Do you feel a greater kinship toward dogs than your fellow human beings? Is the sound of frantic barks, music to your ears? If you see a dog and a damsel in distress, are you likely to rescue the dog first? Do you dream of being stranded on a deserted island with only dogs for company? If your answer to most of the above questions is a ‘Yes,’ well, then you are in good company. A whopping 74% of the world population is known to display varying degrees of dog love. This can range from casually engaging your neighbor’s dog in a game of ‘catch’ to dedicating your life to the welfare of the global canine community. Regardless of the extent of your dog devotion, there does come a point in your life, when you seriously contemplate owning a dog. While your love for these wonderful beasts is undisputed, there may be any number of factors preventing you from bringing your plans to fruition.
As a child you might have been denied a pet dog if your parents disliked pets. As a young adult, you might have been too busy pursuing other interests to be overtly bothered about acquiring a dog. Paucity of time, space, and resources might have forced you to put this thought on the backburner. A true dog lover, however, is seldom daunted by these setbacks. As with most decisions in life, there is no right or wrong time for this. The time is right, when ‘you’ think it is right.
That being said, prudence demands that you sort out a few niggling things before you actually go dog shopping. There are a few things you need to sort out before you embark on this exercise.
Is it Puppy Love?
You need to be convinced that your love for these creatures is not, well, puppy love – an infatuation, a fleeting fancy. It is better to spend a few extra weeks mulling your decision to get a pet dog, rather than having an epiphany after you have brought one home. It is both unnecessary and unfair to put the dog through the ordeal of getting a home where it is less than welcome.
We’re All in it Together
If you happen to dwell in human company, be sure to also consult those whom you share your dwelling with. As strange as it may sound, there is said to exist a miniscule percentage of people that is ill disposed to pets of any description; yes, dogs included. If you think your love for dogs far outweighs that for fellow humans, then, by all means, make it known.
‘Space’ it Out
The next logical step would be to take stock of the space you live in. Dogs, in general, require considerable room; some breeds more so than others. By and large, your space constraints should be borne in mind before choosing the breed. “Larger the dog, larger the space needed” is a safe rule of the thumb.
If you live in an apartment, do ascertain that your apartment has pet-friendly policies. Also make sure that are aware of your rights and responsibilities as a pet owner. In general, be sensitive to the fact that not all may share your benevolent outlook on pet dogs. Explore pet-proofing options for your home, much like you would for child proofing.
If in a large home/estate, double check your fencing to ensure that your over-zealous pet does not escape the confines of your premises.
Most dogs, especially puppies, tend to get restless when indoors. This trait can prove to be quite destructive for your material belongings as also for the dog. Fragile items, like expensive china or glassware, should be completely out of reach. The better option, however, would be to train your pet appropriately thus ensuring its safety and that of your household objects. Pull-out cabinets and drawers can be secured with “slide locks” in order to safeguard their contents from curious canines.
Pet Love for Children
That dogs make great companions for little children is a well-established fact. It does help, however, to bear some of these things in mind while choosing a dog when you have a child at home. Consider its size and temperament. While frolicking together, there is a real risk of a large-sized breed causing injury to your little ones. Also, some breeds naturally take to kids while others may need to be trained. Some prior research on this can help you make an informed decision. Be aware of your pet’s disposition towards children and always monitor their playtime. When you are unable to supervise, remember to keep the two separate with judicious use of indoor gates.
This is true of other pets too. Before you go on a pet overdrive, consider how your pet dog would likely react to any another pet(s) you already have or might want to have in future. Again, some background information can save you nasty surprises.
Time to Pet
It stands to reason that a pet dog requires a lot of your time and attention, not to mention an abundant supply of tender loving care. Add to this, the time you have to spend training it, especially if it’s a puppy that you are looking to acquire. Dogs also need to be fed at specific times each day and need water at regular intervals. They also need ample exercise on a daily basis. If your job requires you to be out of the house for the better part of the day, think about how you can accommodate your pet’s needs.
On the Go
If your lifestyle entails regular travel, either on business or for pleasure, consider what options you have for your pet dog’s care for that duration. You might want to enlist the support of a friend or a neighbor to look after your pet in your absence. For longer periods, a pet sitter or a kennel would be an option worth considering. On the other hand, if you are keen on having your pet accompany you, you need to be mindful of the ways and means to keep your pet dog safe and comfortable during these trips. If air travel is on the cards, contact your airline much before your impending travel to ensure that they offer the option to fly your pet dog. It is not uncommon for airlines to do so, especially smaller dog breeds which can be placed in special ‘crates.’
