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Adopting a pet can be one the most rewarding things in life, but it can also be one of the most challenging. The decision to get a pet shouldn’t come lightly, as there are aspects to owning a pet that first-time owners might not realize. Before you take the big step of bringing an abundance of animal joy into your life, read this how-to guide on adopting your first pet. All pets come with their own needs and circumstances, but this article will focus on dogs because they require more attention and upkeep.

How Much Will a Pet Cost?

The cost of owning a pet exceeds $1,000 a year, so budget an extra $100 per month. The biggest expenses are food and veterinarian visits, but grooming, boarding, and other costs should be considered too. The price goes up as the pet gets older and needs more medical attention. Larger breeds require more food and pricier grooming sessions than smaller breeds.

How Do You Determine the Right Breed of Pet for You?

Your pet needs to be the right fit for your home and lifestyle. A larger animal will need more space to move around, so a house with a yard would be best. Apartment dwellers might want to choose breeds that are smaller or don’t need much exercise. Also, make sure to research the bark levels of different breeds. If you share walls, a yappy dog could cause conflict with neighbors. Stick to dog breeds that shed less fur if you’re not a fan of dog hair. An active person could get a dog that needs a lot of exercise, but a sedentary owner should choose a dog that requires less exercise. If you work a lot, then a cat might be a better choice.

How Do You Prepare Your Home for a New Pet?

Pets have a few simple needs: eat, sleep, potty. Give her space to do each of these things. Put away your valuables, shoes, pillows, and anything that can be chewed or stained by urine. Be ready for months of housebreaking your pet, which means your property might be in disarray for a while. Research local upholstery cleaners to help with urine accidents, and don’t forget to budget this expense into the cost of owning a pet. The average price for upholstery cleaning in New York, NY, is $132 to $259 per session.

How Can You Help Your Pet Acclimate to His New Home?

Let him roam the house and smell his surroundings. Teach him boundaries so he knows where he can and can’t go. Keep him comfortable with a designated bed and toys. Consider pen-training your dog until he’s housebroken. A crate can provide comfort and security for a dog as long as the training is done responsibly.

How Do You Bond with Your New Pet?

Dog walks are not just for potty breaks and exercise — they’re also great for exploration and pet-owner bonding. Take the time to play outside the house together. Go on outings, throw a ball at the dog park, or go hiking. While at home, spend time cuddling without your device in hand- teaching your dog tricks can be such a fun time for the both of you. Instead, use that hand to pet your dog!

How Do You Care for Your Pet When You’re Not Home?

Many people adopt a pet because they want the companionship, but they don’t have enough time to care for it. Long work hours or frequent travel might not be conducive to pet ownership. If you do choose to bring a pet into your busy life, then hire a dog walker to take your dog on bathroom breaks during the day or bring your dog to doggy daycare 2-4 times per week. Remember to ask for half day packages with drop off as that can help with cost savings if you are in a bigger city.  When you’re out of town, hire an overnight sitter or boarding facility.

A pet owner’s work is never done. Every stage in your pet’s life is a learning experience, and you’ll continue doing research as you go along. Don’t let the hurdles deter you from considering a pet for your home. At the end of a long, stressful day, a little urine on the carpet holds no weight against your pet’s unconditional love.

This article was contributed by Jessica Brody of Our Best Friends.

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