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How to Decide if You Should Get a Dog

Updated on February 11, 2013

If you are debating whether to get a dog you could be about to make one of the best or worst decisions of your life. If getting a dog is right for you then you are in for some minor frustrations which will be offset by the huge amount of pleasure and companionship that dogs can bring. However if getting a dog is not the right thing to do you could be turning your life upside down as well as perhaps adding to the numbers of unwanted dogs if you then decide to put it up for re-homing.

The aim of this article is to go through the things you need to consider as you make you decision whether or not to get a dog and to look at the options you have if you are mostly keen, but a bit wary about one aspect. There is also a quiz you can take to see whether you are ready to be a dog owner.

Hairy dogs - Rough collie and Japanese spitz
Hairy dogs - Rough collie and Japanese spitz | Source

Dog Hair - Moulting and Grooming

If you are think of having a dog you need to be prepared for a certain amount of grooming or coat/skin care and moulting. If you are very houseproud you might see it as a fun challenge to have a hairy dog and still keep your clothes and home hair free or it might be something you just can't put up with.

If grooming or moulting is the only thing putting you off having a dog there are breeds you can choose to keep shed hair to a minimum. The Chinese crested and Mexican hairless (Xoloitzcuintle) have minimal hair to shed, but will require some careful skincare. Poodles don't shed, but will require clipping by a dog groomer every couple of months which is an extra expense. Be wary of the current trend for poodle crosses - it is very hard to predict whether these will grow up to be shedders or not.

If you are not worried about shedding, but not keen on doing a lot of grooming it makes sense to get a short coated breed such as the German short haired pointer or whippet.

Destructive dog - doberman puppy
Destructive dog - doberman puppy | Source

Chewing and Destructiveness

If you are thinking of getting a puppy or a young rescue dog it will almost certainly go through a phase of chewing things it shouldn't whilst it's teething. As it gets older it might start to chew your property out of boredom or anxiety whilst you're out.

There are things which you can do to alleviate this, for example by training it what can be chewed, crate training so it doesn't have access to things it shouldn't chew whilst you are out and by providing plenty of dog chews and kongs as an alternative, but realistically you need to expect to lose some household items to the dog's teeth - or at least have them permanently modified!

If the thought of being chewed out of house and home is the only thing putting you off having a dog you could consider giving an older dog a home. Ideally this will be one who has been in foster care and the carer's will have established that the dog doesn't chew household items.

Wet dogs - Groenendael and a terrier mix
Wet dogs - Groenendael and a terrier mix | Source
Dogs find dead things - terrier mix and a dead fish
Dogs find dead things - terrier mix and a dead fish | Source

Mud, Wet and Dead things

Unless you live somewhere particularly dry; if you have a dog you need to expect a degree of sogginess - whether that's from having to walk in the rain and snow, tramping through muddy woods or because you have a dog that launches into any body of water that it sees. So you need to think about whether you are prepared to have muddy paw prints on your clothes and floors, wet dog towels hanging from the radiators and the waft of damp dog permeating your house throughout a rainy autumn.

The other thing you need to be prepared for is your dog finding dead things and other animals poo and rolling in it or eating it. With training you can reduce this behaviour, but if the thought of this totally disgusts you, then a dog is not for you.

If wet and mud are the only things putting you off having a dog then there are some breeds who are usually as reluctant to be out in the wet as you are, such as the Chinese hairless. Greyhounds and Staffordshire bull terriers are also renowned for being fair weather walkers and inclined to volunteer for a duvet day when it is raining. They also have short coats which are easy to dry and keep clean when they do venture out in mud and rain. I can't offer a solid solution to the problem of dogs finding and eating poo and dead things, but I have observed that terriers, scent hounds such as beagles and gun dogs such as Italian spinones seem especially talented in this area! Toy breeds and sight hounds are perhaps least keen. However it should be born in mind that sight hounds may find live things and kill them.

Should I Get a Dog?


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The Cost of Keeping a Dog

The initial outlay is only a small part of the cost of keeping a dog. If you are thinking of getting one from Craig's list or preloved because it's free, the chances are that you can't afford the annual cost of caring for the dog.

I estimate the cost of keeping an medium/large sized dog, such as a labrador at around £34 ($54) per month. A smaller dog would cost less in terms of food, worming tablets and anaesthetic if it needed an operation. Some breeds, such as the British bulldog, Pekingese and shar pei are notoriously prone to illness and therefore expensive with veterinary fees and expensive to insure.

If the cost of keeping a dog is the only thing that is putting you off, draw up a list of weekly and annual expenses you would expect from a dog and see if you can work it in to your budget. Your cheapest options would be a small to medium sized mongrel or you could foster dogs for a re-homing charity - usually they will cover the veterinary costs and you cover the cost of food and toys.

Alaskan malamute - high energy dog
Alaskan malamute - high energy dog | Source
Running dog - GSD cross
Running dog - GSD cross | Source

Exercise

All dogs enjoy and need the stimulation that exercise provides them. If you are thinking about getting a dog you need to be honest with yourself about the amount of exercise you are willing and able to provide. If you are a keen walker or want to go running or dry canine sports such as agility with your dog you could consider high energy breeds such as border collies and huskies. If you like a steady walk most days then a breed with mid range activity levels is for you such as labradors or west highland terriers or you could consider adopting a middle aged dog from a rescue centre.

If the exercise requirements are the only thing putting you off having a dog, because you really don't like exercising or physically can't, then the miniature toy breeds such as the chihuahua and Maltese terrier could be an option or you could adopt an elderly dog. They will appreciate a little walk now and again, but can get a lot of exercise just running around a home and garden. Otherwise you would need to look at whether you can afford to pay someone to walk your dog for you.

