Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting a Dog
Do you have any previous experience rearing a puppy and caring for a dog ?
Puppy rearing can be a full time endeavor and is fraught with potential errors for first time owners. If you wish to take on the challenge of rearing a large breed puppy, which will quickly turn into a rambunctious and occasionally rebellious teen-age puppy, previous experience is a huge benefit. But even to the well initiated, puppy obedience school is an absolute must.
Do you have a fully fenced yard?
It cannot be stressed enough how valuable a fully fenced back yard can be when raising a puppy and living with a dog. It does not have to be a huge yard, but it simplifies house training beyond belief. Imagine for a moment, it’s late at night and raining or worse, snowing, and puppy has to go out. Who wants to put on the boots, hat, gloves, parka, then grab a leash and walk puppy around the back yard until he goes. Then think about opening the back door and letting puppy run outside to potty himself. When time is short, hopefully not too often, but in a pinch, you can let the adult dog out for a few minutes to eliminate. Both pups and adults enjoy sniffing around the back yard on their own, and maybe chasing the occasional squirrel. A back yard DOES NOT SUBSTITUTE for a long walk with your buddy, but it sure comes in handy on occasion. WARNING: those electronic fences which are supposed to be so great for dogs, are NOT GREAT. Dogs can learn to get out, other animals can get in, and occasionally they fail. It only takes one time, for your dog to get loose and run away or be hit by a car.
Do you have the time to devote to a dog?
Let’s face it, dogs require lots of daily interaction with their humans. There is no getting around this fact. Without social interaction and stimulation, dogs tend to develop behavior and emotional problems. So if your life is already very busy or you’re not home much, another kind of pet may be a better choice.
Do you have the energy to dedicate to a dog?
Beyond just spending time with your dog, he/she deserves to be exercised, played with, trained, groomed, and cuddled. If you come home at night exhausted, you should think seriously about whether you have the energy reserves you’ll need to offer a him or her a good quality of life. Your dog will love you, but he NEEDS exercise.
Can you afford to care for a dog?
Caring properly for any pet can put a dent in your budget. You should think realistically about whether you can afford the cost of a high-quality diet, toys, other supplies, obedience classes, and annual wellness visits to the veterinarian, etc. In addition, if your dog gets sick or injured, you must have a plan in mind for how you’ll pay those vet bills. Pet health insurance (yet another cost) will definitely help in the case of illness or accident, and is well worth the cost.
Is everyone in the household sold on the idea of a pet?
It’s ideal if everyone in the family or household is onboard with getting a pet. Otherwise, resentments can build and relationships can suffer. It’s a good idea to involve all members of the household in the decision-making process, openly discuss concerns, and determine who will have primary responsibility for the pet’s care. Kids may say they want a dog, and will promise “to take care of Buddy forever”. But we all know this is a fallacy, and parents end up doing most of the work. Is that OK with you, or will the dog’s care become a chore well down on the priorities list? No matter how you look at it, it IS a FAMILY responsibility.
Does your prospective new dog come with emotional or behavioral “baggage” you can accept or commit to dealing with?
Behavior issues are the number one reason pets are dumped at shelters. Most of these animals didn’t have the best start in life. For example, they weren’t socialized at the ideal age, were over-vaccinated, or endured traumatic events that created behavioral quirks you will need to be prepared to deal with. Even well raised puppies from breeders may come with some quirks such as jumping or grabbing food
This means they may arrive in your home with some habits that will need to be addressed. Even well socialized adult dogs which are being re-homed or retired from showing, can have a difficult time adjusting. It is a whole new life, and it may take months for them to truly “fit in”. Give adults time and patience, and obedience Classes.
Are you committed to a degree of “damage control” when it comes to positively addressing negative behaviors and phobias that your newly adopted furry companion may arrive with? And can you trust everyone in your household to participate in positive training to correct behavior issues?
Will your existing pet (if you have one) accept a new pet?
You definitely need to plan ahead if you already have a pet and want to add another to the household. Most animals can learn to get along or at least tolerate each other, but there are situations in which it’s just too dangerous or stressful to keep two poorly matched pets under the same roof.
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If possible, introduce your existing pet to your potential adoptee in a neutral setting and see how they interact. If it doesn’t go well, I encourage you to consult with an animal behavior specialist before giving up on the idea of adopting a second pet.
Often it just takes some time and a few helpful tips to put an existing pet and a new one on the road to a harmonious relationship.
If your current dog is elderly or ill, consider if it’s really fair to force this old-timer to put up with a boisterous and sometimes obnoxious pup.
Are you prepared to prioritize your pet over your belongings?
Pet ownership means there will be the inevitable accidents and other messes in the house, damage to your furniture and bedding, and don’t forget the random destroyed electronic devices or other personal belongings.
If you can’t tolerate the thought of a less than perfectly clean house, you really want to reconsider the idea of a big dog . Even the most well-behaved, well-trained animal companion makes the occasional mess, forgets his manners or destroys something.
What kind of relationship do you want with your pet?
It’s important to think about how you’d like your new dog to fit into your lifestyle. For example, if you do a lot of traveling and want to take your pet along, a small dog is a better choice than a large breed.
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If you plan to take your pet jogging with you, some dogs are better suited to long runs than others.
It’s also important to think about what you can offer a potential pet. If, for instance, you’re the outdoorsy type who enjoys hiking and camping, those activities have tremendous appeal to certain dog breeds, and potentially much less appeal to small or nervous breeds.
Ideally, you must plan to include your pet in many of your leisure time pursuits, so it’s important to give the subject some careful thought.
What changes do you expect in your life in the next 5, 10, or 15 years?
While we can’t predict the future, most of us have a vision for our lives that extends years down the road. Regardless of the type of dog you’re considering, you’ll be taking on a multi-year commitment. It’s important to be reasonably sure your lifestyle will be as pet-friendly in 5, 10, or 15 years as it is today.
If you are a young person or a student, think of how many changes might occur in your life in the next 5 years. If you are in a relationship that might not be going so well, what happens if you break-up and where does the dog fit in?
If you are a young couple and plan to have children, how will that affect your dog’s life? Not all dogs automatically adjust well to an infant or toddler climbing all over them.
PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS, AND BE PREPARED TO BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND THE BREEDER OF YOUR PUPPY.
Before You Adopt a Pet, Make Sure You Can Say Yes to These 9 Things