The decision to get
a dog is not something to be taken lightly. An adorable puppy can tug at
our heartstrings but, in the end, will require a significant investment of
your time and money for a significant number of years. Socializing and
training a new puppy is time consuming and, occasionally, frustrating. It
can increase the amount of stress on the family, and the dog, working to
provide the constant supervision, socialization, and training that is
necessary to successfully integrate a dog into a family environment. This
is especially true if the primary caregiver(s) are working outside of the
home and/or have young children, an elderly parent, or other persons
and/or pets to care for. This does not mean that it cannot be done. But,
prospective dog owners often underestimate the investment of time, energy,
and money, required.
depending upon what breed or mixed breed you ultimately select it may take
some time to find the right breeder and/or the right puppy/dog.
Reputable, ethical breeders do not breed frequently. And, they only breed
when they have found a pair who has been proven to possess the health and
temperaments required to insure, to the extent possible, healthy, well
this decision impulsively, can lead to frustration, disappointment, and
eventually, may result in the surrender of the dog to a shelter or rescue.
US, the tragic fact is that, millions of the dogs are prematurely
euthanized, annually. And, most often, it is the owners, not the dogs,
who are responsible for their premature deaths. Impulsive or poorly
thought out decisions; the selection of a difficult or headstrong breed
because it is 'popular' or you like how it looks; or, for that matter, any
dog selected for looks rather than temperament, 'match' to your lifestyle,
and your ability to provide proper care and environment; the lack of
consideration of the lifestyle changes you may experience over the next 12
to 14 years; as well as the lack of proper socialization, training,
physical activity, and attention -- these are all major contributors to
the need for so many shelters and rescues. And, results, all too
frequently, in premature euthanasia.
WHY DO YOU WANT A
The first question
you should ask yourself, honestly is . . .
Why do I (we) want
If your answer is:
son/daughter/children . . .
Trust me, this will be YOUR dog!
After the 'honeymoon period', the kids may only play with the dog,
occasionally. They may groan and grumble about any dog-related
responsibilities, doing them, begrudgingly, only after significant
prodding from you. As children's interests and activities change, over
the years, their level of involvement with the dog will most likely be,
inconsistent, at best. Additionally, your children, especially, young
children, will need to be 'trained' in how to behave with the dog and will
need to be supervised when with the dog.
For protection .
. . I know some may
disagree but, it is my opinion, that the only time is it a good idea to
get a dog for the purpose of protection is in professional or agricultural
situations and only when the owner/trainer is humane and knowledgeable of
dog behavior and dominant dog training/handling. In all other situations
- probably 99.9% - an alarm system, security fence, or other measures are
much more appropriate and effective.
To breed puppies
. . . If you've read the
third paragraph of this piece and still feel this way, there is probably
little I can offer to change your mind. But, just in case, let me restate
the case a little more thoroughly. The breeding of dogs is a
responsibility not to be taken lightly. If it is not your intention to
remain responsible for all of your puppies for their entire lives,
including being willing to take back and care for those who may find
themselves homeless, do not enter into this endeavor. If you are planning
on breeding for profit, understand that there are much easier, more
profitable and ethical ways to make a buck. Dogs are living beings and
dog breeding requires a significant investment of time, money, labor,
knowledge, both academic and practical, patience, and emotional fortitude,
to be done responsibly and humanely. Please visit a few of the shelter
and rescue websites, or your local shelter, and witness the problem
yourself. View the faces of the homeless dogs and talk to the volunteers
and staff who, all too often, must take that 'final walk' with them.
Because BreedX is
'Cool', was in a movie you saw, is unique and exotic, is free/cheap, or
other such nonsense. . .
One of the WORSE reasons to get a
dog, or any other animal, for that matter, is because of their physical
appearance or popularity due to a movie, TV show, or other publicity.
Often, these venues feature exotic, rare or unique breeds that are, in the
overwhelming majority of pet situations, unsuitable as companions. This
visibility may also draw out those 'breeders' whose primary motivation is
profit versus health, temperament, structural soundness and the welfare of
And, remember to
incorporate the same thoughtful consideration on whether or not to get a
dog, and which breed or mix, when your friend, coworker or relative offers
you one of Fluffy's puppies. Dogs are never really 'free' or 'cheap' and,
in reality, require significant financial, physical, time, and
environmental resources. At a minimum, none of these, or other such
reasons, are sound selection factors for getting a dog and selecting a
particular breed or mix. And, remember, if it is difficult for you to
find information on a particular breed, or a breeder of the breed, it
follows that you will most likely also have difficulty finding local
support services that are familiar with the training, health care, and
maintenance needs of that breed.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF DOG OWNERSHIP
However, if you are
interested in getting a dog for the RIGHT reasons, please ask yourself the
following 10 questions, prior to selecting a breed and breeder or visiting
your local shelter or rescue facility:
Are you, and all those who live with you, committed
to spend 12+ years providing health care, food, grooming, training and
attention to a dog? Do the people who live with you also want a dog?
Do you have the time and/or resources available .
. . To take your dog for walks and to the vet? To bath, brush, clip,
and, otherwise, groom your dog as often as necessary? Will you want to
play and, perhaps, work on training daily, with your dog? Are you willing
to take your dog to puppy socialization, kindergarten, and basic obedience
lifestyle-altering events that could occur in your foreseeable future? -
A baby, caring for an elderly family member, a divorce, job uncertainty,
etc. And, how would you deal with these changes as they impacted your
ability to care for a dog?
