tOwning a dog is part of the American dream. Along with buying a house in the suburbs, working an office job, and owning a second car, a family dog is a symbol of a happy, middle-class life. More importantly, however, a dog is a sensitive, sometimes needy animal who will change your entire lifestyle. That’s why it’s a good to idea to discuss the following five questions with family members before picking up that puppy in the window.
1. Is a Dog the Right Pet For You?
To most people, “pet” just means dog or cat. However, there are dozens of other household critters that make good companions. Rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, mice, rats, hedgehogs, hamsters, gerbils, sugar gliders, chinchillas, pot-bellied pigs, miniature horses, birds, lizards, snakes, fish, and even tarantulas make great pets for many people. Before choosing to spend more than a decade of your life with a dog, at least research different types of pets and the laws that apply to them in your area.
2. Why Do You Want a Dog?
It sounds obvious, but your main reason for getting a dog should be that you want to own a dog. Unfortunately, some people get a dog for home protection purposes without much interest in dog ownership. If this is the case, an alarm system offers the same benefit without the huge commitment. Others may want to help their local animal shelter by adopting a dog. In that situation, please consider donating money to the shelter or volunteering there instead. A dog should be a beloved pet, not a means to an end.
3. Are You Ready to Commit to a Dog For 15 Years or Longer?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dogs can live 10 to 15 years. In that sense, having a dog is not so different from having a child. If you’re not sure you can take care of one for the next 18 years, it’s best to wait.
4. Could You or Another Adult Spend at Least an Hour With a Dog Every Day?
An hour is the minimum amount of time a dog needs from their owner each day. This should include exercise, such as walking outside or playing with toys. Dogs left alone all day usually don’t behave well – can you blame them?
Think about who might be spending the most time at home with the dog. According to the nonprofit group Labrador Retriever Rescue Inc., when a family adopts a dog, the duty of taking care of it often falls on the mother. That makes sense, especially if she’s a stay-at-home mom, but is it fair to her?
If you can’t spend at least an hour a day with a dog, and your spouse or partner is either unwilling or unable to, don’t try to pin this job on the kids. Children can’t be expected to take on this duty, no matter how “responsible” they claim to be. Minors can’t even legally take care of themselves, and they won’t be the ones held responsible in case of animal neglect.
5. Could You Afford to Spend Hundreds or Even Thousands Each Year on Your Dog?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the yearly cost to take care of a small dog is $420. This includes meals, vet trips, toys, and a license. The cost is $620 for a medium-sized dog and $780 for a large dog. These numbers don’t include spaying or neutering, a collar, a leash, and a carrier or crate. If you live in an apartment that charges “pet rent,” this could bring the cost up by hundreds more.
Your pet may also develop special health or behavioural needs that could further raise costs. The dog may need a special diet, health treatment, type of training, or surgery that costs hundreds or thousands of dollars more. If you’re not sure you can cover these expenses, wait.
Every dog deserves a home where it’s wanted, looked after, and financially supported. Can you provide this? Being honest with yourself and your family now could save you from heartbreak months or years later.
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