3 Things I Wish I'd Known Before Adopting a Dog

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  • Various registration fees can add to the expected expense of owning a dog.
  • Nervous new pet owners might make unnecessary trips to the vet.
  • Pet insurance should be put in place right away, before any conditions or medical issues have time to pop up.

Pet ownership is a wonderful but expensive responsibility.

My family had a dog from the time I was in kindergarten until I was in college, and I always knew that once I was able to, I'd get a dog of my own. I didn't want to rush it, though; I was happy to wait until the situation was right so I could provide the best life possible for my pup.

That time finally came three years ago. My husband and I both had stable jobs working from home with a sunny backyard and a healthy emergency savings built up. We decided we were ready, so we started looking at pet rescues for a dog we could bring into our family. And it didn't take long for a little bow-legged dachshund mix to catch our eye. The first time we met her, she promptly curled up in my lap and fell asleep, sealing the deal. Welcome home, little one.

Even though I grew up with a dog, I knew there would be curveballs I wasn't expecting when bringing home a dog of my own as an adult. I'm so glad my husband and I planned ahead of time and worked the cost into our budget, because there were still expensive lessons to be learned once we became full-time dog owners. Here are a few of them.

We knew to expect certain new expenses that come with owning a dog, from the adoption fee to vaccinations to food and treats and toys. But there were still a few fees that I hadn't thought about before we adopted our dog.

For one thing, our city requires all dogs to be registered, and the license fee costs $12 per year. Luckily, this is a very manageable cost, but it's something I didn't know about ahead of time and could have easily forgotten to do.

Our city also requires payment to use the public dog parks, which we only found out the first time we visited one and saw the payment sign. A day pass costs $5, and an annual pass costs up to $35. Again, this is a pretty minimal fee and one we're happy to pay, but I hadn't factored it into our pet-owning costs ahead of time.

2. Not all issues require a vet visit

This is one that I assume most pet owners have gone through. When we first brought our pup home, every little irregularity was a cause for concern, and we ended up making several unnecessary vet visits to ease our minds.

One time, we took her in because of a raised, pinkish bump under her arm that wasn't going away. Turned out to be a bug bite. Another time, we made an appointment because it seemed like she was licking her paws excessively. That's when we learned she probably has seasonal allergies that pass after the weather changes.

We've since learned that we can relax a little bit with the medical concerns. Dogs eat weird things sometimes and get sick, but it doesn't always require a visit with the vet. We're now much more prudent and monitor a situation for a little while before making an expensive appointment.

3. Get pet insurance ASAP

We brought our dog home in early February of 2020. A month later, the world locked down, and a lot of our plans went out the window. One of those plans was getting pet insurance; it just didn't seem like a priority at the time, since our new pup was only a year old with a clean bill of health, and we had a lot bigger concerns to deal with.

By the time spring rolled around, our dog started skipping her back legs while she walked, which we found out was a genetic issue where her kneecaps move out of place. It's not painful for her, but it will likely lead to surgery someday. Unfortunately, since we waited on getting pet insurance, it's now considered a pre-existing condition that won't be covered by a policy. If I could do things over, I'd get pet insurance in place as soon as we brought our dog home, before any issues had time to pop up.

Protect the things that give you joy

I'm so happy we made the decision to get a dog, and any frustrations are made totally worth it by the love we have for this silly creature. I'm also really happy we prepared before bringing our dog home, because pet ownership is an expensive responsibility, and there will almost always be surprise expenses to contend with.

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