Is Your Family Ready for a Dog?

Sponsored

ABC Mouse Banner

by: Linday Hutton
The idea of a little ball of fur makes most people's hearts melt, and having a dog can be a wonderful and fulfilling experience. After all, who else will shower you with unconditional love and affection, in good times and in bad? However, owning a dog also comes with many responsibilities. Before you take the plunge, check out this list of things to consider before making the commitment.
FamilyWalkingDogs
Do you have the time?
Sure, having a furry, four-legged friend greet you at the door after a long day of work sounds wonderful, but having a pet requires a lot of time, too. Do you have the time to walk him at least two or three times a day? Do you have time to play with him? How about training him? Also consider how often you need to feed your new dog. According to the ASPCA, puppies 8-12 weeks old need to eat four times a day, and puppies 3-6 months old need to eat three times a day. Only when your dog reaches his first birthday is it okay to feed him once a day.

All of these things will require a fair amount of time from you. If you have a demanding job, travel a lot, or aren't generally home very often, you may want to reconsider this commitment before making your decision. After all, your dog deserves proper care.

ChildFeedingDog
Are your children old enough to handle the responsibility?
If you have children under the age of six and don't yet have a dog, you may want to wait a few years. Young children are not usually responsible enough to help take care of a dog, and may not understand the proper way to handle one, either. Waiting to get a dog until your children are older will help you avoid any mistreatment of the dog, as well as any unwanted bites or growls.

Having a pet is a great way to teach your children the importance of responsibility, but it's also important to make sure your family is mature enough for the commitment.

NoDogsAllowedSign
Are you allowed to have a pet?
If you rent, be sure to check with your landlord about the pet policies in your building. You don't want to buy an adorable new puppy, only to find out he isn't allowed in your apartment! If you are allowed to have pets in your building, ask the landlord to put permission in writing for you, to avoid any headaches and unwanted stress down the road.

Also consider whether you might be moving at some point in the future. Do you want the hassle of trying to find a place that allows dogs? Are you willing to compromise in order to find a place that meets both your needs and your dog's? Remember, it's important to think long-term, since many dogs can live for at least a decade.

DogLaying,Resting
Can you afford a dog?
The expense of owning a dog entails more than just the cost of food and toys. You also need to pay for yearly vaccinations, annual checkups, heartworm medication, flea and tick medication, microchipping, licensing, spaying or neutering...the list goes on and on. Considering that many dogs live to be at least 10 years old, if not older, the expenses can really add up! According to the Wall Street Journal, the average cost of a dog over it's lifetime can range anywhere from $12,000 to $23,000.

And remember, the bigger the dog, the bigger the bills. No wonder some people compare owning a pet to having a child!

BadPuppyChewingonShoe
Are you patient enough?
Even if you decide to get a full-grown, housebroken dog, accidents can still happen. If you decide on a puppy, do you have the patience to housebreak it? Can you handle accidents on your kitchen floor or living room rug? What if he chews something? If you treasure your oriental rug and leather furniture more than life itself, you may want to think twice about acquiring a dog. Housebreaking won't happen overnight with a puppy, and you can expect a few chewed possessions, as well. It takes time to train a pet, and even older pets can have occasional accidents. So make sure you're okay with a bit of damage to your possessions in return for gaining a new best friend.
MastiffDogonLeash
Do you have the space?
Make sure you take into account the size of the dog you're considering, in relation to the size of your living quarters. If you've always wanted a Great Dane, but live in a studio apartment in the city, you might run into some issues. Be sure to research any potential breed to get an idea of the dog's energy level and the amount of exercise he might need. Some breeds are okay lounging around for most of the day, but others need space to run. If a dog has pent-up energy, he may take his frustration out by barking, digging, or chewing. And this will most certainly lead to frustration on your part.

Don't rule out any breed until you've done your research, and try to find one that will mesh well with your everyday living style. If you do end up getting an energetic dog, be prepared to take it for lots of walks, or make sure you have a fenced in area where it can run.

DoginKennel,Cage
Where are you going to get your dog from?
Do you want to adopt a dog, or buy a puppy from a breeder? Both have advantages and disadvantages. Adopting a dog is a great way to give him another chance at life, but remember that many dogs who are up for adoption come from abusive pasts. Are you able and willing to nurture your adopted pet? Are you able to deal with any issues he may have, such as being skittish around strangers, or afraid of certain types of people? Make sure you think this through before adopting a pet, and be sure to talk to the adoption agency about any special treatment your dog may need. On the plus side, most adopted dogs are eternally grateful to you for adopting them, and many make amazing companions.

As a side note, do not ever purchase a puppy from a pet shop. Although these puppies can be hard to resist, they often come from puppy mills -- mass dog-breeding operations that house dogs in terrible and unacceptable conditions. Although you might think purchasing a puppy from a pet store will save it, in actuality you are just supporting these operations and allowing them to stay in business.

ManwithDogbyWater
What do you expect from your dog?
Are you looking for a companion or protection? Do you want your dog to accompany you on trips, or do you plan to leave your dog at a kennel when you go away?

No matter what reasons you have for wanting a dog, just remember that not every type is suited for every type of person. If you like lounging around the house in your pajamas, you will want a low-maintenance dog that likes to do the same. If you want a dog that will play with you, travel with you, and will generally want to spend time with you, consider a type of sporting breed.

The right dog is out there for you; you just need to do your homework. The last thing you want to do is end up with a dog that you aren't happy with, or that isn't happy with you!

OldBlackDog
Does a dog fit into your future plans?
Buying a dog is sometimes an impulsive decision, and unfortunately many people don't think about the long-term commitment involved in owning one.

Do you have extensive travel plans in the future? Are you looking to start a family? Are you starting a new career? Although a dog can fit into any of these scenarios, it's important to know where your priorities lie. Are you really committed to having a dog, or are there other things that are more important to you at the moment? You don't want to get a dog only to have to give him up a few years later because you got an amazing job offer overseas, or because your dream apartment won't permit him.

That being said, if you really have your heart set on getting a furry companion, you'll find a way to work around any obstacles that may arise in the future.

WalkingDog
What are some other options?
If you've read through all these points and now realize that you don't have the time, money, or room for a dog, don't despair! There are other options for you.

Have you ever considered volunteering at an animal shelter? The dogs at these facilities are always looking for loving people to walk, brush, and play with them. You'll get all the benefits of owning a dog, such as companionship and affection, but you won't be responsible for round-the-clock care.

How about fostering a dog? If your long-term plans aren't conducive to owning a dog, but you're still yearning for one, consider a foster program. If you meet the qualifications, you can take a dog in temporarily, until it is placed with another loving family. There are foster programs for shelter dogs, breed rescue groups, and service dogs. The plus side is you are providing a safe environment for a foster dog. But beware...oftentimes it's very hard to see your new friend go.