Should I Get A Dog Now?
Is This The Right Time?
"I want to get a dog but this is my first time adopting from a dog pound. Where should I start? I want my first dog adoption to go well." That's a common thought and a wise one. Start here.
Start by asking if you're ready for the responsibility of a full time dog. It's like adding another child to your life.
Only get a dog after you are absolutely sure you are ready. If that's the case now, skip over the first few paragraphs and move down the page. There's lots of good information below. Then, from here, either go back to the HOME page and select Choosing A Dog or Dog Breeds. Under dog breeds you can read profiles of various dogs you might be interested in.
"Should I get a dog" is the first question to seriously ask yourself and the whole family. Being in a hurry to get a dog is a common mistake which just adds to our high rate of euthanasia from over-populated dog kennels full of unwanted, homeless dogs. Bad choices and hasty decisions as well as lack of knowledge of what a dog needs is the main cause of this.
Roughly 12 million homeless, unwanted and abused dogs are euthanized each year because people run out and get a dog and don’t realize what they’re getting into. Dog care just seems to be too much for them.
Getting a dog is not a trial and error proposition. Either you are ready for a lifetime commitment of the dog’s life of 9 to 18 years, or not. “Should I get a dog” is an important question that requires thought and information. Kennels today make it far to easy to return an unwanted dog which is unfortunate because breeders keep breeding and uneducated people keep buying puppies, only to start the cycle all over again.
Shelters do kill dogs. They may say they’re a “no kill” but they still kill. They use the word “euthanasia” to get around the word “kill” so the public isn’t so upset. Shelters also ship unwanted dogs off to other shelters to get around the no kill thing. Sure, they don’t kill, but the other place does.
There is just no excuse for people today to go to a breeder or dog kennel and not know what they are getting into. The Internet is loaded with great information. Visit the AKC, SPCA or ASPCA for example. There are warnings everywhere, begging people to please understand what a dog is all about before investing in one. Some people just should NOT have a dog.
Maybe you should try adopting a dog from a shelter if there is any doubt as to whether you can manage one. First, the dog will be past the house-training stage and will have some manners, unlike a puppy. The dog has already had home so you are not pressing a breeder to breed more puppies. You are actually helping the problem, not part of it when adopting a mature dog. There are millions of terrific dogs just waiting for a second chance home!
Don’t get into the mindset that “I’ll try a dog and if I don’t like it I’ll just turn him in at a shelter.” If that’s your attitude, YOU SHOULD NOT GET THE DOG IN THE FIRST PLACE.
Here are some serious questions to ask yourself before deciding if you should get a dog:
Why do I want a dog?
There are a number of reasons why, and not all of them are good.
"The kids want me to get them a dog."
NO. Kids can drive a person nuts when they want a dog, but when they get it, a few days go by and they are off to the baseball diamond or back to the TV set or off roaming with their friends. When it comes time to feed the dog, pay the vet, buy food, or walk the dog for potty call, YOU are it… A dog should not be adopted because kids "want one." The kids are long gone. I’ve been there, done that.
Wait until the kids are past the rug crawling and toddler stages and then plan on owning the dog yourself.
"I want a guard dog in the back yard."
NO. There isn’t a dog living today that is qualified to live outdoors 24/7 and never have human contact. Dogs are social pack animals that need to be around their people. I don’t care if you have a Siberian Husky, the dog needs human contact and love. It needs to live a fulfilled social life with either dogs or humans.
Chaining a dog to a tree and walking away will turn it into an aggressive monster that no one can control or re-train. Dog care comes in many forms, and psychological dog care is mandatory. It’s called animal abuse and can carry jail time in some places.
Senior widow out walking her Australian Shepherd. She was consulted, was "ready for a big obligation" and loved to take long walks for health.
"My mom lives alone now. I want to surprise her with a dog!"
