Should I adopt a dog? Here are 8 things to consider first, according to a trainer

woman holding a puppy; what to consider before adopting a dog

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Whether you’re dreaming of a furry running buddy, a hiking buddy, or just a furry ball to cuddle on the couch, adopting a dog might seem like the perfect decision. But it’s easy to envision bringing home a new four-legged best friend with rose-colored glasses without really stopping to wonder, “should Am I adopting a dog?

Gail Miller Bisher is a trainer, trainer, judge and resident expert for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. She recommends creating a list of things to keep in mind before you start browsing local shelters. Here are some tips and points to consider.

1. Evaluate your lifestyle

The first thing to consider before adopting a dog is to carefully assess your lifestyle. Adopting a pet shouldn’t be an impulsive decision, although it’s easy to faint at a blurry face. If you travel a lot for work, have a temporary housing situation, or need to watch spending for a while, make a plan first. There will be still be good dogs available when you are ready.

RELATED: Your guide to adopting a dog for the first time

If now is not the right time to adopt a dog, don’t despair! You can still get a healthy dose of puppy love by volunteering at a shelter — they still need compassionate, reliable humans. Or perhaps foster rescue dogs for a few weeks at a time to help them acclimate to a home environment (and become irresistibly adoptable by someone else).

2. Consider all family members

What you can give a new dog extends to how he will interact with the family. Some dogs are instant playmates for children and blend in well in a busy home with other dogs, cats, and other creatures. Then there are puppies that are best suited to families with older children, seniors and retirees, or single-pet homes.

3. Research the breed

There are 200 registered purebred dog breeds in the United States and literally dozens of mixed breeds. And different breeds have different needs.

Some dogs are long-lived (more than 15 years, in some cases). Others are bred specifically for certain tasks, such as herding or hunting, and will have certain expectations of you! “What the dog was originally bred to tell you a lot about how it will act,” says Bisher.

One of the best duties a first-time dog owner can do is to get to know a breed’s temperament, characteristics, and other factors before giving heart. Parents of experienced dogs could also learn a thing or two about new breeds. Take the time to speak with reputable breeders or breed-focused rescue organizations if you desire a particular type of dog.

RELATED: What type of pet should you adopt? Take this quiz!

4. Plan mental and physical exercises

“If you just like hanging out on the couch, there are certain breeds you shouldn’t have,” Bisher says. “All breeds have different exercise needs. Make sure you can exercise them. It’s very important for their mental and physical health,” she adds.

Parents of active puppies often take their energetic dogs with them on hikes, runs, and even kayaking trips. More laid back folks are hoping for a cozy companion dog that is content to play fetch and walk around the block.

But even if your new pup isn’t a marathon runner, all dogs enjoy everyday games and activities that engage their minds, help them bond with their humans, and keep them from getting into mischief.

5. Invest in training

Our canine buddies are smart, and some are super smart! They are also eager to learn, so another thing to consider before adopting a dog is how to train them and why it is important.

Not only does positive reinforcement training and early socialization ensure that they will be good dog residents, but they also continuously rely on their natural instincts and abilities. Teaching basic skill cues and fun tricks ensures your dog thrives. You can also hire a dog trainer or behaviorist to help you.

6. Be Grooming Conscious

Some dogs have special grooming needs that require special attention, proper grooming tools, and maybe even regular visits to professional groomers for the right care.

For example, dog breeds with double coats such as Siberian huskies and Labrador retrievers not only shed (a lot), but they also “blow” in spring and autumn. Other breeds, like Yorkshire terriers, actually have hair that requires more frequent grooming appointments because it grows quickly.

“If you don’t want to spend a lot of time and money, find a dog that’s easier to groom,” Bisher recommends.

7. Partner with a veterinarian

While researching dog breeds, you’ll learn about your favorite pup’s overall health and any predicted conditions or illnesses. Reputable breeders work with geneticists and veterinarians to ensure the health of their bloodlines and puppies, but a little preventative advice from a local veterinarian can also sway your decision. Work with a veterinary partner who:

  • Knows how to treat your breed. Some dogs, like the Saluki or the English Foxhound, are among the rarest dog breeds in the United States and may require more specialized care.

  • Includes the unique health characteristics of crossbred dogs. If you discover a Goldendoodle or Cavapoo that needs a good home, talk to a veterinarian about the two parent breeds and what to expect.

  • Develop a breed-specific nutrition plan. From how much food your dog needs to the best diet for certain health conditions, your vet has ideas that will help.

8. Budget accordingly

To put it simply: dogs are expensive. You will want to be well informed about all aspects of care and associated costs, including:

RELATED: What does owning a dog really cost?

Because you ultimately want to give a dog a fabulous life, there’s no rush to make that decision. Take your time, weigh the options, and with all your new research, you’ll have complete confidence choosing the BFF you’ve always wanted.