Sure, there are plenty of people who wander into a pet store orshelter, fall madly in love with an adorable puppy, and bring him home that day.
However, it’s always important to remember that choosing a dog is a huge commitment, one that can last for fifteen years or more. It’s crucial to do your homework. Far too many people decide to get a dog on a whim, and they wind up having to give their pet away after they realize they just can’t handle the responsibility.
Sadly, these precious animals often wind up in animal shelters where, according to the American Society forthe Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), 1.2 million dogs areeuthanized each year.1 Many others wind up living months or years in cages, waiting for someone to adopt them.
We can avoid this, and the key is knowing what to expect before you get a dog. While bringing one into your family can be one of life’s most joyous experiences, it also requires a lot of time, patience, consistency, and love. Puppies or older dogs who have not had significant training require several weeks just for you to start establishing basic communication with them.
After that come months of training. If you are considering getting a dog, this chapter will help you determine whether that’s the best decision for you right now.
Then, if it is, it’s a matter of finding the right dog for your lifestyle so that you can meet your pet’s needs and help him fit seamlessly into your family. Let’s get started!
THE MOST IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS
When thinking about getting a dog, remember they all need the
Dogs are highly intelligent, social creatures who require mental and physical stimulation every day. Moderate- to high-energy dogs need considerable exercise, such as a long run or an extended game of fetch.
Caring for a new dog and training him requires a lot of time; you can’t cut corners and expect the results you want. So if you work eighty hours a week and are never home, don’t get a dog unless either you have a trusted relative or friend who will care for your pet or you’re prepared to hire a dog walker on a regular basis. Also, if you like to be out and about all weekend and don’t want the “hassle” of having to come home throughout the day to walk a dog, you might want to reconsider getting one.
Prepare to spend twenty minutes to one hour a day of training and exercise at least five days a week for the first six months to a year.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t take that long to teach the fundamentals; we can do that in less than two months. However, if you dedicate that extra time to training, then you can expect spectacular results. Our dogs can be with us for a long time, so why not put in extra time up front so you’ll have an incredibly well-behaved dog for years to come?
It’s important to set your expectations: Your new dog will makemistakes and do things you’re not happy about. He may play bite for months, and potty accidents in the house are almost inevitable. Dogs can be noisy and messy, and they certainly won’t pick up the toys they leave around the house. If you’re getting a dog, you’ve got to be willing to get into the mind-set that this is all normal and remember there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Make the commitment right now to prioritize patience. The irony about teaching dogs is that the faster you try to get results, the slower your progress will be. Take your time and you’ll achieve success sooner.
People often underestimate the costs of taking care of a dog.
There’s the initial expense—which can range from a minimal donation at a shelter to $2,000 or more for a puppy that comes from a pet store or breeder. However, the costs don’t end there and will vary greatly depending on the size and age of your dog, his grooming needs, where you live, and personal choice.
At first, there are the basic supplies, ranging from a collar and leash to a crate and food, a veterinarian checkup, and possibly neutering or spaying. You’ll have annual expenses such as food, vet visits and medications, toys, and supplies. Bills can also skyrocket for those people who hire professional dog walkers or groomers on a regular basis, dog sitters for when they travel, or trainers. Lastly, there are those unexpected expenses—say, when your dog eats a pair of underwear and has to have it surgically removed (a reason to consider pet health insurance; see this page, chapter 2). Bottom line: Whether you pay a hefty sum for a dog or get one for free from a
friend, the cost of caring for one can range from about $1,000 a year to ten times that.