Many couples see adopting a pet as the next big step after they’ve moved in together. After all, who doesn’t want a new puppy? And what better way to make your little home feel more complete?
But the truth is, getting a pet with your significant other is a big responsibility, and there could be some pretty disastrous outcomes if you don’t carefully think through what you’re getting yourself into.
Here are 5 questions to ask before getting a dog together.
1. Can you afford it (financially and emotionally)?
If those puppy dog eyes are staring you straight in the face, it’s pretty difficult to think about anything other than all of the walks, cuddles, and games of tug-of-war you’ll have. But caring for a dog is a big commitment, and it can put stress both on for emotions and your wallet.
Sit down with your partner and work through your finances and monthly budgets before getting a pet. How much can you afford to spend on a dog? In addition to adoption costs, there are vet bills, pet gear, and food, and it can really add up.
Some expenses, such as veterinary care, are largely out of your control—although a pet insurance plan can help you manage these costs.
Other costs, like toys or food, offer a little more flexibility in price. But this is where you can get into trouble. For example, Amazon and Walmart are full of mass-produced dog food brands that are light on your wallet but hard on your dog’s health.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are subscription services like Ollie Dog Food, which allow you to feed your pup the best—for an added cost.
If you want to spoil your puppy, but your partner wants to save as much as possible, there may be fights in your future.
Speaking of fights, having a pet can also act as a sort of stress test for your relationship. Of course, most aspects of owning a dog are delightful. But if money is tight, you’re exhausted, and you don’t want to have to take your pup out to pee, again, at one o’clock in the morning, what will you do? Make sure your relationship can handle the responsibility emotionally before diving in.
2. Will your schedules work for a dog?
Dogs are living, breathing creatures with both physical and mental needs. If they’re not stimulated throughout the day, they’re liable to tear your home apart or fall into separation anxiety. They also need physical exercise to stay healthy.
Will either you or your partner be able to give your pup the attention they deserve throughout the day?
If both of you work in an office for 8 hours a day, with a 45-minute commute on either end, then maybe you shouldn’t get a dog quite yet (and certainly not an untrained puppy!). On the other hand, if one of you works from home or is able to pop in during lunch, you could make it work.
There are also dog walking services and doggie daycares that can help your pup get the stimulation it would need, but that brings us back to question number one: can you afford it?
3. Who will keep the dog if you split?
A friend of mine adopted a dog with her boyfriend shortly after they moved in together. When the relationship fell apart, she was shocked that he insisted the dog stay with him. And the hardest part was, he had a point.
She wanted to move not just to a new home, but to a new state to start fresh, and that’s not always in the best interest of a pet. Now she has to awkwardly communicate with her ex every year on their dog’s birthday, which is really the only way she’s still able to show her pup love.
The hard truth is, many couples don’t survive. But I can practically guarantee you that both parties will still care about a dog after the relationship ends, and that can be really messy to navigate. As awkward as it may be, it’s best to get this negotiation out of the way upfront, even though you may never need it.
4. How will you share the responsibilities?
Lots of people love the idea of getting a dog, but not everyone realizes how much work goes into it. Training a puppy is so much work! On top of that, they need to be walked every day, taken on bathroom breaks, taken to the vet, and socialized with other dogs to foster good behavior.
So who’s going to do what? Are you a night owl who can’t fathom being woken up at 6 am to let your dog out for a potty break? Does the idea of cleaning up your dog’s accident make you sick? Have a conversation with your partner about how you’ll split up responsibilities, so there are no surprises down the road.
5. What kind of dog do you want?
Some couples can agree completely on wanting a dog but have completely different opinions on what type of dog they should get. If one person wants a Yorkshire Terrier, and the other wants a Great Dane, you’ve got some serious discussion ahead of you.
Work through not just what dog breeds you like, but why.
- Do you want a pup that will be able to keep up with you on the run?
- Do you want someone to cuddle with you on the couch at night?
- Do you want a dog that can come with you on road trips?
There are hundreds of dog breeds, and you’d be surprised at how tame some large breeds are and how active some tiny terriers can be, so discussing what character traits you want your dog to have can help you find a breed that meets both of your needs.