Dogs give us all kinds of joy; what with their manic tail wagging, enthusiastic wants for pats and food (#relatable), and a mutual love for cuddles. They come with all the benefits of a friendship with minimal emotional complications, but there are some huge responsibilities that come with adopting a furbaby as a young, single woman. It’s not easy even when you have some help, but doing it solo comes with extra challenges. Having a pup can change the way you live your life entirely; it can affect everything from your budget and how you travel to where you live and work and who you date.

Dogs give us all kinds of joy; what with their manic tail wagging, enthusiastic wants for pats and food (#relatable), and a mutual love for cuddles. They come with all the benefits of a friendship with minimal emotional complications, but there are some huge responsibilities that come with adopting a furbaby as a young, single woman. It’s not easy even when you have some help, but doing it solo comes with extra challenges. Having a pup can change the way you live your life entirely; it can affect everything from your budget and how you travel to where you live and work and who you date.

There are definitely some things I learned when I adopted that I wish I had been privy to beforehand. It would have made things less stressful and I would have gone into it more prepared. Please know – these things are in no way meant to dissuade you from pet ownership; I don’t want to scare you off getting the fluff-ball of your dreams. There are some seriously cool and rewarding experiences to be had when adopting a dog, but there are definitely some things you should carefully consider before signing up for the responsibility. It’s in the best interest of yourself and your new pup.

Expenses

One of the biggest shocks that came with adopting a dog were the expenses. When I fantasised about getting a dog when I was a real adult back when I was in university, I always just factored in the cost of the dog and food, and maybe a few vet bills here or there. What I wasn’t prepared for, was the rich smorgasbord of things a dog will need; not just in the beginning, but over its lifetime. In fact, it’s expected you’ll pay somewhere between £1,400 and £3,100 in your first year of owning a pet. After that, it’s roughly £500 per year for one dog, which is also the cost of a fairly decent holiday. The lesson? Decide whether a dog is financially viable, and if you’d rather be putting your money elsewhere.

So here’s what you pay…

There’s the one-off cost of the pup, which was roughly £150 for me when I adopted Leopold from a local shelter. This was great value, because Leo came to me fully vaccinated, dewormed and desexed. He was also microchipped and had had a recent health check.

But, then came the flood of expenses and unforeseen costs.

I had to buy a bed, leech and collar, which can set you back a pretty penny if you decide to go with accessories made from quality materials that last for ages. There’s also toys and treats. If you adopt a smaller dog, you’ll find that they’re usually less prone to chewing things, so they won’t need nearly as many toys. However, my dog, who is medium sized, goes through roughly one toy and one bone from the butcher per week. (It’s a small cost, considering I don’t want him chewing up my favourite outfits.) Luckily, I discovered earlier on that that’s what all those donated kids toys in charity shops are for – puppy chew bits and bobs! So, I saved a bucket-load there at least by picking up a car boot’s worth of old toys.

When it comes to health and maintenance, there’s a lot to fork out for. I personally detest spending my hard-earned money on my own health, and I’ll put off going to the dentist as long as possible. But your pup will need regular worm and flea treatments as well as an annual vet check-up. So, providing you’re lucky and your pooch doesn’t get sick, you’re looking at another £100-£200 per year.

Finally, there’s the food. Holy moley, was I not prepared for the cost of the dog food. For Leo, the cost of feeding him sets me back about £9 per week, so roughly £450 per year. There’s also the extras like pet insurance for accidents and illness, which is different for every dog, depending on their age, breed and health; but it can cost £170-£260 per year.

As a corporate lass in her mid-twenties, on a relatively modest salary, living in an expensive major city; all of these costs set me back a fair bit in my savings. One month when I was quite low on cash after a particularly large load of expenses, I had to ask the folks for a small loan just so I could get Leo dewormed and fed.

So there you have it. Before you adopt a dog, it’s ideal to create an extensive budget plan with everything I’ve mentioned, as well as some breathing room for extras such as registering your dog with the local council and obedience classes. After you do that, you’ll know whether it’s realistic for you to adopt a furbaby.

If you need an idea of some of the expenses you’ll need to consider, you can read up on it with this financial guide.

Living and working  

When you adopt, you need to make sure your living situation caters to the dog. When I first adopted Leo two and a half years ago, I was living in a large terrace as part of a share house. It had a decent sized courtyard, a pet door and a big park nearby for walks. The landlord also already allowed pets, which was a huge win. The only thing I had to do was check with my four housemates about whether they were okay with having a dog around. I was lucky because it was a friendly house, and I actually came to rely on housemates to sometimes walk and feed Leo, as they grew to love him just as much as I did.

