Should I get a dog in college? Know what to do

Should I get a dog in college?

Making the decision to get a dog while in college is a significant choice that requires careful consideration. Dogs can be wonderful companions, offering love and support throughout your academic journey. 

However, they also come with responsibilities and commitments that can impact your college experience. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the factors you should weigh when deciding whether to get a dog in college, with an emphasis on responsible pet ownership.

Should I get a dog in college?

Yes, however getting a dog in college is a significant decision that requires you to consider several factors. While dogs offer companionship and stress relief, they also demand time, finances, and a stable living situation. Consider your schedule, budget, and housing options. Can you commit to long-term care and exercise? 

Assess your readiness for responsibility and potential academic impact. Explore alternatives like dog fostering or volunteering if unsure. Responsible pet ownership in college requires careful planning and a support system. Weigh the pros and cons before making this important choice.

The Benefits of Having a Dog in College

  • Companionship: Dogs are known for their unwavering loyalty and companionship. In college, where you might be away from home and facing new challenges, having a furry friend can provide emotional support and reduce feelings of loneliness.
  • Stress Relief: College life can be stressful, with exams, assignments, and deadlines. Dogs have a calming effect and can help reduce stress and anxiety, promoting overall mental well-being.
  • Exercise Motivation: Owning a dog encourages physical activity. Daily walks or playtime in the park with your dog can help you stay active, which is essential for maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
  • Social Connections: Dogs are social creatures, and they can help you connect with fellow dog owners on campus or in your community. This can lead to new friendships and a sense of belonging.
  • Responsibility and Routine: Caring for a dog teaches responsibility and time management. Establishing a routine for feeding, walking, and grooming your dog can help you develop valuable life skills.

Factors to Consider Before Getting a Dog in College

  • Time Commitment: College life can be hectic, with classes, study sessions, and extracurricular activities. Assess whether you have enough time to dedicate to a dog's needs, including exercise, training, and grooming.
  • Financial Responsibility: Dogs come with expenses, including food, grooming, veterinary care, and supplies. Ensure you have a stable source of income or financial support to cover these costs.
  • Living Situation: Check your college's policies regarding pet ownership. Many dormitories and student housing facilities do not allow pets, so you may need to live off-campus or find pet-friendly housing options.
  • Breed and Size: Consider the size and breed of the dog that fits your lifestyle. Smaller breeds may be more manageable in smaller living spaces, while larger breeds may require more exercise.
  • Long-Term Commitment: Dogs have a lifespan of 10-15 years or more. Think about your plans after college and whether you can provide for your dog's needs throughout their lifetime.

Pros and Cons of Having a Dog in College


  • Emotional Support: Dogs can provide comfort during stressful times and offer companionship.
  • Physical Activity: Owning a dog encourages regular exercise, benefiting your health.
  • Social Connections: Dogs can help you meet people and create lasting friendships.
  • Responsibility: Caring for a dog teaches responsibility and time management skills.


  • Time Demands: Dogs require consistent attention and time for exercise and care.
  • Financial Costs: Owning a dog can strain your budget with expenses for food, healthcare, and more.
  • Housing Restrictions: Finding pet-friendly housing may be challenging, leading to off-campus living.
  • Academic Commitments: Balancing academic responsibilities with dog care can be challenging.

Tips for Responsible Dog Ownership in College

Plan Ahead: Before getting a dog, consider your college schedule, living arrangements, and financial stability.

Choose the Right Breed: Select a breed that matches your lifestyle and living space. Some breeds require more exercise and attention than others.

Budget Wisely: Create a budget to ensure you can cover the costs of food, vet visits, grooming, and emergencies.

Training and Socialization: Invest time in training your dog and socializing them with other pets and people.

Exercise and Mental Stimulation: Ensure your dog gets enough exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and behavioral issues.

Healthcare: Regular vet check-ups and vaccinations are essential for your dog's well-being.

Support System: Establish a support system, including friends or family members who can help with dog care when needed.

Alternatives to Dog Ownership in College

If you're unsure about the commitment of owning a dog in college, consider these alternatives:

  • Foster a Dog: Some organizations allow college students to foster dogs temporarily, providing companionship without the long-term commitment.
  • Volunteer at Shelters: Volunteer at local animal shelters to spend time with dogs in need and gain valuable experience.
  • Pet-Sitting or Dog-Walking: Offer pet-sitting or dog-walking services to earn some extra income while enjoying canine companionship.
  • Attend Dog-Friendly Events: Participate in dog-related events and meet other dog owners without the full-time responsibility.
  • It's important to acknowledge the challenges and concerns that may arise when owning a dog in college:
  • Time Management: Balancing college coursework and social life with dog care can be demanding. Time management skills are crucial to ensure your furry friend receives the attention they need.
  • Financial Strain: College students often have limited budgets, and pet ownership can strain finances. Unexpected veterinary bills or emergencies can be costly, so having a financial safety net is vital.
  • Housing Restrictions: Many college dorms and apartments have strict no-pet policies. Finding pet-friendly accommodations can be challenging, and it may require living off-campus.
  • Academic Priorities: College is a time for rigorous academic pursuits. Dogs require consistent care, and it's essential to find a balance between your studies and pet responsibilities.
  • Transition After College: After graduation, your life may undergo significant changes, such as moving for a job or further education. Consider how these changes may affect your ability to care for your dog.

Creating a Support System

To address these challenges, consider building a support system:

Roommates or Housemates: Living with responsible roommates or housemates who are willing to share pet care responsibilities can ease the workload.

Family and Friends: Family and friends who live nearby can help with dog care during busy periods or emergencies.

Pet Services: Utilize pet services like dog-walking apps or pet sitters when needed, allowing you to focus on academics.

Financial Planning: Set up an emergency fund specifically for your dog's needs, ensuring you can cover unexpected costs.

Responsible Pet Ownership

Deciding whether to get a dog in college is a significant decision that should be made with careful consideration of your lifestyle, responsibilities, and long-term plans. While dogs can provide immense joy and companionship, they also require time, effort, and financial resources. 

Responsible pet ownership involves ensuring that you can meet a dog's physical and emotional needs throughout its life. If you're fully prepared for the commitment, a dog can be a loyal and loving companion during your college journey, enhancing your overall well-being and enriching your life.

In Summary: A Responsible Decision

Deciding whether to get a dog in college is a decision that carries both rewards and responsibilities. While dogs can bring immense joy and comfort, they also require careful planning, time, financial resources, and a strong support system. 

Responsible pet ownership in college involves understanding the challenges, preparing for them, and ensuring that you can provide a loving and stable home for your canine companion. If you are willing and able to meet these requirements, sharing your college years with a dog can be a deeply fulfilling experience that enriches your life and offers unwavering companionship.

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