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Academics and Animals: Should You Adopt a Pet in College?

The dorm days are over. You've graduated from microwave meals and flip-flops in the shower to full-fledged independence. Look at you, all grown up and dominating life. You're balancing work, school and your flourishing social life like a boss. Now that you've mastered self-care, its only natural to put your newfound self-sufficiency to the test. What's next? Before total world domination comes "puppy fever."

The deep desire to take care of a furry friend can mean one of two things. You've either become a responsible adult or you've fallen under the spell of puppy dog eyes. Adopting an animal companion is a life-changing decision, so make sure you're adequately prepared for the responsibility.

Money Matters

CollegeArticle3Responsible pet ownership begins with an honest evaluation of your capabilities. Be realistic about your financial situation. Create a budget to calculate potential expenses and weigh the results. Before heading to the shelter, consider the following:

  • Adoption costs: Unless you take in a stray dog off the streets, you'll likely pay an adoption fee. Depending on the shelter (or breeder) and age of the pet, prices can vary and can sky rocket to more than $250. If you are hoping for a purebred dog, the cost doubles. Do your research before leaving home to avoid falling in love with a puppy you can't afford.
  • Vet bills: Initial vet costs include spay/neuter fees as well as rabies and parvo/distemper vaccinations. Some shelters include this service in the adoption fees. Health care doesn't stop there. Some pups are prone to health conditions while others require only regular checkups. If you find your pet has recurring veterinary needs, pet insurance can help reduce the cost of office visits, prescriptions and vaccinations.
  • Training: A well-trained dog makes a happy dog (and owner). Basic obedience can cost upward of $100 per lesson.

Visit the ASPCA for a detailed breakdown of costs incurred with pet ownership. Should you decide a pet fish might be more up your alley; the cost breakdown is also included in the handy list.

Home Alone

No other living being will make you feel more welcome than a dog. The tail-wagging excitement that greets you at the door makes a house feel like a home. Pets also make excellent study partners and always give licks of encouragement just when you need them. But, your busy and fluctuating schedule could leave your pup to fend for himself while you're away. When you're running from class to class, planning walks and potty breaks can add stress to your already hectic schedule. Sure, your roommate could possibly do the duty sometimes, but no one wants to care for someone else's responsibility. PetSafe recommends installing a dog door to make it easier for your pet to go out when it needs to relieve itself. If you rent, the sliding door inserts provide a landlord-approved option for any size home or apartment.

Exercise and Socialization

CollegeArticle4Becoming a pet owner comes with added health benefits. Proper pet care calls for daily exercise and socialization of your pet. Rather than coming home to relax on the couch, you'll find yourself greeted by a pet with energy to exert. If your busy schedule prevents you from hours of rigorous exercise, there are certain breeds you should steer clear of. Apartment-friendly dogs aren't narrowed down by size. Vetstreet reveals large breeds like mastiffs can be just as laid-back as small breeds like pugs. When doing your research, look for breeds with relaxed personalities and steer clear of hunting breeds like high-energy terriers.

Carol Ward
Writer, dog trainer, volunteer

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