So, you’ve decided to get a puppy. Owning a dog is a big responsibility. A lot of people don’t understand the time and commitment it takes to be a good dog owner. The puppy that you see in the dog store window is so adorable and I’m sure you want to take it home today. Do yourself and the puppy a favor and step back for a moment. Make sure you are not making a spur-of-the-moment purchase. If you do decide to take that puppy home, make sure you are prepared for what is in store for you. Understand that this animal will live at least nine years, sometimes many more (depending on the breed). Are you willing to make that commitment? If you answer “yes” to that question, read through the questions below and honestly answer them.
Do you have time for a dog?
This is the million dollar question. Owning a dog is time-consuming if you are going to do it right. Dogs are social animals, they want to be near you. But dogs need to be taught manners. They need to know that they cannot run full speed at your neighbor and take him out at the knees. They need to be taught that humping your mother-in-law is unacceptable. They need to understand that the delicious smelling steak resting on the counter is not theirs for the taking. They need to learn to come when called and stay on command. They need to let you pry open their mouth and fish out the unknown substance they are chewing on. Who is going to teach them all of this? You are. And if you don’t, they will end up confined in their kennel through no fault of their own. That is unfair to your dog, and you miss out on the opportunity of having a faithful companion around for you and others to enjoy.
The puppy months – Are you willing to have your life temporarily turned upside-down by a puppy?
Oh, how I love puppies! The puppy breath, their clumsy gait, their surprise at new sounds. They are so darn cute you almost wish they would stay that way forever. Except for the learning curve. Your new puppy will make mistakes, no doubt about it. She will poop and pee in the house (many times). She will cry at night and keep you awake. When you finally get to sleep, you will need to wake up to let her out to go potty. She will gnaw on your hands until they are raw. And she will most likely destroy something important to you. My first puppy, while kenneled mind you, somehow got her claw around our new Berber carpeting. She pulled up a section about 5 feet long. Did I mention this was brand new carpeting in our brand new house? We had to have the whole room re-carpeted. Our second puppy was a digger. I have no idea which flower bulbs will come up this spring, I guess I will just have to be surprised. The puppy months take a lot of patience, but enjoy them while they last. They will be over way too soon.
Do you have the space for a dog?
Dogs need room to run. A fenced-in yard is the best bet where they can safely be off-leash and run to their heart’s content. If you live in an apartment or condo, do you have access to a dog park? Will you be able to walk the dog? Exercise is the key to a happy and healthy dog. If they are confined to a small area without an outlet to to get their energy out, they may engage in destructive behavior. Owning a dog might just be a health benefit for you, too. Even on the days I don’t feel like walking my dogs, I know I need to for their sake. I force myself to get up and go outside and most of the time I am glad I did.
Do you have the money for a dog?
Dogs, like your car for instance, will need regular upkeep. You will need to take them to the vet once a year for a tune up. You will also need to get them spayed or neutered. You will need to purchase toys for them so that they have acceptable items to chew on. Some types of dogs will require regular grooming. Hopefully you will kennel your dog, this will require purchase of a kennel (I’m all for kennels). Add flea and tick prevention and, of course dog food to the list. No, dogs are not overly expensive but they do cost money. And there’s always the unexpected visits to the vet if they get sick or hurt. One of my dogs needed surgery for a hematoma on her ear. Boom. Over $500.00. Are you prepared and willing to spend that kind of money?
Are you willing to accept that your house will most likely leave muddy paw prints, dog fur and have the occasional “accident” in the house, especially when they are a puppy?
I cannot count the times I have meticulously cleaned my hardwood floors, only to have them covered in muddy dog prints a few hours later. No matter how many times I vacuum or brush my dogs, there is always dog fur collecting in some corner of my house. I know I need to clean under my couch more often, because each time I do I am horrified by what I find under there. Tennis balls, raw hides, and fur. So much fur. I suppose it is possible to have a spotless house with a dog or two, but it would take a lot more work than I am willing to do. I would rather be outside chucking tennis balls for my dogs, not inside fighting a losing battle against fur and mud. But that’s just me.
Are you willing to be consistent in the training of your puppy?
Set rules from the beginning. Don’t want your dog on the furniture? Establish that rule when they are a puppy and don’t waver. Dogs understand consistency. Don’t confuse them by sometimes letting them on furniture and forbidding it other times. It’s either yes or no. Pick one and stick with it. Same goes with everything else – begging for food, giving table scraps, you can even train your dog to go potty in the same section of your yard if you are consistent in your training. Ultimately, all your dog wants to do is please you.
There is so much more to owning a dog, but this should give you a good idea to see if you’re ready for a puppy. Owning a dog can be one of the most rewarding things in the world. Their loyalty and companionship are without equal. But be warned – they can steal your heart and break it when their time on earth is up. But they will be yours, and only yours, until the end.
“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion”