Friday, August 4, 2017

13 Things To Consider Before Getting A Dog

I see countless images and social posts of and about dogs that cause a flood of emotions. Abuse. Neglect. Someone's child sitting on the back of a larger breed dog. A dog sitting on the lap of someone who's smoking. Dogs chained in the backyard. Injuries. Dogs being rescued from cruelty cases. Graphic photos of the dog meat trade. Hoomans doing unthinkable acts caught on camera. The list goes on.

At the top of my most-hated-things-to-see-and-read are the posts from people who want or need to "get rid of their dog" for some asinine reason. There are a few groups on Facebook where these posts are abundant along with Craigslist and other advertising sites.

Free to a good home.

I no longer have time for my dog.

We're moving and can't take the dog.

The dog is too rough with the kids. 

He chewed my new pair of shoes.

On and on and on it goes...

Sadly, I've known a few humans who have fallen into that bucket. Young couple. Married on a whim. Shortly after settling into their new home states away, along came 2 puppies. Lots of photos. Then, months later a baby. Photos of the pups stopped. Someone casually asked if they still had the dogs.

"We had to find new homes for the dogs. It was too much with the baby and I didn't have the time or patience for two dogs and a baby..."

I cringe. My entire body feels as if it's being jabbed with pins and needles. My first instinct is to reply with a hasty comment when I see shit like this, but I've learned over the years, it won't do any good. Regardless of what I say, they're still going to "get rid of the dog."

How do we put a stop to this or, at the very least, lessen the amount of dogs who are dumped at the shelters or carelessly re-homed? I thought maybe stricter background checks or tighter laws, but someone could pass any and all with flying colors and two years down the road have second thoughts because of a new baby or the dog peed on the carpet one too many times. No one can foresee the future or a change of heart.

Education? I'm not talking about the textbook shit. Let's focus on reality. In the raw. Things to ponder, take into consideration and think long and hard about before adding a dog to the family or buying (grunt) that little puppy in the window.

1. Dogs can live up to 14 years or longer. That's a long time...especially if you're getting a puppy. A lot can change in a matter of a year or ten. Can you make that commitment? Are you willing to look your dog in the face and say, "No matter what happens, I will never abandon you or give you away?" Now, can you keep that promise?

I do have to insert a little tidbit here. Death and illness are out of our control. We've personally visited with several orphaned dogs in the past who's "owner" had passed away or was terminally ill and very close to passing on. They had turned to family members and friends No one could or wanted to help. As a last resort, they sought help from their local ACO. With their support and willingness to assist, the dogs were adopted shortly after.  

2. Think about major life changes. Do you plan on getting married? Having kids? Relocating because of a job? Making a major career change that may suck up most of your time? Etc. After each life change you can think of, ask yourself, "Will my dog be with me during these changes/life events or a nuisance?" If there's any thread of doubt or hesitation, reconsider taking on the responsibility of getting a dog.

3. Can you afford the extra expense of having a dog? Like with human kids, fur-kids can be quite expensive. Vaccinations. Monthly flea, tick, and heartworm preventative. Food. Yearly check-ups. Unexpected visits to the veterinary clinic when sick. Medications. Toys. Grooming. Babysitting costs. Etc. Are you ready for that?

4. Indoor or outdoor? If you answer outdoor, don't even bother. A dog is not a lawn ornament. If you can't allow your dog to live inside with the rest of the family...well, I'll spare you my opinion.

5. Time. Time. Time. You need to spend time with your dog aside from just curling up on the sofa for a Netflix marathon or when it's time for bed. You have your friends, family, parties, social events, etc. Your dog has you. You need to put aside a copious amount of time daily for play, walks, snuggling, training, etc. That time shouldn't depend on what you have going on. Time with your dog should be a part of your day no matter what. If that means arriving late to a backyard shindig, so be it.

6. Dogs are not gifts, novelties, toys or a means of teaching your kids responsibility. A dog is a living, breathing being with needs and wants. Their survival, well being, happiness, and health depend on you. I know some frown upon the saying "dogs are a lot like human kids" however, there's a lot of truth to that. They should never be given as a gift. You wouldn't give someone a human baby as a gift. Puppies grow into adults. Dogs are not riding horses or step stools for young children. And, if you want to teach your kids responsibility, compile a list of age appropriate chores.

7. You will have to contend with the occasional or, in some cases, frequent, messes. Dogs have accidents. Pee. Poop. Vomit. It's inevitable. The chances of this increases if your dog has health issues, allergies, is a special need or senior dog. There's a slew of reasons. Unlike humans, dogs will probably not mess in convenient areas like the bathroom, toilet or an area easy to clean. It may happen on the bed, carpet, new sofa or the basket of clean laundry.

8. Can't forget the dog hair. There is no escaping it. It doesn't matter how many times you vacuum or use a lint roller. There. Will. Be. Dog. Hair. On clothes, carpets, furniture, blankets, inside your vehicle, etc.

9. Friends and family might bitch and moan about this...and other "dog related" stuff.  True story. We've had to leave social functions early because it's mealtime for the kids. We don't go away overnight. Taking off for vacation is a thing of the past. Guests leave here with dog hair on their clothes. Some despise dogs and want nothing to do with their existence. A few have complained about "that dog smell." It's an extensive list. Thick skin and a firm foot is a must. Our kids live here. Guests don't.

10. New furniture, carpets, shoes, etc. Dogs cope with emotions in various ways. They may chew sofa cushions or window blinds because of anxiety. Or, if they're bored, they may seek out a pair of shoes to shred. It's not the most pleasant behaviors to deal with and can often time be frustrating. However, keep in my this happens. A new puppy, or even a full grown dog with separation anxiety, and a new $300 pair of summer sandals or a big ticket luxury leather sofa isn't a good mix. That's not to say you can't have your pricey sandals. Just don't leave 'em within Fido's reach.

11. Your lifestyle may change some. Yes, life changes when you add a dog to the family. Some small. Others big. Those changes are dependent on your pup and personal choices. Lisa and I made the decision, after adopting Coco, to never board our fur-kids or leave them for any length of time. That's our choice. We have our reasons. Our choice means no vacations to faraway places and, especially with 4 pup kids, no overnight excursions. We're okay with that. No regrets. Are you willing to compromise and make sacrifices?

12. The tedious task of dog-proofing your home. It's not as easy as you think especially if you're bringing a puppy home. Dogs chew random stuff. And, they tend to eat things within reach like plants, food left on the table, plastic bottles, cat toys, etc. It's important to know what's safe and what isn't. Certain plants are poisonous. The pack of sugar-free gum throw on the coffee table containing Xylitol is deadly. A chocolate bar left on the arm of the sofa is toxic to dogs. Scanning your home daily for items left within reach by other humans, both adults and kids, needs to part of your daily routine. Your dog's life depends on it.

13. Is your living environment suitable for the breed? A high energy or large dog who requires lots of running and ample living space would not do well in a small apartment with no yard. Breeds notorious for being vocal and frequent barking would not be an ideal fit in an apartment complex. You need to take this into consideration. When a high energy dog is confined to small living areas without sufficient outdoor exercise, they become bored. When dogs are bored they revert to less than favorable behaviors. Do your research. Talk to experienced trainers and your local Animal Control Officers. They can assist with finding a breed that's a perfect fit for you, your family and living area.

These are only a few of the many things to ponder when adding a dog, or any pet, to your family. If there's any doubt you may not be able to commit for the duration of their life, then you should reconsider.

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