Adopting a Dog in School: Should You?

If you are getting a dog to improve your life, you should reconsider. Responsible adoption is about improving the animal’s life.
Lulu Bug, the author's dog.

The other week I was taking a stroll through campus when I saw a student walking their 10-week-old, strikingly beautiful husky puppy.

My first thought was “Aww, puppy!”

My second thought was “But how?”

I imagine the sight of a cute dog fills my brain with the same raging amount of dopamine as does Indian food and baby elephants. But adopting a puppy is far more attainable than adopting a baby elephant. And, as it turns out, many college students do just that. I have one, and she’s the most amazing decision I ever made. I can’t imagine my life without my Lulu. That being said, I live with five other human beings who are willing to help me raise my wild pup (this includes midnight walks, vet visits, dog park outings, and pulling shredded plastic out of the locked jaws of a golden retriever determined to eat shredded plastic).

Puppies are cute, and by default we want them. But is adopting a living, breathing, and high-maintenance animal a good idea for a busy and mostly unavailable college student?

The answer is both yes and no. There are many depending factors.

Clear advantages exist in dog ownership. You get a furry companion who is all about you, through thick and thin, always. This includes constant cuteness, long walks, and daily snuggles. Not to mention, when you go somewhere with a dog, you automatically become the most popular person in the room (because your dog is the popular one, not you). That being said, many students adopt to offset the loneliness that comes with the challenges of college, or to provide a sense of family and security. A dog can function as an almost constant source of happiness and companionship. But these are not reasons to adopt an animal.

If you are getting a dog to improve your life, you should reconsider. Responsible adoption is about improving the animal’s life.

A dog is a bigger accountability than many college students realize. When adopting a dog, you are claiming the responsibility of a living animal that experiences its life through you, with real needs and emotions—not simply a furry and fun accessory. Taking care of a dog requires time, stability, and funds (this is when I tell you that in my own dog’s first year of life, I spent nearly one thousand dollars in veterinarian bills due to her rock-eating habit).

While pet adoption is crucial and every animal deserves the opportunity to be saved (2.7 million adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized in the United States each year), it is also true that proper and quality ownership should remain on a pedestal.

Consider becoming a puppy parent if the following criteria applies to you. You are, in fact, becoming a sort-of-parent. Anything otherwise, please do not consider adopting a dog just yet.

1. You are okay with waking up at 3 a.m. to let your dog out to pee, many times, especially in its first 6 months of life.
2. You have a support system larger than you that will be able to help out with your dog (because you will, at some point, need extra help). I personally know I could not handle raising a dog if I lived alone. 
3.  Your schedule allows you the time to walk your dog daily, spend quality time together, and socialize your dog with other animals. Crating your dog for most of the day is not ideal nor healthy for the animal. 
4. You are prepared to clean up lots and lots of messes. Pee, feces, destroyed pillows, chewed headphones. Expect the unexpected. 
5. You have the funds to maintain your dog’s health. The vet can be surprisingly expensive. And dogs have been known to swallow things they shouldn’t. 
6. You understand that, while dogs can bring great joy into your life, it’s your job to make a happy life for your dog, and not vice versa. 
7. The idea of committing to taking care of an animal for the next 12+ does not scare you. It fills you with joy. 

Although adopting an animal is a significantly good thing, you should only do so if you feel prepared to give that animal an adequate amount of time, love, and care.



Written by Danniah Daher, graduate assistant to the graduate school office.