Recently, I have managed to adopt a dog as a third-year student; something many students dream of. Beginning as her dog sitter, and now owner, over the past year has truly opened my life up to an array of memories that very few students ever get to experience. Although having a dog works incredibly well in my lifestyle, it’s important to truly think about what owning a dog at this age means for both you and your four-legged friend.
The first and most common question I get asked about having a dog is ‘does your landlord mind?’ The answer is, no they don’t mind. Landlords are notoriously against their tenants having pets, let alone student landlords. But through the new Model Tenancy Agreement, it is much easier for renters to own well-behaved pets in rented accommodation. Personally, my little dog is fully trained and is incredibly lazy, so her temperament presents no reason for any landlords to be worried.
It is vital to evaluate how much damage your dog realistically might cause. If they’re incredibly active or young, owning a dog in a student house (let alone normal rented housing) may not be the best idea and might rack up maintenance and cleaning bills.
If you’re a typical student, you’re likely to be living with others. This is where the next round of issues begins. If you’re like me and live with your dog-loving friends, it presents no issue at all as long as everyone agrees. But, if you live with people you don’t know or people who are not dog fans (because apparently, they do exist), it can be hard to persuade them to let you have a dog in the house.
Allergies are also an important concern to pay attention to. Before you move in with someone or get a dog, you need to check no allergies are present to avoid unwanted health issues and awkward conversations. Make sure every current or future housemate is fully aware you own a dog and are happy having one in the house. If you have lots of housemates, owning an anxious dog may not be the best idea. However, on the flip side, lots of housemates mean lots of attention for a cuddly dog.
Dog food, cleaning products, grooming costs, accessories, vet and dental bills should all be considered when getting a dog. If you’re financially struggling, owning one is not a responsible thing to do. You need to be able to look after the dog as well as you would yourself. Pet insurance is a helping hand when it comes to vet bills. But they usually don’t cover dental bills which can be unexpectedly expensive. Ensure you have a regular secure income and/or savings to help both you and your new friend in times of need. The bigger the dog, the bigger the cost!
You need to be able to give a dog as much attention as it requires. Some needy dogs can’t bear for you to be away for more than an hour, whereas quieter dogs prefer a few hours alone. It depends on their temperament. You need to assess whether you have the appropriate amount of time spare for cuddles and walks not only now, but in the future. If you’re anticipating entering a nine-to-five job after university, you need to evaluate if you would be able to hire doggy daycare or if you will have family to keep your dog company. At university you may only have eight hours a week but, in a couple of years, will you be able to give the time and love your pet needs?
If you love spending hours with friends out and about, having a dog would mean giving up some of that time to be with your fluffy friend. Once again, personally, I have no problem with this and, like every cringe dog mum, I genuinely love spending time working from home with my pooch on my lap rather than sitting in the library with friends. However, you need to think, once the novelty wears off, will you still be up for at-home study sessions rather than hours on campus with others.
Like babies, dogs can and will make a lot of mess and come with a lot of responsibility. Mud, hair and a variety of other messes come as a complete package with your fluffy friends. Be realistic with yourself. Are you capable of cleaning up any mess your dog may produce and make? If you’re just getting a dog for the cute factor, it’s incredibly important to look at all aspects of owning a dog, especially the not so pretty ones. Hair will get everywhere and your new favourite jeans will get mud stains. If that means nothing to you, then you will be fine! If you can’t stand the mess, it may not be a good idea to get a dog.
It is true that, if you get a dog, they really will be your best friend. My dog is a constant source of love and comfort and keeps me afloat every day and helps with my array of anxieties. If you have sensibly and responsibly thought about all the responsibilities of owning a dog, then it could be just what you need. But it is never a decision to be made lightly. Please be sure you are fully capable of caring and loving a dog properly! If now is not the best time for you to own one, think ahead and look forward to the time when you will be able to responsibly look after an adorably innocent puppy.