Is your personality conducive to dog ownership? Do
you often feel 'stressed out'? Do you like to have total control over
your environment or 'space'? Are you a 'neat freak'? Are you flexible?
Patient? Answer honesty - nobody but you will know AND, more importantly,
nobody but you will have to live with the results of your trying to 'fit'
your personality to a dog.
Are you physically able to care for a dog? Are you
economically able to provide care for a dog?
Is your environment prepared for a dog and/or are
you willing to make the investment of time and money necessary to insure
that it does? Is there a yard or park-like area for your dog to walk and
relieve him- or her- self? Is your yard, or a portion of it, fenced? If
your dog will be outside for any period of time, will you provide a secure
and comfortable shelter for your dog? Although you may have a secure and
comfortable location for your dog while it is outdoors, dog should not be
left outdoors, unattended, for extended periods of time. They can be
taunted, released, stolen, or worse. Tethering can cause serious physical
harm or death in the event of an entanglement or other such accident.
Further, prolonged tethering can cause undesirable behavioral and
personality traits to surface. Additionally, garages may contain
chemicals, tools and other items that can be dangerous and/or harmful to
Will your dog be alone for long periods of time,
daily? Can you arrange for the dog to be let out for a romp, given water,
medication, and playtime, as necessary, during the day? Or, will you
become angered and frustrated by behavioral issues that may arise due to
the fact that your dog is alone for long periods of time? (i.e., relieves
him or herself indoors; chews up a blanket, your shoes, your favorite
chair cushion; barks incessantly, causing your neighbors to become angry
or, perhaps, even call animal control on you; etc. Do not plan to leave
your dog outdoors or in a garage all day while you are away! If this is
in your plans, I suggest you revisit the question "Why do I/We want a
Are you willing to spay/neuter your dog, as soon as
possible, to reduce the chance of an accidental breeding?
Do you travel frequently? Will it be difficult for
you to find quality care for your dog when you are away?
Do you really LOVE dogs? If you are truly motivated
by your love of dogs, or a particular dog, you most likely don't need this
page. You've done your homework and are ready for a lifelong commitment.
You will train and play with your dog, provide appropriate veterinary care
and nutrition, you will bath and groom him or her, happily, and the
occasional behavioral problem won't throw you for a loop. If this is the
case, please visit the other related sections of the library for helpful
articles on breed or mix selection, puppy or adult?, adoption or breeder,
finding a breeder, preparation for your dog, training care, and more.
While there are a few breeds, especially exotic or rare
breeds, which I would not recommend to people considering dog ownership,
there are several shared traits and needs that are basic to all dogs. All
require socialization, training, a secure, comfortable and safe
environment, grooming and health maintenance, professional health care, a
quality diet, companionship, attention, and love. All dogs are canines
and think like canines. It is important that you educate yourself through
books, training classes, etc., so that you will be able to interpret and
understand their behavior and respond appropriately.
Additionally, with regard to "non-shedding dogs," while
there is no such animal (except for hairless varieties which present
greater maintenance and care challenges), some do shed considerably less
than others (i.e., several terrier breeds, schnauzers, poodles, etc.).
However, understand that if it is an allergy or asthma that you are
concerned with, it is likely not the shedding of hair that causes the
reaction in humans, it is proteins in the saliva, dander or contact with
urine, that will often trigger allergic reactions. Non-allergenic breeds
of dogs or cats do not exist. Animals tend to shed dander at different
rates and hair length is only a minor factor in the amount of dander an
animal makes. Animals may also be more allergenic at certain times of the
year as they go through dander-shedding cycles. The characteristics of a
person’s allergies can also change over time. Purchasing a so-called
"non-allergenic" breed usually does not work out. Getting rid of a pet
after emotional attachments have been made is hard for all involved.
However, if it is the 'mess' you are concerned
about, while you can minimize the amount and/or length of the
hair/undercoat shed via breed selection and proper grooming, dogs can and
do make messes having nothing to do with shedding. So, if muddy coat and
paws or a bit of doggy 'fragrance' are going to throw you into a tailspin,
please reevaluate if this is the best time for you to get a dog.
Thoughtful breed and breeder selection can
improve, to some degree, the odds that you will find a healthy,
well-tempered, dog that meets your expectations in a family pet. Deciding
to get an older adoptable pure or mixed breed dog can eliminate a few
'unknowns' but, may, on the other hand, present alternative concerns. In
any event, at some point during your dog's life, you will face some
'surprises' or 'issues' that will require some flexibility and
out-of-the-ordinary amount of patience, time, and effort on your part.
Even when dealing with the most reputable breeder, rescue or shelter, and
being extremely diligent and thorough, in your research, your ability to
predict you and your dog's future, is limited. Therefore, just as in
marriage or parenthood, you must be willing to be somewhat flexible and
sincerely committed to responding, responsibly, to deviations from your
And, finally, it is true, that many behavioral
issues can be solved through training and sufficient activity and
exercise; some of these traits are inherent enough to be recurring and
frustrating to owners. If digging, chewing, etc. are likely to result in
your packing your dog off to a shelter, please reconsider your decision to
get a dog.