Bringing home a new dog is a lot like bringing home a baby. The initial set up cost can run you a pretty good chunk of change. You will need items like a good quality dog food (that will be a topic for another time), a bed, food and water bowls, treats, shampoo, a crate, toys, etc, then you will need to pay for vaccines, spaying/neutering and dog training (always worth the investment!). I would even recommend putting aside $10 a month for emergency care. People are often shocked when they find out how much an emergency x-ray, blood work, dental cleaning or a sugery can cost, so don't take on the responsibility of caring for another living thing unless you can pay for their care too if something should go wrong. Pet insurance companies are also springing up like weeds and may be worth looking into. Just be sure they cover preventative care as well such as vaccines.
Do I have time for a dog?
If you think you can get a dog and keep it in the backyard and get by with just bringing it food and water every day, you are 100% WRONG! Dogs are pack animals and they crave human companionship. Dogs that are left in yards by themselves almost always develop behavior problems such as social anxiety, separation anxiety, dog/people/animal aggression, fear of change and new situations, chewing, barking, escaping, etc. The most frequent problems I encounter in my training program develop from dogs that are under-socialized. Do yourself and your dog a big favor and bring your dog inside and make them a part of your family pack. You will significantly cut down on the number of behavior problems your dog could be at risk for. Trust me, its MUCH easier training your dog to live in your world and to behave properly inside the house than it is to out-train behavior problems that have been learned from living alone and neglected. I would also HIGHLY recommend taking it one step further by taking your dog out into the world. Take them to as many places and have them meet as many people and animals as you possibly can. When you broaden their horizons and show them what life has to offer, you will find yourself with a dog that is secure, emotionally stable and able to go through life with confidence.
If you live in a one-bedroom apartment, getting a great dane might not be the best idea for you. You want to make sure your dog will have enough space to play and not be a nuisance. However, as it goes with zoos, its not the amount of space that matters, its what you do with it. You can have acres and acres of land for your dog to run on, but if your dog spends all day outside and away from the family, he won't be as happy as a dog with no yard at all who gets to spend all of his time with his owners, sleeping in his own bedroom (aka. a crate), playing with toys and going for walks. Also, if you will be a single-dog household, space isn't that big of a consideration, but if you have more than one dog or another pet such as a cat, ask yourself if your current pet will tolerate another dog on their turf. Territory disputes are amplified when there is not enough space to go around, so know your limits for yourself and for your current pets.
Is my family/roommate/significant other okay with getting a dog?
Raising a dog is a group effort. If every member of the household is not willing to adhere to the training regimen, your dog will receive mixed messages and have a harder time learning their role in the pack and what is expected of them. Be sure to make a decision this big a family decision.
This is HUGE! Before you get a dog you should always research the breeds that interest you first! If you don't, you could be setting yourself up for failure before you even get your dog. Common scenarios I see include: 1) when very meek people get breeds that are known to be strong-willed or bully breeds who prove to be a challenge for them to train, 2) when strong/boisterous alpha personalities get very shy dogs who may potentially develop fear or socialization problems, 3) when smaller framed people get dogs that are too big or strong for them to handle, or 4) when mellower individuals get breeds that are too energetic to suit their lifestyle. Do yourself a favor and thoroughly know the breed that you are getting yourself into and ask yourself if you can meet all of their energy, temperament, grooming, training and socialization requirements.
Getting a new dog is a fun and exciting time in a new pet owners life, but always be prepared. If you aren't, well don't worry, I'm always here to help! :-)