Welcoming a dog into your family is a huge decision! Not only for you and your loved ones, but for the well-being of the pet you bring home! So you will need to know 5 essential things before getting a dog.
Some people are simply charmed by the idea of a canine companion, and they don’t give it much thought beyond that! This can be a recipe for disaster. Unanticipated issues can arise, and sometimes the unfortunate dog must be surrendered to a shelter. Don’t let this happen to you! It is extremely upsetting to the family, and of course to the dog, who ends up back in a cage; confused, frightened, and lonely. Many shelters even euthanize the animal if no one comes to their rescue!
Because you are reading this blog, I know you are gathering information to make sure you won’t make such a mistake. The last thing you want to do is upset yourself, your children and leave the dog with an uncertain, even tragic, future. Keep reading and I will share the 5 crucial things you need to know before getting a dog. Then you can make an informed decision about whether to get a dog or not. After all, you want to offer your home to the dog for the rest of his life!
This is number one of a 5-part series. Each segment will provide you with valuable insight into what to consider prior to becoming a dog parent.
This first blog will introduce you to these 5 important considerations. And I will explain the factors that determine if your lifestyle is suitable to living with a dog.
Even if you already have a dog…
Of course, if you already have a dog, you will still find much of the information valuable, either for yourself or for sharing with friends or family. So I encourage you to share the link to this blog with anyone you know who has said that they are thinking about getting a dog– then they can help break this cycle too!
Now let us dive into the first post of this series!
You can help prevent dogs being surrendered to dog shelters!
As you know, there are far too many dogs living in shelters or foster care that desperately need homes. And, as dog lovers, we can all help prevent dogs from being placed in shelters in the first place. So you are likely wondering, how can you help?
Help break the cycle of dogs living in shelters!
When you understand the 5 things you need to know before getting a dog, you will actually contribute to the breaking of this cycle! Your research here means you have a better chance of either choosing the right dog for your lifestyle, or determining now is not the right time for you to get a dog.
If you decide now is not the right time to get a dog, you will be lowering the demand for puppies from puppy mills and backyard breeders. And these “breeding” dogs and their puppies often end up in shelters! So your decision will help make puppy mills and their ilk unprofitable, closing some down. If enough people like you decide their lifestyle or other factors preclude shopping for a puppy, we will have fewer unsavoury dog dealers.
There is another way you can help reduce shelter populations. Armed with the 5 essential things to know before adopting, you can select a suitable pet for your family’s makeup and circumstances. Thus you will most likely avoid the need to return your new dog to a shelter.
In both scenarios, you are helping to control the numbers of unwanted pets in the shelters.
The 5 things you need to know before getting a dog:
Below find a summary of what you need to consider before bringing a dog home.
- Consider if your lifestyle is amenable to living with a dog. In this post, I will discuss the essential aspects of dog care to help you decide if you can promise your future dog that he will live with you for his entire life! Dogs can reach 15 or more years (depending on type of breed and their age when you adopt).
- Research and understand dog behaviour so that you are prepared to meet his needs before you invite him into your home.
- Budget for the expenses. Decide whether you can afford the yearly costs, and calculate how long he may live. Can you afford to maintain his quality of life for as long as he lives? In this segment, you will learn about the important costs involved with caring for a dog over his lifetime.
- Do research in advance of getting your dog to find ethical pet care services that you will likely need. By doing this in advance, you won’t risk choosing unsafe services at the last minute.
- Plan for who will take care of your dog if you no longer can do so due to life- changing circumstances.
Is your lifestyle suitable to living with a dog?
In this first segment of this series, I will be going over some initial questions to ask yourself and your family so you can explore how committed you would be in caring for a dog. As well, I will discuss research to do early in the decision-making process, so you can begin to get a picture of the kind of dog that would suit your family. You may also begin to wonder if a dog is the right decision now, or perhaps ever. As you read this blog and then each subsequent blog in the series as it comes out, you will get the full picture of the 5 things you need to know before getting a dog. And one of those first critical questions to ask yourself is whether your lifestyle is suitable to living with a dog.
Will there be someone to spend time with your dog every day?
As I’m sure you know, dogs are social creatures. So it’s important that you or your family members spend sufficient amounts of time– e v e r y d a y– to train your dog, take him for walks and play with him. And the benefits of just hanging out with your dog can’t be underestimated. Because ultimately he will be relying on you to entirely fulfill all of his emotional and physical needs. And dogs require social interaction! So you must seriously consider if you and your family can commit to spending time with a dog before you welcome one into your home.
If you have children, consider if they are old enough to add a dog to the family
Although bringing a dog into a family with children can be an exciting idea, you need to consider if your children are old enough to understand how to interact with one safely and respectfully.
