The idea of a dog is lovely. You envision long walks through the forest or around town, adventures on the weekend, snuggling on the couch, playtime at the dog park, and kisses when you get home.
The reality can be all those things and more, and the more isn’t always fun. Imagine your dog chasing a squirrel through the forest and ignoring your loud “Fido, come! Fido COME! FIDO COME!” Imagine your dog erupting into a barking manic when seeing other dogs on your peaceful walk around the neighbourhood. Imagine your dog throwing up in the car every time you go on a weekend adventure because he is car sick. Imagine your dog growling at your partner sitting next to you on the couch because he is snuggled into your lap and wants you all to himself. Imagine your dog getting bullied by a dog at the local dog park and getting into an argument with that dog’s owner. Imagine your dog happily jumping up so much at guests when they arrive at your home that you can no longer have people over. These are the potential situations you may face with your dog.
There should be a lot of thought going into whether to bring a dog into your home. A pet should never be an impulse buy but one done with careful planning, budgeting and realistic expectations.
Is your whole family on board? If you are single, like I was when I got my dogs, the answer is always easy! I want a dog, I can get a dog (which is how I ended up with 4 dogs by the way… no one around to talk me out of it!)! But if you have a partner and kids, or roommates or extended family that live with you, everyone needs to be on board when you bring a dog into your home. At some point or another everyone in the home is going to interact with your dog. In your dog’s eyes, there is a houseful of people who should be willing to feed him when the clock strikes the right time (and dogs can tell time, trust me!), pet him on demand, and when the urge strikes, take him outside for a pee. Your dog is also going to shed, bark and require direction from everyone in the home (because every interaction with people is training your dog something). In fairness to the dog, everyone in the home must be willing to live with him.
Are you ready to commit to the dog for 9-15 years? Depending on the dog you choose, some dogs live until they are 15-20 years old! Think about that… what are you doing 10 years from now? Are you still planning to have the lifestyle that includes your dog? If you aren’t sure, or the answer is just no, there are ways to get a dog without the long commitment of a puppy. Many older dogs are looking for homes too! Senior dogs are my favourite!
Do you have the time to care for a dog? Your life will become a set of 6-8 hour windows where you are free to do whatever you want before your dog may require attention again. Dogs need a routine that includes scheduled feeding and walking times. Outside of those times, they also need attention. It isn’t fair to a dog to be left alone for 12-18 hours a day – why even have a dog? Obviously this may happen on occasion, but if it happens on a regular basis you are not ready to have a dog in your home.
Are you prepared for the expense of a dog? Simply buying food and the occasional toy is not typically normal for dog owners. There are vet bills, grooming, boarding, vet bills, daycare, dog walkers, vet bills… did I mention vet bills? In addition to regular check ups, your dog may require an expensive surgery at some point, or medications to clear up an infection. Not to mention when they get older there are the normal old dog problems. I have two seniors myself and they are now on supplements and anti-inflammatory medications to help with sore hips and dry coats. Be prepared with a budget for the lifetime of your dog and unexpected expenses.
Are you willing to put in the time to train your dog? If you are adopting a puppy, be prepared for 6-12 months of training including classes and daily sessions with your dog. The whole family should be involved in their training. You’ll also need to house train and preferably crate train the pup. Are you willing to lose some sleep while doing this? Outside of obedience training, everything you do with your dog teaches them something. Be prepared to learn how to teach your dog the manners, life skills and the house rules you want them to have to live happily with you.
Are you willing to walk your dog in all kinds of weather? Sure, we all love going for long walks in the spring when the weather is getting nicer and the sun is out. But, are you also willing to go for walks early in the morning or later at night when it is mid-summer and the temperatures are soaring? Or in the winter when the temperatures are dropping to -30 degrees? Many a winter day I’d wished I had chihuahuas instead of husky mixes! Most dogs also don’t care if it’s raining… they still want their walk! If you are the owner that has a the one in a million dog that doesn’t care for a walk in inclement weather, consider yourself lucky while the rest of us walk on!
Then there are the days you may come home to your pup in her crate covered with diarrhea and poop all over the crate and walls. Or the time your dog will chew your smartphone. Or the time your dog will steal your carefully prepared roast off of your counter. Maybe your neighbour is complaining that your dog barks all day long. Be prepared for all sorts of unexpected circumstances when you bring a dog into your life. Dogs are amazing. I love dogs! They are my passion and I can’t imagine my life without them. I imagine you are the same if you are reading this blog. But be honest with yourself. Do you have realistic expectations of what it takes to bring a dog into your life? If you answered Yes! to most of the questions above, you are ready for a dog! I really hope you do because living with a dog is rewarding, fascinating and always entertaining. You will be glad you made the choice!