Getting a dog is a really BIG deal and it will change your life forever. Being emotionally, physically and financially prepared is what it takes to succeed as a responsible dog owner. Are you ready? Here are 10 questions to ask before you get a dog. You should be able to answer each question!
1) Why do you want a dog?
Are you looking for companionship? A new loyal best friend?
A dog will love you unconditionally, and it deserves the same from love from you - unconditionally, for its entire life. Getting a dog is a lifetime commitment. Why do you want a dog? ...This is a very important question to ask yourself.
There are many great answers to this question, but if you want a dog for any of the following reasons below, you are actually better off WITHOUT one:
Because it's so cute, or you like a dog that you saw on tv or in the movies All dogs are cute, but choosing a dog based solely upon its physical appearance is one of the worst reasons to get a dog.
For example, 101 Dalmatians is a popular children's movie. This movie has made dalmatians a very desirable breed among families and young children. When dogs become popular, as in 101 Dalmatians, people begin backyard breeding dogs for profit, creating a surplus of dalmatian puppies for sale purely because of media popularity. These dogs are then spontaneously purchased by families whose children liked the movie. Unfortunately dalmatians are highly active dogs and their personalities are better suited for homes with a fenced in yard and older children. They soon realize that a dalmatian is not a good match for their family, and take the dog to the shelter. This scenario is far too common. Don't be one of these people.
Because you saw a dog for cheap or for free No dog is cheap or "free". Dogs are expensive (see below) and spontaneously getting a dog because it is cheap or free is a bad reason unless you have met the dog before and are fully aware of the responsibility that goes along with it.
For protection Most people are lucky to have dogs that will naturally try to protect them, however I believe it is ethically wrong to breed dogs for "protection" purposes. I'm a firm believer that the only time it is acceptable to have a dog for the purpose of protection is in a professional situation (police, search and rescue, guide dogs, etc) or for professional agricultural reasons (protecting herds of sheep, cattle, animals, land, etc). Beyond this scope, you are better off investing your money in a security system or a fence. It's not worth it for you or the dog.
To breed dogs and sell puppies Breeding dogs is very serious and requires a vast a mount of knowledge, money, and time to be done humanely and responsibly. Professional, reputable dog breeders are invested in the future of their dog's breed for health, temperament, and for many people it has become their lifestyle. A responsible dog breeder will be willing to take back any dog at any time or age, no matter what the circumstance or situation. If you are not willing to be responsible for every single one of your puppies for the rest of their lives, this is definitely not for you. If you breed your dog simply because you "just want a litter" you are doing more harm than good. BAD IDEA.
2) What will your life be like in 5 or 10 years? Are you willing to commit 10+ years to a dog?
Life can change very quickly, and pet abandonment is a common result of separation, moving, a new baby, death in the family, etc. Are you willing to truly commit to your dog through thick and thin, no matter what life throws at you?
If you know that a baby is in the future, are you willing to do the necessary preparation so that your dog can adjust to the new baby? It takes time, but you can train your dog to behave around the baby and stay away from the baby toys.
If you get a new job that requires more of your time, will you be able to balance life and still care for your dog?
If you need to move, will you make sure your next apartment is pet friendly?
Dogs are living, breathing beings and they depend on you as its owner to protect, care and prepare them for whatever life throws at them. Make sure they are part of the plan. Your dog should never be an afterthought.
3) Are you ready for the daily responsibilities of having a dog?
Having a dog requires financial, emotional, and physical responsibility. Dogs require a safe and structured environment, social and intellectual opportunities, not to mention quality time and exercise.
Having a dog does not mean throwing a bowl of food on the floor and walking away. Or leaving your dog in a crate all day while you're at work. Will you take your dog on a walk at least once everyday?
Dogs require a routine, but they also depend on you to provide opportunities for them to socialize, exercise, and use their mind. They are like toddlers and can be stubborn, strong-willed, shy, etc... dogs have a personality of their own, and you need to teach them right from wrong.
Is this something you have time for? Are you ready to manage another personality in your house?
4) Are you willing to take time to find the right dog to fit your family's lifestyle?
Just like people, dogs are all different, and each dog has its own unique individual personality. Just because a dog is cute does not mean it has the right personality for your lifestyle.
For example, if you're a busy person and work all day and go out at night, having a border collie or another highly active dog that needs daily physical and mental stimulation would not be a good idea. Or if you are active and would like to have a bustling social life with your dog (take them with you to restaurants, shopping, life out on the town), getting a timid or shy dog would not be ideal.
