Owning a dog is a priceless experience, but it also takes a lot of hard work. Getting started is the hardest part, especially if you’ve never owned a dog before.
Having a dog is like a less self-sacrificing version of having a child. It takes a ton of work and preparation, and you still can’t escape a few surprises along the way. It helps to have some guidance so you can at least know where to start when you’ve decided you want one. Here are some tips for starting on the right track for a happy life with your new companion.
FIRST: MAKE SURE YOU’RE SURE
Getting a dog is no small endeavor, and it’s something you’ll spend the next 10-plus years either being happy about, or regretting. There are some things you really want to consider before you adopt.
Here are some questions you might want toask yourself in addition to any you’ve cooked up on your own:
Will your lifestyle still accommodate adog in five to fifteen years?
Do you have the time for a dog?
Dogs take up a lot of time and energy. Yes, they are rewarding. But if you live alone and work twenty hours a day, then perhaps a dog is not the best choice for you. Hey, there are always those super-cool robot dogs.
If you are not often at home, and you really want a dog, you probably should invest in a dog walker. You’d probably be wise to choose adog breed that isn’t especially needy, too. Check out PetMD’s Breedopedia to select from a wide variety of breeds. Any dog you get should be suitable to not only your lifestyle, but your surroundings. If you live in a shoe box apartment, then a large dog is not a good choice. You don’twant your dog to develop health issues, be bored, or destroy things. Large dogs really belong in big places with lots of outdoor space.
Can you afford the extra expenses of a dog, and any medical expenses that might turn up?
Is your home suitable for the size and type of dog you think you want?
You now have a financial dependant, too. While the dog is only a part of your life, you and your family are everything the dog has to look forward to. This means you’ll have to provide all the attention, exercise, affection, and care the dog needs.
Immediately after the dog comes home it’ll need its initial checkup at the vet’s office, flea and tick prevention, and possibly pet insurance. You might also want to schedule puppy training and obedience classes, especially if you don’t have much experience.
Within the first year of a puppy’s life you’ll need at least three rounds of shots over the first few weeks and, depending on the dog, a spay or neuter appointment. You’ll also want to keep in mind consistent costs. Puppies quickly outgrow old collars, and eat a lot while they’re growing as well. Most adult dogs won’t require as much vet attention, but they will still eat and need a “just in case” fund. If you travel, you’ll want to consider boarding, and if you’re busy, you might want to calculate the cost of your local doggy daycare or dog sitter. To keep from turning timid or aggressive, puppies need to be well socialized with all kinds of people and animals starting at an early age, so you’ll plan to spend plenty of time out of the house with your puppy at dog parks and parks (after the vet gives you the go ahead once vaccinations are complete), and with friends and family.
DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT IN A DOG
Choosing a dog is a lot like choosing a spouse. You’ll need to make compromises, but you’ll also need to get to know the dog and have your expectations and preferences figured out beforehand. Start by listing the most important things to you. Maybe you would like a high-energy runningcompanion, or maybe you need something small and quiet because you live in an apartment. Whatever the case may be, write it down. Some preferences you might want to consider are:
How old do you want your dog to bewhen it comes home?
By adopting an older dog you might be able to skip house and crate training, whereas a young puppy will require extra training, but you also get to have a greater impact on how the puppy is trained and shaping how it behaves in the long run.
What Size Dog Do You Want?
The larger the dog, the more it eats, and the more difficult it can be to handle if you live in a small space. On the other hand, some of us just like big dogs, or live alone and want to feel protected.
Do you have the time, energy, and desire to take long walks every day?
Or do you prefer a companion that’s either a little lazier or more self-sufficient? Dogs that have a lot of energy tend to behave badly when not given the opportunity to express it, whereas other dogs, like bulldogs, are pretty lazy and don’t require a ton of extra exercise. Either way, be prepared to be active with walks, trips to the dog parks or puppy play dates, but you do get to call the shots on exactly how active you want to be.
Are you a beginner who’s worried about the difficulty of training a dog?
If so, you’ll want a dog that’s easier to train. Some breeds are more difficult to train than others.
Do you need a breed that’s known for being gentle and well-behaved with small children?
Keep evaluating your lifestyle and personality to get a picture of the kind of dog you want. If you’re experienced or super laid back, you may not have a ton of preferences, and that’s awesome. However,some people have some pretty strict needs. It’s best for both you and your futurecompanion for you to lay these out before hand.