"How much is that doggy in the
window, the one with the waggly tail...?"
Familiar words to an old tune suggests
that many people at one time or another
consider having a dog as a pet. They
might have fond memories of the old
Boxer or Cairn terrier that they grew
up with. Maybe it was a good-natured
mutt or even a neighbour's well-behaved
German Shepherd. Some folks imagine
owning a beautiful and heroic dog such
as "Lassie" of book and screen
Often, the reality is that many pups
purchased on impulse wind up in shelters
or banned to a chain in the garden because
they didn't measure up to the dream.
This is written to help you consider
the answers to the questions you should
ask before buying that cute little puppy.
Are you ready for a life long commitment
to responsible dog ownership? Let's
think through and visualize what dog
ownership is really like. It is fun
to imagine walking an obedient dog
on a beautiful day, but remember,
the same dog will need walking when
its hot, cold, raining or icy out.
The "Obedient" part will
take time and effort. In deciding
whether a dog will fit into your lifestyle,
the biggest consideration in the long
run will be "Do you have the
TIME it takes to own a dog?
Some dogs need more time than others
do, but every dog requires time for
daily interaction beyond just meeting
its basic needs. Consider your lifestyle
and personality when deciding if a
dog would fit into the picture.
Why do you want a dog?
How active and busy are you?
What do you do with the dog when you
travel or are on vacation?
Do you have young children?
Do you have a fenced garden?
How big is it?
How long at a time will the dog be
alone in the home?
Does anyone have allergies? (Easier
to find this out visiting someone
else's dog first) Would you have the
time to start with an untrained puppy
or would you be willing to re-train
an older dog?
What kind of fur and how much grooming/shedding
What size would fit in?
Purebred? Mixed? Male? Female? Large?
Puppies and adult dogs have daily
needs. The basics are shelter, food
and water, grooming, health care,
training, exercise and social interaction.
The earlier in life you start teaching
a pup what is expected of it the better,
but the more it has to learn. With
an older dog, there may be some bad
habits they'll have to 'unlearn'.
Early social experiences set the tone
for a dog's development into a dependable
companion or a destructive nuisance.
Socialization Puppy Training (9-18
weeks.) will certainly mold the pup
during its most impressionable period
and helps provide an environment for
learning positive associations with
new people, places, experiences and
other dogs. Patterns are set for life
in these formative weeks. However
it is essential that young dogs from
4 months to one year attend training
Besides training, there are other
expenses incurred with dog ownership.
After the initial purchase, the biggest
portion will go toward veterinary
and feeding bills. A high quality
food costs more 'per bag' but is very
cost effective in terms of better
health and food efficiency (you feed
less). Veterinary start-up costs,
including immunizations and worming,
Microchips are also required by law
for identification is not cheap. Neutering
and spaying usually takes place around
6 months. Semi-annual vet visits,
heartworm testing and preventative
medications, unexpected illnesses
or accidents all add up! Then there
is the control of internal and external
parasites to consider (worms, fleas,
ticks, mosquitoes and mites etc.)
Grooming requires the proper tools
to care for coat, ears, teeth, and
nails. (For some breeds, there is
the additional expense of a professional
groomer 8-9 times a year.) Microchips
are also required by law for identification.
Basic supplies include sturdy food
and water bowls, leash and collar,
bedding, cage, chew toys, food treats,
indoor gates, outdoor fencing, kennels
Although lovable, puppies and dogs
will create additional cleaning work
around the home. (Accidents: diarrhea,
urine, vomit), shedding hair, muddy
paws, drool, tracked on floors and
carpeting, nose prints on windows
etc.) Responsible dog ownership dictates
cleaning up dog garden waste, keeping
dogs reasonably quiet and confined
to their own property. Dogs are known
for destructive chewing and digging
holes. These problems can only be
successfully dealt with through supervision
and confinement and early puppy training
(starting at two months.)
So, why on earth would anyone want
a dog with all the work, time and
expense of owning one? For many reasons,
but the biggest one for most people
is that they enjoy the loyalty and
companionship of a dog. Dogs like
to play. Folks like the way they interact
in the family, the way that the dog
looks and the home security a properly
trained dog can add. If you are willing
to make a time commitment for the
next 10 years (the average life span
of a dog); knowing the responsibility
and expense of owning a dog and fully
aware of the likely negative elements
involved, then, the next step would
be to decide what kind of dog best
fits into your lifestyle.
Do not make the drastic mistake of
choosing a breed solely on its 'looks'.
Although this is one consideration,
the temperament, size, activity level
and coat care are even more important
considerations. Unfortunately a pup
is sometimes chosen impulsively because
it looked like a 'cute little teddy
bear' and then the teddy grows up
to me more like a 'grizzly' because
the breed is a type bred for high
levels of aggression. Or a pup may
prove to have an energy level that
requires more exercise and attention
than can be provided.
Research the breeds that appeal to
you. Libraries carry breed books and
local veterinarians may be able to
put you in touch with reputable breeders.
Local dog shows allow you to view
a variety of purebred dogs. Find out
about the positive and the negative
traits of each breed you are considering.
Ask questions: How big do they get?
How much grooming is required? How
aggressive are they? How active? How
much exercise is required? Are they
good with children? Are allergies
a consideration? Don't discount mixed
Good Luck with your new pet and come
to training classes.
Commitment, Firmness, but kindness.