To have a dog is an incredibly enriching experience for you and your family but before making any hasty decisions, you have to come to the unanimous agreement that a new addition is going to be right for you all – at all times. So, are you really ready to get a dog?
The cute little puppy you are planning to bring home will be part of your family for at least 9-15 years. They will be fully-dependant on you and your family for everything: water, food, shelter, exersize and vet care. They’ll also need a big portion of your time for training, and of course time solely for love and attention. As well as their love they also bring lots of financial and social responsibilities, so it is vital that all members of the family are reading and willing to begin this adventure together. It won’t always be big sloppy kisses and warm cuddles, dogs are much more of a responsibility than that! So before you get tempted by the big, brown puppy eyes – make sure to answer the following questions.
Why do you want a dog?
There are multiple reasons to add a dog to the family, some dogs are aquired for positive reasons and some sadly are not. Firstly we will take a look at some examples of why people want dogs:
Companionship If you have the time to invest in your dog the rewards are truly wonderful, dogs are instinctively social animals and thrive as part of a family (“a pack”). However, if your lifestyle means that your dog will be left along for long periods of time – perhaps another pet will be more suited to you. aving reduced amounts of time does not mean you cannot get a dog – it just means you need to find one who has lower exersize and grooming requirements and enjoys his own space.
Activity Each dog, regardless of breed, size and energy levels needs to be taken on daily walk. This means you (or your family) need to be ready to walk rain or shine! This will also help you all to stay fit and healthy and get some fresh air! Walking your dog can also lead you to socialise more whether it be a dog park or just from being outside.
Family Research has shown that children who grow up with a dog are less likely to suffer allergies, have increased co-ordination and improved confidence and social skills. Although parents are ultimately responsible for the care of the dog and supervision of the children and dog together, children can gain valuable life skills from caring for a dog, such as negotiation, compassion, responsibilities and patience.
Other dogs Perhaps your dog has just passed away or you already have a dog and are looking to add another set of paws to the family? Dogs are naturally social creatures and can provide great company for each other.
Impulse Perhaps one of the most common reasons for dogs in shelters is that people have bought the dog on a whim and without proper planning. You need to assess your lifestyle to identify not only what you need from a dog but what they need from you. Size, temperament, cost are all aspects that should be considered beforehand to prevent any hidden surprises. Getting a dog will change your life in many ways, be sure you are prepared for the commitment.
Trends Dogs are living, breathing animals who are a huge responsibility not a fashion statement – selecting dogs for personal reasons such as to look tougher with a large breed of dog or to carry small breeds around like an accessory or a toy are not good reasons to get a dog.
Problems at home A dog will not solve personal problems among family members however can worsen things as puppies can add an element of stress. A puppy is a huge responsibility and needs everybody working together through the potential stresses. Adding a dog to an already tense atmosphere may just amplify the problem.
Nagging kids To add a dog to your family means you are signing up for a large commitment of time and resources. Although your children could help care for your dog, you will be the primary owner – and the one who foots the vet bills! Don’t be tempted by this, instead try to get your children involved in dog related activities such as dog walking or volunteering at shelters to learn about how much responsibility owning a dog takes!
A surprise gift The scale of this commitment should never be made on someone elses behalf. No matter how generous your intent, it is a very personal decision to make and thorough discussions should be had regarding the size, breed and a multitude of other factors, they need to be in total agreement.
Ultimately, the decision to get a dog should solely rely on your commitment to owning a dog for their entire lifetime – no matter what. Once you take your canine companion home they come part of your family they should be treated as such in any event.
The day-to-day living guide
Each family has their own needs, schedules, medical problems, space and time limits. Research into breeds that may be more suited to your family’s lifestyle. Are you an outdoorsy family? Are you seeking a dog that doesn’t shed much due to allergies or preference? How much time can you offer a new dog? Dogs require lots of time, patience and care (oh and money!) so make sure to do a lot of investigation when trying to figure out which dog is right for you.
Instinctively a pack member they will be seeking social connections and a strong leader figure (this is where you come in). You are solely responsible for all your dogs training as they look to only one pack leader – a well trained dog is much more content. Training your dog is one of the many steps that lead to being a responsible dog owner in the community. Other key factors in responsibly owning a dog are making sure they are up to date with vaccinations, that they are flea, tick and worm free and that they are well exercized, happy and healthy dogs.
Another essential thing to consider is the cost of owning a dog – and not just the obvious food, water and a bed – but the unexpected health costs, the recurring monthly cost, the new toys and pet insurance! Have a look at our article on the 10 things you’ll need for a new puppy. Many people forget that when they first get their dog they must have them vaccinated and spayed/neutered which is costly just within the first few months. Also having to pay the vet bills if your canine companion has poor health (perhaps throughout his life). Once you have a dog they are a member of your family which is why it is crucial to have really educated yourself about what you can handle.
When you get a young puppy – be prepared for a lot of mess! There will inevitably be some sort of damage – whether it be huge or not and this must be thought of especially if you are in rented accommodation. Ask yourself this, where will you be in five years? Will they allow pets in your next property? Are you planning on downsizing? As a large breed might suit your lifestyle now however your planning on a move to a smaller house or flat will prove significantly harder.
Poor-planning is a common reason for dogs to be given to rescue shelters. This is an extremely important decision – to share your life – and it should not be taken lightly as you must be dedicated to it. Try to be realistic about your circumstances and although those big puppy paws are almost irresistible I really recommend to look firstly at rescue shelters not only will you benefit from the low adoption fees – the dogs are usually already house-trained, micro-chipped and have basic training even if only from their time at the shelter. They will also be spayed/neutered and have had full vet-checks for any future problems.
“Saving one dog will not change the world, but surely for that one dog, the world will change forever” Karen Davidson