Dogs are loyal and loving companions as well as being good for your health and that of your family. However, there is a lot to think about before you take a new dog into your home. You need to know how to care for him and be responsible - accept that you are taking him on for the whole of his life - not just until the novelty wears off.
Before deciding which type of dog to acquire, you need to consider factors relating to your own lifestyle and situation as well as characteristics associated with particular types of dog. Dogs or puppies can be acquired from a range of sources, each with potential advantages and disadvantages. Be aware of all these variables and chose wisely. Avoid acquiring a dog on impulse or out of sympathy. Do not be afraid to say “no!”
Questions helping you choose wisely
THINGS ABOUT YOU
How much free time do you have?
How would a dog fit into your daily routine? If you're out all day, or keep irregular hours, this may prove to be difficult – indeed a cat may be a better choice of pet. It is not fair to leave a dog cooped up inside on its own all day, so only get one if you enjoy regular walks and exercise.
Do you take regular exercise?
Depending on its size, a dog will need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. That means every day irrespective of the weather! For older people, especially those with limited mobility, a small dog requiring less exercise may be preferable. This imposed requirement for exercise in old people, as long as it is within appropriate limits, may be good for their own health and routine. Remember dogs get old too, and will also get less mobile and require help and assistance. This may be physically difficult if the dog is large or overweight.
How much space do you have?
Check before you buy or acquire a dog how big it will be when it's fully grown! Do not get a large dog unless you have a sufficient room with a garden to keep it in. Apartments with stairs may be a problem with larger dogs, especially if they are injured, unwell or simply getting older. The small puppy you may be looking at now may not remain the same size!
How much can you afford?
Choose a dog that you can keep healthily, but within your budget. Boarding kennels or catteries, veterinary bills, feeding and grooming are some of the costs you should bear in mind. Many of the costs increase in proportion to the size of the dog. A Great Dane will eat a lot more food than a Chihuahua. The RSPCA estimate the annual cost to ensure good health and welfare of the average dog in the UK is £650.00 annually.
Think about taking out pet insurance to cover the cost of unexpected illness or accidents. Some veterinary practices may also have their own Budget Plans to spread the cost of routine healthcare procedures.
What about any potential changes in your family?
Over the life time of the dog, there may be many changes in your family. This might include pregnancy, having a baby, having toddlers in the home or just having older children growing up. These are all dynamic changes in a normal family, and you may need to prepare for how the dog will remain part of this changing family.
Looking after a dog can be a very rewarding and educational experience for children. They learn about responsibility, caring for others and a respect for living things. But there are hazards too, though the risks can be minimised by recognizing the hazards and taking the appropriate precautions.
Does anyone in the family suffer from asthma?
If this is the case, there are breeds which are less likely to shed their coat and so be more appropriate. The Kennel Club produce guidelines called “Asthma and your dog” which is available on their website: http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk and further information is available from the Asthma Society on www.asthma.org.uk. If in doubt you should seek advice you’re your medical doctor.
Is there a best time to acquire a new dog?
The quick answer is when you feel fully ready. There are some times to avoid, however. A new dog needs lots of love, attention and a daily routine for feeding, education etc. to help it settle into its new environment. Make sure you choose a quiet period in your own life so you can devote time to making him feel at home. Christmas is not a good time. You'll be busy, and it will be almost impossible to establish any regular routine for your dog.