Sure, you’ve heard it all before… Dogs are a big commitment, dogs deserve forever homes and all the rest of it. Well without a doubt, yes they are and yes they do! Puppies are cute and heaps of fun but they grow up to be less cute, less fun adult dogs rather quickly.
So before you consider adopting any dog into your life, please think ahead over the next 10 to 15 years and honestly ask yourself these questions:
Important: If you're the person wanting a dog, but not who will be actually looking after it most of the time, then clear these questions up front with the person who will be (and other people you live with) before even thinking about actually getting a dog!
* Do I have a stable home that allows dogs and will readily be able to access such a home for the life of the dog?
If you are renting, how easy is it to find accommodation in your area for tenants with pets? And also be aware that some breeds, due to a statistically greater risk of dog-bite litigation, have been blacklisted by home insurance companies which makes it even more difficult to find a landlord willing to take the gamble of offering you and your dog a place to live. So at least choose your breed carefully using our Breed Quiz.
* Do I have the time and willingness to train, potty and socialise my puppy intensively for at least the first few months I own it?
Errorless potty training is easy potty training - mistakes reinforce themselves and make it that much harder for your dog to "get it". Getting potty training right without any mistakes not only requires you to be on the ball over several weeks, but is absolutely critical to your enjoyment of your dog and its security as your pet. Failure on the owner’s part is a first class ticket to early euthanasia as a dog that soils in the house is really hard for anyone to live with!
Same with basic training… Much nicer to own a dog that comes, sits and doesn’t jump all over you and the neighbours’ kids.
Likewise, the window for completing puppy socialisation is only open for a few weeks after you get him from his breeder. Once it has gone, it’s gone for good. So if you want a lovely, well behaved, friendly dog that will be lots of fun and no stress to own, you must have the time to take introduce him to busloads of nice people – especially men and children – while taking care he isn’t unduly exposed to disease in the meantime before his immunity from his first vaccination kicks in.
* Will I be able to afford its routine health care, sterilisation and any unexpected veterinary costs?
Work it out… Depending on size and the quality of diet you offer, it costs at least $20 a week to feed a dog. That’s pretty good value to keep your best buddy going, but have you given much thought to the other expenses?
Assuming you prefer him not to have fleas, there’s about $15 a month right there for backline monthly flea treatments. At around $10 wormers aren’t small change either, and he should be dosed about every 3 months (bank on needing several for bigger dogs). If there’s heartworm in your area, add monthly medications for that to the list. Then consider the vaccinations he’ll need, plus the cost of sterilisation - which may be $100 or more depending on sex of the dog and who you go to.
The wild card in all this is the unexpected. What are you going to do if he gets hit by a car, catches a grass seed up his nose, or eats the string off the rolled roast and tangles up his intestines? Will you have the funds readily available to fix him up? There’s not many dilemmas much worse than having to decide between the life of your furry family member or financial survival.
If you are a little pressed for funds, definitely don’t go for a large breed – bigger always means more medicines to pay for, and more food. And be aware that some breeds are much higher maintenance due to poorer health outlooks than others, so use the Perfect Match Puppy Breed Quiz to help you trim your costs from the start by choosing a breed that better matches your situation. And make sure your budget stretches comfortably to cover pet insurance which is breed dependant and starts at about $20 a month.
* Do I have the time, physical ability and inclination to take it out at least once a day for a good, solid walk?
If you are a couch potato, the only dog that will be happy and sane living with you is a low energy dog. Use the Perfect Match Puppy Breed Quiz to select a lazy breed or you are likely to drive whatever dog you own crazy. Otherwise, bank on getting your dog out there for a walk every day, even if on workdays its just a 10 minute burn around the block. Daily walking will keep your dog psychologically and physically healthier, making him less likely to engage in destructive or psychotic behaviors at home. And its good for you too! People who walk their dogs not only enjoy better emotional and physical health, but also get to know and make friends with other folks in their local community.
* What will I do when I go away on holidays? Will someone be there for my dog when I can't?
Boarding your dog at a professional facility is always an option if you have to spend time away from home where your furry friend can’t follow. But what if you need to be away for an extended period, or find the cost of boarding difficult to afford? Would you have family and friends available to doggy-sit? Some of the owners of my own puppies have formed their own facebook group for fun, meetups and sharing photos, but are also finding it useful for helping each other out in this way.
* Are my children old enough to learn how to behave appropriately around a puppy, and correct it if necessary, or will I have to supervise every interaction? (Depending on the child, the best age is from 3 to 4 yo onwards.)
Young children often behave in ways that dogs may find quite threatening, and puppies are notorious for trying out their needle-sharp teeth on anything chewy that comes in reach, including people’s fingers and toes. Bigger breed puppies naturally want to jump all over people, and even quite small pups can send toddlers sprawling. On the other hand, young children can seriously injure a puppy in many ways, even just by dropping it. Managing small children and puppies or boisterous dogs together is hard work, so consider waiting until you deem your youngest child old enough to behave appropriately and capable of carrying out basic correction of puppy mistakes. Even when you feel your kids are old enough, it is advisable to choose a breed that has a good reputation with little children, and an individual puppy with a personality that suits young families.
How did you go?
Only if you can honestly tick off all the above, should you seek to adopt a dog. It just might not be the right time in your life yet. Be patient! Also bear in mind that the waiting time for superior puppies from better breeders can be several months. Bide your time and plan ahead. The right dog is worth waiting for!