What to Know Before Getting a Dog in College

If there's one thing I can say about Belmont students, it's that we love dogs. I mean, we love them. Like, when was the last time you saw a dog on campus that wasn't being swarmed by adoring bruins? Dogs just know what's up. They have some sort of inexplicable power that makes everything okay the moment you start petting them. There's a reason the university brings in puppies during finals. When it comes to relieving stress, they're miracle workers  So naturally, you'd think having a dog at school would just be the best thing ever, right? Well...maybe. 

Last March, during spring break, I adopted Piper, a now nine-month-old Yorkshire Terrier. While Piper is the absolute love of my life, I can now say six months in that raising a dog while in school was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be. Read on to find out what I've learned, and to see if having a dog in college is the right decision for you.

Dogs Take a LOT of Time

Okay, so I know this seems obvious, but new dogs (puppies especially) will make you carve out way more time in your schedule than you might think. Pets are completely dependent on you and - unlike your math homework- you can't just put them off until later. You have to be around to exercise it, feed it, and play with it, especially if it's young and/or not yet trained. Kat LeJeune'18 says, "Having a dog [in college] is a lot of work, and as much as everyone wants to have a dog in college, you have to think about the dog's needs first. You have to realistically know how much time you have to take care of a dog and then ask yourself if that's fair for the dog." If you don't already spend a pretty decent amount of time at home, you're going to have to make some big scheduling adjustments to ensure that you can care for it properly.

Dogs Can Be a Big Distraction

Dogs are the best cuddle-buddies, but even if you can manage to rip yourself away from a snug sesh, they can still be a big distraction. Sometimes their high-energy days happen to fall right when you need to cram for a test or write a big paper, and unless you have an iron will, you're not going to be able to ignore their cries for very long. A sick dog can be worse, requiring you to drop everything and head to the vet - even if you have class. You just have to be able to work with it.

Dogs Can Make Traveling Difficult

My family is about a three-hour drive from Nashville, so luckily visits aren't too much of an issue for me. However, it's not that simple for everyone. If you have to take a plane home, you're going to have to invest in a carrier and pay the additional fee to have them fly. If you have a particularly long drive, you're going to have to make regular stops to let them use the bathroom and run around a bit, adding up to a much longer trip. If you can't bring your dog at all, you're going to have to invest in a sitter or boarding, both of which can be expensive. Spontaneous weekend trips are also virtually out of the question, and unless your friend's apartment is dog-friendly, spending the night somewhere else is going to be a hassle. 

Dogs Can Be Expensive

After actually paying for a bed, a crate, toys, more toys after the first ones are destroyed, a leash, a harness, a collar, a tag, and some food, there are still more fees to worry about. To top it off, vet bills are going to be big. Even if you can anticipate the cost of vaccinations and a spay/neuter, I can guarantee you that you'll have to make some unplanned trips, and sometimes you'll have to shell out even more for medication. Pet fees are pretty standard at most apartments, and if your dog causes damages, that's even more. Like I mentioned previously, travel can burn a big hole too. Many dogs end up abandoned because of financial reasons, so you absolutely must be sure you can handle it.

Dogs WILL Be Stressful

I know that I went on and on about how great dogs are at easing your stress, and that's true, but they're also a source of it. Dogs are a big responsibility, they're kind of like having children. Just look at all the things we've already talked about, and I haven't even gotten to the woes of training. College is mentally and emotionally taxing, and if you're already at your limit then taking on a dog is not a good idea. Having a dog around is the best, but college simply isn't the right time for everyone. 

As much as I've talked about the downsides of having a dog, know that it can still be an incredibly rewarding experience. I love my dog so much, I wouldn't give her up for anything in the world. Truth be told though,  I wasn't nearly as prepared as I thought I was. Take everything I've mentioned into consideration, be honest about what you can handle, and you'll make the right choice. Best of luck to you and your furry friends! 

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