Today the alphabet takes us to the letter D in the A to Z Challenge, and it’s time to discuss deciding to get a dog. While every day, some families and individuals find their animal companion that will enjoy a happy and active life with them for the duration of their life span, so many more people are adopting a pet they’re not ready for, that will eventually end up back at the shelter. An average 6-8 million pets are surrendered to the shelter each year, with 3-4 million of those eventually being euthanized. You can help cut down on these senseless deaths by ensuring a few things before adopting a pet.
1. Are you ready for the costs and responsibilities of having a pet?
The expenses of having a pet don’t stop there. With new cats, dogs, ferretts, and more, you’ll have to be able to afford the damage they’ll inflict as well. When I first got Arie, she luckily was not a big chewer–Even then, I had to have my carpet cleaned several times and replace a pair of shoes. Emergencies also arise, as do emergency vet expenses. Even common problems, like UTI’s in dogs, cost you for a vet visit and treatment.
If you can afford to have a pet, are ready to love one for the long haul, and have the time to spend with them for walking, feeding, vet visits, and more, you’re ready to move on to the next question.
2. What kind of a dog should you get?
You’re heart is set on a dog, you have the funds you need to support a furry addition to your family, and your schedule allows you time for training, walks, and play time. Now, it’s time to decide what kind of dog fits your lifestyle. When people adopt dogs that don’t fit their lifestyle, both the people and the dogs often end up miserable. That Shih-Tsu may look sweet, but these notoriously hard to train and stubborn dogs can be too much for someone who can’t handle little mistakes in the house. Are you a couch potato? Your Border Collie could develop destructive behavior when you aren’t able to meet their exercise needs. Mixed breeds, or mutts, still require this consideration. One trip to the shelter isn’t enough to know if the doggy behind the glass is right for you–You need to spend time with a dog before bringing them home, and ask about their temperament. Many shelters offer overnight trials with pets so that you can see how a certain dog fits into your life at home before you make the set commitment to give them a forever home.
Here are a few considerations to keep in mind while selecting a dog:
- Is this dog the “breed of the minute”? Disney’s Bolt and Miley Cyrus’s adoption of Mate, her White German Shepherd, pushed this breed into major popularity. Now, I see tweets every day from people who probably shouldn’t get a shepherd wanting one, just because their popular. i.e., one girl tweeted that she wanted a White Shepherd just so she could name him cocaine. Can you say #fail?
- Does my house/apartment/condo/flat/etc fit this breed?
- How much time/energy do I have available to walk, play with, and train this dog?
- Do I want the dog to be affectionate? protective? trainable?
- How much time do I have for grooming?
3. Can you truly be committed to a pet?
Being committed to a pet goes so far beyond the financial and time commitments. When you adopt a pet, you adopt them for life. Are you ready to stay with your dog if they develop health issues, such as seizures or cataracts that hinder how the see? Are you prepared to live through the sleepless nights of howling in their crates during crate training, to leave your vacation early because your dog is sick at the kennel, or to pick a different apartment because the one you’re in does not welcome your dog? Having a dog changes your life–even in the end. On the day you bring home that bouncing puppy or your newly adopted adult dog, you need to be prepared for the day you go into a vets office to say goodbye to them forever. Having a pet is like a miniature marriage–that commitment must survive through rich, poor, sickness and health, until the end of a life separates you. While it’s hard to think about such things, stories from our friends and family, and even movies (ala Marley and Me, My Dog Skip, Old Yeller) all tell us that this is something we have to be prepared to handle.
Are you considering getting a dog? Do you have one, and have other recommendations for those considering taking the leap? Share your thoughts.