Look at that adorable little face! Can anything warm your heart as quickly and completely as the tiny soft body of a puppy… any puppy? Their little bodies nuzzle right up to you. Their little eyes melt your heart in a second. Who doesn’t want a puppy? How wonderful they are; unconditional love, unlimited cuteness, too adorable for words.
This article was not intended to discourage you, but rather to help you prepare for this new addition and make sure this is the right decision for your family. There are several things to consider as your family discusses the possibility of getting a puppy.
1. The first thing is that every puppy becomes a dog within 1-2 years depending on the breed. You’ll have up to 2 years of puppydom and up to another 13 or so years of adult dog. So don’t think about how a puppy will affect the family. Think about how a DOG will affect the family; a much bigger, not quite so cute, likely not well-trained dog. So before you go looking for a puppy, spend some time with adult dogs of the breed you’ve chosen and see if you’re still interested.
2. The second thing to consider is the expense of having a dog. Costs will vary depending on the size, the breed, and the health of the dog. There’s the initial cost of your new pet. A truly responsible dog owner will NOT support puppy mills. Watch for future articles about puppy mills. It suffices to say that puppy mills exist only because people buy the puppies. No customers, no business, no more torturing and abusing dogs. So you’ll either get your puppy from a reliable breeder or from a rescue shelter. There will be a cost associated regardless of which you choose. Most rescue shelters charge approximately $500 regardless of the breed. Rescue shelters are non-profit. This fee pays for food and vet bills to spay or neuter our furry friends. Occasionally dogs require surgery or other medical attention. You can see that this figure is by no means an absolute. The purchase price from a breeder will vary depending on the breed of dog and the breeder.
So many of the costs are dependent on the decisions you make. Will you use a dog crate for house training or when no one is home? What sources will you use for training; books, videos, training lessons, a combination of all three? Will you provide your pet with just a bowl on the floor or a water fountain which constantly circulates the water ensuring your dog has fresh water at all times. You could spend up to $2,000 in your first year for basic essentials; licence, collar, dog walking leash (perhaps a couple of different kinds), water bowl, food bowl, food, toys, dog bed, grooming equipment, dog crate, gates and fences for the yard, vet bills (puppies need check-ups, dental checks and vaccinations just like your children did), flea treatments, heart worm medication, some dogs require professional grooming every 6-8 weeks, any behaviour training supplies.
After the first year, depending on your dogs’ health, you can expect to spend between $500 and $2,500 each year for basic maintenance; again this amount has a lot to do with the breed of dog you’ve chosen. This does not include additional carpet/furniture cleaning as a result of inevitable pet “accidents”. There is also the cost of replacing “doggie chewed” items like children’s toys, nic nacs, shoes, wallets, purses, pillows, bedding, and other items your dog naughtily entertained him/herself with. This also does not include medical emergencies like your dog eating chocolate, or aspirins, or other poisonous items, or any accidental injuries that may occur.
3. Next, examine your lifestyle. Dogs are incredibly social animals. Your dog, just like your children, will require large amounts of quality time. (No wonder people get their pets confused with their children. There are so many similarities.) It’s irresponsible to bring a dog into your family and then leave him/her alone for 10 hours every day. Think about how many hours will your pooch be left alone each day? Remember to include after school or work activities like baseball, soccer, hockey, karate, ballet, tennis, overtime work hours, etc. in your “away” time.
How many people are in the family? What age are your children? Toddlers or smaller children may not be a good combination with a larger, more aggressive dog.
Puppies have little bladders and need to go out about every 1 to 2 hours; adult dogs at least 3 times a day. That’s just a “potty” out.
Your dog will also need exercise. All dogs need exercise! Think in terms of 30 to 60 minutes each day for all dogs. Beyond that you need to take your specific pet into consideration for additional exercise needs. Ignoring this means that your dog will be bored and may start behaving badly. How much more exercise depends on the breed. Border Collies, Jack Russells, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, English Springer Spaniels, Boxers, Irish Setters, and Huskies, typically herding dogs to name a few require at least an hour of vigorous exercise at least twice each day.
Many dogs require mental stimulation in addition to the physical. This is playtime and training time and it’s equally important as physical exercise. Time… time… time. If you can’t commit to this for your dog, you will want to consider a breed that is less demanding. Shih Tzus, Pugs, Poodles, Basset Hounds, and Beagles require much less of an exercise commitment. Will your children be able to help you walk the dog each day? Will they be able to handle a large dog or perhaps a smaller dog would be more suited to your family? Or perhaps this isn’t the right time for a dog.
I cannot impress upon you enough how important it is to seriously consider these points before making a decision. Think of this as important a decision as having a baby. You can’t “try it out and see if it works”. If it doesn’t “oh well” and do away with it. It’s not fair to you or your family, and it’s not fair to the dog. Perhaps you’re reading this and logically thinking “She’s right. I don’t have the time, or the money.” But still your heart is yearning for a dog. There is a solution. Offer to babysit someone else’s dog while they go away on vacation. If that works out well, try fostering a dog. Fostering means that you will care for a “rescued” dog until a forever home can be found. Because this is a temporary situation, once your “charge” is placed, you can choose not to take any more, if you decide that having a dog is not the right thing for your family. This is a great way to “test the waters”; to see if your family is truly ready for the responsibility of having a dog. You’ll learn a lot about training and how to deal with dogs and at the same time you are offering a tremendous service to our wonderful canine companions.
Remember to hug your dog today.•