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picture of me with my dog
picture of me with my dog
Photo by Anna Paugh

7 Questions to ask yourself before getting a dog in college

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Ball State chapter.

Growing up, I always wanted a dog to call my own. Sure, my family had plenty of dogs over the years, but they weren’t fully mine. For this reason, over the past few years I have contemplated getting a dog. But many people told me that if I did, it was going to be a lot of work. Despite being told this, I knew it was time to get my own, and so I did the research and got a beagle puppy (her name is Mallie in case you’re interested). Looking back, those who warned me were right. It isn’t easy. There have been many days that I have felt like I made a mistake, but through time and effort it has become the best decision of my life. If you are considering getting a dog in college, these are some questions you should ask yourself before you do.

1. Do I have the money for a dog?

This one is pretty obvious. Everyone tells you that owning a dog is expensive. You have vet visits, pet deposits and monthly payments (if your living situation requires this), food, supplies, and not to mention toys and treats to spoil them with. You also have to consider emergency vet visits. Dogs, especially puppies, will eat anything they find and many times you are not able to get it out of their mouth before they swallow it. This can make them sick and will force you to make an unexpected visit to the animal clinic to get them back to normal. Overall, you should have some financial stability and know that if you get a dog, you may have to cut back on some other expenses in your life to be able to fully support your dog. 

2. Do I have the time for a dog?

As college students, we can get pretty busy. We have classes to go to, organization meetings, jobs, and a social life. This is something to take into consideration because you don’t want to get a dog just for them to be cooped up all day long. A dog requires attention and socialization and it is important that you have the time for that. I have adapted my school schedule to ensure that I never leave my dog home alone for more than four hours at a time. Along with attention, they also have to be let out to go to the bathroom! Another big thing I learned after getting a dog is that, for the first several months, your social life is basically non-existent. Especially in the beginning, your dog will need constant supervision and that means no more nights out for a while. Hence, that is why it is important to consider your time and schedule when wanting a dog.

3. Do I have people to help with a dog?

Being alone in the process is not easy, but you can’t assume the people around you are going to be willing to help. You need to have that conversation with them and ask if they would be willing to help out if there was a time you were not available (class, work, vacation, etc). I remember my roommate was a big help in those first few months when I was still pretty busy with my school and work schedule. You have to accept that this is your dog. Which means that you shouldn’t take advantage of others’ help, as you should be the one that cares for the dog the most.

4. Does my housing allow dogs?

Make sure your roommates and any other animals in your home are okay with a dog. You also need to reach out to your landlord or leasing office to ensure that animals are allowed. Some places require deposits and also have a size limit so that is something else to think about. You should also consider where your dog will use the bathroom around where you live. I live in a third floor apartment with no elevator and let me tell you, potty training was BRUTAL. I was up and down those stairs at least every 30 minutes taking my puppy to go to the bathroom. Having a house with a yard would definitely be easier for a dog but it’s ultimately up to your comfort level and what you think will be best for yourself and the dog.

5. Am I willing to adapt my future plans for a dog?

As I have said, dogs take up a lot of your time. I am currently trying to plan my spring break and it can be pretty difficult when I know I either have to board my dog for a week or take her with me and find a dog friendly place for us to stay. If you like to travel a lot or are away from home often, that is something you will likely have to give up or change if you get a dog. You can always board a dog at a clean and safe facility but that adds a huge expense to your plans. You also have to think about future housing and what your plans are after graduating. Does a dog mess with any of those plans?

6. Do I have the patience for training?

Even if you don’t get a young puppy, you will still have to work on training. Not every dog is going to listen to commands right off the bat. You will be bringing them into a new space and they are likely to have accidents in your house in the beginning. You should also make sure they are socialized and know how to act around other people and animals. You have to consider whether you will be training them yourself, doing classes, or some other form of training. It is a lot of work, but trust me, it will make your life so much easier if your dog is trained. 

7. Do I have everything I need for a dog?

So, if you’ve answered yes to all these questions, maybe you are ready for a dog! Now this list is not extensive and you should definitely do more research. When getting a dog you should also think about the breed and the type of personality you’re looking for to make sure you will work well together. Your next steps are going to be getting everything you need. The beginning items I recommend are a crate, leash and collar, name tag with your phone number, food, treats and toys. You should also probably have a vet selected to take your dog shortly after adopting them just to make sure that they are healthy. You should also have a quiet space for the dog to get used to in your home in the first few days. 

Overall, I do not regret getting a dog at all. She is my best friend and I couldn’t imagine my life this past year without her. It is a lot of work, but for me, I believe it was worth it. Coming home from classes or work to Mallie giving me hugs and kisses makes the rest of my day not so bad. She also has made me more active and productive since I take her places to get her wiggles out. I also feel like I laugh a lot more with her around because she is just such a goofy puppy. As long as you do your research and are prepared for some changes in your life, having a dog in college is a super rewarding experience and I highly recommend it.

Anna Paugh

Ball State '24