There’s a certain danger zone when you’re first in a committed relationship, and it’s one you don’t see coming. At least I didn’t foresee it when my partner and I first started dating. But before long, we were searching pet adoption website Petfinder.com every single day and entering in search terms like “cattle dog mix,” “Australian shepard mix,” and yes, even “husky mix” when we knew full well we had only been together for a handful of months and I lived in a small apartment New York City.
We never did go the Petfinder route, though we did send in applications for several dogs and were left brokenhearted when we saw they had already been adopted. Did we take this as a sign, decide it wasn’t time to adopt a pet, and move on?
We went to a local shelter, fell in love with a speckled ginger cattle-dog mix from Texas, and now we’ve been dog parents for nearly a year.
We love our 36-pound furchild, Georgie, and the three of us are a little family unit now. But my partner and I both agree that we probably jumped the gun on our puppy impulses.
We had only been together for nine months when we adopted a dog, and we didn’t even live together at that time. My partner was about to go full-time freelance, and I was in my first full-time job in a precarious media climate. Nonetheless, we walked into a shelter and took home our first dog.
Not everyone is as impulsive as we were in their decisions to get a dog. Dogs require hours of care, attention and discipline, especially when they’re young.
So, what are some things that new couples should think about before they decide to add a dog to their family?
Wyatt Fisher, a couples retreat leader, shared his checklist of what couples should consider before they add a furry, barking thing to the mix:
I have a few things to add to that based on my own experience. Here’s what I wish we would have thought about before adopting Georgie.
There are several ways your life will change when you get a dog, even if you do all the preparation that you can possibly do ahead of time.
The life you two once had, with plenty of free time after work and other obligations, now belongs to your dog.
Every time you leave the house, you have to think about your dog’s needs. When will they need to be walked next? What time do they need to eat? Have they had enough exercise today?
The good thing is you start to think far less about yourselves than you did in the past; you become much more considerate than you might have been in the past.
Still, make time for date nights and alone time; you can do that while making sure your dog is covered.
Besides time, dogs will also drain your financial resources.
It’s true that you and your partner will have more initial startup costs than you will monthly costs (crates, leashes, dog bowls, etc.), but dog food and vet costs can eat up a budget.
The good news is that it’s easy to decide what the essentials are in your dog’s life and what — like paying multiple dog walkers a week — you might be able to avoid.
There are plenty of upsides to dog ownership, and the good news is they cancel out all the cons. Dogs will make you a more active couple and will also ensure that you get out of your house and are interacting with other people. Your dog will need to go to the dog park and make dog friends.
Your friends will become other dog parents, and that’s a community in itself. Some of your friends who don’t own dogs might not understand what it means to be a dog parent, but you will meet friends who get it.
Getting a dog means your social life, mindset, and capacity for love is definitely going to grow. Your dog doesn’t know it, but he or she is making you a better, more thoughtful, fiscally responsible and open human being. When you’re ready, it’s totally worth it. Promise.
Hilary Weaver is a freelance writer in New York City, where she covers feminism, politics, celebrity and queer issues. You can find her byline at Vanity Fair, ELLE, Bustle and more.