Young children might handle a dog inappropriately, such as grabbing at him, poking him, or pulling his ears or fur. And they might even put their face directly up against the dog’s face to kiss him, for example. All of which can lead to the dog becoming stressed and, at the very worse, potentially could lead him to biting your young child! Even when the dog doesn’t initially bite, you wouldn’t want him to live a stressful, unhappy life – right? And a perpetually stressed dog can become a biter, even when their original temperament is gentle. So choosing the right timing in your family’s circumstances can go a long way in nurturing a happy, healthy dog and preventing bites. And will keep him out of a rescue shelter.
Plus, if you have young children, you need to determine if you, as potentially the dog’s main caregiver, will have enough time and energy to attend to both your children’s and your dog’s needs. Because both will need your attention in different ways. And both equally deserve your love and attention!
HOW TO RESPOND WHEN YOUR CHILD ASKS TO GET A DOG
And often families decide to get a dog because their child asks to get one. So it’s important to think about your honest response to such a request. Because you and your family need to take the time to truly understand the commitment and responsibility involved with caring for a dog. And although you and your children love dogs, you need to understand that dogs need to be loved with respect – on their terms – not ours.
So I believe that when your son or daughter asks to get a dog, it’s a perfect opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about what it means to be a truly responsible dog parent! This will help you decide whether or not to get a dog at this time.
A UNIQUE CHILDREN’S BOOK to start the conversation!
And to help you navigate this conversation with your child, I highly recommend a book called “When your child asks for a dog! One eye Leo guides the conversation” by Ciaran Walsh in collaboration with a team of 50 experts!
It’s not just a children’s book story! When Mr. Walsh reached out to me to introduce his book, he explained that “it is the first book to ever test the resolve of a child’s will to have a dog.” And when I purchased the book to personally review it, I could see how children would learn in intimate detail what caring for a dog ethically and responsibly – e v e r y d a y – looks like. And the author covers puppyhood to senior years, emphasizing the child’s commitment! Plus, Mr. Walsh also said that (the book) “challenges children to think about if he or she can actually and reasonably remain truly excited and interested to perform the daily tasks of caring for a dog, day by day, week by week, and year by year” – or maybe not!
So by reading this book, your son or daughter will end up truly picturing every task he or she will have to do to care for a dog – every day of the dog’s life! There are several possible outcomes from absorbing the book’s information. Your child may recognize the fortitude in themselves to see the journey through. Or perhaps he or she will understand a few years delay is necessary, or they could even decide to abandon the idea altogether! Because at that point your child will understand that caring for a dog is a lot of work!
The outcome of reading this book…..
Whatever the child’s reaction: “yes”, “wait”, or “never”, it’s all good. A read through this book can contribute to the reduction of impulse dog adoptions or purchases that happen every day! While developing your child’s ability to provide responsible dog guardianship, you are increasing the likelihood a dog you ultimately choose will live with your family for his entire life! But if your child decides he doesn’t want a dog after all, you will know that he is not ready to care for one.
When any child or family elects to wait, or determines that a dog is not for them, it helps prevent dogs from landing in shelters. Moreover, the financial incentive for backyard breeders and unscrupulous puppy mills diminishes when the demand slows, further depopulating the shelters. Thus the book is a very important tool in your hands.
And when I spoke to Mr. Walsh, he said that “Many expert reviews have hailed this book ‘clever, colourful and unique.’ Perhaps its most unusual features are firstly it offers every parent the opportunity to facilitate the conversation without fear of making an ill-informed decision, and secondly it is truly UNIQUE as being the only ‘Children’s Book’ which can be deemed a success if a child does not like it: Should a child decide after a few chapters that this book – not to mention giving a home to a dog – sounds like too much hard work, and is no longer a favourite read, then such an outcome is a significant game changer!“
Please see my affiliate commissions disclosure at the bottom of this blog.
Use promo code “JUDY35” and save 35% when you purchase the “When your child asks for a dog! One eye Leo guides the conversation” book!
Do you live in an apartment or a house?
Although many people live with pets in an apartment, one of the biggest reasons a dog can land in a shelter is barking. And this can happen regardless of whether you adopt from an ethical rescue agency, or buy a puppy from a high-quality breeder.
Because, if other residents report to your property management (of your rental or condo) that they are annoyed by barking in your unit, depending on your local by-laws, you may have to surrender the dog or move out. This is likely the primary reason dog rescue agencies ask what type of home you live in as part of your application to adopt. Because, amongst many questions they ask, they want to prevent the dog being returned to the shelter. And it doesn’t mean that a rescue agency will reject your application for this reason. But it’s one aspect you need to think about.
