The major dog charity in the UK, The Dogs Trust, which finds homes for over 16,000 unwanted dogs every year, has as its’ slogan “A dog is for life, not just for Christmas”. Every year, just after Christmas, its’ homes are bursting to the seams with puppies and dogs which have been bought as Christmas presents, and thrown out shortly afterwards by families who are unable or unwilling to care for them.
Getting a dog requires careful consideration on a number of levels. Whether a puppy or an older dog, it is going to require a lot of time, effort, and love in much the same way as a new baby. In return, it will give you its’ undying friendship and love for the rest of its life, which in the case of smaller dogs may be as much as twenty years. Most dogs will live for at least ten years: you need to consider whether you have the time to give your dog everything he needs.
To begin with, if you are buying a puppy, he is going to need house training, and you have to be prepared for accidents around the house until he has got the idea that he has to do that sort of thing outside. You also need to train him to be well-behaved, and walk to heel rather than pulling on a leash. You can, of course, buy videos showing how to train a puppy, but whichever way you do it, it is going to take time. Do you have sufficient time to devote to training? Do you have sufficient time to take him for a walk twice daily – not just down to the end of the street, but perhaps a couple of miles a day?
Then, of course, there are the costs involved. He is going to need food, He is going to need his injections, and over the course of his lifetime there will be many trips to the vets. As he gets older, he may need operations, or other treatment which costs a lot of money. You can, of course, take out pet insurance to cover some or all of these costs, but that is an additional expense. Are you prepared for this?
Habits that Are Hard To Break
An older dog may be house trained, but also may have habits that do not fit in with your lifestyle and which may be hard to break, certainly in the early stages.
What sort of dog do you want? Some people like big dogs, others like small ones. Some want a pedigree, others are happy with a mongrel. A greyhound will run around in a field or a park for half an hour like crazy, and then spend the other 23 hours of the day on your sofa. A Jack Russell, taken for a walk in the woods, will happily go on all day non-stop. You may walk five miles, he will do about 2 – 3 times that, dashing about in the undergrowth, and by the time you get back to where you parked the car will be ready to repeat the walk. Fact!
Certainly, getting a dog will bring you untold joy and excitement, and you will have his undying love for life. However, with this comes responsibility.
There is one other fact that you will very probably have to face. Dogs do not have the same lifespan that we do. In many cases there comes a time when his quality of life is so poor that you have to let him go. That is the hardest decision that any dog owner ever has to make; you are losing a member of the family, and YOU have to take the decision in his best interests – not yours.
With all that said, having a dog around the house is perhaps one of the finest life experiences that anyone could have. As long as you are aware of the responsibilities that go with it, he will give you untold joy and pleasure for years.