Step #1: Think through the logistics
Thinking through how your life will change with the addition of a dog is the first step. Here is where you have to be brutally honest with yourself. Do you have a time for a dog? What will you do with the dog when you go to work? Do you have enough time to go for daily walks and play and brush his teeth? Are you at home enough or are you always on the go?
I work a typical 8-hour job, but with drive time it turns into a 10-hour day, sometimes more with traffic. I did not want the dog to be left alone in a crate all day. I also did not want to pay $400/mo for a pet sitter to let my dog out daily.
I asked my employer if I could bring him to work. I was fortunate enough that they created an employee pet policy because of my request. Now, my dog rides with me to and from work. He remains crated during the day and has a Noon walk and treat.
Had this policy not been created, I don't know what I would have done. Paid for the pet sitter? Kept him outside with a camera so I could monitor him? Install a doggie door? Not adopt? I'm not sure. Before the pet policy was created I was exploring all those options. I knew I had to have this step figured out before anything else could happen.
Step #2: Save Money
When everything was all said and done, the initial costs to adopt a dog totaled $2,000. I know that sounds crazy. Most people would say get a few bowls, some food, a leash and call it a day. Not me.
I wanted to be financially responsible. I saved up money and purchased what I needed over the course of three-months. It was much easier to spend a few hundred dollars each paycheck, then drop a few grand in one month.
Keep in mind that when you adopt a dog there will be monthly expenses - food, treats, prescriptions, health insurance, etc. I also plugged these expenses into my expense spreadsheet to make sure that I had the additional funds to afford a dog.
Step #3: Research & purchase the supplies
If you read the blog post about my experience purchasing a bed and accessories, then you know I am all about quality vs. quantity. My motto is - get the best you can afford at the time and keep it for a long time. When it came to things like bowls, collars, leashes and crates - I did purchase quality. When it came to blankets, beds and plush toys I was a little more conservative because I figured he would destroy them in no time. (I was right BTW.)
First, I created a spreadsheet. I made a list of the general categories, then put the items I needed to purchase under each category. From there I did research. I looked online at places like Amazon, Chewy and Petsmart. I read reviews, read blog posts and looked at recommendations from The Dog Whisperer.
I made bookmarks on my computer to keep track of everything I liked. The secret is not to buy anything during this research stage, just look and make bookmarks. What I found along the way was that I may have really liked a collar for example, but while doing research for a crate I came across another collar I liked better. Let the research and progress unfold. This will take time.
Finally, my list was complete and I started to make the purchases. Keep in mind that some things you want are out of stock or may take a while to ship, but I wanted what I wanted and I was willing to wait for it because I had the time. After all, I was only in step three of my six step process.
Below is a list of the categories and all the supplies I purchased.
food & water
Fromm Food ($32.00): I like this food because it is produced locally in Mequon, Wisconsin. The food contains high-quality meats, vegetables, grains and fruits.
Regular Treats ($5.49): I am not committed to any particular brand of treats. I like to mix it up, but ingredients are key. I look for one or two whole-ingredients.
Training Treats ($8.99): These mini treats are great to use for training purposes. Again, I am not committed to a specific brand. I just look at the ingredients before purchasing.
Feeding Station: ($TBD) At the time of this writing, I have not found a feeding station that I like. If you have any ideas leave them in the comments section below. I am looking for a particular height and particular "look" to go with my decor. When the food dishes are up higher it helps dogs digest their food better. When I find one, I will report back.
Stainless Steal Pet Bowls: ($14.99) I purchased two of these at a local pet store. They are nothing fancy. I knew I wanted stainless. Stainless is easy to clean and healthier than plastic or ceramic.
Shampoo ($18.59): I purchased this shampoo because it is organic and free of sulphates, chemicals and fragrances. The seasons and my home can be dry, so I wanted to make sure the shampoo was oatmeal based because oatmeal is good for dry skin.
Zoom Groom ($14.27): I love this brush. It is more like a massage than anything! The rubber is very gentle on a dog's skin and it removes a ton of hair. If I could only have one brush this would be it.
De-Shedding Tool ($36.79): This tool also removes a ton of hair and does a nice job at reaching the undercoat.
Two-Sided Brush ($5.99): A two-in-one basic brush for the quick daily grooming sessions.
Bath Towel ($13.99): This microfiber bath towel is not just for post-baths. We use it to dry off when we come home from a walk in the rain or snow.
Bathrobe ($30.99): After a bath, Woodrow likes to do a shake down. I like to put a bathrobe on him for a few minutes to help his body get back to a normal temperature. (The photo above was released with his permission.)
Ear Cleaner ($9.69): I clean Woodrow's ears once per month. There are not too many options on the market, but this product seems to remove the buildup.
Cotton Balls ($1.00): I purchase these at the dollar store. I find I am always in need of cotton balls. The other day we had to put some ointment on his paw because he cracked open his paw pad. We use the cotton balls for cleaning out his ears too.
