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5 Things to Consider Before Getting a Dog

Updated on December 11, 2015
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Dogs are one of the oldest and most popular companion animals. Owning a dog can be a wonderful, rewarding experience! But before you buy a puppy or rescue an older dog, there are a few things to consider about the realities of owning a pet.

Lifespan

A dog's lifespan can range anywhere from 8 to almost 20 years, depending on breed and health. A realistic estimate is 12-15 years. It may not sound like much compared to a human life span, but consider how much can happen in that time period. Moving, college, changing jobs, marriage, children, and many other life events are likely to occur. Will you be able to keep your pet during all of these changes?

A dog depends on its owners to provide a safe, loving home for the entirety of its life. Shelters are full of unfortunate pets who are surrendered because their owners could no longer accommodate an animal in their lives. Before you accept the responsibility of caring for a dog, think about the ways your life may change and how you will deal with your pet during those times. If you cannot realistically ensure that your dog will be owned and loved for its entire life, please reconsider getting one! No animal deserves to be abandoned. Every pet deserves a "forever home" where they can live out their years.

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Family agreement

You've decided that you want to add a dog to your family. But what about that family - is everyone on board with the idea of getting a pet? Pets can be a big responsibility, and can affect a family in many ways. If the primary owner can't or won't fulfill the dog's needs, like feeding, walking, and vet care, someone else must step in. Things like health care and boarding can potentially be a strain on the family's finances. Is your spouse OK with these extra responsibilities? Are children in the family comfortable with animals, and are they likely to treat it with kindness and love?

If anyone has fears or doubts about getting a dog, be sure to talk them through before bringing home a puppy. If there are disagreements, please reconsider whether now is the best time to introduce a four legged member to the family. Your dog will love everyone; make sure everyone will love the dog!

Exercise

Dogs in general are athletic animals. Most breeds are happy and energetic, and love to run, play, and wrestle. Exercise is important to keep any dog healthy, happy, and well behaved - if they don't get the exercise they need, that extra energy may be channeled into bad habits like excessive barking, digging, or chewing.

Walks are the simplest way to give your dog some physical exertion. Dogs love to take a spin around the neighborhood, seeing the sights, smelling the smells, and marking their favorite spots. Hiking is a fun way to enjoy nature and get exercise for both dog and human, and dogs can even be trained to run beside a bicycle. Dog parks, where dogs can run and play with other animals in a controlled environment, can be a good choice. Some breeds love to swim, and will have great time in a creek or lake. And of course there's the option of a fenced in backyard, where the dog can fetch or play with the kids.

Regardless of which method you choose, it's important to give your dog some physical activity every day. Many "bad" dogs aren't really bad, they're acting out simply because they have excess energy and no way to get rid of it. Are you prepared to make sure your pet gets exercise on a regular basis? Think about what it would be like to go for a walk every day, or to make the extra effort to include your dog in your outdoor activities. Make sure you can commit to giving your dog some form of exercise.

Breed choice is also important here. Some breeds were bred for working or hunting, and naturally have very high energy levels. Others, especially many small breeds, were bred to be companions and therefore have lower energy levels. Consider how the energy level of each breed would fit into your lifestyle, and use that to help choose a breed that works for you.

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Boarding

What's everyone's favorite part of their job? The vacation, of course! Vacations and holidays are great times to get away from the daily grind, spend time with the family, and maybe visit places far from home.

But remember, your pets must be taken care of all year round. Acceptance of pets at hotels and other facilities is slowly increasing, but there are still many places you cannot take a dog. Can you imagine Fido on a roller coaster at Disney World? And no way will he be allowed in that museum! It's often easier to leave the dog at home while you are away, especially if you are traveling abroad. Family emergencies also present situations where pets may need to be left behind for a few days or weeks.

Kennels provide boarding for pets while their owners are away. Depending on the kennel and the breed of your dog, this can potentially be very expensive. Animals with health problems that require medication or strict monitoring may have to be boarded in a special facility, such as a veterinary hospital. Another option is dog sitting, where an individual watches your dog while you are away, either in their home or yours.

Call around for some average rates in your area, and estimate how much it would cost to board your pet while you are vacationing. Are you prepared to arrange boarding or sitting for your dog, and deal with the resulting expense?

Destruction

One of the most common and well known habits of the canine is chewing. Puppies chew extensively while they are teething, and many dogs continue to get enjoyment from chewing for their entire lives.

The problem arises when the dog chews things he isn't supposed to. A dog, especially a puppy, often has trouble telling the difference between an allowable chew toy, like a bone or rope, and an off limits possession like a pair of running shoes or a table leg. Dogs are very intelligent and can be trained to understand what is chewable and what isn't, but the fact is, even with careful monitoring, you are likely to lose a few items in your home to the dog's jaws. Other types of damage, like digging, scratches on the floor, and general dirt can also occur.

Think about the items in your home. If the dog destroys one, can you cope with the loss? Can you handle it if an excited pooch leaves scratches on your hardwood floors, knocks over grandma's vase, or digs up your flower garden? And there's always the chance that you might get home late, only to find that your pet had no choice but to "go" inside on the carpet.

Dogs, just like children, break things sometimes. Dog proofing your home can help, but it's likely that there will be some damage at some point. Please understand this before committing to keeping an animal.

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Conclusion

Your dog depends on you to keep it healthy and happy for its entire life. Before welcoming one into your home, take some time and think about all the ways a dog may change your life, and the responsibilities that go along with it. Being fully prepared for the reality of owning a pet will make sure that you and your dog have a long, rewarding life together!

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