before adoption. Here is a simple checklist of questions to discuss and answer together, BEFORE you bring Fido home.

1. Is Your Home Ready For a Dog?

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed everywhere. Before even thinking about getting a dog, you should definitely check if you are allowed to have one in your home. If you own a house, this will most likely not be an issue, although depending on where you live there might be some rules set up by homeowner’s associations or similar organizations.

If you rent your home, read your rental contract for the pet rules of the home. If you’re not sure, ask the landlord if you can have a dog. Some landlords are strict about pets, and you definitely don’t want an unpleasant surprise.

Once you know whether a dog is allowed in your home, think about how it will fit into your space. Where will the dog sleep? Where will the food and water bowl be? Is there a place for the dog to go to the bathroom near your front or back door? Can you install a dog door or leave a door open for the dog if it needs to go?

2. Are You Financially Prepared for This Step?

Taking care of a dog entails considerable expenses on a regular basis, estimated at around $1,200 a year for the basics: food, toys, bedding, regular vet checkups, and monthly flea and tick treatment. Some breeds also need regular grooming. If you work out of the home, you may need a dog walker or doggie day care. Research how much these items will cost per month and consult your budget.

“Something as simple as a dog bed can cost upwards of $200.00, so make sure you do your research. My advice is to read a reputable online guide like this one from the Gentle Dog Trainers that will give you a great idea of how expensive a dog bed will be and how well suited it is for your dog” – Sharon Elber – Professional Dog Trainer based in Virginia.

In addition to the regular expenses, having a pet also means being prepared for emergencies. You never know when your dog might eat something dangerous or get hurt in some way. They can also be susceptible to of disease or illness as they age. All of this can lead to vet visits costing upwards of $5,000-10,000. Consider getting pet health insurance to offset these unplanned costs.

3. Are You Ready For the Time Commitment?

You are probably aware that getting a dog is a serious responsibility. But have you and your partner really thought it through? A dog will need one or two daily walks. You won’t be able to leave your house without your pet for more than a couple of hours. Can your dog travel with you? Who will care for the dog when you’re at work or out of town? It’s important to be aware of what caring for a dog will actually mean on a day-to-day basis.

4. Are You Sure You Are Not Allergic?

Newly discovered allergies are one of the reasons pets are given up for adoption. If owners discover they are allergic after adopting a dog, they face a really hard choice: either try to control the allergies with medication or give up the pet. You definitely don’t want to end up in this situation. Since new allergies can appear in adulthood, make sure every member of your family spends some time with a dog before you make the commitment. Allergies might not be a deal-breaker, but it’s good to have all the information beforehand.

5. Where Do You See Yourself in 10 Years?

Dogs live around 10 years on average, but sometimes they actually live much longer. Where do you see yourself when the dog is nearing the end of its life? Are you planning any major life changes during this time? Moving into a new home, having children, or even a major career change can impact your ability to care for a dog. Talk through what you’ll do in each situation.

Finally, in the event you two split, who will take the dog? While happy couples might not want to think about this, it could save you a lot of trouble if you agree early on about who is the primary guardian of the pet.

6. What Breeds Do You Like Best?

Owning a 5-pound dog you can carry everywhere you go is a totally different experience than caring for a 75-pound dog that slobbers, sheds and passes gas strong enough to clear a room. Dogs can also vary widely in how much exercise they need, how well they do with children and other considerations you might not have thought of. There are many breed calculators and YouTube videos to help you choose a size, breed and temperament that’s right for you both.

Final Thoughts

Taking care of another living being is a big commitment. Adopting a dog is like getting a new family member and it requires a lot of responsibility. On a lighter note, if you are at the point in a relationship where you are ready to adopt a dog, there is a big chance you’ll greatly enjoy it. Taking care of a pup together can bring lots of happiness into a relationship.


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