Toothpaste ($8.99): Arm and Hammer makes good toothpaste products for dogs. Start by putting the paste on your fingers and then into your dog's mouth. When he is comfortable with that introduce the toothbrush.
Toothbrush ($4.99): This is a two-in-one brush. I like having different options to access those hard to reach areas.
Shower Hose ($TBD): At the time of this writing, I have not found a shower hose that will work. I want to be able to put it on the tub spout. I found a few travel ones that I could use in the bathtub, but they were were out of stock. When I find one, I will report back. If you have any ideas, please leave them in the comments section.
Leash ($13.99): I love this leash. It is the perfect length. It is comfortable to hold, very strong and no rope burn. I also love that two come to a pack. I keep one by the back door and the other one in the travel bag.
Collar ($13.95): The material of this collar is smooth. There are a variety of colors to choose from. The best part is the clasp. It is easy to take on and off. Like the leash, I read a lot of reviews on a variety of collars and I am very happy with this purchase.
Poop Bags ($1.00): I purchase these from the dollar store.
Poop Bag Dispenser ($6.20): I much prefer cloth vs. plastic dispensers. This one is so cute and the bags come out good. I simply velcro it to the top the leash - as shown in the photo above.
ID Tag ($7.95): I selected this tag because it is stainless steal and is expected to hold up well though the changing seasons. I like that you could engrave it on both sides. On the first side I put my name and telephone number. On the other side I put his chip number and the 1-800 number to call if lost and found. I wanted to list a variety of ways to get a hold of me.
Kong ($12.98): Put treats or peanut butter in the Kong and your dog will be entertained for a while. I've never had a Kong toy that my dog could destroy. They make great products.
Interactive Toy: I am still looking for an interactive toy that is not too expensive, but that my dog won't become bored with after 15-minutes. I will let you know what I find. If you have any suggestions let me know in the comments section.
Throw Toy ($9.49): We have a rope, frisbee, rubber bone and tennis ball to play with outside - as shown in the wicker basket above. The link provides you with just one option.
Plush Toy ($5.92): We have a few plush toys to play with inside - as shown in the fabric basket above. The link provides you with just one option.
Basket for Toys: I already had these baskets, so I didn't need to purchase anything; but you can pick up a basket you like at any retail store.
Wellness Exam ($50+): It is a good idea to take your new dog in for a wellness check. This will give you a good baseline so you know what issues to watch out for in the future. Woodrow did have a wellness exam while living in Texas and I did get those records, but in order to get any prescriptions, I had to have a local wellness check. My cat sees a vet, so we already had one in place; but you may need to read reviews and/or ask friends for references.
Vaccinations ($30+): Your vet may recommend a variety of vaccinations, including the rabies vaccine. Know which vaccines your dog has already had so that you do not overdose. Then, do your research and see which ones you do and do not want to do and how often and then keep track of them in your calendar.
Spay/Neuter (Prices Vary): If not already spayed or neutered your vet may also encourage you do this to keep the pet population down.
Heartworm Prevention ($12/mo): Heartworm medication given on a monthly basis will help protect against heartworm disease. I use Heartgard. Make sure you keep track of this on your calendar or set a reminder so you do not forget to administer it monthly.
Flea Prevention ($21/mo): Flea prevention medication given on a monthly basis will help protect from fleas invading your home. I use Simparica. Make sure you keep track of this on your calendar or set a reminder so you do not forget to administer it monthly.
Note: Personally, I do not like to give multiple vaccines or prescriptions at the same time. If there is an allergic reaction or problem, I like to know specifically what caused the issue.
Health Insurance ($35.00): I have always had pet insurance for my pets. I used it a few times when my cat needed some heart tests. I've always just purchased the catastrophe insurance. I figured, I could swing the preventative maintenance expenses, but what would be difficult is to come up with thousands of dollars for a surgery. The prices go up each year as your pets get older.
Glucosamine Chondroitin ($9.99): These vitamins help keep bones and joints healthy. My last dog suffered from joint issues and these tablets really helped her. I purchase them from Trader Joes because they are so much less expensive than anywhere else.
Omega-3 ($20.94): Fish oil is great for their fur and makes their coats appear shiny and clean. I used to throw these pills into the food dish and my last dog would eat them right up. Woodrow notices and removes the pill from his dish and keeps eating (smart dog). So, I will purchase omega-3 oil and just put a tablespoon of liquid on his dog food (smart human).
Dog Crate @ Home ($35.98): I selected a 36" wire crate because I was concerned that a "chewer" might chew his way out of a fabric crate. I am glad I did, because he does chew. I also purchased a queen size bed sheet from Goodwill that I use to cover the crate when I want him to get some rest. I am glad I did not pay a lot for this either, because he has chewed on the bed sheet.
