Many people give puppies as holiday presents – for some people it works out well and for others they abandon the dog when the cute factor wears off. To make sure you are ready to adopt a dog, you need to start by doing some research and soul searching.
- Who wants the dog?
If your kids want a dog and you are tired of them nagging, think long and hard before giving in. Kids have good intentions, but there are many things only an adult can do for a dog like pick up food and drive him to the vet. Once the newness wears off, the dog may be abandoned like last year’s Pokemon Go. If YOU want the dog that’s a different story because chances are Mom will end up taking care of the dog.
- Do you have the time?
Dogs require a lot of time between training, feeding, grooming and exercising. If you already run after toddlers all day, another addition may be too overwhelming. Also, consider your work day. Will the dog be home for long hours at a time? Does your job require you to travel a lot? Do you have dependable doggie care or a dog walker?
- Can you afford it?
Dogs can be expensive. There is no such thing as a “free” dog. Sure you may initially get one for little payment at a shelter, but you need to add in food, insurance, vet visits, training, toys, etc. Although experts disagree on the costs of a dog over a lifetime, com places the average cost of owning a dog—over the dog’s lifetime—at $20,000 over 12 years. This is an important consideration.
- Do you know how to train a dog?
Everyone thinks they know how to train a dog … there is a lot to training dogs beyond teaching them to “sit” “stay” and “come”. Many dogs are abandoned because their pet owners can’t tolerate their misbehaviors that could be corrected through proper training. Since your dog will be with your family for 10 – 15 years, it’s best to hire a professional trainer and start your canine companions out on the right “paw” if you are considering a puppy. If time is a major factor, consider adopting a senior dog who is already trained. Remember that it will take some time for your dog to adjust to you and you to him.
- What breed should you get?
Probably one of the most important decisions you will need to make in choosing a dog is the right breed to fit with your family. Before you go to a shelter and fall in love with a dog that really doesn’t fit in, do your research on what breed will be best. Do you want your dog to be big or small? Pure bred or mutt? A Labrador that is high in energy won’t be the perfect match for a couch potato. A Chihuahua will not make a good outdoor dog. Think about size, age, gender and energy level.
- Where should I get the dog?
Whether or not you want to buy from a breeder or adopt is purely a personal decision. Some people think rescue dogs have entirely too much baggage, which is not true. Many rescue dogs are not put up for adoption because of lifestyle versus behavioral issues. People move into a place that no longer allows dogs or they get a job traveling where a dog just doesn’t fit in. Because pet overpopulation is a problem, saving a dog’s life is a wonderful decision to make. Once you have decided on the breed, choose a breed-specific rescue or a responsible breeder.
- Are you prepared?
Is everyone in the family on board with this decision including any current pets? Does anyone have allergies to dogs or cats? Have you set the “house rules” such as to which rooms will the dog be allowed in, what furniture is off limits and where will he sleep? Do you have all the necessary supplies including a crate, blankets, food and water bowls, etc.? It’s important to review this and set ground rules.
Choosing to get a dog should never be a snap decision. Chances are your dog will live for 15 – 20 years, so make sure you have the financial, physical and emotional stamina to go the whole way. And most importantly, have fun because you’re about to get a lesson in unconditional love.