They’re cute, cuddly, loyal and smart. Recent studies even show that our canine companions are good for our health. But before you bring a dog into your family, it’s time to do a bit of soul searching to make sure you’re making the right decision—for you and the dog. Too many people impulsively get a pet when they’re not truly ready for a one. And that leads to heartbreak and too many abandoned animals in shelters.

Even if you’re responsible in all aspects of your life, you may not realize just how much time and resources are required to properly care for a dog. Do you have enough time to give them the daily exercise they require? Would you be taking care of the dog alone, or do you have family members to share the responsibility? Before you decide to bring a pooch home, consider these points so you can enjoy your new family member and don’t end up regretting your decision.

1. Is Your Yard Pet-Ready?

If you’re fortunate enough to have a yard, is it ready for a dog? Is it fenced—and is that fence secure and high enough to thwart escape artists? Dogs are family members so shouldn’t be left outside for long periods of time. But when they are outside, they should have access to a secure environment, fresh water and shelter from the elements. If you’re an apartment dweller, have you made sure that pets are allowed by the landlord? Make sure there is a park or other area nearby where you can take your dog for a walk and socialization.

2. Does a Dog Fit With Your Current Situation?

Many parents get a dog to “teach their kids about responsibility.” That’s not reason alone to get a dog. While older kids can and should help care for pets, the responsibility ultimately lies with adults. Before you get a dog, talk to your family members about what they can manage to do. Who will get up early to take Fido for a walk? Who will make sure pup is fed and always has access to water? Create a family calendar to ensure your new member is given a lot of attention, adequate exercise and the proper amount of food. Failing to create and follow a schedule could cause your pet to be overfed and not get enough exercise.

3. Where Will Your Dog Sanctuary Be?

Dogs, like humans, need their space. Consider getting a kennel that the dog can use as his “den” and retreat. It’s important to educate your children on why the dog goes to his kennel for naps and why they should never bother him there. Don’t, however, lock your dog in the crate for long periods of time. If you’re home, let the dog out of the crate immediately or they may begin to dislike their safe haven.

4. Who Will Your Dog Hang Out With?

In order to raise a dog that will have a “good head on it’s shoulders” so to speak, it should be socialized with other dogs. Otherwise, it may forget it’s manners around other dogs that pass by. A dog park is an ideal way to get your dog socializing with all types of other dogs. They are social animals by nature and most enjoy playing with other dogs. If you have other neighbors with dogs, suggest that you go walking the dogs together or set up “playdates.” An unsocialized dog isn’t a happy dog and may even become aggressive.

5. Can You Keep Your Pet Safe?

Even if you have plenty of love to give a dog, you need resources, too. Do you have the money to afford regular checkups, vaccinations and routine procedures (like spaying and neutering)? What if your dog needs major surgery to save it’s life? Veterinary bills can skyrocket quickly Before you get a dog, put some savings away in case of emergency or consider getting pet insurance of some kind. Do your homework first by doing things like checking out pet insurance reviews to find out what company offers the coverage that works best for you.

6. How Much Do You Know About Dogs?

To be ready for a dog, you need to know what dogs need. If you aren’t really sure, you have some research to do, about dogs in general and different breeds. You need to learn the basics, such as how to identify signs of illness, temperament problems, etc. Some breeds have different needs. For example, Border Collies and Labs are high-energy dogs who need lots of room and exercise. If you live in an apartment and work most of the day, these aren’t the dogs for you.

7. Do You Know What to Buy?

If you walked in a pet shop and were told to buy all the items a new puppy needs, would you know what to get? If you’re ready to get a dog, make sure you have the items you need before bringing him home. That list can be long and include dog crate, bed, collar, leash, food bowls, quality dog food, etc. It’s also a good idea to have dog treats on hand to help with puppy training. Also invest in some chew toys to deter your new friend from chewing up your favorite possessions. And borrow some baby gates so you can keep certain rooms and areas of the house off limits.

None of this is meant to discourage you from getting a dog. Dogs can improve your quality of life, and you can improve theirs. It’s just important to make sure that you know what you’re getting into before bringing a new pet into your life so that you can create a smooth transition, avoid unpleasant surprises, create a strong bond, and enjoy many happy years together. Good luck!

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