Column: The benefits and challenges of owning a pet in college

Sara Wells
Oxford Stories

One of the many questions parents are asked by their kids in college is “Can I get a dog?” Most parents’ responses are “Absolutely not.”

For that reason, many college students buy a dog without their parents’ permission and later realize it is harder than they expected, or they don’t have the means to support the pet financially.

Is college a good time to buy a dog? College is a time to figure out who you are, who you want to be, and what you want to do with your life. It is an experimental time because this is the first time you are truly on your own.

Being a senior, I would definitely say college is full of learning experiences and, in my case and probably many others’, making a fair share of mistakes.

I asked my parents if I could get a dog during my junior year of college. My dad responded with a quick, “No.” He raised all of the points “You don’t have a job. How will you pay for this dog? You have school and your grades to worry about.” And the most important and dreaded question, “Are you ready for this type of responsibility?”

I, like many other college students, think owning a dog wouldn’t be that hard and would be fun. While I pursued the issue explaining that I had matured a great deal and was more responsible, I was not winning the argument.

Like many college students feeling the pressure, I battle anxiety. My mom thought the dog could be therapeutic for me, and she helped argue my case with Dad.

Long story short, my mom helped convince my dad to let me get a dog. I found a cute lab mix dog at the Humane Society who, along with her siblings, had been abandoned by the side of the road. She was so adorable, and I fell for her instantly.

After the standard background check and call to my parents and landlord, Murphy came home with me. It is definitely fun having her around, but I admit I was not fully ready for the type of responsibility owning a dog has brought.


Photo by Sara Wells.

Whenever there is an “away” game or your friends want to go out of town, you have to think about who will watch your pet, how much it will cost to board them, or if it makes sense for you to even go at all.

Once you get that dog, it is your responsibility to take care of him or her and remember that you signed up for that responsibility. My father explained it best, “Owning a dog is almost like having a child. It’s a long-term commitment.”

I think most college kids don’t think about the level of responsibility that goes with owning a dog. Let’s face it, puppies are cute and everyone wants to help when the dog is a puppy, but after they’ve grown a bit, your friends are less interested in helping.

In college, most students rent an apartment or a house off campus. I have learned the hard way that puppies can sometimes be very destructive. They will chew your floors, door frames, furniture, shoes and anything they can really get their teeth on.

I learned this very quickly after Murphy chewed seven pairs of my shoes. Yes, seven. Additionally, we currently only have two unharmed doorways.

Besides the responsibility, the cost of owning a dog is greater than I ever imagined. Besides food (which is expensive), there’s monthly medicine, trips to the veterinarian, toys, treats, training, etc.

I think most college students do not fully understand the level of responsibility it requires until you finally have the dog and learn from the experience. I think it is all about how you handle the responsibility.


Some students have given their puppy away or taken it back to the Humane Society because they weren’t prepared. In my case, I have become more mature and am learning how to handle things better when something new or unexpected arises.

Owning a dog in college teaches you a lot. I’m sure that in the real world, I will have to make many sacrifices and weigh my options when receiving invitations to go to parties or take a short trip.

While there are downfalls to owning a dog, my dog has helped me tremendously by forcing me to have a set schedule. I work out when I take her on walks, and I have had to learn to budget my money.

Additionally, my grades have been the best they have ever been because I don’t go out as much as I used to and have learned the benefit of time management. Dogs have also proven to help with anxiety and stress. They are always there for you when you are having a bad day, and they just want to be loved too.

Owning a dog in college is a very large responsibility, and I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone, but in my case, it has been a valuable and rewarding experience.

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