Is a dog right for you?

Owning a dog is a responsibility, and it's important to make sure you will be able to devote the time and effort needed to care for them. Regular walks are just the start - you'll also need to consider how much attention you can give them on a daily basis, how much food, vaccinations and other essentials will cost and whether your dog will fit into your family.

Children often promise they'll take full responsibility for looking after the dog of their dreams, and they might do - for a few weeks, at least. Ultimately the responsibility for looking after a dog lies with the adults, so if your children are the only ones who really want one, you should consider this carefully before bringing a dog into your home.

If all the family is out at work or school all day, owning a dog might not be such a good idea. Puppies in particular need companionship to be happy and should not be left alone for more than three or four hours at a time.

Don't forget to budget for your pet too - the cost isn't limited to dog food! Your pet will need vaccinations and regular check-ups at the vet, as well as treatment if they become ill, as well as equipment like collars or leads. If you don't plan to take your dog on family holidays, you'll need to think about whether you can pay for boarding fees or a pet-sitter.

Finally, consider whether your house and local area is dog-friendly - is your garden fenced in? Are there green spaces nearby where they can be taken for walks? If you live in a flat without a garden, you may need to walk your dog much more often than usual.

This advice isn't intended to put you off from getting a dog, but just to make the point that it's a responsibility that shouldn't be rushed into lightly. Dogs deserve a loving, caring home just as much as people do!