Deciding to bring home a dog is very exciting. I remember the day I got my first dog, a Jack Russell puppy that I had rescued from a puppy mill. Rocky, who is now six years old, was sick and unruly. No one took care of him at the puppy mill and he did not even have his basic puppy vaccinations. The first months of his life cost me a lot of money and a lot more frustration. All of his health concerns were taken care of but he still enjoyed causing destruction in the house. Among his many accomplishments were eating Alka Seltzer medications and an entire medium cheese pizza. The Alka Seltzer gave him an upset belly for that entire night, and pizza made his breath smell like tomato sauce for a whole week. Still, I decided to bring another Jack Russell home that I had purchased from a breeder. Julie, who is now five years old, turned out to be even more hyper and even more stubborn than her brother. After long hours of training and patience, my dogs are now loving and calm Jacks that bring tears of joy to my eyes. I have learned a lot of lessons as a dog owner, so beware if you are interested in bringing home a new furry pet.
Do you have enough room for a dog?
Evaluate your living space before bringing home a dog. A dog should be comfortable, with enough room to roam around and an area they can turn into their comfort zone. Large dog breeds such as Great Danes and German Sheperds will not be comfortable living in an apartment or condominium.
An adequate outdoor space is a must for larger dogs. Smaller dog breeds such as Jack Russells can live in an apartment or condominium, but they could benefit from an outdoor play area as well. Not having a back yard means having to take the dog out for bathroom routine, but even a back yard does not provide enough physical activity to your dog. A dog will not exercise on its own, or run laps in the back yard.
Are you active enough?
Consider your schedule, work hours and the amount of free time you have before deciding to bring a dog into the mix. A dog’s natural instinct is to be active, outdoors and to have time to play. A dog should not be cooped up in a cage for long hours of the day while you work or enjoy happy hour after work. Your pet deserves to go out for walks in the park, hiking and swimming. Certain dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers, have a fondness for water and enjoy swimming. A well-exercised dog is a happy dog, who will not find entertainment in eating your couch. A bored dog will be interested in destruction as it will see that as their time to be active.
Educate yourself on safe dog walking practices in order to avoid accidents. A dog should always be leashed when on a walk, with preferably a harness that is placed around the waist area. The harness prevents choking and pulling, but provides you with better control of the dog. Dogs should never be off a leash, not even on a park trail. The dog’s leash will provide safety to both your pet and humans around. Muzzle a dog when on walks if your dog is prone to biting.
Do you have or plan to have children?
I brought my two dogs home years before I had children, and also during a period in my life when I thought I would not have children. Life changes though, and children are brought into the same household. My dogs are calm and well-natured, but are also spoiled and jealous. While they never meant harm to the baby, they were confused as to why mommy was holding a small thing that made way too much noise. When we had our son, we spent months during the pregnancy and two months afterwards adjusting the dogs to their new life with our baby. This included having the dogs are my mother’s house where they can be safe and comfortable 24/7. We also brought blankets and clothing daily for the dog’s to smell. During the first meeting the dogs were behind a secure gate but close enough to get a visual of the baby. Gradually we worked towards having the dogs and baby close to each other, but not without the dogs being on a secure leash.
Bringing a dog into a household with children also means protecting the dog from the kids. When our son started crawling and moving, he enjoyed pulling on the dogs and their tails. He also tried to ride the dogs like horsies. In order to bring harmony and balance to your household, kids and dogs should be protected and made to feel safe in the home.
Do you have time to invest?
Investing time into your dog means training, teaching and correcting bad behavior. The time you invest into your dog will help turn it into a model pet. However, not every day with a dog is pleasant or joyful. A dog is not born knowing to not jump on the furniture or that sleeping in the big human bed is not allowed. Some days you will come home to a living room full of stuffing or see your favorite pair of shoes shredded into pieces. Yelling and hitting the dog is not a proper way to correct bad behavior, therefore both you and the dog have to be taught on how to train each other.
Patience is a requirement for dog ownership, but it does not come easy. The behavior your dog exhibits could be your own fault, and perhaps due to a lack of training. A dog’s training is also never complete, which is another reason why owning a dog is a lifetime commitment.
Do you have enough money to own a dog?
Being a responsible dog owner requires spending money, and not just on essentials like a bag of dog food. Veterinarian visits can be costly and frequent, especially if you bring home a new puppy. I can easily spend $200 at one veterinarian visit for my two dogs, and that is just the cost for exams and required vaccinations. Your dog can get sick, requiring costly veterinarian visits and possibly hospitalization. Do you have enough financial means to take care of a dog? A food bowl also has to be refilled, which costs money. Larger dog breeds will eat more food, but all dogs require treats and snacks as well. Rawhide bones and other snacks will keep a dog busy, but the cost can quickly add up. Consider not getting a dog if all you can afford is $20 a week on a bag of dry dog food.
It is extremely important to consider everything before bringing home a dog. All your dog wants is a family to love and a good home. It would be unfair to send a dog to the animal shelter if you did not plan well or had no money to be a dog owner. A dog you decide to bring home will give you unconditional love and will wag its tail even if you’ve had the worst day of your life. Dogs are special creatures that can make any home a happier place, but they require their humans to be responsible and loving as well.
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