Adopting Fido: Six Things You Should Consider Before Getting a Dog

We’ve all heard the saying, “A Dog is a Man’s Best Friend”. They make great companions, provide us with unconditional love and they create a bond like no other. However, bringing a new pup into your home is not just about having something cute and cuddly to keep you company! Are you thinking of becoming a new dog owner? Before heading to the shelter or breeder, here are six things to consider:

1. Living Space + Environmental Enrichment: All dogs need a place to call home and it is important to provide them with an appropriate amount of living space.  Certain breeds will require a larger living area than others.  A small city apartment with no yard will be more appropriate for a smaller breed like a Yorkshire terrier, whereas a house with outdoor space would be better suited to a larger breed. Keep in mind that housing an animal in unsuitable quarters can cause them to feel under- stimulated, which in turn can lead to boredom, anxiety and sometimes unwanted behaviour problems. Ample room to play and space for toys and treats are essential contributions to a happy well-behaved dog.

2. Training: On the flipside of being cute and cuddly, a four-legged friend is also a lot of work.  All dogs big or small will require a certain level of training. Puppies will require obedience training to first teach them the basics, and this is best achieved through obedience school. You can expect to commit to a 1-hour class once weekly for several weeks. You will also need to devote time at home to practice any newly required skills. Pets are always adapting to our ever-changing lifestyles, so one must understand that they need time and patience to adjust, as well as our guidance. Older dogs will also require training depending on their circumstances. Even the best behaved pooch will need to be shown what is acceptable in the household and what is not.

3. Energy Level and Exercise Requirements:  We always say; a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. Just like us, all dogs benefit from regular physical activity. Being active not only keeps Fido’s organs and joints happy and healthy, but it also helps to build confidence and trust.  You can expect to take most dogs out for at least one walk daily depending on their activity level. It is important to make sure that time is allotted for this on a daily basis. Are you a couch potato? Or an avid outdoorsman? In both cases certain breeds will be more appropriate than others. Do your research to determine which will be a better fit for your lifestyle before making the commitment to adopt.

4. Expenses: Dogs are great, but it is essential to realize that they are a huge financial responsibility that you should be prepared to contend with. According to Ontario Veterinary Medial Association, the first year of puppy ownership can cost up to $2500-3000 ( Expenses to consider include things like vaccination series, heartworm and deworming medications, spay/neuter, food, training courses, pet licensing, toys and a leash/collar among other things. Dogs and especially puppies are mischievous creatures, so one also needs to be financially prepared for any unexpected circumstances/injuries that may arise. As dogs age, they tend to develop more medical conditions which may require diagnostics and medications to treat.

5. Children:  A four-legged friend can make a great addition to family life. However, you can’t throw an animal into the mix and expect that everything will sort itself out.  It is important for parents to set boundaries and rules for any child and dog interaction. Puppies are rambunctious with sharp teeth and claws. They may not have mastered the art of bit inhibition or the ‘off’ command yet and could accidentally injure a small child. This is why it is crucial that any interaction be supervised.  An adult dog with prior exposure to kids might be a more suitable choice depending on the circumstance. Keep in mind that no matter the age of the dog, it is unrealistic to expect a child to have the sole responsibility of caring for it. If you are bringing a pet into your home, you need to be prepared to be its primary caretaker.

6. Grooming: All dogs have hair. Some have A LOT. In general, the longer and thicker the coat, the more extensive (and costly!) the grooming.  And it doesn’t just stop there. All dogs will require a certain level of at-home maintenance from nail trimmings to tooth brushing. Long-haired breeds will require daily brushing to avoid matting and snarls as well as more frequent bathing to remove dirt and mud from their coat. It is easy to see that coat length is an important factor to consider when choosing a dog and something to think about if keeping a cleanly household is important to you. Dogs in general tend to create more mess; something a new pet-owner needs to be prepared to deal with!



Diana Hunsberger RVT

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