PREPARE A PLAN IN CASE YOUR DOG DISTURBS NEIGHBOURS BY BARKING
So you need to have a plan in case it turns out that your future dog barks at noises he may hear in your building. It could be they are frightened by the normal sounds of apartment/condo living, or they want to warn you they think an intruder is approaching your home. Even such things as people walking up and down the corridor or the bell ringing on the elevator may cause your dog to vocalize. Some dogs will bark the entire time that a monthly or semi-annual fire alarm is ringing! In addition, if you and your family spend a lot of time out of your home, the dog can bark and you won’t be there to redirect his behaviour.
Your neighbours may tolerate a quick bark or two, here and there, but anything else will put your dog at great risk to be forced out of the building.
Plan to hire a force-free dog trainer
Due to the potential for barking, your dog ownership plan should include hiring a force-free dog trainer (see my prior blog) to work on the problem if it occurs. And it’s best to contact a trainer as soon as you discover your dog barks frequently, loudly, or for long durations, to hopefully prevent complaints. But because it’s natural for dogs to bark, you can expect that he will bark at least occasionally even after you hire a trainer. So it’s a good idea to consider what options you have if training doesn’t reduce the problem to an acceptable minimum level. And you can get ideas by asking your dog trainer.
Also, even if you live in a house, your neighbours can report excessive barking they hear emanating from your property. This type of disturbance is more likely noticed when a dog is outside in the back yard than when indoors. And depending on your city’s dog ownership bylaws, you could be subjected to legal consequences for such a noise disruption. So I recommend that you research this and other dog-ownership rules in your area to ensure you abide by the policies in your city, town or region.
Should you adopt a rescue or instead buy a puppy from a high-quality breeder?
As excited as you might be to go find that dog or puppy to bring home, where you choose to get that pet has huge implications for dogs in society, in general, as well as the genetic quality of your specific dog! So be sure to read my blogs about how to avoid harmful puppy mills and how to bypass unethical adoption agencies to know where to start looking.
If you want a puppy, you need to consider all the information you learned in my prior post about puppy mills and backyard breeders. And you will recall that I point out that mixed-breed puppies are not purebred dogs. So I explained that by that fact alone, all such puppies are being produced and sold by backyard breeders.
This all being said, you can understand that if you buy a mixed-breed puppy, you really don’t know what breed characteristics you are getting! And this means that you cannot accurately predict the physical or behavioural traits such a puppy will likely develop. When buying a mixed-breed puppy you therefore acquire the same physical and behavioural risks as when adopting a rescue!
It can be difficult to find a puppy at dog shelters
Puppies are seldom available at dog shelters to adopt, so expect to choose from a selection of adult dogs. However, that is actually helpful; you will be able to assess the animal’s actual physical and behavioural attributes because he has already developed. Granted, his lived experience and unknown genetics will have already shaped his behaviour. But as I indicated in my earlier post, a high- quality rescue agency should be able to tell you about the dog’s health and behaviour to enable you to match the right dog to your lifestyle. And above all else, by choosing a rescue, you will be providing a loving home to a dog that desperately needs a forever home!
So if you don’t want to buy a purebred puppy, I highly recommend that you adopt from a credible rescue agency instead of seeking out a mixed-breed from a back yard breeder.
Which breed is right for you?
1. Size of breed matters!
One of the first things you need to decide is what size dog you want to acquire. Because size matters! Not only do you need to consider if your living space is large enough for the size of the breed, but there are other factors to consider:
- How you will manage to lift a dog when necessary? Although it’s very sad to think about your future dog possibly becoming ill or injured, in such circumstances you may need to lift and carry the dog to transport him to a veterinarian clinic. And when the dog is a senior, there will sadly come a time when you will need to carry him either upstairs, or place him in the car for a ride. So it’s important to plan for this! And of course, the smaller the dog, the easier it will be in these circumstances.
- The size of the dog generally can determine how long the dog is expected to live. The smaller the breed, the longer they can live. So for example, a 10 pound dog on average can live 15 years or more, but a dog such as a Great Dane will typically reach only 8 or 9 years of age. Since you will no doubt fall in love with your future dog, it will be devastating when the time comes to have to let him go. So you need to prepare yourself emotionally if you choose a larger dog. Longevity is something you need to consider when deciding on the type of dog to get.
Cost to care for a dog increases with the size of the dog
The larger the dog, the higher the cost to care for him overall:
- The cost for food. As I’m sure you already know, the larger the dog, the more more he needs to eat. Which means you will need to buy more food than you would for a small dog. And you shouldn’t sacrifice nutritional quality for price. So it’s important to research the cost of nutritional dog food to know what you will pay before you choose which breed to bring home. And you know from reading my earlier blogs that I recommend avoiding processed pet food.
