Whether you should get a dog depends on what your expectations are of owning one. We have a list of questions to ask before you adopt a dog that can help you decide if your lifestyle and environment are right for raising a pet. But before you look at these, it’s more important to think about whether you even like dogs. This is a vital point that many people overlook, particularly first-time dog owners. You should have a realistic view of what it’s like to properly train and care for a dog before you get one.

When you get a dog, you’re getting a companion for life. Your new friend is entirely dependent upon you for his every need. From food and shelter to love and affection, you are the center of your dog’s universe. You are his trainer, his protector, and his pack leader. A dog isn’t an animal to be kept out of sight or chained to a dog house in the backyard. He’s your best friend. The costs of owning a dog go beyond a sum of money for food and medical care. A dog can touch your heart in ways you never expected.

No one can tell you what it means to own a dog. The only way to know for certain whether you should get a dog is to experience one for yourself.

Places to get the dog experience

There are lots of people to talk to and places to go to make sure you’re ready to adopt a puppy or dog. The following are just a few of them.

Serious breeders and pet owners

These people can give you a firsthand perspective of life with a dog. However, be wary of dog owners that aren’t serious about their duties in raising and training a dog. Find knowledgeable people and you’ll get knowledgeable advice.

Veterinarians, groomers and other pet professionals

These people can tell you what it takes to properly care for a puppy or dog, including the time and money that goes into pet ownership.

Local animal shelters and dog rescue organizations

You can volunteer with a dog rescue group for hands-on experience with lots of dogs of all ages and breeds. You may even be qualified to provide a foster home for a dog until it can be placed with a suitable family. It’s a great way to experience a breed that you’re particularly interested in and you might find the perfect dog for you along the way.

Dog shows and competitions

Dog shows, agility competitions, obedience competitions, and other dog sporting events allow you to see animals in action and can introduce you to breeds you may not have considered. By going in person, you get to see what the dogs are really like.

Even though it’s probably the most important question, not many people ask “should I get a dog?”. By taking this first step, you’re already well on your way to becoming a responsible dog owner.