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Lessons You Learn Owning a Dog in Your 20s

Updated on September 1, 2017
Braylon's grin in action
Braylon's grin in action

Let me tell you, when I first started telling people I wanted to get a dog at the fresh age of 21, people did not like the idea. My parents were afraid I would want to move and they would be stuck with a dog, my relatives told me I was stupid for tying myself down and wasting my money, and others told me I didn’t understand the difference between owning and caring for a dog and playing with a dog for a couple of hours. I felt pretty confident I could handle it and that it would even make my life less stressful (shocking I know) rather than add stress, but I did find myself scared that I didn’t know exactly what owning a dog would be like, even if it was the perfect dog. The only reason I had the confidence to fight and push through was hearing stories from other early 20 somethings who had triumphed through the negative push back and were successfully owning dogs. Here’s what I’ve learned about owning a dog in your 20s and some things to think about if you are considering owning a dog.

You have to do your research.

Is this your first time owning a dog? Did you grow up with dogs? Do you want a dog that needs a lot of exercise or is a couch potato? Do you know what you want from a dog? As I quickly came to find out, some dog breeds and ages are a better fit for first time dog owners than others. My extremely supportive boyfriend and I drove to meet a dog I was convinced was the right dog for me and I was going to fall in love right away. After spending about five minutes with said dog I found out she was exactly the opposite of what I wanted and would be too much for me to handle being a full-time student and working part-time. Also, whether you live in an apartment or a house should determine what kind of dog you look to adopt because some do much better than others. I realized I wanted a dog that was more on the mellow side that didn’t need a lot of space which is what led me to look at greyhounds and eventually adopt one, but it took a lot of research on my end and some trial and error of meeting other dogs until I found the right one. Be patient and be prepared and you will find the right dog for you.

It’s not always sunshine and rainbows, although it usually is.

So imagine this: you’re on the vacation of your life in Australia having a wonderful time, and then you get a message that back in the U.S. your dog is bleeding uncontrollably from trying to get out of her crate and is being taken to an emergency vet. That entire day of the trip for me I was crying and cringing about how much money this was going to cost me when I got home and also worrying about my dog without being able to help her in any way. That was a time when owning a dog definitely sucked, especially on a part-time budget. If I did not own a dog I wouldn’t have to worry about her when I was away, let alone pay a large bill when I got home. Dogs will be dogs and they do things that make you want to pull your hair out, like digging a hole in the carpet or getting into those goldfish you left out on the counter. That being said obviously owning a dog has so many more happy moments then sad. My dog Braylon is unique in that she literally GRINS when you come home from work/school. She is so happy to see you she shows you all her teeth and wags her tail fiercely in a circle so fast it looks like she’s going to start flying off the ground. Experiencing that alone a couple of times a day far outweighs any of the bad or stressful times with her. And that’s only one of the daily rewards you get from owning a dog. Petting her fur and brushing her has prevented me from having countless panic attacks. When she barks and runs around the apartment it makes me laugh. Owning a dog for me is definitely much more uplifting than draining, but do be prepared for the times that are draining--emotionally and financially.

It is a longterm commitment, although not a lifetime.

Here’s the thing I found myself telling people over and over again: at least I’m not saying I want to get married and have children. Those are both events that will be with you the rest of your life. As much as I would love to have Braylon live as long or longer than me, our canine counterparts do not live as long as we do. And if you rescue a dog who is a bit older like I did, that’s even less years you are committing to a dog. That being said, there are times I have wondered if I would have been doing something different if I didn’t have a dog. Perhaps I would have joined the Peace Corps or traveled the world. And then there’s your daily life and how that changes: I couldn’t goof around on campus with my friends as long anymore because I had a dog that needed to be let out and walked. I couldn’t take spontaneous trips to visit my boyfriend in Colorado because I would have to worry about what to do with my dog while I was gone. These were certainly setbacks at first, but with a bit of time and patience, you do adjust and learn how to allocate your time to accommodate for your furry friend. Plus, I was ready to have something to keep me grounded and something to settle me a bit. Your 20s feel turbulent and every four months your schedule and your home are changing. Having a dog provides a consistency for me that has done wonders for improving my anxiety. And chances are, your friends and family will grow to see that positive change, be happy for you, and love your furry friend for the happiness it provides you.

Reach out to fellow dog owners and embrace support anywhere you can get it.

If I could name any point of what I have learned owning a dog, this is the most important to me. Especially in the beginning when you feel like you have all these nay-sayers to prove wrong and your dog won’t stop pooping in the house and you don’t know what to do. Thankfully for me my boyfriend was and is extremely supportive in everything I want to do and he was a great resource for me when I was doubting myself. I have roommates that owned dogs that I still ask questions of all the time. The rescue I adopted Braylon from was absolutely wonderful in telling me I could handle owning a dog and matching a dog with my preferences. I still reach out to Braylon’s foster mom in the rescue when I have questions. And now, maybe one of the most rewarding parts of owning a dog, is that I can help others who are wanting to own a dog. I love talking about dogs and please reach out to me if you have any questions or need any advice because I truly do want to help! A plethora of people helped me and held my hand along the way and the only means to truly repay them is to pay it forward. Take deep breaths, have some income, be prepared, lean on those who want to help you, and you too could find the perfect companion for you to grin every time you walk in the door.


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