However, how you and your dog live can get tricky if your living situation changes unexpectedly. Natalie, 28, was renting in London near a large park with her housemates and her border collie, Harry. Her work and house were close together and her housemate was happy to dog-sit whenever Natalie travelled for work.

But, when their landlord wanted to sell the property, they kicked them out. Natalie had a heap of trouble trying to find a new place that suited her and Harry’s needs. As a larger, energetic dog, Natalie couldn’t stuff him into a cramped apartment, and she needed somewhere that was close to transport and a park, and was above all, pet-friendly. She eventually found a suitable place, but it took many months of stress to get there –

“It was a huge strain; I thought we were going to be homeless at one point. I couldn’t find anywhere pet friendly with enough space. Harry and I even had to bunk with my friend for three weeks before my place was ready to move into. It was somewhat illegal because her landlord didn’t allow pets. So that made me feel really guilty and added to the stress.”

Point to be taken away from this? Research breeds and don’t select a breed of dog that won’t suit your living situation. You can’t always be in complete control of where you live, especially if you’re a renter, but the general rule is – the larger the dog, the bigger your place should be. You also need to keep your dog’s energy levels in mind as some breeds need extra stimulation and exercise.

Dating

I found that it’s much easier to get a dog when you’re single or have a long-term partner compared to when you’re casually dating. A dog requires an immense amount of attention, and unless your partner feels secure in your relationship, you’re probably going to feel a little divided about how much time and attention you have for your dog and your partner.

When it comes to dating new people, it’s normal to feel guilty about spending time with someone you barely know over your loveable fluff-ball who’s waiting for you to arrive home. This is especially the case when you feel as though you don’t spend enough time with your dog as it is. I felt really guilty when I started dating regularly about a year ago, so much so that I ended a few dates prematurely, (they weren’t going so great anyway,) so that I could rush home and be with Leo. There were only a couple of people I dated that I felt comfortable about introducing to Leo, so that I could spend more time with them both.

Ellen, 24, mum of rescue Tilly, says you also want to be careful about having new people around your dog, especially if it’s a new man around a rescue dog –

“Sometimes dogs with female owners can get protective around men, especially if you’ve rescued the dog and don’t know it’s past. So introduce them slowly and safely to your male friends.”

My best advice is to be careful who you introduce your dog to and how you do it. If you’re dating a good sort who you think will stick around for the long haul, then feel free to introduce them to your pup. However, it’s probably best to do the first meeting on mutual turf, like at a park, so that your dog doesn’t get territorial. Keep in mind, it’s completely normal to feel guilty to not be at home with your dog during a first, second or even third date. In the same vein, as long as you know what you want in a partner, and you aren’t afraid to say ‘I’m not into you’ if your instincts are telling you no, then you shouldn’t feel guilty about leaving a date for your pup either!

Extra tip: Put on your Tinder/Bumble profile that you’d be keen to go on a puppy date with matches out there who have a dog too!

Travel

Much like dating, travel can be tricky when you have a furbaby to think about. Ellen says you can kiss any spontaneous travel goodbye –

“Looking after a dog completely on your own is very different to growing up with a dog. A dog needs you morning and night, so you can’t really plan last minute trips.”

As an avid traveller, I knew that I would have to sacrifice a lot of travel when I adopted, as I generally had less money to spend and limited options when it came to free dog-sitters. For the first year I had Leo, I didn’t travel at all, as I had a lot of expenses and I was getting used to looking after him.

However, I came to discover, there are ways you travel and have a dog. For my first extended trip away from Leo 18 months ago, my housemate agreed to look after him for 10 days, while another friend looked after him for a few days too. (I thanked them with a wine and cheese night.) While, six months ago, my parents agreed to take him for three weeks while I went on a big overseas trip. This was a huge relief as I couldn’t afford the holiday if I also had to factor in the cost of a pet hotel.

It takes a lot of extra planning, (and some favours from family and friends,) but as long as you know that your dog is safe and happy with someone you trust, then you can relax and take holidays probably more often than you thought you would as a pet owner!

At the end of the day, having a dog has been a rewarding and wonderful experience, and every other young dog owner that I have met has said the same thing. Adopting a furbaby isn’t without its challenges, but as long as you go into it prepared and armed with knowledge, you’ll be fine!

Words: Emily Leary

Illustration: Livi Wilson