A Little Advice for Would-be Dog Owners

papintubIn not too many months I will have had Annie, my little papillon, for almost three years. Before I got Annie I hadn’t had a dog since I was a kid on the farm. Oh, there’d been a few cats along the way, but not a dog.

I do not regret for one moment getting Annie. She brings a lot of joy and entertainment into my life. However, getting her was a big decision for me. I read a lot of books, searched countless websites, and talked a lot about getting a dog.

Some of my friends told me, “Hey, just get a dog already!” But I know myself better than anyone, and I wanted my decision to be the right one. I had to be really sure I was committed to owning a dog, and I wanted to pick the right dog for me. In the end, it all worked out, and it was a good decision.

But where I live, I see a lot of dogs who need better owners. These dogs deserve to have better lives, so let me give this advice.

Don’t get a dog . . .

  • unless you are committed for the long haul. Most dogs live a long time (some up into their late teens), and they are not like a lamp you get tired of and can just shove into the closet
  • unless you have a life that is fairly routine. Dogs like routine, and when it comes to house-training, dogs really need a routine; otherwise, there will be messes in the house long after puppydom is over.
  • unless you can give a dog exercise every day. And remember dogs that don’t get enough exercise are more likely to get bored and then chew up things and do other types of damage to your home and personal possessions. Find out how much exercise the dog you are thinking about needs before you actually get it. A dog like a Jack Russell terrier may look small and cute, but it will be bouncing off the walls and the top of your head if it doesn’t get enough exercise.
  • unless you are ready to pay for all the needs of your dog. Some big dogs can eat a lot of food. Check out the price of one of those big bags of dog food. Also dogs will need shots at least once a year. Plus, they need heartworm medicine and flea treatment once a month. Then what about if the dog gets sick or breaks a bone or gets bitten? That’s more vet bills. Annie’s yearly shots and check-up is about $140, another shot every six months at about $40, flea medicine $70 for 6 months. I forget what the heartworm medicine costs but I think about $5 a month. Then don’t forget about the city license. That will cost too, and it’s even more if the dog is not neutered. Then if you get a dog that needs grooming; that’s just like taking Big Hair Betty to the beauty parlor! And if you go out of town and need to have your dog boarded? Or you decide to take the dog on a flight? All of that will cost too, and it’s not cheap.

Now some just plain serious stuff.

Don’t get a dog . . .

  • unless it is neutered or you are willing to have it neutered. And don’t tell me you want your dog to have puppies, or you want your male dog to be a stud. If you are reading this post, you are not a dog breeder. Just because you think you’re a big hot stud does not mean that your dog needs his balls. Other dog owners do not like a dog that is always humping their dogs or even people’s legs just because some guy thinks he’s so macho that he can’t bear to see his male dog neutered. In reality, a neutered dog is an all-around nicer dog. If you’re worried about the dog getting fat, it’s not because the dog is neutered; it’s because the dog isn’t getting enough exercise. And if your dog is a female, there are millions of unwanted dogs put to death every year. Do you want to add to that number?
  • unless–and this is a biggee–you are willing to clean up after your dog. This means cleaning up inside when the cute little puppy messes on the carpet–and it will–because it’s just like a baby, and has to go frequently. This also means picking up the poop outside after your dog does a big one. It’s necessary because you don’t want to step in it, other people don’t want to step in it, it spreads disease if not picked up, and in most cities, it’s the law!

So if you’re considering getting a dog, think about these things. A dog can be a wonderful part of your life, but you have to be ready to be a dog owner, and in particular, you have to be ready to be responsible for that dog’s life in every way. Otherwise, neither you nor the dog will be happy.