Acquiring A New Dog
It is an exciting thought when you wish to acquire a new dog for your family, because dogs can be wonderful companions, giving tremendous pleasure, entertainment and affection, but they are also a big responsibility. They can be demanding in terms of both time and money, and when you acquire one you’ll be committing yourself to caring for him for 10-15 years, or possibly longer.
Becoming a dog owner is not a decision to take lightly: before making it you should carefully examine your reasons for wanting a dog and ensure that right from the start you have a very clear idea of what will be involved. Here are some questions you need to consider before obtaining a new dog.
Why Do You Want A New Dog?
This is the question to ask yourself, and for most people there is a whole variety of reasons rather than one single answer. Dogs are fun to have around; they encourage you to take more exercise; and when you’re out together they can be great ice-breakers, helping you make new friends, while at home you can spend time playing or simply relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.
However, if the main reason is to make you feel safer, then get an alarm system instead. Buying a dog to provide someone to pour pour your heart out to or to boost your self-esteem may be a comfort to you, but using a dog as an emotional crutch won’t necessarily help you and may lead to behavior problems in him.
Neither should you fall into the trap of getting a dog simply because he looks cute or is fashionable. You need to do thorough research beforehand and be prepared to treat him like a dog, not an accessory.
Can You Afford A New Dog?
Before you even get your dog, you may find yourself spending money in order to make your home dog-friendly and escape-proof. After this you’ll need to buy all the necessities in readiness for his arrival and, prepare your house and garden.
Then there’s his initial purchase price which could be anything from around $150-$2000 or even more, followed by regular outgoings on food, insurance and preventative health care, plus any incidental veterinary bills, holiday care and extras you might like to buy, such as treats, toys and replacing damaged or outgrown equipment.
Anticipate spending somewhere in the region of $1000 – $1,500 a year every year for a small to medium-sized dog, and considerably more if you choose a large or giant breed.
Do You Have Enough Time For A Dog?
A relationship with a dog is a very interactive one, and you should expect to put as much into it as you get out. As well as ensuring your dog has sufficient exercise, you’ll need to be prepared to spend time training, grooming and playing with him everyday. If you want to come back home after work and just put your feet up, you should consider a less demanding pet.
What Hours Do You Work?
If you are out at work all day it won’t be fair to get a puppy or youngster, who may become bored, miserable, lonely and likely to develop behavior problems as a result. Provided you don’t work excessively long hours and if you think carefully about choice, having a full-time job need not necessarily be a bar to owning a dog. Retired greyhounds and many older dogs in rescue still have much to offer and will be happy to doze while you are out.
Four hours is the maximum length of time your dog should be left alone, though, and if you can’t manage to get home at lunchtimes to see to him, you’ll need to make other arrangements. ‘Doggy daycare’ centers are becoming more common, or you could ask a friend, relative or dog-walker to come and take him out to relieve himself and to spend a little time interacting with him.
Where Do You Live?
On the whole, dogs are very adaptable, but it’s important to choose the right breed for the place you live. Large breeds may feel cramped and may be constantly underfoot if your home is small, for example. If you live in rented accommodation you should check whether there are any restrictions on keeping pets.
Location can also be important, as although many breeds will be quite at home in cities and towns, others require a more rural environment that allows greater opportunity for free-running exercise.
Who Shares Your Home?
Think carefully about getting a dog if others who share your home aren’t as enthusiastic about it as you; going ahead regardless can lead to friction and resentments, and even to spitefulness towards the pet, all of which may lead to behavior problems.
If you have children, most will be thrilled by the prospect of getting a dog, and they will learn a lot about life, responsibility and respect for living creatures from having one around; but don’t allow them to pressure you into making such a decision unless you are 100 per cent committed to the idea yourself. You will ultimately be responsible for the dog’s daily care, and your active involvement will increase if the children lose interest once the novelty wears off, or when they go to college, university or leave home.
Do You Have Other Pets?
You also need to consider any other pets you may own. Some older dogs may get a new lease of life from having a youngster around, but others may find the newcomer a nuisance and become snappy and irritable unless interaction between the two is carefully monitored and the older dog given some respite when he needs it.
If have a dog with a behavior problem, don’t get a second in attempt to help solve it, as you are just as likely to end up with two dogs with the same problem. Some dogs will happily accept cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters and other furry pets, but they will need careful introductions and supervision when they are together.
Other dogs may have a very high chase drive and may never be safe to keep with such pets. Equally, some cats will never feel comfortable with a dog around, no matter how well behaved the dog may be. Choosing the right breed, age and sex of dog will be essential if you have other pets, but before even getting to that point, you need to think very carefully about the effect he is likely to have and whether getting a dog will be fair on them.
Are You Willing To Make A Few Sacrifices?
Taking on a dog may mean it will be necessary for you to make a few compromises in your lifestyle:
- You’ll need to go straight home after work, rather than out with colleagues
- You may need to get up earlier in order to take your dog out.
- You may have to more exercise than you are accustomed to.
- When you want to go on holiday, or even for a day out, you will need to plan ahead.
What Are Your Future Plans?
No matter how much you may be looking forward to getting a dog, postpone it if any predictable major changes or upheavals in life are looming, such as marriage, divorce, house move, pregnancy, large family celebrations, an imminent holiday, or if you are experiencing a period of bereavement. It is stressful enough for any dog, whether puppy or adult, to come into a new home without having to cope with all the extra disturbance caused by such events; and it will also make it difficult for you to concentrate on his needs.