Friday, June 17, 2011

Should You Get a Dog?

A dog is, no doubt, a great companion for all types of people.  But, dogs do not make great companions for everyone.  Or, more accurately, everyone is not a great companion for a dog.  Before you adopt, you must seriously consider your reasons for wanting to add a dog to your family.  Be honest with yourself.

If your reason is fleeting or superficial, stop right there.  A dog should not be obtained simply as a surprise, a gift, an impulse, a chick magnet, a status symbol, because they are cute, or any similar shallow reason.  A dog is a living being, and by bringing one into your home you are becoming responsible for a creature that demands love, time, and attention, among other things.  Perhaps at a later date you will be more emotionally ready for a dog, but right now, it is best if you do not adopt.  Now, if you want a dog for weightier reasons, you must seriously and truthfully assess your living situation.

A dog is typically a 10-15 year commitment.  How will a dog fit into your lifestyle now? Next year? In three years? Ten?  Twenty?  Are you willing to limit your dating pool to dog-lovers or those without allergies?  Do you want to have children?  Do you have dreams or plans to travel?  If your financial situation is unstable, what will happen to your dog if you suddenly lose your income?  If you move, will you be dedicated to finding a place that allows pets?  Can you accept the limitations a dog puts on your place or type of employment?  These and many other concerns like them are absolutely necessary when considering a dog.  If you are unsure of your future or not willing to give up some freedom of choice for your animal, you may want to reconsider adopting a dog until these issues can be met with confidence.

If you are committed to becoming a forever home for the animal you adopt, you must now ask yourself if you are truly prepared for the lifestyle a dog will bring or force you to maintain.  Firstly, can you provide the amount of exercise a dog will require?  Will you provide it?  Are you prepared for a change in your social life—either a slowing down or a speeding up?  Are you willing to give up lunch dates or bar invites to let your dog out?  Will you be able to provide the routine that dogs thrive on?  Will your day be absolutely ruined if you were woken up by your dog in the middle of the night? If you feel a dog will in any way inconvenience you or cause you to resent it, don’t get a dog.  

Dogs are a lot of work.  Do you have time to invest in training basic manners?  How about learning basic dog behavior?  What will you do if your dog has an undesirable habit or trait?  Dogs aren’t born well-behaved, after all.  They are worked and shaped into upstanding canine citizens!  Are you prepared to handle a “bad dog”?  What will you do if your dog gets sick?  How will you manage lots of hours at work with a healthy dog, nonetheless a sick one?  Are your cleaning skills up to snuff to maintain your home in spite of dog messes?  Can you handle the shedding?  Are you dedicated to keeping teeth clean and nails short?  Do you have the time to just be with your dog?  If you feel you will be unable to provide the daily care and consistent training needed for the animal, don’t get a dog.

Lastly, the financial burden can be immense.  What, how often, and how much will you feed your dog?  Can you afford to neuter or spay the dog?  How about to give appropriate vaccinations or yearly wellness check-ups?  Can you provide heartworm, flea, and tick medications when needed?  Can you afford obedience classes or a dog trainer?  A crate?  Treats and toys?  Replacement furniture or carpet?  Emergency medical bills?  If you are financially unable to provide your dog with the care it deserves, don’t get a dog. 

Do you recognize the commitment involved in adopting a dog?  Are you nervous?  Good.  A dog is not for everyone, but for those dedicated to their animal, it can be one of the most rewarding experiences.  If you have answered the above questions honestly and feel you will be a great home for a dog, good or “bad”, then you are probably ready to adopt a canine pal.  

Thank you for reading.  Choosing a breed and the age old conflict of “puppy or adult?” is planned for the next post.

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