By Tracie Korol
The decision to get a dog is not something to be taken lightly. While the sweet face of a puppy can tug our heartstrings into an impulse buy, we need to know, up front, the significant investment of time and money that little charmer will require. Socializing and training a new puppy is time consuming and, occasionally, frustrating. Working to provide all that is necessary to successfully integrate a dog into a family environment can increase the amount of stress on the family and the dog,
This is especially true if the primary caregiver(s) are working outside the home and/or have young children, are themselves elderly or infirm, have an elderly parent, or other persons and pets to care for. This does not mean that it cannot be done. But, prospective dog owners often underestimate the investment of time, energy and money required. Making this decision impulsively can lead to frustration, disappointment, and possibly result in the surrender of the dog to a shelter or rescue.
The first question you should ask yourself honestly is: Why do I (we) want a dog? Is your answer:
For my children: Trust me, this will be your dog. After the honeymoon period the kids may play with the dog, occasionally. Guaranteed, they will whine about dog-related responsibilities, doing them grudgingly, only after significant prodding from you. As children’s interests and activities change over the years, their level of involvement with the dog will most likely be inconsistent, at best. Additionally, your children, especially, young children, will need to be trained in how to behave with the dog and will need to be supervised when with the dog.
For protection: The only time is it a good idea to get a dog for the purpose of protection is in professional or agricultural situations and only when the owner is humane and knowledgeable of dog behavior and dominant dog handling. In all other situations an alarm system or security fence are much more appropriate and effective.
To breed puppies: The breeding of dogs is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. If it is not your intention to remain responsible for all of your puppies for their entire lives, including being willing to take back and care for those that may find themselves homeless, do not enter into this endeavor. If you are planning on breeding for profit, understand that there are much easier, more profitable and more ethical ways to make a buck. Dogs are living beings and dog breeding requires a significant investment of time, money, labor, knowledge, both academic and practical, patience, and emotional fortitude, to be done responsibly and humanely. Visit the county shelter and witness the problem yourself. Look at the faces of the homeless dogs and talk to the volunteers and staff who, all too often, must take that final walk with them.
Because BreedX is cool, was in a movie, is unique and exotic, is free or cheap: One of the worst reasons to get a dog is because of their physical appearance or popularity due to a movie or TV show. Often, these venues feature exotic, rare or unique breeds that are, in the overwhelming majority of pet situations, unsuitable as companions. Also, remember that a free dog is never free. When your friend, coworker or relative offers you one of Fluffy’s puppies think hard about the necessary investment over the next 16 years.
Dogs require significant financial, physical, time, and environmental resources. Dogs are not the fulfillment of ANY fantasy. The responsibilities are legion through all stages of dog-hood and continue on after you’re gone. How many dog owners, for instance, have a plan, in writing, for the dog in case of their disability or demise? Your dog should become your Best Friend, after all. Make the right decision at the right time for the right reasons and for the best possible outcome.