Today’s post is going to be quite long, sorry – it does contain some awfully cute dog photos though, so, swings and roundabouts 😊 It is all about getting a dog and the many different things you should consider before starting that process.
Things to consider:
In my opinion the first set of things you need to put a good amount of thought into are your available time, space and money.
Time – Dogs require time. Lots of time. They are incredibly social creatures which need, and deserve, a lot of love. They require training, walks, playtime, trips to the vets, not to mention that the next 10+ years of your life do have to revolve around them. Want to stay out all day? Want to go on a spur of the moment holiday? Want to go on a year-in-advance planned holiday? Want go on a night out? Sleep over at your new boyfriends? All of these, and a ton more, will require consideration if you have a dog. Whether it’s knowing someone who will be willing to help you out, hiring dog sitters or walkers, or researching into longer stay kennels. Life simply cannot be as spontaneous as it once was.
Space – The size of you home does matter when considering the size of your pet; unless you and your dog are only ever going to be indoor when asleep, you cannot disregard this consideration. You have to remember that as humans we spend a lot more time outside than we may even realise, dogs may only have an hour a day dedicated to be outdoors; their indoor space needs to provide them with enough room for entertainment and comfort.
Money – Purchase cost, micro-chipping, vaccinations, yearly booster, fleaing and worming treatments, yearly check-ups, neutering, insurance, leads, collars, ID tags, bowls, beds, crates, toys, brushes, food, treats, coats, poo bags, car harnesses, shampoo, toothbrush and paste, grooming fees, medical check up specific to the breed (for instance, Oscar requires regular eye tests..), medication, emergency treatment, ear cleaner, cone of shame, boarding fees, training fees. Some of these you may never have to spend money on, others you’ll be repeat buying for the rest of their lives. I went into getting Oscar hoping I would never have to pay for emergency treatment, not because of the cost, but because I didn’t want to ever lose a dog that way. We always think it wont happen to us, but if it can, it probably will. In Oscar’s short 5 years of life, I’ve spent close to £2,000 in emergency veterinary visits, and it wasn’t anything I could have prevented by caring or loving him differently. You never know what costs might pop up.
These next two point to consider are heavily intertwined; dog breed and your lifestyle.
This might sound selfish but you shouldn’t get a dog with the intention of changing your lifestyle to better suit them. Chance are, you won’t, and it’s the dog that will suffer. Therefore, at least for the majority of us, you should find a dog that will fit into your already fully developed lifestyle; choose a dog that fits easily into your life – not the other way round
So, you love Border Collies, you think they are the cutest, funniest, most affectionate and best personality of dog around.. did you also know they have an incredibly high level of energy – like freakishly high, they will go and run and jump, and play and herd all day long. They are going to be needing lots of exercise, both physical and mental, rain or shine. If you are intending on maybe doing two, short walks a day with your dog, and lots of sedentary sofa cuddles you simply cannot provide for a Collie. There are tons of sites online describing everything you could need to know about whichever dog breed you prefer, there are also tons of sites where you can do simple questionnaires which will help you determine what breed of dog is best suited to you. Do your research. Just because it may not be suitable for you to have a Collie at this point in your life, say because you work long, exhausting hours, doesn’t mean that you will never get the opportunity in your future. Don’t make the short life of a dog unpleasant because you couldn’t resist getting that breed of dog then and there.
Other things to consider regarding your lifestyle are; work, kids, stable home, personal health, finance.
Initial adjustment period and day-to-day adjustments – If you have never owned a dog before you may not fully comprehend how long it can take to adjust to your new life, both for yourself and them. Remember, they have one day been taken away from the only home they ever knew and parents and siblings, who they have – up until this point – likely never been separate from. Some puppies will settle right into their new home, (Oscar cried a bit that first night but then settled right in), other may cry every night for days, weeks, months – depending on how you try to resolve this. Then there is the initial time you have to put into training them. Before getting your dog you should be putting time into researching how to train the basics, because if they are not getting it, it’s probably your fault, not theirs. I don’t mean to sound harsh, and I don’t want people thinking I am saying this from my high horse – I am not – sure, Oscar doesn’t pee or poo in the house, he gives me paw, he can sit, and lie down. He will even drop a piece of bacon out of his mouth and onto the floor if I tell him to. But can I stop him from barking, can I heck. And that’s not because he’s incapable of learning it, it’s because I haven’t been constant with those lessons. You have to take responsibility for what your dog can or cannot do.