General breed temperament is one thing, but more importantly, meeting with the dogs you're considering is key because there's nothing like in-person interaction to really sense if the dog will be a good fit with your family.
Research dog breeds, meet dogs in person and find the perfect dog to fit your life!
5) Can you afford a dog?
Are you prepared for the financial commitment of having a dog?
Some definite things you will be paying for include yearly checkups, vaccines, medication and vet appointments, quality food and treats, grooming, toys and gear, among other things. Throw in dog walking and playgroups, boarding or sitting and suddenly your dog has just cost you a couple hundred bucks a month.
And something to consider (health issues aside), bigger dogs usually cost more than smaller dogs simply because they eat more food and depending on the quality of food you give your dog (hopefully quality food), your bill can be easily upwards of $50-100 a month.
And don't forget an emergency fund... you never know when you're gonna need it, so having an extra $500-$1000 set aside for your dog is definitely a good idea.
Financially caring for your dog is an important commitment that should not be overlooked. Dogs are not cheap. Click here to learn more about dog care finances.
6) How much time will you be able to spend with your dog each day?
Do you work at an office all day? Or maybe you work from home? Do you currently have children or a new baby?
Having a dog will impact the dynamic in your home, for better or for worse. Spending quality time with your dog is very important. If you work full-time, will you arrange for your dog to be let outside to go to the bathroom, to take a walk or to play? Will you have time after work to play with (or train) your dog?
The time you spend with your dog will build loyalty and trust, not to mention you'll have a lot of fun! It's your opportunity as your dog's parent to get to know your dog.
Dogs are smart, intuitive, and curious. They love to play and be played with, and they love to learn. Will you make sure you spend quality time with your dog everyday?
7) Do you have the time and resources for proper obedience training and socialization?
Having a properly trained dog is just as important for you as it is your dog. Do you want a dog you can take to public places? A dog who will not jump up or lunge on people? A dog who will not bite a child or another person? Or pee all over your house?
Training and socialization go hand in hand. It's up to you as an owner to train your dog to behave in public and act appropriately around other people and dogs. Socializing your dog to play nice and behave around different types of people and in new environments is crucially important for their emotional well-being.
Dogs are like toddlers - they don't know how to behave properly unless you teach them what is right and wrong. Are you ready and willing to make the time and commit to training and socializing your dog? Find a trainer and sign your dog up for classes!
8) Who will take care of your dog while you are at work or on vacation?
Dogs are pack animals and thrive on interaction with people and other dogs. When you go out of town, who will take care of your dog? Will you take him to a dog hotel or kennel? Hire a dog sitter? Dogs cannot take care of themselves, scheduled care is a must!
If you work all day, what plan do you have for your dog? Will you sign him up for a playgroup or hire a dog walker? Keeping him penned up alone in a crate all day is a common root for behavioral issues such accidents in the house, excessive chewing, barking, etc.
If you don't plan on changing your daily routine to accommodate your dog's emotional and physical well-being, it is a good idea to revisit the reasons why you want a dog.
9) Is your home ready for a dog?
Do you have a yard or is there a park close by for your dog to run and go to the bathroom? If you do have a yard, do you have a fence? If you have a yard but no fence, a solid or chain link fence is recommended, so that the dog cannot get out. Electric fences are NOT humane and are NOT recommended.
Dogs should always be supervised when they are outside, and should not be alone for prolonged periods of time. It is not recommended that you tether your dog outside. Garages are also not an acceptable place to house your dog. Dogs can get into tools and chemicals that can cause harm. Would you want to be chained to a pole or trapped in the garage all day?
Properly training your dog will help ensure acceptable behavior in the house. Chemicals and cleaners should be kept away from your dog's reach, as well as sharp objects and tools (you are essentially baby-proofing your house, dogs can get into everything).
10) Will you spay or neuter your dog?
You should NOT leave your dog intact. Having an intact male does not make your dog more manly or "less of a dog," and who honestly wants to deal with a female dog in heat?
...Like Bob Barker famously said, "Only you can control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered". Thank you Bob.
Spaying and neutering is also behaviorally and medically beneficial to your dog. If you think you can't afford it, many local shelters and rescue organizations offer discounted or sometimes even free procedures, so do some research and make the effort, it's worth it.
So do the world a favor and spay or neuter your dog as soon as possible. Be responsible and set a good example for others to prevent accidental litters and be an active part in helping to control the pet overpopulation. This one act will help save lives and keep many future puppies out of the shelter and rescue systems.