- The cost for veterinarian medications and surgeries increases based on the size of the dog because medications are prescribed according to the size of the pet. So in general, the larger the dog, the higher the volume of medication that is required for surgical procedures and prescriptions. Which means you will pay more for such treatments and medications for a larger breed. Also on this topic about veterinarian bills, it’s a good idea to research the health problems to which some breeds have a genetic predisposition – regardless of size.
- The cost for professional pet grooming may be higher for larger dogs. Because it might take longer to wash and blow dry them. So if you plan on getting a larger breed, I recommend that you research the grooming costs for your potential dog’s size and breed.
2. Research the various breeds’ fur types
Dogs have a wide range of fur types! From non-shedding curly hair such as on Poodles, to short-haired dogs that shed like Black or Yellow Labs.
Each breed requires particular grooming styles and procedures. Once you narrow your desired breeds down, you will want to compare the grooming costs and the care needed between grooming appointments. This way, you will learn which breeds are likely to shed lots of fur around your house and potentially onto your clothes. Ask yourself, if a dog is big shedder, could you tolerate this in your lifestyle? Or would this disqualify that breed?
But keep in mind, as I explained in my earlier blog, with rescues and mixed-breeds, there are no genetic guarantees of physical characteristics. So even when a shelter dog looks like a purebred, or a mixed-breed includes a non-shedding type dog (such as a poodle), you will not necessarily get particular traits you desire. Only with a high-quality purebred are the characteristics likely.
No guarantee that a breed is hypoallergenic
Many people have allergies to dogs. If you are one of them, then you need to know the following before getting a dog.
If you want to get a hypoallergenic breed, there is no guarantee that any breed is 100% hypoallergenic. Especially when it comes to mixed-breeds because, as already discussed, their genetic make up is unpredictable. But even with pure- bred dogs that are known to be hypoallergenic, people can still be allergic to them. A lot depends on what aspect of dogs triggers your allergies. So if you have experienced any allergic reactions to dogs, there is always a possibility that you may have a reaction to”hypoallergenic”dogs.
Understanding allergies to dogs
Here’s one article that explains that people who are allergic to dogs are not sensitive to the type of fur, but to the dander and the saliva of the animal. In fact, it explains that you can develop allergies to one dog but not to another of the same breed! So this is why there is no guarantee that any breed is 100% hypoallergenic.
Given all of the above and if you have had such allergic reactions, it’s really important to take this into consideration before getting a dog. Because you will doubtless be very upset if you are allergic to the sweet puppy or rescue dog that you welcomed into your home! This is one of many reasons to ensure that you get a puppy from a high-quality breeder who declares in their contract that they want first rights to take a puppy back any time in the future if you cannot keep him for any reason. But often, in such circumstances, the puppy ends up being surrendered to a shelter because this aspect was not confirmed with the breeder at the time of purchasing the puppy.
And if you end up being allergic to a dog that you have rescued, you may need to return the dog to the shelter from which you adopted him.
Planning in case you end up being allergic to your dog
So whether you go to a high-quality breeder or rescue agency, you should have a backup plan to re-home the dog with a friend or family member if you are allergic to it.
But if you know you have significant allergies to dogs, perhaps the most ethical choice would be to decide not to bring one home. Because a real possibility exists that any individual dog might trigger your allergic reaction.
3. Research what various breeds were bred for
You will want to understand the purpose for which your potential pet was bred. The specific breed’s general behaviour characteristics flow out of that purpose. And certain daily activities need to be incorporated in your dog’s life to address his breed’s genetically-associated inclinations, both the physical and the psychological. It is very important to the dog that your family be willing and able to help the dog fulfil these needs. The genetic background could be herder, guarder, hunter, sled puller, racer, or a companion breed, etc., and you need to be prepared to manage the dog’s innate instincts. Consider whether some natural behaviours of your desired breed might be difficult for your family, your lifestyle, and even public safety. Some breeds exhibit frenetic running and digging, for example, and you might have a prize winning garden!
Which leads us to the next thing you need to know before getting a dog….. Stay tuned for my next blog on “Understanding dog behaviour”. I will discuss how individual dogs within a breed have a wide range of behavioural differences.
Affiliate Disclosure regarding the book “When your child asks for a dog! One eye Leo guides the conversation” Because of my mandate to provide only top notch, well researched, timely and helpful advice in all areas of dog care, I will only allow products and services on my blog which match my mandate. Please note, I will be paid a small commission for this book that is purchased in this blog. This will assist me to continue writing interesting and helpful blogs that will help dogs live happy and healthy lives. And I thank you for your support!
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