You should realize that the little puppy you’re planning on bringing home will be a part of your family for the next 10 to 15 years. They will depend on you for everything – from food and water to exercise and veterinary care and they will want to have you around too. There are also a significant number of financial and social responsibilities that come with being a dog owner. So, before you and your family go pick up your new puppy or that rescue dog with the irresistible eyes, make sure you ask yourself the following questions.
WHY DO YOU WANT A DOG?
There are many reasons for wanting to add a canine companion to the family – some good, and some bad. Here are just a few examples:
- Companionship – Being a social animal, dogs thrive on being part of a family (or “pack”). Provided you have the time and resources to dedicate to building a strong, loving relationship with your dog they will be a happy addition to your home
- Children – Having a dog in the family is a great way to teach your children responsibility and patience by assigning age appropriate tasks for caring for the dog. However, it’s important to remember that you, as a parent, will be the primary care giver. Research has also shown that children who grow up with a pet have better social skills, increased co-ordination, improved confidence and are less likely to suffer from allergies
- Health – There are proven physical and mental health benefits that come from living with a dog. If you are looking for a new health and wellbeing partner it’s hard to look past our four-legged friends
- Impulse – One of the most common reasons for dog’s being surrendered to rescue shelters is that they were bought without proper planning. Don’t be drawn into an impulsive purchase and be sure you consider the life changing decision you are about to make. Size, shape, temperament, cost and lifestyle factors all need to be taken into consideration before you bring a dog into your home
- A Fashion or Lifestyle Accessory – Despite their names Toy, Miniature and Teacup breeds are not accessories. They are living, breathing things that cannot be set aside once you are done with them
- A Surprise Gift – Committing to a pet is a personal decision and one that should never be made on behalf of someone else. A dog can be wonderful gift but only when the recipient has been involved in the process from the start and is prepared to take on a new family member
There are many more good and bad reasons to want a dog. Ultimately, the only reason you should be committing to a dog is because you want to share your life with a furry friend and are willing to be a responsible owner for the dog’s entire lifetime (no matter the cost or situation that comes along). Once adopted, a dog becomes a member of your family and should be treated as such.
ARE YOU READY TO LIVE WITH A DOG?
Dogs require a lot of time, care and patience. As pack animals they crave both socialisation and a leader… that’s you. You are the one they will look to when it comes to feeding, exercise, grooming, veterinary care, flea and tick treatments, training and providing a safe home environment for them. You need to ensure that you are able to dedicate enough time each day to your dog’s needs. Having a smaller amount of time does not necessarily mean you should not get a dog, it just means you need to find one that is comfortable on its own and has lower exercise and grooming requirements.
Living with a dog is also expensive. Food, training, grooming, toys, treats, vet expenses, flea and worm treatments, and boarding while you are away from home can all add up. In fact, on average Australian’s spend $1,500 to $2,500 a year keeping their dogs happy and healthy. You need to know before you buy a dog whether your family budget has room for an additional $125-$210 dollars a month in canine expenses. You’ll also need to think about whether you can afford to cover the cost of significant health issue with your dog. Some veterinary treatments, such as, canine oncology can cost well over $5,000. That’s a big outlay, however, there are cost effective pet insurance options that will help you manage this risk.
In addition to financials, you’ll also need to consider your living situation. Many rentals don’t allow dogs at all and, if they do allow them, they will put a limit on the breed and size of the dog. Even if your rental allows dogs or you own a home, a dog will need a fully fenced yard to play in and relieve themselves in unless you plan to walk the dog every time it needs to relieve itself.
Whether you get a puppy or an adult, you should expect some damage around the house and to personal items (namely shoes), especially when getting a puppy or an adult that has not been house trained. You will need to take the time to train a puppy or dog properly and be prepared to accept some collateral damage during the early stages of coming home.
Finally, you’ll need to ensure the breed you are considering is appropriate for your living situation. Some small dogs require large spaces due to their high energy levels and some large dogs don’t require much more than a porch to lie on. It is best to do some research into breeds to help decide on a dog to fit into your lifestyle.
ARE YOU READY TO BE A RESPONSIBLE OWNER?
A dog is yours for life and you not only have a responsibility to them but the community in which you live as well. As a responsible dog owner you will need to ensure that:
- Your dog has regular vet check-ups and vaccinations;
- Your dog is protected from fleas, worms and ticks;
- Your dog is de-sexed;
- You obeying licensing and leash laws for your area;
- You train and socialise your dog so that you are in control of their actions at all times;
- Your dog has current identification tags at all times; and
- You are giving your dog lots of love, exercise, companionship and a healthy, nutritious diet
Being a responsible dog owner is about making sure your dog is happy and healthy and getting the love and treatment it deserves as a family member.
ARE YOU REALLY READY?
There is a lot to think about before getting a dog to share your life and home with and it’s important you take the time to carefully consider whether a dog is right for you. Too many dogs end up at shelters each year because people weren’t really ready to have a dog in their lives.
Think about how your life will change once you get a dog and try to be realistic about your expectations. If you decide that you are truly ready then consider adopting a dog from the local shelter. Not only will you benefit from lower adoption fees for a healthy, micro-chipped dog; you will also be saving a life. Shelters also tend to offer a lot more mixed breeds which generally do not have as many health issues as purebreds meaning lower vet bills in the long run too.
If you are ready to open up your heart to a dog and let it into your life for good then remember this “Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole” – Roger Caras.