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Big Pooch on Campus: Can You Have a Dog While in College?

For many young people, college ushers in an unrivaled flurry of change.

New city, new residence, new studies, and new friends – one’s arrival on campus often beckons each of these experiences. Newfound freedom prompts an onslaught of opportunities for personal growth. It’s a time of transition in most every sense.

Is it reasonable, then, for a college student to take on another new challenge while pursuing higher education – that of dog ownership? It’s a question many young people seek to answer.

While there are many factors to consider when pondering collegiate dog ownership, one of the most important involves evaluating a prospective dog’s well-being. Will Fido flourish while living in a college house and going on walks through a college town?

Reasons to Have a Dog While in College

1. Dog Ownership Promotes Responsibility
Absent of parents for the first time, some college students abuse the privilege of freedom and pursue a party-centric lifestyle. Having a dog to care for, however, can accelerate maturation and induce responsibility. You have something to care for other than yourself.

Dogs can instill the value of routine within college students by requiring regular feeding, play, and exercise. Once a dog enters the picture, the temptation to sleep-in until noon is no longer realistic.

2. Dog Ownership Can Reduce Stress
Between the myriad new experiences and the challenging coursework, the collegiate environment can be stressful. Thankfully, research indicates that dogs can actually assist with relieving anxiety.

Dogs have a knack for recognizing when their owners are upset. By simply being themselves and showcasing their goofy personality, dogs spark laughter and ease worried minds. A stress ball may be cheaper, but few joys in life compare to what a canine can bring.

3. Dog Ownership Can Induce Exercise
Worried about the dreaded “freshman 15” whereby you gain weight during your first year in college? A canine companion will diminish this risk.

Not only will having a dog motivate you to leave the party early, but it also will force you to walk your pooch across campus on a leash. Exercise for your dog equates to exercise for you too.

4. Dog Ownership Builds Upon Lifelong Skills
If you’re interested in obtaining a dog during college, chances are you grew up in a household with dogs. You may be new to dog ownership, but you’re a seasoned veteran at helping care for your family’s dog.

Furthermore, you likely have a built-in support network in the form of roommates. Provided these fellow students are responsible, they can provide valuable assistance as secondary caretakers. Got stuck at the library? No problem, just ask your reliable roommate to feed your dog.

5. Dog Ownership Provides a Constant Companion
The college experience typically includes its share of ups and downs. You’re trying to find yourself. You could endure failed classes and failed relationships.

Through it all, your dog will be there offering unconditional love. You’ll enter the post-college phase of your life knowing you shared the collegiate experience together.

Reasons to Forgo a Dog While in College

1. Dog Ownership Requires Financial Resources
A dog is a major investment. By some estimates, raising a puppy costs anywhere from $5,000 to $30,000 over a 12-year lifespan, with more expenses arising in the first year than at any other time.

Many college students lack the necessary funds to pursue dog ownership. Even those students who carry a part-time job likely need parental assistance in order to make owning a dog financially feasible.

2. The College Lifestyle May Not Be Conducive to Dog Ownership
Many college students burn the candle at both ends. They take classes during the day and have fun at night. They cram for midterms and close down bars. Does this leave time for giving your dog the care and attention he needs?

While the answer may vary on a case-by-case basis, unless you can answer unequivocally that your college lifestyle affords ample time for a pooch, you should postpone dog ownership for the next stage of your life.

3. A College Living Arrangement May Not be Ideal for Dog Ownership
A college living arrangement typically includes many of the following elements: Roommates, a messy off-campus house or fraternity/sorority house, a non-fenced-in property, and a non-dog-proofed interior.

Should your living arrangement include these characteristics, you should think long and hard before securing a dog. At the very least, you need to make sure your roommates and landlord consent to the notion.

4. A College Environment May Not be Safe for a Dog
Many perils await a dog on a college campus. Anything from exposure to alcohol to getting loose on campus can prove dangerous. And your dog doesn’t even receive an honorary degree for surviving the experience.

Unless you feel confident in your ability to mitigate these risks, then you should refrain from pursuing dog ownership.

5. Pursuit of Dog Ownership During College is Often Done for the Wrong Reasons
There are many fine reasons to consider dog ownership. Attempting to impress coeds as you strut across campus and trying to have a mascot for your house parties, however, are not among them.

Too often, young people pursue dog ownership based on ill-conceived motives. While there’s an element of selfishness in every decision to obtain a dog, it must not be the overriding factor.

Ultimately, the decision regarding dog ownership must be addressed on a case-by-case basis, with each college student evaluating the pros/cons with respect to their personal situation. While dog ownership is likely not practical for many college students, it may be suitable for some.

But the bottom line is this: A college student must know they can manage the responsibilities of pet ownership before jumping into this venture. When it comes to a pet’s livelihood and well-being, there’s no such thing as simply giving dog ownership “the old college try.”