NO! No surprises! You should not get a dog for ANYONE without their knowledge. Your mom may be sitting back thinking, “ah, I have no responsibility now but myself. I’m gonna catch up on reading, letter writing and knitting. What fun!”
The last thing she would want is the added responsibility of dog care. Talk it over with her first and IF she says yes, take her to the SPCA with you to pick out the dog SHE wants.
- Am I going to have time to feed, train, exercise and care for a dog EVERY SINGLE DAY for the next 15 years? If not, will I have someone who can help me?
- Can I choose a dog on merits other than looks?
- Am I willing to look at dogs until I find one that doesn’t require me to change my way of living?
- Am I prepared to spend any amount of money to get a dog or puppy safely set up in his forever home, regardless of unforeseen expenses, even if it adds up in the $1000's? No, I'm not kidding. We adopted a dog that cost us $4000 in the first 6 months we had her, but she was worth it.
If you are an executive who travels all week and attends meetings and entertains co-workers on weekends and your wife works for fun, no, you don’t need and should not get a dog. Why have a dog that will be alone all week?
A man with his own business could take the dog to work with him every day. That’s great! A housewife working part time would possibly have time for a dog. That’s great! A mother of three young children and working probably would not be able to care for a dog! She should wait until the kids grow up and not get a dog.
Dogs start out small but they grow. Find out how much. Check out our dog breed profile section for height and weight of the breeds you are considering. If you live in an apartment or condo, you should not get a dog that's very high-energy or that needs to roam in a yard.
Also, large dogs usually mean more dog food, longer walks, more space to run and play, costlier flea and tick medicine and so forth. It just costs more to own a big dog than it does a smaller one.
A very small dog (toy) is at risk in a family with children. They tend to be delicate and can’t take the punishment and mishaps. You really need to check out the breeds section where we have dogs listed in groups "best suited for…," and see what we have come up with for you.
Consider the original purpose of the Dog Breed
When Considering a dog, check to see what the breed was used for. An example would be a dog bred for guarding cattle or sheep. The dog might do well with his immediate family and protect them to the end, but would exclude friends and family from ever coming in the front door. Do I live in an apartment? Should I get a dog like this? These are all considerations.
Here's a Doberman Pinscher from the working group.
Used as guard dogs, police work, hunting, personal protection.
This breed not good with children, in apartments,flats, condos.
If you live in an apartment, the aggressive guard dog would be a problem in an elevator or on a staircase as you might encounter other guests with their dogs so by all means don't get a dog that might be viscous.
If you have limited time for dog training, you should get a dog that learns commands quickly. Some breeds learn, but are difficult to train, requiring lots of time and patience.
Enough time for Grooming?
Many breeds require substantial grooming. My wife and I currently have a Yorkie/Schnauzer/Cocker mix and a Mini Schnauzer, both of which have to go to the groomer every 8 weeks or so. In between, they get brushed twice weekly. It costs $45 per dog for the professional groomer. This is part of “dog care.” There is NO fur in their hair brush. The groomer gets it all.
If you get a short-haired breed, many of these breeds grow thick undercoats that produce piles of hair during shedding. This should be brushed out every day.
Shedding has produced lots of homeless dogs because too many people just don’t have time for proper dog care and they find out too late.
Dog care… Some breeds have long floppy ears that collect debris. The debris and excess hair must be removed regularly from the ear canals to avoid infection and expensive trips to the vet. Do you have the time and desire to cope with this? Ask about the breed and determine if you should get a dog like this.
More dog care. Certain breeds bred with prominent eyes need regular treatment of their eyes. These dogs require special care to keep the eyes healthy and this goes on for the life of the dog. Are you prepared to do this? The Pekingese needs to have the soiling cleaned around his anus daily. Do you see why you can’t turn the care of a dog over to children?
A Dachshund playing with a rubber
ch8icken. Note his 4 paws are OFF the ground!
When you do get a dog - Dog Training?
