Getting a Dog: What You Need to Know

With the holidays around the corner, adding a new family member is often considered. Adding a dog to your family is a decision that should never be taken lightly. By being prepared and educating yourself on what to expect, it will help set the tone for your relationship for you and your pet. Congratulations for taking the first steps in making this exciting decision!

Commitment
Bringing home a pet is a 10-15+ year commitment (depending on the dog’s breed and health). There are daily, monthly, and yearly costs and responsibilities that come with pet ownership. Daily responsibilities include proper care inside and outside of the home. Inside of the home, the dog must have adequate shelter, appropriate food, and access to fresh water. Depending on the dog’s breed and possible health concerns, specialized food may be required for optimum health. Responsibilities outside of the home include waste disposal, noise control, and prevention of becoming a stray/feral. As a responsible pet owner, these are basic courtesies that will help not only your dog but the community around you. As for monthly and yearly responsibilities, veterinary care include vaccinations, preventatives (flea and heartworm), and yearly exams.

Lifestyle
A question to ask yourself is, “does having a dog, fit with my lifestyle?” Along with that question, consider if that breed, temperament, and/or age fit into your lifestyle and living space. Although dogs have breed standards, they are individuals with distinct personalities. That being said, these factors have a large impact on the required attention needed for the dog. Higher energy breeds like working, hunting, and herding dogs need a lot of exercise. Most healthy adolescent Labrador Retrievers, for example, benefit from at least an hour of exercise a day. As for puppies, they require a lot of consistency for potty training and require proper socialization during the first 8-16 weeks of their life. These are realistic expectations for any pet parent to consider.

Spay and Neuter
Spay and Neuter can be a controversial topic, depending on the audience. That being said, we’ll focus on the health benefits. For females, spaying should be considered because it eliminates heat cycles, lowers risk of developing uterine infections, lessens the risk of breast cancer, and on rare occasions can help with some behavioral issues. For males, neutering lessens the likelihood of roaming, lessens the risk of developing enlarged prostate glands, lowers risk of testicular cancer, and on rare occasions can help with some behavioral issues. There are multiple options to get the dog spayed or neutered including a traditional veterinarian or low/no cost options. Check with your humane society, municipal shelter, or a simple search online can give you more options. Note: If you decide to adopt a pet from a rescue or shelter, most will require the pet to be spayed or neutered to prevent adding to the current overpopulation of animals in the shelters and on the streets.

House Preparation
Just like having a toddler in the house, pet parents need to dog-proof. Be on the lookout for home décor that can be chewed and swallowed. Plastics, strings, and other household items can cause intestinal blockages or puncture your dog’s intestine if eaten. Some house plants can be toxic to pets if ingested. The safest option is simply to keep your pets away from all plants and decor. They should be placed high and out of reach. Peek around the hidden places for power cords, game console wires, telephone wires as they are a shocking hazard for pets. Be sure to secure all cords and wires to prevent electrocution if accidental scratching or biting of the cord.

Not Ready for Commitment
If you are not ready to make a 10-15+ year commitment, that’s okay. There are some charitable options to honor your passion for animals. A great idea is sponsoring a pet at a local shelter or rescue. Offer to pay their adoption fee or donate much needed supplies. If you can, sign up to volunteer. Shelters and rescues always need dog walkers, puppy and kitty cuddlers, and crazy cat ladies/gentleman. Also, start a donation drive at your church, school, or work. Anything helps.