Pets can be a wonderful asset to your life and… can also be an aggravation to your life if you are not in a position to take care of them. This issue can be a point of contention. Some people grow up with pets and cannot imagine a home without them. Others are not raised with pets and can’t imagine a home with them. It could be that you never had a dog and you always wanted one, while your spouse-to-be had dogs growing up and hated the shedding and constant work. Either way, having pets is an issue which needs to be completely be agreed upon in order to avoid blame, anger, and/or resentment at a later time.
Face it, if you get a dog and say to your spouse, “I’ll take care of it! You won’t have to do a thing,” you are naively or unintentionally lying. You will probably leave town every now and then. You will occasionally be under the weather. You may even want or need to go shopping from time to time. It is almost impossible to have a pet, especially one that is mobile outside of an aquarium, who does not affect everyone in the house. If you want a dog enormously and your spouse does not want one, he or she will likely be aggravated to no end when he or she is expected to care for your dog, cat, etc. while you are unavailable. A pet should be a joint decision, because they often completely change your home and routine.
Another huge factor to consider when planning a pet is lifestyle. Do you both travel a lot? Are you going to both work full time? Do you have a fenced-in yard? Do you have friends with pets (and if dogs, of similar size and weight)? All of these things play into how easy or difficult it will be to have pets. Fish are somewhat easier to care for, but even they require tank cleaning and daily feeding. If you go out of town, someone will need to feed and take care of them.
Regarding dogs, depending on the breed, they may have boundless energy and always need to be around people. It takes special friends to be willing to watch your doggie while you are out of town or sick. Pets are not children, though they are a huge responsibility and may act like children in the amount of care they need. They have very specific needs and if you and your spouse are walking into a busy lifestyle, you must ask yourself if getting a pet is both fair to the pet and to your future spouse. Sometimes pets become more of a pleasure later into a marriage after an established routine has developed and frequent or large changes have subsided .
On the other hand, perhaps you both want a pet very much. In fact, it seems like a fantasy to be married with a cuddly puppy. Even if both parties are in agreement on the type and breed of pet, I recommend doing a lot of research about the pet you are interested in adopting before jumping into pet parenthood. First of all, do you have the financial stability to care for this pet (the average per year cost for the type of pet you want for years two and beyond that are often published are often much lower than those first year vet and supplies start-up costs)? Do you have the time and energy to care for this pet? Have you agreed on who will be responsible for things (e.g., walking, cleaning, feeding, pottying, etc.)? Do you have pet sitters lined up? Do you know who the pet’s veterinarian is going to be? Have you researched the breed enough to know what it will truly need? (I recommend talking to at least three to five other owners of the same type and breed of pet to get their advice and input on your preparedness for your potential new member in your family.) If you have all of these things worked out, you can be on the road to a happy pet situation with your spouse.
Since you are not yet married, this may not be an issue for quite some time; however, it is a good thing to discuss before engagement/marriage. In some cases, one or both people may already have a pet entering into the engagement/marriage. If so, it is important to bond with your significant other’s pet(s), if at all possible. Remember, you will be leaving with them someday, and perhaps for a very long time. Any issues you can foresee with his/her pets should be addressed before saying “I do.”
Pets can provide a lot of joy and happiness… and they can also provide some frustration and a leash on your availability and time to do other things. Make sure to thoroughly discuss this area with your significant other and when you both come to agreement, you’ll end up tail-wagging happy.