Pets are not presents for the holidays; they are responsibilities for life.
Is this the best time of year to bring a pet into your family? What kind of dog is best for you for the holidays or for any time of year? The addition of a family dog can be a most wonderful experience, but it cannot be done without proper thought, consideration, and planning. There is a lot to discuss and prepare for before bringing a dog into your home. Picking the right dog for you should take as much thought as finding the right life partner.
The holidays are a very popular time for families to consider adding a pet to their family, but as a trainer I all too often see the irresistible cuteness of a puppy’s face lead to impulsivity. This can turn to disaster once the cuteness and cuddles of puppyhood are outgrown. Barking, digging and chewing on furniture can cause many to resent the dog. Pets are not presents for the holidays; they are responsibilities for life.
I see a lot of dogs surrendered to the shelter or re-homed a few months after the holidays because their families were not prepared for the time and responsibility required to make the dog an enjoyable addition to the family. This heartbreak can be avoided.
Owning a pet is a responsibility worthy of its rewards, but the cost and time necessary must be evaluated before making that decision. You need to be invested for life and ready to teach your dog the rules that will set them up for success in your home.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and not all breeds are the same. Some dogs need more exercise than others and some breeds may be predisposed to living with a family. Plus, some dogs are great for apartments while others need a little more space to feel at home. So before you make the decision to bring home a new best friend, let’s consider EVERYTHING.
Are you ready for: Veterinarian bills for routine vaccinations, checkups, illnesses and injuries; housetraining and the accidents that happen before training is complete; losing your best shoes to chewing and your best rosebush to digging; barking when you’re trying to sleep; and begging when you’re trying to eat. Dogs do all these things and unless you’re prepared for that reality, you’re not ready for a dog.
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF BEFORE CHOOSING A DOG:
What type of home/living space do you have?
What size dog are you looking for?
How big is your yard?
Will you Fence your yard or be needing to walk the dog several times a day?
For how long would your dog be alone each week?
Will you require a dog walker, or need to bring your dog to a daycare facility?
How active are you and how energetic would you like your dog to be?
Have you owned a dog before?
Some breeds are better for more experienced owners.
How many kids live in your home and what are their ages?
Does anyone in your home have allergies?
How long or short do you want your dog’s hair to be?
What age dog would you like?
Are you willing to go through the rigors of house training and puppy proofing, or would an older dog who needs less monitoring better suit your lifestyle?
How old Are You? Add 12-16 years onto your age. This is how old you will be when you dog dies. Thats a big chunk of our lives we will be companions!
You really need to consider a temperament that is compatible with your lifestyle for the long term.
Are you getting too old to go out for long walks and hikes everyday?
Are you still strong and agile enough to control a larger high-energy dog?
SHOULD I RESCUE A DOG OR GO TO A BREEDER?
This is one of the questions I get asked all the time. When picking a puppy, you may decide on a particular one because it immediately jumped in your lap effectively choosing you. Or, your family has decided it wants to go to a shelter to save a dog. While these intentions may be good, most times this is the wrong way to pick your new companion.
Don’t generalize based on a dog’s breed, but do consider the characteristics of that breed.
Some people simply just love and are loyal to one specific breed. As long as you do your homework, most times you can pick the breed you desire, with some exceptions. It is important to know that before going to a breeder, you may want to check out the many rescue organizations for specific purebreds.
There are great dogs available in shelters and foster homes and if you ask the right questions you can get good background information that will help you decide if this is the right dog for your family. You need to make sure you have assessed the dog correctly. Getting as much information before hand about their past is very important. Always try to interview the dog’s past owners. This way you may save yourself and the dog a lot of heartache.
Do you have time and are you ready to train a puppy and/or dog? First and foremost I am a dog trainer and I know this about puppies; they do not come pre-programmed. They do not know that we have a certain set of human rules that we expect them to live by. It takes an amazing amount of time and patience to train puppies, and most of us are in short supply of both. The foundation of a well-adjusted dog to both your family and the community is in both the training and proper socialization! You must teach your dog proper manners and behavior at home, with guests, in the park, around the neighborhood, at the vet’s office–basically at all times. House training is first. A crate is useful, but you will also need to stock up on carpet cleaner and deodorizer. Then enroll in group classes to learn manners that will make your dog a good citizen. Dog training is mostly about training YOU, so be prepared for the work ahead. MOST behavioral issues I see everyday could have all been avoided if the training and socialization was done properly during the imprint period.
Remember, socialization is as important as obedience. Get your puppy in a puppy class when he is under 3 months of age. Do not wait until your puppy has had his complete series of shots. Research trainers in your area, that offer safe socialization time and training for your puppy. Socialization does not mean taking your young puppy to a dog park! It’s best to socialize your puppy with other pups his age.
THE NEXT QUESTION TO ASK YOURSELF IS: CAN I AFFORD A DOG?
The average annual cost for owning a dog is $2,084. For many pet owners (depending where you live), you may have to put at least 10% of your paycheck away to cover the first year costs. And if you can, start saving at least 2-3 months before you get your pet, you’ll be protected against unforeseen costs, such as a trip to the emergency vet to retrieve car keys that your dog just ate.
Veterinary care – Would you have guessed that veterinary care is more than half of all expenses? And that doesn’t even include over-the-counter medications and other supplies!
Boarding – You’ll need a pet sitter or a good boarding kennel if you go away for an extended period of time. You don’t want to be in the habit of your pet’s care impacting your family plans, so plan ahead.
Grooming – You’ll need equipment such as a tub, brush, comb, shaver or nail clippers. Dogs with profuse or sculpted coats may require professional grooming.
Food – In addition to your dog’s meals, you’ll want to supply occasional healthy treats. You may need to feed a special diet for puppies to combat allergies, weight management or illness.
Toys – Make sure you have a good supply of toys, balls, teething rings, interactive food toys, toys that talk, toys that squeak etc… Rotate your toys every few days.
Crate or other confined area – to protect the dog and your belongings at night or when you’re away.
Gates – to keep the dog out of certain rooms can also be helpful.
Exercise Pens – When you can’t watch your puppy, he needs to be in an area with toys, water and his crate. You can’t watch your puppy every minute of the day. Using an exercise pen allows you time away from your puppy and teaches him to entertain himself and develop some independence.
Fencing – You will need to secure your yard so both the dog is contained as well as to protect him from gardens and any toxic plants.
Other Miscellaneous Supplies: You will also need a dog bed or mat, collars and leashes, a pooper-scooper and poop bags, etc.
No matter how much pets cost, their place in the family can be priceless. Pets can teach children to be responsible caregivers and serve as confidants, protectors and pals.
Remember that owning a dog is a lifelong commitment with a variety of responsibilities; if you cannot meet those responsibilities, neither you nor your dog will be happy. But owning a dog is a wonderful thing and can enrich the life of your family. Not only do dogs provide lasting companionship and unconditional love, they’ve also been known to lower blood pressure and reduce stress. And of course, a dog will make sure you get out and take walks every day. Living with a dog has also been known to boost the social skills and confidence of children and adults alike.
It’s truly the happiness your pet brings that makes everything worth it!