Home E Behavior E Deciding If You’re Ready For A Puppy

Deciding If You’re Ready For A Puppy

By Kayla Fratt

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Let’s face it: puppies are a lot of work. If they weren’t so cute, I’m not sure if anyone would make it through their dog’s puppyhood. Puppies need nearly constant supervision and make plenty of messes between potty accidents and chewing. Once they hit teenagerhood, some puppies are almost worse — they seem to forget everything you’ve taught them as the become more independent.

That’s why it’s so important to really think about whether or not you’re ready for a puppy. Rather than rushing to things after seeing a cute face in an ad, it’s best to slow down and ensure you’re really ready.

There’s a lot to think about, but here are some of the top considerations:

Finances

Puppies are expensive. Even if you don’t get a multi-thousand-dollar purebred puppy, consider the cost of vet bills, toys, training classes and equipment. Even for a healthy puppy, expect a few thousand dollars.

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Even for a healthy puppy, expect a few thousand dollars.

Alone time

Whether you work from home or not, your puppy is going to need help learning to be alone. Many working families need to hire dogsitters, because puppy bladders simply can’t handle 8+ hour work days. Puppies take time and training to learn to be quiet and happy when left alone, and simply leaving them alone while you work or trying to mute your microphone on Zoom isn’t a training plan!

Space

I strongly recommend setting up a “puppy palace” of an exercise pen with a crate and bed, toys, water and potty area for your puppy. This allows you to leave your puppy in a puppy-proof area when you can’t have two eyes on them. I can’t imagine raising my puppy without it! However, this does take up about five feet by five feet of space. Ensure that you’re ready to live with that inconvenience for a few months while your puppy is getting potty trained and learning what not to chew on. I also strongly recommend having a crate beside your bed to help your puppy sleep soundly at night. This can take some getting used to, but is less stressful for everyone compared to a crying baby puppy!

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I strongly recommend setting up a “puppy palace” of an exercise pen with a crate and bed, toys, water and potty area for your puppy. This allows you to leave your puppy in a puppy-proof area when you can’t have two eyes on them.

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Adolescence

Teenage dogs can be almost as annoying as teenage humans. This phase of life can be full of challenges, so ensure that you’ll have time and emotional energy 6-12 months after acquiring your puppy. It might sound wise to bring a puppy home at the start of summer break when you can devote time to care, but that doesn’t work as well if you won’t have any time to devote to your doggie teenager in the fall and winter. Young adult dogs may need a LOT of exercise, so think about how much jogging or hiking you’ll be doing in 2-3 years.

Common behavior issues

Potty training problems, chewing, barking, digging and separation distress are all completely normal and expected for baby mammals. Plan a prevention strategy for each problem and ensure that you’re emotionally ready to deal with each as it comes up. While you may be lucky to have a puppy who doesn’t get into all sorts of mischief, most puppies do to some degree. Ensure that you’re ready for the realities of puppy-raising.

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Potty training problems, chewing, barking, digging and separation distress are all completely normal and expected for baby mammals. Plan a prevention strategy for each problem and ensure that you’re emotionally ready to deal with each as it comes up.

Travel or other life changes

Traveling with a puppy, sending the kids off to college when the dog is only three or adding a baby to the home are all big life changes. It can be incredibly difficult to navigate these challenges, even with a five-year-old dog (that’s five years from now)! Try to plan far ahead and think through how you’ll navigate those changes with your puppy or dog.

Training

Puppy classes, from socialization classes to manners classes, take time and money. Good dogs aren’t really made: they’re trained. Even as a professional trainer, I dedicate hours every week to exercise and training for my puppy. While I might save money by not paying for classes, I still have to put in the same time as you! Plan for at least a few hundred dollars in training budget (assuming you’re not doing private lessons, in which case it may be a thousand or more) and at least a few hours every single week.

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Puppy classes, from socialization classes to manners classes, take time and money. Good dogs aren’t really made: they’re trained.

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The reality is, there isn’t really a “perfect” time to bring home a puppy. But try to be as prepared and clear-eyed as possible, and at least you can make the decision about a good time. It’s also perfectly reasonable to get on a waitlist for a puppy from a breeder, or start building a relationship with a shelter/rescue, before you’re 100 percent ready. Starting the process when you’re mostly ready will give you time and a deadline to get the rest of your affairs in order.


Kayla Fratt is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant and the owner of Journey Dog Training. She’s passionate about helping owners prevent and treat behavior problems in their pets. She also works as a conservation detection dog trainer with her border collies in Missoula, Montana. She’s an avid runner, cross-country skier and a budding agility competitor.

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