Quilted Fleece Bed ($16.98): As you can see in the photo, this fleece bed fits perfectly inside the wire dog crate. I wanted something soft for him to lay on. It is also very easy to move around the house.
Blankets ($14.99): These throws are not durable, but they are so cute and soft. I purchased three of them and we just move them around the house as needed.
Orthopedic Bed ($50.99): I selected this bed for a number of reasons. First, there are many benefits to a foam and orthopedic bed so in my mind it was the only style of bed I was considering. Second, I know most dogs like to prop their head up so I wanted something with sides. Third, I like how you can remove the cover and wash it. Fourth, I liked the color options available. I purchased a size large and it worked perfect for my 60 pound dog. He did manage to put a few holes in it already, so the cover will never make it to the washing machine, but this bed has everything I could have wanted. I will definitely buy another one when he stops chewing.
Dog Crate @ Work ($95.03): My day job has an employee pet policy where you can take your pet to work. My dog stays in this fabric crate during the workday. I wanted something higher end and more professional looking for an office setting. It is why I did not select a wire crate. I waited for it to go on sale and purchased it half off. I also like that it folds into a travel crate, so when we go on extended getaways I can take it with me.
Back Seat Cover ($9.99): Out of all my research, figuring out how to best protect my car took the most time. There are so many options out there and many options are incredibly expensive. I finally just purchased a set of black king size bed sheets from Target ($49.99) and secured them to the backseat. I cut holes in the sheets so the seatbelts could poke through. Then, I purchased this basic back seat cover and put it over the bed sheets. The back seat cover also turns into a hammock so that my dog does not jump into the front seat. That said, he always has his seatbelt on, but it is a nice feature just in case.
Seatbelt ($12.99): The harness works perfect to keep Woodrow secure in the car. The belt buckles right into a typical car buckle and then just clip it onto the dog's harness. Very easy.
Travel Bag ($39.99): I love all the pockets and compartments in this bag. Whether we are gone for a few hours, a few days or a few weeks this bag comes along. It is a comfortable size and easy to carry. I love having all the dog supplies in one bag. I like knowing that I can quickly grab it and it has everything I may need.
Travel Food Portion Cup ($8.99): This cup folds down into a compact size. I put it in the travel bag and use it to measure food.
Travel Water Bottle ($14.99): This water bottle has a drinking bowl attached to it and is perfect for traveling. It fits great in the travel bag. I like how, if necessary, I can drink from the water bottle and then the dog can drink from the bowl. This way I don't have to bring multiple water bottles for short trips.
First Aid Kit ($23.95): Hopefully, I won't ever need to use the first aid kit, but I purchased one on the off chance we do. Or at the very least, we can help another fur friend in need!
Adoption Fee ($450): I adopted Woodrow from Wisconsin Adopt A Golden Retriever. Each rescue charges a different fee and sometimes the fees vary by age of the dog. In order to apply, you had to donate $25.00, so keep in mind there may also be an application fee.
Security Deposit ($200): I rent a home. The landlord requires an additional $200 security deposit. Some rentals charge a monthly pet fee. Mine does not, but keep this in mind if you rent.
Training Classes ($119): Petsmart has excellent training classes for an incredible rate. I put my first dog through three Petsmart courses and had a great experience. As with any training class what is most important is the "homework" you do in between classes. Woodrow and I will sign up for classes soon and will report back to you.
step #4: Research breeds
There are plenty of websites that drill down on the all the different breeds that exists. I suggest you select your top five favorite breeds or at least narrow down a look you want and the type of character you want.
The employer pet policy stated that I could not have a dog over 60 pounds or younger than one-year. Determine if there are any restrictions for work, home or personal preference. This will also help you narrow down your search.
Still having trouble? When you are driving or walking and you see a dog, notice how big your smile gets. I find that the types of dogs I am most attracted to I smile the biggest and desperately want to pet. No science here, all feeling.
When Woodrow was presented as a dog looking for a home, I googled his breed to learn more. Of course, each dog has his own personality but there are some generalizations you can make by knowing the breeds in a particular dog.
step #5: get pre-approved
My next step was to research all the Humane Societies and Rescues within a 60-mile radius from my home. I bookmarked all of the possibilities and then went back to look at the types of dogs they had available. I noticed right away that one was geared towards puppies, one was focused on retired Greyhounds and one simply had smaller dogs. You can start to eliminate rescues this way. I did not delete the bookmarks, I just knew they were not my first choice to apply.
I ended up applying with three rescues. A Lab Retriever Rescue, A Golden Retriever rescue and a general Mutt Rescue. The applications are pretty lengthy so be prepared to really spend some time filling them out to make yourself a good candidate.
Eventually, I was pre-approved for those three rescues and they started to send me emails when new dogs arrived at the rescue. They would include photos and a brief description.
Before I got on these lists, I would just do random searches online and by the time I reached out the dog would already be adopted. Being on an email list was like I had first right of refusal, I highly recommend it.
step #6: adopt