One training point I think important to consider, that might get overlooked, is crate training your dog. Some people view crates as a prison but, at least when you treat it as a nice place, and not somewhere that you only put your dog as punishment, they do not view it that way. I was dubious about getting a crate for Oscar, the main reason I did was for the first initial months of leaving him, when I knew he may not be fully house trained and trustworthy to be loose. However, he loves his crate. It is the main place he sleeps, with the door unlocked. He goes into willingly and frequently throughout the day – that is his bed and he knows it, he takes comfort in that.
Everything you need to know about your chosen breed – if the internet doesn’t answer all your questions, talk to your breeder (if you are buying), if they don’t have the answers, they are not good breeders. And for the best information out there – vets. They can tell you everything you need to know; food/diet, ideal weight, grooming, behave, required exercise and possible medical issues corresponding to specific dog breeds, for instance, Labradors have a higher risk of Hip Dysplasia. Schnauzers are more likely to suffer with a number of serious eye diseases and Pugs are renown for having breathing problems. Again, research, because depending on your breed, and what they have a higher chance of suffering from, there are preventative steps you can take. For instance, Oscar’s parents and grandparents all had continual eye tests throughout their lives, ensuring that the pups they produced where much less likely to suffer. Any responsible Labrador breeder should have hip scores, and only be breeding from dogs which score below the breed average – meaning that the pups produced are significantly less likely to suffer Hip Dysplasia.
Registered breeder or adoption – I’m sure by now you have heard it all, where possible adopt. Oscar was from a registered breeder simply because I had never owned a dog before him, and I felt I couldn’t offer a rescue dog the stability (grown from prior knowledge) they would deserve being a complete novice myself. However, I will be adopting in my future and I am just, if not more, excited about doing that than I was about bringing a puppy home.
There are so many more things I could list that you need to be aware of from food and plants that could kill your dog, checking whether the pavement is too hot for them to be walking on to cleaning the gunk out of their eyes the way you do yourself in the morning. To be fair, you do learn as you go, you can never be completely prepared for the unpredictability that is a living being.
Now for the round-up, if you have read this far you might be thinking that they don’t sound worth the trouble. They are. Oscar is by far, the best decision I have made in my life to-date. He brings me more happiness, unconditional love, comfort and just true joy than I could have imagined. He makes me laugh every single day, and multiple times throughout the day his cuteness overwhelms me and I want to squish him. There is only one point regarding Oscar that I hate, and it is the knowledge that I have to lose him eventually. That his life is so short. I read something once, I’m not sure if it’s true, but it does sound like the type of innocent brilliance that a child might come out with, and it is this;
Being a veterinarian, I had been called to examine a ten-year-old Irish wolfhound named Belker. The dog’s owners, Ron, his wife, Lisa, and their little boy, Shane, were all very attached to Belker, and they were hoping for a miracle.
I examined Belker and found he was dying of cancer. I told the family we couldn’t do anything for Belker, and offered to perform the euthanasia procedure for the old dog in their home.
As we made arrangements, Ron and Lisa told me they thought it would be good for six-year-old Shane to observe the procedure. They felt as though Shane might learn something from the experience.
The next day, I felt the familiar catch in my throat as Belker’s family surrounded him. Shane seemed so calm, petting the old dog for the last time, that I wondered if he understood what was going on. Within a few minutes, Belker slipped peacefully away.
The little boy seemed to accept Belker’s transition without any difficulty or confusion. We sat together for a while after Belker’s death, wondering aloud about the sad fact that animal lives are shorter than human lives.
Shane, who had been listening quietly, piped up, “I know why.”
Startled, we all turned to him. What came out of his mouth next stunned me. I’d never heard a more comforting explanation. He said, “People are born so that they can learn how to live a good life – like loving everybody all the time and being nice, right?”
The six-year-old continued, “Well, dogs already know how to do that, so they don’t have to stay as long.”
Thank you so much if you got to the end! Are you a dog owner? What was the biggest shock for you after bringing that fur baby into your life?