However, if you travel way too often, then it’s best to rethink your decision to get a pet dog in a hurry, or at least put off getting one until such time that your travel is at a bare minimum.
What’s your Style?
Your pet choices would also depend heavily on your lifestyle in general. If you are the active, outdoorsy types, a pet dog would fit right into your lifestyle. If, on the other hand, you prefer the confines of your home and your favorite pastime is to generally lounge around your couch, then you need to reconsider your decision of getting a pet dog. Think about what you would like more, a nice snooze at your favorite spot or unconditional doggy love.
Birds of a Feather…
…flock together, as the saying goes. This logic can be safely extended to dog-man relationships as well. Like humans, dogs too have unique personalities. They have varied energy levels, ranging from the lazy mutts to the hyperactive ones. It is best to pick one that is as close to your personality and your activity levels as can possibly be. In an already complicated world, the last thing you need is pet incompatibility issues, which defeats the whole purpose of having one, to start with.
There are any number of books and articles which will outline to you the different breeds along with their character traits. Having narrowed down to a couple of breeds that you think you will like, do some in-depth research on these. Visit local kennels or adoption homes to get a first-hand look and feel. Enroll into online communities which have a sea of information in this regard. Talk to friends who have pets for some practical, insider information.
Catch them Young?
The next thing to ponder on would be whether to go for a young pup or a fairly grown adult. Purebred puppies are hard to come by, so exercise utmost caution before you pay through your nose for one. Look for a certified breeder in your area and proceed only after a thorough due diligence. If you are not finicky about the breed, then shelters or rescue homes offer a plethora of mixed breed options which are also lighter on the pocket. The advantages of adopting a puppy? Well, their melt-your-heart expressions and epic cuteness more than make up for all the hard work you might put in, training, nurturing, and raising them.
However, if you do not care too much for all the mush and are better off bypassing the hard work, then an adolescent or an adult dog is your best bet. What they lack in the cute department, these older canines make up for with their boundless energy. To a large extent trained, they are also emotionally more mature and are likely to need very little, if any, training. Be warned though, that caring for your pet dog is an ongoing exercise which is unlikely to ever go away completely. You will still need to shower them with love, take adequate care and be there for their every little need. ‘You’ signed up for it, remember?
TLC – Tender Loving Care
And this cannot be over emphasized. Akin to raising children, caring for your pet dog is of utmost importance. From the basic daily routine like feeding, walking, and bathing them to grooming and vaccinating them to entertaining them, dog care is hard work all the way. Establishing routines and sticking to these routines, sometimes at the cost of your own personal work and comfort, day after day after day, is no mean task. It requires a great deal of dedication and large doses of discipline. You need to be mindful of their diet, ensuring they eat wholesome food with nutritional supplements periodically. Exercise is another aspect that is as important as diet, if not more. Close on the heels of diet and exercise, comes grooming. It’s important to keep their coats clean and healthy, especially if you opt for the long-haired variety. Regularly bathing them with readily available dog shampoos and grooming kits will do the job. If you are in an indulgent mood, pet parlors are always an option.
As you might have guessed by now, canine love and penny pinching don’t mix. The love in your heart cannot be measured in monetary terms but the expression of this love sure comes with a price tag. Every step of the way, from buying the dog of your liking, to feeding it and grooming it, and to its routine health checks, costs money. There is a plethora of mandatory vaccinations and a host of preventive care measures to keep fleas and ticks at bay. And these only increase with the dog’s advancing age.
Until they turn six months, puppies need monthly visits to the vets, which can later be spaced out to annual visits as they attain adulthood. Vaccine updates have to be followed religiously. You also need to account for those occasional illnesses which again translate into substantial expenditure. “In sickness and in health” takes on an altogether new dimension when it comes to pet care.
While these are mandatory expenses, there are other frills and fanciful stuff that you cannot resist doing for your pampered pet. These don’t come cheap either. Be it a fancy kennel, a cozy bed, a monogrammed dog blanket, a colorful chew toy, the irresistibly tasty doggy treats, the list is endless.
These are some of the key things to consider and mull before rushing into acquiring a pet dog. If you feel you are up to it and can take it in your stride, then make waste no time and soak in some doggy love. After all, unconditional love doesn’t come easy these days.