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For many, having a dog waiting for you when you got home from school was a way of life growing up. In fact, The Humane Society estimates there are currently 164 million pets in American homes. As many students move away to attend college, they may consider owning a dog of their own — but what are the pros and cons of owning bringing a canine friend while pursuing further education?

Book end puppyPro: Overall Health

Owning a dog can contribute to your overall well-being in a variety of unexpected ways. Pets are excellent stress reducers, and spending time petting your dog can reduce your blood pressure and release relaxation hormones to help you to function more efficiently, according to WebMD. Other positive health benefits often attributed to dog ownership include lower blood pressure, faster recovery from illness and injury, and lower cholesterol levels.

Con: Cleaning

Dogs can be lovable, albeit messy. Dogs, especially puppies, come with the additional responsibility of cleaning up after them. If you adopt a puppy, you will have to housebreak the pup, which can take a lot of time and patience. Additionally, dogs need to be bathed, brushed, and have their nails clipped regularly.

Pro: Physical Fitness

Dogs need exercise and aren’t shy about it. Dog owners are more likely to go walk or run with them and having a dog almost forces you to exercise regularly. While you might be content to sit on the couch instead of exercise, a dog who doesn’t get regular walks will become restless and possibly destructive around the house. There’s no better motivator to get out and run than the possibility of a ruined couch.

Con: Expenses

If there’s one thing you’re short on while attending college, it’s money. Owning a dog can be a big financial commitment. Flag Pets reports the average cost of pet ownership comes to about $360 a year just for food — vaccinations and annual medical treatment can exceed $200. That doesn’t include toys, dog doors, treats, or other supplies. Additionally, if something happens to your pet, such as injury or illness, veterinarian bills can be extremely costly if you’re unprepared for them. Expect a dog to cost in total about $1,000 annually.

Pro: Love and Laughs

Nothing compares to the unconditional love a canine companion provides. They’re always happy to see you and always supportive regardless of how bad a mood you might be in. For students living away from home for the first time, a dog can provide much of the companionship and sense of family that might be missing from their new life. The love and friendship forged between humans and canines is the stuff of novels and films and can last for years to come. Dogs are family.

Con: Planning

If you’re the type who enjoys the freedom of going out all night or taking spontaneous road trips, owning a dog might not be feasible. Dogs need to be cared for and arrangements need to be made if you intend to not be home. Dogs can’t be left alone if you decide to stay out all weekend, and caring for a dog doesn’t allow for much error. When trying to figure out whether owning a dog is right for you, keep in mind what your current schedule is like and seriously consider if you have the time and finances to care for a new member of your household.

Making the Right Choice

Whatever you decide to do, think carefully and don’t act impulsively. A pet is a commitment for the animal’s life and not one of convenience. There’s no rush and you’ll have plenty of time soon enough to have a canine companion if now isn’t the right time. And when that time does come, do a solid by your future pup as well as all animals in need and adopt from a shelter or rescue group. Your new bestie will thank you with love and devotion every day for it.

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