Puppy Love: What to Consider Before Getting a Dog
It's true: dogs are generally all that they appear to be — sweet, silly, funny and lifelong loving friends. Chances are, you wouldn’t be here reading this article if they weren’t.
But dogs, and especially puppies, do come with issues that new pet owners aren’t always prepared to face, companion care specialists say. Knowing what it takes — in terms of finances, time and emotional expenses — to care for a new dog in the house doesn’t take much in the short term, but can save owners heartbreak in the long run, and prevent animals from needless abandonment.
Time for Puppy
Most people know that the average life span of a dog is 10-15 years, but that varies per breed, and of course, with each dog’s health. It’s nearly impossible to predict one’s schedule for the next decade, but people should give serious thought to their potential need to travel and work long hours, says Lisa Peterson, the American Kennel Club’s communications director.
Puppies require round-the-clock care for the first year or so, in terms of potty breaks and feedings, given every several hours.
“The general rule is to take the puppy’s age in months and add one to figure out the amount of time it can go holding its bladder,” Peterson explained. “So with a three-month-old pup, it can go for around four hours. But every puppy is different.”
Peterson said that some new pet owners — and even veteran ones, who have forgotten what it is like to have a puppy — voice surprise at how emotionally demanding a young dog can be.
“Some people are amazed how much time they have to pay attention to the puppy. It’s almost constant,” she explained. “And that socialization, up until the puppy is 16 weeks, is the most important time for it. The more time you spend together, out and about, the happier, better-adjusted pet you will have. It’s like preventative medicine.”
Bills, Bills, Bills
Some say time is money, but an afternoon in the park won’t seem like much when the vet bills start adding up. The AKC conducted a survey last year among pet owners, who reported, on average, spending $2,400 yearly on their dogs.
That amount can vary greatly, given a dog’s size, age and health, but finances still remain a chief cause in animal surrenders at shelters nationwide, according to Adam Goldfarb, the Humane Society of the United States’ director of the Pets at Risk Program.
“Absolutely, we continue to see a lot of surrenders because of financial difficulties families are facing,” Goldfarb told Zootoo Pet News. “They just don’t anticipate how much a dog’s vet bills [if a dog is ill] could potentially rise to.”
Finding the Right Match
Not every breed will meld seamlessly with a given owner’s lifestyle, and Peterson recommends prospective pet parents conductive intensive research before making a serious commitment. Aside from researching a breed, she suggested spending time with dogs of that particular breed.
If people are considering adopting a mixed-breed dog from a shelter, they should consider factors like age and size. Toy dogs, for instance, might not fare well with small children, as they can be very delicate and vulnerable to clumsy hands, Peterson says. Similarly, a house-broken, middle-aged to elderly dog might be a more appropriate match for a senior citizen, who wouldn’t want to worry about pulling on a leash and taking a puppy out for constant potty breaks.
“People just really need to take the time to consider what dog is right for them. They see a breed, maybe, in a movie and think, ‘Oh, it’s so cute.’ But a border collie won’t be right for you if your favorite thing to do is surf the Web and stay home,” Peterson explained. “It really pays off to do some research first.”
Fore more information, visit akc.org/public_education/responsible_dog_owner.cfm and www.humanesociety.org/issues/adopt/.
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5 years ago
I think that a puppy is as much work as a human infant in terms of time and care. In fact, I'd have another baby before taking in a puppy. At least I have experience with human child rearing. Puppies are work, and need to learn boundaries and what is acceptable behavior. Plus, lots of love, time and attention. A puppy is not a good choice for a busy person who isn't home much and can't spend the time to socialize the puppy in that crucial, early doghood time period.
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