Getting a Dog
Dogs are truly a man’s best friend. Their unconditional love and non-judgmental nature makes them the greatest companion. They are always ready to play, but if the moment is not right, they are just as happy to sit quietly by your side. Dogs don’t ask for much – a warm place to sleep, food so they do not go hungry, some fresh air and green grass, and a friend who will look out for them. Despite seeming like the perfect addition to your life, a dog is not for everyone. While some are a little more high maintenance than others, proper care for any dog requires time, patience, and money. There are many financial and lifestyle aspects to consider before purchasing any animal and some of these are discussed below.
The purchase of a dog is just the beginning in terms of money that will be spent. Food, treats, toys, and grooming are recurrent costs that will add up over a lifetime. Veterinary visits are an important part of maintaining your pet’s health.
The basics of health care include spaying/neutering, annual vaccinations, and heartworm testing/prevention. Expect at least one major problem to arise that will involve extensive medical treatment.
Pet insurance is an affordable way to ensure that funds will be available in case of an emergency. An alternative to insurance is making monthly deposits to a savings account. By withdrawing money only when absolutely necessary, you can be sure that your dog will get the health care it needs.
Like children, dogs require a lifetime commitment. Time is required for daily walks, socializing, and grooming activities such as tooth brushing. Puppies have much more energy than older dogs and need ample time for playing and training. A dog is therefore not suitable for someone who spends little time at home.
Often a dog walker can help share the burden if you will be spending a large amount of time away from home. Although most are professionals, be sure to check references to ensure that the person you are hiring is responsible. Dogs can be a handful at times and should have a trained handler when out on walks.
It is extremely important to evaluate your living situation before making a commitment to own a dog. For example, if you live in an apartment building, a loud barker may be out of the question. If you are renting, you may want to consult with your landlord before acquiring a pooch, in case there are any strong objections.
Caution must always be taken with pets if there are children in the house. Even the most laid-back and docile dog can be unpredictable if provoked or frightened, and some dogs may even react instinctively aggressively towards a high-pitched squeal. It is absolutely necessary that any interaction between a dog and a child to be supervised at all times, no matter how “friendly” the dog.
Always consider how a new dog can impact the life of existing household pets. For example, a dog with strong prey-instinct would not be good with small pocket pets such as ferrets and rabbits. It is a good idea to test your new dog with your existing pets before making a commitment to the dog.
If a household member is immunosuppressed (e.g. children, pregnant women, those on immunosuppressive drugs), a consultation with your veterinarian in recommended to ensure that the risk of disease transmission from your dog is minimal.
One of the most common reasons for giving up a pet is allergies. Be sure that those in close contact with your dog are not allergic, or at the very least understand the situation and have a plan to deal with it.
Future Plans and Vacations
As mentioned before, a dog is a lifetime commitment. Dogs can be expected to live for at least 10-12 years, but this can vary greatly depending on the breed. Where will you be 10 years from now? Will your lifestyle still allow time for your dog?
Another area of consideration is where your dog will go when you are on vacation. It is often not an easy task to leave home for an extended period of time. Can you take your dog with you, or do you have a friend or family member who is willing to dog-sit? Boarding facilities are always an option, though finding one that your dog will like can be difficult. Look for a kennel that is professionally staffed and comes recommended. Full vaccinations, including kennel cough, is required before boarding your dog, so plan ahead for a veterinary visit.
Purchasing your dog
Once you have decided that a dog will fit in well to your life, there are many careful decisions to be made. Do you have the time and patience for a puppy? Or are you looking for an older, more mature dog? Puppies are of course cute, but remember that they have unlimited energy and may require lots of training.
Do you have room for a large dog? Or is a small lap dog what you are looking for? Large dogs generally are more expensive, due to the fact that they eat more and require more medication as doses are based on body weight. They often need a larger area for exercise and require longer walks. Small dogs that are carried around still need regular exercise to stay in shape.
If you are looking for the purebred variety, be sure to research the breed of dog before purchasing. Pay particular attention to behaviour traits, maintenance level, and pre-dispositions to disease. For example, most Golden Retrievers are great family dogs but are also prone to developing cancer. Their long hair may also be an issue for those who like their home spotless. Your veterinarian is your best source of advice, especially when it comes to health issues, so be sure to consult him or her before purchasing.
After all things have been considered, it is time to select your dog. Many people often look first to the local pet store, and this has often been the subject of furious debate. It is not a secret that some dogs that end up in pet stores are from puppy mills. Many spur-of-the-moment purchases are made because a puppy looked “so sad” or “ill” in the display window and a kind-hearted soul wanted to “save” the puppy. It should be kept in mind, however, that if the pet store was not providing adequate living quarters, mental stimulation, and health care for that puppy, it is likely not going to change for the next batch of arrivals. If you do decide to purchase a dog from a pet store, ensure that you are provided with a health guarantee of one week at the very least (30 days would be ideal). Have your new pet taken to the vet for a full physical immediately to check for any signs of ill health. A health guarantee from the store is important because some of the most devastating diseases, such as Canine Parvovirus, have an incubation period of 5-7 days before the onset of symptoms.
Breeders are often deemed more reputable, but you should still choose wisely. Although there are many good breeders, there are plenty of bad ones too. Ask friends or your veterinarian for recommendations. When visiting the litter of puppies, ask about the parents’ health in an attempt to foresee any potential problems.
Finally, the humane society as well as rescues and shelters are often a goldmine of canine companions. At any given time there are many wonderful dogs looking for permanent homes. Usually these dogs come spayed or neutered, and the staff will be able to tell you quite a bit about the dog’s personality. Shelters are a great opportunity to get to know and spend some time with the dog you want before purchasing. There are also many breed specific rescues in the U.S. and Canada where you can adopt the breed of your choice.
No matter which dog ultimately goes home with you, remember that each is an individual with his or her own unique personality. Each may require a slightly different method of training or socializing, but all require a lifetime of unconditional love.
By Beverly Wong – Pets.ca writer