Choosing a Dog is Exciting,
But Don't Rush into It Too Quickly
It's great that you're thinking about getting a dog. But, when choosing a dog for you and your family, there are two important questions to ask yourself.
1. Is this dog going to fit in with my family situation?
If you choose a dog that prefers a peaceful
household and you have 3 kids under 5, the answer could easily be a big NO.
2. Will you and your family make a good substitute for the
canine companionship that this dog would normally enjoy?
If you choose a dog that requires a lot of
exercise and no one in your home has the time to walk and play with him, again
the answer could be NO.
Getting a new dog is a big commitment
You should not make
the decision too quickly. Remember that your new companion could well be with you
for the next 12 to 15 years. That’s a long time to live with a mistake...for
both you and the dog.
The new dog owners who are the most successful and the most
happy with their decision are those who take their time and plan ahead. So...
- Don’t be too quick to make your decision and don’t just go
by looks alone. Choosing a dog is not like winning a beauty pageant.
- Consider your personal or family situation and the kind of
environment that you can provide for a dog.
- Is the dog you’re considering right for you and your family?
Dogs come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and personalities.
Are you right for the dog? Dogs also come with wide range of needs ...physical and emotional. Can you meet those needs? The process of choosing a dog should also be about doing what's best for the dog you choose.
Reasons we Humans have for Owning a Dog
Over 55 million dogs live with families in the United States alone. Besides humans, there are more dogs in the world than any other carnivorous animals. Yes, cats come in 2nd. There must be many reasons why so many of us own dogs. Here are a few:
- Dogs make great companions for us humans...they have been bred over thousands of years for this purpose.
- They offer us some measure of protection...even the small ones can let us know when something isn’t right.
- Since dogs need to be walked (notice I said, NEED), they get us off the couch for a little exercise everyday (yes, we NEED to walk, too).
- Dogs can even make us laugh...or at least smile. And, who couldn’t use more of that?
- They also meet a need that all of us have...the need to care for and nurture other living creatures. Unlike children, dogs never outgrow their need to be nurtured.
It's important to know that you're choosing a dog for the right reasons.
Why You might NOT Choose to Own a Dog
With so many great reasons for owning a dog, there are some reasons why it may not be the right decision for everyone.
- Most dogs shed. Will dog hair in your spotless home drive you nuts?
- Breeds that don’t shed (such as Bedlington Terrier, Bolognese, Bishon Frise, Havanese, Maltese, and Poodle) often require clipping. Are you up for this added expense, or willing to take it on yourself?
- Dogs are naturally dirty (it’s a sad fact, but true). If it’s been raining outside, they will leave muddy footprints in your home. After a bath, they will do their best to get that distasteful “clean” smell off by rolling in the dirt.
- Most dogs will lick your face and breathe on you with a breath that smells like something died in there.
- If your dog comes upon something dead and decaying, he will very likely roll in it and try to bring that smell back into your home. I learned this one the hard way.
- Many people have allergies. They are either allergic to a protein in dander (small bits of skin that naturally flake off your dog as the skin renews itself), or a protein in the dog’s saliva that gets on their hair when they groom themselves.
How Much does Owning a Dog Cost?
Before choosing a dog, make sure that you can afford one. Owning a dog is not cheap and the costs should not be under-estimated. If you’re going to own a dog, you should want to do right by him. That means taking good care of him and bearing the costs of doing so. These cost include:
Initial purchase of the dog...cost can range from free to thousands of dollars (for a show dog).
...Then There's Spaying and Neutering Costs
Neutering or spaying which is highly recommended for all dogs except when you’re planning on breeding them. Neutered dogs are generally more content, are better behaved, and have fewer medical issues. Costs range from $65 to $350.
- Prices vary with size, weight, age, breed, and where you live.
- Larger and/or older dogs tend to require more effort from the vet which results in more cost to you.
- Some breeds also require more monitoring during and after the procedure which affects cost.
- When choosing a dog consider that spaying females is usually more expensive than neutering males.
- Check with your local authorities to see if they offer any low-cost option. Many towns and cities offer such services to help reduce the number of unwanted dogs in their areas.
...and Don't Forget the Everyday Expenses
Plan to budget about $3 / day to own your dog. For some breeds, it may be turn out to be as little as $1 / day. Expect that you'll have to spend money on most of these items:
- Food and treats - cost will vary with the size of the dog and the quality of the food. Obviously, larger dogs will require more food.
- Medical care - some breeds will require more than others. You may wish to consult your local vet before purchasing a particular breed to get an idea of what you can expect. You may also wish to consider health insurance for your dog.
- Grooming..some dogs require more than others and some owners enjoy doing it more than others. If you’re not fond of the idea of grooming your dog and don’t want to spend a bundle on professional grooming, opt for a dog that doesn’t require much. But realize, they ALL require some level of grooming.
- Flea and tick prevention...especially important if you live in a rural area and your dog spends a lot of time outside.
- Training classes...all dogs need some level of obedience training. If you can’t do it yourself, consider professional training classes.
- Kenneling...what will you do with your dog when you go away for any length of time? You can’t leave him home alone!
- Dog walking/sitting. This can be a good alternative to kenneling.
- Miscellaneous other things that are probably not necessary, but which you will end up buying for pet anyway. These may include a bed, toys, collars, leashes, grooming supplies, food and water bowls, and even clothing (short-haired dogs in cold climates will need something to keep them warm outside).
Consider Where You Live
Different breeds have different requirements. While some smaller breeds may seem better suited to a small apartment, they may be so high-strung that they will be literally bouncing off the walls. Some larger breeds that are content with less activity can be a better choice for smaller apartments.
- How much room do you have for a dog? Will he spend most of his time in a small apartment? The less space you have for a dog, the more exercise (walking and playing) will be required on your part.
- Do you have a large yard or none at all? Even if you have a large fenced in yard, nothing can substitute for a good walk every day. It not only provided needed exercise, it’s a time for you bond with your dog.
- Do you live in Florida? If you have your heart set on choosing a dog that's really designed to live in colder climates, you might want to think again.
Finally, Do You Know the Local Laws?
Do you live in an area that has very restrictive laws about owning a dog? The laws could affect your decisions as you go about choosing a dog for you and your family.
Most local governments will require your dog to have some form of identification on him at all times.
- Many cities will be satisfied with just a dog tag issued by the community. Consider also getting a tag with you contact information etched into the metal.
- Some cities may require your dog to have a microchip (a tiny electronic device that’s injected under the skin between your dog’s shoulder blades).
- It’s actually a good idea to have both a tag and a microchip. A tag on your dog’s collar is easily read by anyone who might find your lost pet. While the microchip is great should the tag or collar get lost.
Some municipalities ban certain breeds (usually because of a reputation for being too aggressive). Choosing a dog from one of these breeds will only lead to problems and probably heartache.
If you live in an apartment or condominium, check with your landlord or condo association before you bring a dog home. Many leases will not allow you to have any dog at all.
Now you're ready to begin choosing a dog...
If you still have your heart set on owning a dog (I hope you do), and you feel certain that you can take good care of a dog, then you're ready to continue the process:
- Selecting a dog that's just right. What type of dog should it be? Tips on how to approach your selection.
- Dog Breed Selector - Check out the characteristics of over 150 dog breed in an easy to use chart.
- Dog Adoption - Where to find a perfect dog for you and your family.
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