When I was in college, it seemed like everybody AND their brother had a dog. Literally everyone.
I was so jealous of my friends who were able to have dogs. I had a family dog who I missed desperately and was chomping at the bit to be able to adopt one of my own.
Now that I have my own puppy (see picture), I can definitely advise on what you need to prepare for, how much you can estimate to spend and, most importantly, how you can manage your time effectively.
1. Am I financially prepared?
Do you have a steady income or would your parents be willing to pitch in if there is a problem? Dogs can be expensive if they get sick. Most of that is out of your control, just like you can’t plan when you will be sick. You’ve got to be prepared to spend money if your dog ends up getting sick and needing intensive care.
Unless there’s an emergency, it’s easy to keep costs somewhat low. You’ll need to buy some sort of flea/heartworm medication that will help keep him/her protected. I pay about $70 for my dog’s medication every few months. You’ll also need to buy food as needed. Remember that size is also a factor in how expensive it is to have a dog: the bigger the dog, the more expensive!
2. How safe is my living environment?
Do you have messy roommates who are constantly partying? Is there an outside area where you feel comfortable walking your dog? You have to make sure that your dog will be safe. Dogs are prone to pick up and chew up all sorts of things, so unless your roommates also promise to keep the apartment clear of hazards, you could put your pup in danger. If you are able to keep your dog contained in a room that you have to yourself while you’re not home, that would be ideal (Note: You can’t keep a dog inside your bedroom all the time – you will definitely want to make sure him/her gets outside to get exercise).
Remember, a puppy is essentially like a baby and has to be watched at all times. You can’t just let him/her wander around without your watchful eye or they could get seriously hurt. If you’re not able to watch him/her, then they need to be in the crate.
3. How flexible is your schedule?
If you’re in class pretty much all day every day of the week without any breaks, it’s probably not best for you to get a dog at this time in your life. You’ll need to have a schedule where you can come home at some point of the day so the dog isn’t sitting in a crate for more than seven or eight hours at a time. Also, the younger the dog, the less time they should be left alone.
If you’re constantly pulling all-nighters at the library, you’ll probably need to have them at home instead. Dogs simply can’t be left alone for that long.
Also consider breaks or out-of-town trips. Are you able to afford to board your dog while you’re away or pay extra to have them fly with you? Make sure you consider this!
4. Have you considered the other options?
As much as you may want your own dog, you may have to get your dog fix in other ways. Know that dog ownership isn’t feasible for everyone in college. Even if you can’t have a dog right at this instant, there are other ways around it.
The first is to spend your time volunteering at your local Humane Society or shelter. You’ll not only be able to get your dog fix, but you’ll be able to do some good! Secondly, try looking into the wanted ads in the paper and see if there are any dog walking jobs available. Not only will you be able to rake in some extra tax-free cash, but you will be able to spend some time with pooches! Lastly, some animal shelters allow you to foster animals while they wait to get adopted. Most programs will pay for all of the animal’s costs AND provide all of his/her necessary items like food/crate/etc. You will have to be available for adoption events, but if for some reason you have to go out of town, you are able to bring the dog back and pick them back up.