Dogs socialising
Dogs socialising | Source

Training and Socialising

Training and socialising a puppy or young adult dog is fun but also time consuming. If you are thinking about having a dog you need to consider whether you are able to put the time into introducing the dog to a wide range of situations so that it is steady around people, other dogs, livestock, transport etc. Some breeds are considered easier to train and socialise than others. Golden retrievers or cocker spaniels might be a better choice of breed for a first dog than a Belgian shepherd or bull mastiff both of which need particularly careful socialising.

If training and socialising is the only thing putting you off having a dog; you could consider re-homing a middle aged dog - most of these will will be socialised and have a basic level of training already. Re-homing a dog which has been in foster care is an especially good way of getting a dog which has had a good grounding in training and socialisation.

Will you still love me when I'm old? German shepherd cross
Will you still love me when I'm old? German shepherd cross | Source

Dogs - a Long Term Commitment

It's impossible to predict the future, but if you are thinking of getting a dog you need to be reasonably confident that you will be able to care for it for the rest of its life. On average the very large and giant breeds have a shorter lifespan (8-10 years). Most breeds live for 12 -14 years, mongrel terriers and border collies are renowned for their longevity often getting to 16 and older.

If the long term commitment is the only thing putting you off there are two options. You could consider re-homing a old dog so that you can be confident that it doesn't have as long to live or you could offer to foster a dog for a re-homing charity, that way if your circumstances change the dogs can be returned to the charity and anyway fostering is usually short term whilst they seek a permanent home for the dog.

Caring for an old dog can bring trials too, alongside extra veterinary expenses, the dog may become a bit incontinent or senile or deaf. Are you prepared to care for a dog compassionately right through to the end?

Before you Decide to have a Dog

The good news is that if you're reading this article you are already thinking sensibly and researching carefully as to whether you should have a dog and which breeds or types of dog might suit you best.

If you have never had a dog before it would be a good idea to borrow one for a few days or weeks to see if you enjoy the experience. You could offer to look after a friend's dog whilst they are away or you could offer to foster a dog short term whilst its owner is in hospital or whilst a re-homing centre finds it a new home. Alternatively you could volunteer as a dog walker at a dog rescue centre. This will give you the chance to interact with different breeds and types of dog and ascertain whether any match your temperament and requirements.

If you are thinking of getting a pedigree puppy, do get in contact with reputable breeders. If you are serious about learning they will often be willing to introduce you the breed and discuss the sort of home which their breed needs.

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      This is a great way to get people to think about what breed of dog they might like. My Italian Greyhounds didn't shed at all. This is also a great plug for older dogs that need homes, too. There are also special needs dogs, that might be missing a limb, or need to have shots on a daily basis.

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Hi Nettlemere. What a shame it is that so many people just get a dog or any pet without giving it thought, this is a great hub and obviously aimed at people with sense, sadly thousands of dogs are put in rescue centres or abandoned or worse in the UK every year by those without an ounce of it. Here in Spain dogs are just turfed out of cars at the side of the road and left to fend for themselves , it really is tragic.

    • Nettlemere profile image
      Author

      Nettlemere 4 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

      Thank you avian novice - I'd love to have met your IGs they are such a scrumptious looking dainty breed!

      Ann - it is shocking how many people still get dogs and get rid of them without a thought isn't it? I had heard that Spain is particularly bad for hunting dogs getting discarded at the end of the hunting season. Is that something you've seen evidence of?

    • bac2basics profile image

      Anne 4 years ago from Spain

      Very sadly it doesn´t just apply to hunting dogs. I notice a rise in abandoned dogs roughly every October and have been told that some people will get a dog just for the summer and then turf it out when they are no longer coming up for weekends. I do see hunting dogs wondering about too but feel that this is sometimes because they go off following a scent and don´t return when called and eventually the owner goes home without the dog, but will return later maybe to find it, of course this doesn´t happen all the time and some will be abandoned because they are maybe no longer as fast as they were. I do know for an absolute fact that some people out here will leave their dogs with very little to sustain them after their weekends in country villas and quite literally expect the neighbours to look after them when they go back to the city for a week or longer, I have had 3 lots of British friends in this position, one of the couples actually saw a neighbour turf the dog out of his car at their gate as he drove past and then had the cheek to call 2 weeks later and ask if they had his dog , and others have had dogs shoved through the bars on their gates. As you probably know , both my dogs were abandoned and just turned up here, as did 2 kittens who could not possibly have got here on their own. Sometimes the cruelty and ignorance of people makes me sick and very very angry indeed.

    • ElizaDoole profile image

      Lisa McKnight 4 years ago from London

      This is a lovely article. As someone aspiring to be a dog owner one day (I've never had a dog of my own!) I found this really useful. Thanks for all the insights and the honest appraisal of what you are in for being a dog owner. Voted up and shared!

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      What a great hub ;so interesting and well informed. This one I am sure will benefit so many.

      Here's to so many more for us to share on here.

      Enjoy your day.

      Eddy.

    • adjkp25 profile image

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      We have always had dogs, I was grew up with them and my family has them now. I don't think life would be the same, for us, without them.

      I can sympathize with the destructive and finding dead things that you mentioned. Our black lab was a real pain when he was a puppy. He had us questioning if he was a good fit for our family many times. Fortunately he finally matured around 4 years old and has been great ever sense.

      Our little Chihuahua recently rolled in a dead toad she found. After bathing her multiple times we finally got the smell out of her. We haven't tried the training route but maybe we should.

      Great job, loved all of the photos.

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