You are not ready for a new puppy if...
No, your pup will not be an exception.
Pretending that you will have a perfect dog won't mean that a sweet new pup is going to be perfect. This is an illusion that sends dogs to shelters by the thousands every day. So, what is your plan for dealing with challenges?
1. You have not done your breed research.
What are the difficulties connected to raising a puppy of your preferred breed? Is it a tendency to bark? Is it a strong prey drive? Is it a difficult to manage coat? Is it restrictions on where your dog is allowed to live (some areas have banned Rottweilers and Pitbulls)? Maybe your dog demands extensive, consistent exercise - are you in the position to offer it? Maybe that breed is known to drool. A lot. Are you prepared to keep that dog out of the crate and in your living space, despite its messiness? Because you know, that's where dogs want to be, right next to their human, by their side. If you are not ready to offer that time and attention to you dog, you are not ready.
The answer is quite simple: you need to connect with knowledgeable group that knows a lot about your breed. Learn before you bring a puppy into your life, and continue to seek reputable advice for as long as you need it. Every dog deserves someone that cares enough to learn about what it needs to be happy. Someone that doesn't see a dog as an inconvenience, but rather a part of the family. People who have experience with the breed of your choice can advise you on dealing with predictable challenges. The second part to this dilemma is training. Some breed will demand more consistency, money and time spent in class. Some breeds won't. Are you committed enough to doing what it takes to learning how to teach your dog to be a friendly, well-mannered member of a family and human society?
What happens to the dogs once they get to shelters?
Feel free to ignore this entire article, but I dare you to spend 10 minutes on this website before you bring home your new pup. If nothing else will convince you take dog ownership seriously, hopefully, that site will.
2. You believe that if the dog is not a good fit for your family, the shelter will take care of it.
Everyone tells you that owning a dog is a long-term commitment. Yet, some people still tend to believe that if you can't deal with a dog, all you have to do is to bring the dog to a shelter, and the dog will be taken cared of by the caring volunteers, the dog will get a new life, better than what you were able to provide for it. Everything will be just fine. Wake up and educate yourself first on what is happening at your local shelters, and how overwhelmed local rescue organizations are. Your dog will likely spend weeks if not months with limited human contact, locked in a kennel waiting for its turn to get affection. This has little to do with the fact that volunteers don't care, and much more to do with the fact that irresponsible families continue to buy pets they are not ready for - flooding the rescues with unwanted, poorly behaved, sick dogs.
3. You are not financially stable.
Between daycare, food and treats, boarding, classes and routine vet visits, the cost of owning my healthy, well-behaved Rottweiler easily averages $500-700 a month. If you think you will be spending less on your dog - let me go over the expenses one point at a time.
- Just like every dog on the planet, I firmly believe that my dog deserves more than spending 8 hours a day in a crate. Despite the fact that our Ella has a crate, I can't stand this invention. Ella goes in it by choice when she wants a nap away from everyone, and about once a month, for no more than 3 hours at a time, when we go out to a dinner or to watch a movie. She doesn't like to sleep in it during the night, nor does she spend the days there while we are at work. Crates turned into an instrument of torture for many intelligent, energetic dogs. Just because American society repeats "it's to keep the dog safe, besides, dogs are like wolves, and they are den animals", doesn't mean that it doesn't translate into "dogs should be kept safe through their owners' attention to their pets, and wolves only spend time in the dens when having pups, and almost never beyond their puppyhood." Since we are not home during the day to keep Ella safe and away from causing trouble, we keep her in doggy daycare. This bill alone runs $300-$400 a month. What is your plan for your dog when you are away from home? If you are planning to rely on a crate - you are not ready.
- The first year of puppy's life is filled with vet bills. One vaccine after another, plus those nervous calls and visits before you figure out what is normal and what is not. Additionally, a couple of accidents (our Rottie hurt her eye while playing with another dog, and had some trouble with digestion for the first few months), spaying and neutering your dog will likely put some strain on your finances. Every month we are administering Heartguard and tick preventative medication. Are you ready for such a responsibility?
- Our dog has been taking classes since she was 2 months old. You may believe yourself to be the next dog whisperer, but that's what every owner of every dog that ends up in shelters for behavioral issues has insisted right before you. This point particularly applies to large, powerful breeds. It is downright irresponsible to bring a German Shepherd, or a Rottweiler into your house without making plans for continuous formal training with a qualified professional. If you are not ready for it - don't get a working breed.
- We choose not to feed Ella "junk food", and did our research on healthy dog food alternatives. This means more expensive brand to ensure higher quality meals. Whether or not you care how healthy your dog eats, I sure do hope you care whether or not your dog eats. That means one way or another you have to figure in this cost into your budget.
Take this seriously.
When you bring home a live creature, you take the responsibility for another life. You are responsible not only for keeping it breathing, but also for maintaining the animal's health, happiness and well-being. Sticking it in a crate has nothing to do with taking care of it, let's be honest, it's taking care of your own needs to remain responsibility-free despite taking on a commitment to raise a dog. Keeping a pup outside on a chain, is not teaching it house manners, and sending off a dog to a shelter has nothing to do with taking care of the problem. A sick dog deserves a visit to a vet, all expenses paid, and a powerful, energetic dog deserves a long daily walk. Do your homework, and take this seriously.