Who is going to train the new dog? Training must begin as soon as the dog arrives at your house. It starts with potty training and intense socialization, a real labor-intensive job..
to sit and stay.
It also starts by knowing ahead of time if the dog is going to be allowed on the couch, on the bed and in the flower garden. Puppy? Will it be paper trained or crate trained? All this takes advance planning.
The dog should be fully trained by the time s/he is 12 months old with most of the heavy training occurring between 3 and 8 months.
If you adopt a dog from a shelter, chances are he will already be potty trained and maybe even know a command or two. The worst may be over. But still, he must learn what he can and can NOT do to keep you happy. Will you have the time and patience for this?
- Does EVERYONE in the house want this dog? If “no” don’t get one.
- Are you prepared to spend $1000 per year to maintain the dog? (or more if necessary?)
- If interested in a puppy, will you still want to walk it in rain and snow 10 to 15 years from now?
- If you are 65 years old or more now, are you likely be alive and ABLE to walk a dog 10 to 15 years from now? (Not all 75 year olds can bend over and pick up after their dog.) (I know you don’t know the answer, I just put it out there for thought.)
- Are you prepared to sacrifice lengthy vacations so you can take care of your older dog? (Last year this time one of my dogs was very sick with a terminal illness. We canceled a trip to the West Coast to stay with him through his final seven months.)
Taking on a dog is much like having a child. Should I get a dog that is a huge responsibility? As your dog grows older, he might need special vet care. Will you be ready to lay out $3000 to $6000 or more for a vet bill? (We have an 11 year old Mini Schnauzer that just cost us $5300 at a surgical hospital.)
Some dogs need a LOT of exercise. Can you walk or jog with a dog two times a day for the next 10 to 15 years? (One of the biggest problems dogs face today is lack of adequate exercise and it causes problems.) Adequate exercise must be part of your dog care program.
Bullmastiff and adult woman. Size can matter...the mastiff is
a low-energy, serious guard dog number one - how about the kids?
Will you have the time to train your dog? Most dogs love training and want to please you by doing the right thing, but they have to be taught right from wrong. That’s your job. Training takes 3 to 15 minutes twice to three times a day depending on the command and breed of dog being taught.
Answer the items above truthfully.
I don’t mean to scare you off, but I am being realistic.
People get home with the new dog and don’t realize they are going to lose sleep, have their carpet soiled, the dining room chair leg chewed on and their whole lifestyle turned upside down. Then, instead of trying to TRAIN the poor dog who has no clue how to behave, they turn it lose to wander the streets where it ends up back at the kennel. They should have done their homework before getting the dog.
Of course, not all dogs in rescue kennels are like that, but some are and you need to do your homework. I have dealt with many SPCA, ASPCA’s and local kennels. The staff is always willing to talk to you and help meet your specific needs.
Kennels have a daily to weekly turnover of everything from purebreds to puppies to mixed breeds, so you may want to come back every week for a month or two. Do NOT rush into “getting a dog.”
Average Dog Maintenance Cost
According to the ASPCA, the following figures have been released for the cost of owning each of three dog sizes for ONE YEAR. In each case, the figures include the cost of grooming for a long haired dog. The cost of a medium grade food is included plus regular vet checkups and mandatory vaccinations. The exact amount will vary depending on where you live and the vet you see plus see the note at the bottom… should I get a dog that’s going to add an extra $1000 or so to my annual expenses?
Small dog, one year..$420.00***
Medium Size Dog… ….$620.00
Large Size Dog……. ..$780.00
***My SMALL 16 and 22 pound dogs average $1.76 cents a day EACH for food. That’s $642 per year per each (SMALL) dog just for FOOD. I think the ASPCA should update their figures.
The above figures do not include initial adoption or purchase costs for the dog. The figures do NOT include other costs such as spay/neuter, vaccinations, toys, treats accessories for the dog like crate, leash, collars, food and water dishes and so on.
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