Many people see a cute puppy and rush into dog ownership only to regret it later, usually when the puppy has grown up and destroyed something. This link is an attempt to help people decide if they are truly ready to enter the world of dog, or puppy, ownership.
1. Are you 18 or older? In most countries, most ethical sellers will not sell dogs or pups to anyone under the age of 18. Sure, you can ask your mom or dad to get the dog, but then technically they are the true owner of the dog, also considerations as to what will happen to the dog when you move out must be made. It is very difficult to find rental property that allows pets.
2. Do you own or rent your home? As just mentioned, very few landlords allow pets, and fewer allow dogs. Landlord permission to keep a dog should be in writing. One of the most common reasons pets are given up is because people did not get landlord permission to have a pet.
3. Do you have a fully fenced yard or dog run? Many areas have by-laws requiring dogs to be kept on their owners property. Even if you plan on using an “invisible fence” system it puts your dog at risk for being attacked by loose dogs. Also note that keeping dogs on chains often creates aggression, and should not be used as a way to restrain a dog. Instead a fully fenced yard, or dog run, are the best solutions.
4. Do you have time? If you cannot be home for at least 16 hours a day, a puppy is probably not the best thing for you to get at this time. House training is not easy, and if not done correctly can result in a lifetime of problems. Ideally a person should be home 20 hours a day or have other family members home the majority of the day. Dogs are pack animals and being left alone, especially as pups, is difficult. Older dogs, ones who are already house trained, make brilliant pets for people who lack time. Some breeds, such as Border Collies, are very intelligent and if left alone without their mental needs met, they will be bored and destructive.
5. Do you have young children? Not only will you want to consider their safety with a dog, but also if you are busy with your children you will not have time to puppy train a new pup. House training correctly means going out immediately when needed, but if a person has toddlers or a baby, this will be almost impossible. It would be better to select an older dog, or wait until the children are older.
6. Are you stable? A person who is about to move in a few months or planning a holiday, might want to put off getting a dog for a while until things are back to normal.
7. Why do you want a dog? A dog is a life, and a lifetime commitment. Getting one should not be taken lightly. “Because it's cute” is not a reason for getting a dog. One of the biggest reasons dogs are surrendered is because people got them on a whim and did not fully think out the “lifetime commitment” part of the arrangement.
8. Can you afford a dog? Not just the purchase price, but food, and veterinarian expenses (vaccination, worming, and desexing). What about emergency expenses? A person living pay check to pay check may find it hard to provide all the care their dog requires. One must also plan to take a dog to obedience lessons for proper training, this too comes at a cost. Another common reason people surrender pets is because they did not invest in training the dog and it became unruly.
9. Is everyone in the home in agreement? Pets should never be surprises. If one family member strongly disagrees, is fearful, or has allergies, getting a dog will not jeopardize family harmony. Even other pets should be considered. Some dog breeds have strong hunting instincts and should not be brought home to houses with other smaller pets.
10. What breed is right for you? Picking a dog based on looks alone is a bad idea. You may find the dog is either too active and too smart, for your lifestyle, or cannot keep up. Do a ton of research before picking any breed, and unless you are going to participate in showing, do not rule out the adorable mutts from your local shelter. With mutts you still need to do some breed research to determine what likely breed mixes will work better for you.
11. Where will you get the dog? This is a whole other issue really, but to make it short, pet stores should not be considered. A good place to buy from is a reputable breeder, they would never sell to a pet store, but rather can be found by looking in dog magazines, calling a local dog club, or attending dog shows. Back yard breeders are the ones who advertise in the newspaper and on-line, they often sell pups at inflated prices but are a shade better than pet stores. Never buy a pup from a filthy or over crowded yard, you only reward the seller for cruelty, instead report them to an SPCA or animal protection agency. Shelters are the first place worth considering unless you want a show quality purebred.
Above all, note that getting a dog is not the same as getting a new pair of pants. This is a life, one that will be affected by everything you do. If you rush into ownership and later have regrets, that dog is now considered (by some) as damaged goods and will have a hard time finding a new home. By entering into the world of dog ownership responsibility, one can have a happy ending.
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