Getting a dog (or any pet for that matter) should be a well thought-through decision. A dog will impact on many areas of your life – thankfully most of them are positive – your fitness will improve and you’ll experience the special companionship that only our four-legged friends can reward us with. However there are challenges and it’s best to carefully consider your responses to these before you take the plunge.
Ask yourself these ten questions – if you can’t honestly say yes to all of these then maybe it’s not the right time for you. Don’t be disheartened – never say never – if you still have your heart set on a dog you may be able to change some of your circumstances. Better to delay than have to face the heartbreaking decision to give up a dog because, no matter how much you love it, you just can’t cope with it.
1. Do I really want a dog? How long have you wanted a dog and why? Don’t get a dog because your kids are nagging, your friend has one, you want a cute puppy, you want a toy or worse still, a fashion accessory – a dog isn’t a handbag.
2. Do I have the knowledge? You’ve thought about getting a dog and you’ve probably got an idea of what type of dog. But how much do you really know about the breed – how much exercise do they need, what health issues might they have, what type of training will they need, what type of diet should they follow. Have you done your research?
3. Do I have the time? Dogs do take up a lot of time – walking, training, grooming, feeding, more cleaning and chores. If you’re already busy how will you fit all of this in?
4. Do I have the commitment? Will you be able to put your pet’s needs before your own and forego a day out with friends because your dog will need walking. Will you resent giving up your pub night because it clashes with puppy training class?
5. Do I have the space? Is your home suitable for a dog – or for the type of dog you want. Do you have room for beds, dog crates, feeding and water bowls, toys and for the dog itself! Do you have a safe, enclosed outdoor space for toileting and play?
6. Do I have the energy? Are you physically fit enough to give a dog plenty of exercise or would you need help? Can you bend and stretch easily? If you’re thinking about a big dog could you restrain it if you needed to? If you can’t do it will there be someone else who can? Will you be able to get up several times during the night while you’re house training a puppy? Dog ownership requires stamina – do you have it?
7. Do I have the money? Dogs are expensive. According to a 2017 survey the average cost of owning a dog is £1,700. Insurance; vet’s bills for micro-chipping, injections and neutering; worming and flea treatments; food; grooming equipment and leads, collars and harnesses all add up and that’s before toys and treats. You might also have to buy walking boots and waterproof jackets for yourself or costly items just as crates or dog guards for you car. And if you’re a Labrador owner – don’t forget the cost of the baby gate to keep them out of the kitchen!
8. Do I have the support? You might really want a dog but do the rest of your family? If you’re not always able to walk, feed, train or simply supervise your dog will there be someone else willing to step in? If you don’t have family support will you be able to rely on and afford dog walkers and sitters?
9. Do I have the patience? Dogs, especially puppies, can seriously try your patience. Will you be able to keep your cool when they refuse to obey your training commands (again!) and how sanguine will you be when they’ve reduced your best shoes to a pile of leather scraps? If you can’t keep your temper and your sense of humour, you’ll be in for a fairly rough ride!
10. Do I REALLY want a dog?
BTW – if you have answered yes to all of the above – congratulations! You’ll be as well prepared as any dog owner could ever be and you’re probably about to make one of the best decisions of your life!