Are you REALLY ready to get a dog?
For ease of understanding, we’ll refer to pup/dog as Fido and refer to Fido as ‘him’/’he’ unless defining gender is necessary.
Dogs are an amazing addition to our lives however there are some things that need serious consideration before you make that all-important decision. I know there are sites out there where you can enter your preferences and it gives you the various options and that’s a fantastic tool. Coming from a behavioural perspective, though, this is all about the physical, emotional and financial impact that a dog can have on you so below are some points to ponder:
Very importantly, a dog is not a solution – if your existing dog has separation anxiety, getting a friend for him is more than likely not going to resolve this. If YOU are lonely, Fido is not a temporary crutch until you’re in a better place. A dog should be wanted for themselves and is a lifelong commitment and, with some breeds, this could be close to 20 years!! You will also need to acknowledge that Fido may outlive you – what plans do you have for Fido’s care and well-being once YOU have passed on. You will also potentially see Fido through his years from a pup to a senior and even as an old, creaky, blind, deaf, arthritic, maybe infirm and quite likely incontinent old-timer. Are you really prepared to commit the time, energy and finances that this dog will need? He’s here for a good time but also a long time.
We often also underestimate the financial commitment involved in keeping a dog so let’s list those (these will be expanded upon in the relevant topic pages):
Dogs can be ridiculously expensive to buy and, sadly, the cost is usually not an indication of the quality of breeding. Do your research both on the breed and on the breeder.
Regular expenses include:
Food – learn how to read labels (just as you would for your own food, if it’s pre-packaged). Do your research on the sort of diet that you’d like to feed him – there are some good books out there to guide/enlighten you. Different diets will have different costs but generally supermarket food isn’t the optimal.
Toys – over the years I’ve had people engage my services because their dog is destructive yet, when I look for toys they say “oh, he ruined all his toys so I’m not buying any more for him” – really?!! If he trashed his toys it means he’s using them! I’d rather buy new toys every month than new furniture, that’s for sure (dogs are destructive for other reasons too but let’s not give him another reason!).
Vaccinations and vet care – as a pup you’ll probably need to give Fido 2 vaccinations within the first 2 months and then annual check ups which can often include booster vaccinations. Depending on diet you may also need to budget for teeth care, and desexing usually happens at about 6 months. Registration is required in many council areas but is usually much cheaper for desexed than entire dogs.
Finally, what will you do with Fido when you go on holiday/are in hospital/etc?
Expenses that will ideally be one-off:
Pen/crate if you choose to use these (see ‘Setting Up Fido’s New Home’), collar, car harness (can also be used for walking), leash, dog tag for his name and your phone number, shampoo, bowls and perhaps even claw clippers and electric clippers for trimming his hair if that’s something you’re willing to take on. Potentially there is then a rain coat, a coat for when it’s cold and maybe even booties if those paws need protection from Bindiis or other plants that are nasty to step on.
Bed – he’ll probably eat the first couple so don’t spend up big to start with.
Training – his mum had him as a relatively functioning individual for only about 3 weeks (based on you getting him from 6 weeks old) and there’s only so much she was able to teach him in that time. As he grows his needs will change, your situation will change and more training may be needed, but here’s a list of your bare minimum.
Ideally, within a couple of days of Fido coming home you’ll have an in-home lesson with a dog trainer who will guide you on how to set up Fido’s space, the most suitable toilet training technique for you to implement, basic obedience, etc – expect this to be a 2 hour lesson. People who haven’t had the benefit of ‘Setting Up Fido’s New Home’ may also have a lesson prior to Fido coming home so that they can get everything in place first – always a good idea!
Puppy Pre-School is what it’s called these days (back in the day it was called Puppy School and pups and parents learned LOTS, now it’s a little training with lots of play which is really important at this age). A good puppy pre-school will allow Fido lots of playtime with his new furry friends whilst the teacher should be guiding you on what is appropriate vs inappropriate behaviour and how to modify and guide Fido’s behaviour. There should also be an element of obedience but Fido will already have a head-start on that due to his (your) in-home lesson when you first got him. Generally Puppy Pre-School is run as a 4 or 5 week course.
Adolescent lesson – not all dogs need this however some dogs are terrible teenagers and you need a little more knowledge to help them through this. If you’ve been practicing your obedience then, with us, just 1 hour should be enough. If, however, you’ve dropped the ball completely and haven’t even looked at your notes from your puppy lesson then it could be 2 hours or even more!
From this point on, you keep doing what you were taught and you and Fido can have many fabulous, trouble-free years. Things happen, however – perhaps Fido has a traumatic experience at the park or with the groomer, perhaps your personal situation changes which rocks Fido’s world. Further training would be recommended and the sooner you recognise that you need help and get it, generally the less time (and cost) is involved.
Make sure you have the finances for this before you get Fido – many pups are sent back/rehomed or considered ‘bad dogs’ as a consequence of not enough time/quality education at the start. Working though issues in an adult dog can be much harder and is usually more expensive too!
On that note, whether you get a puppy or rehome an older dog, all the best!