Anyone that knows anything about me knows how much I love dogs. Since I moved out of my parents place 30 years ago, I have owned dogs.
I still remember making the decision to get a puppy and the utter excitement I got. The first dog that I ever got on my own was a German Shepherd puppy I named her Rumour. Now at the time I was in my early 20s and I had just bought my first house. I thought I was totally ready for what was to come.
Dogs are a big responsibility and I don’t think I realized that at the time. I was young, under informed and honestly had no idea what I was getting into.
In those days, the best way to find a dog was either at a shelter or in the newspaper classified. There was no Kijiji, Facebook and no internet at all. I know hard to imagine a time before the internet. But it is the truth!
When I first decided to get a dog, I really wasn’t even sure what kind of dog I wanted. I just thought ooh a puppy yeah. Not the right way to approach this decision at all. Unfortunately being young doesn’t always lend a person to make the best choices.
I grabbed the classified ads and one of the first ads there was for German Shepherd puppies. They were selling the puppies for $50 each. Of course I headed right out there and picked out my baby girl. She was adorable and we decided to call her Rumour.
In the beginning few days, I was literally exhausted from not sleeping, cleaning up pee in the house constantly and just run ragged from the chaos a puppy brings to any home. She was a handful that was the truth. Some dogs are just that much a lot more work than the next one.
No matter what you do, puppies are just a lot of work. We need to remember that they are just like babies. They require us for everything they do in the beginning. Not to mention that they are taking from their moms when they are around 8 weeks old and that alone is devastating for them.
Now even if you don’t get a puppy and opt for a bit older dog you still have to remember that your new dog is in a new home. They still will need help with getting used to their surroundings and getting into a regular routine. Sticking to the plan is something that is very important to your new addition.
At the same time, I didn’t do my homework and did not know anything about the breed of dog I had gotten.
Long term commitment
All the excitement of getting a dog, can certainly be one of the happiest days of your life. Even though we think we just need to get through the puppy stage, the reality is it is a huge commitment getting a dog.
There are no short cuts to the amount of work that goes into becoming a good dog parent. We are responsible for that dog til the day they take their last breath. We don’t get to give up on them and we certainly don’t get to take a break when our life faces challenges over the years.
Remember that a dog depending on the size and breed can live anywhere for 11-16 years of age. Think about where you see yourself in that many years. Do you see yourself getting married, having kids, moving some place new. These are all the questions that you want to really think about before you jump in without your eyes wide open.
Let’s also think about your dog needing a sturdy and stable home. They deserve to have a family that loves them and cares for them no matter what. I have seen far to many times when someone gets a dog and then a year later they have a baby and decide they no longer want the dog anymore. These are the times when we need to remember that we have made a commitment to that dog and they aren’t disposable. They are FAMILY!!
Spending time with a dog is something that you will be required to do on a regular basis. It is not something that fades away when they get older. Making sure you spend good quality time with them helps build a strong bond.
A bond that gets created between you and your dog helps build trust. Initially the bond is built up in the first few weeks and months, but this bond is something that is a lifelong process.
Schedule time with your dog on a regular basis. Take the time to play, exercise and even book some snuggling time. Sometimes just taking your dog with you to run errands is fun for them. For the most part, they just want to be where you are.
I have always taken my dogs almost anywhere I go. Absolutely any opportunity I have to include them in my journey and experiences I do. They feel the excitement of just being out and about with you.
Think about all the time that you are at work or out with friends. During all of that time, your dogs are at home waiting for you to get there.
Throughout all the time I have owned dogs, I have always done my very best to make sure that my dogs don’t stay longer than 6-8 alone. If I am stuck at work for longer than that, I have someone come by and let them out.
Now this can be difficult at times when things get busy, but neglecting our dogs, is not good for them. Leaving a dog alone for too long can create behavior issues and even cause separation anxiety.
Be aware of how much time a dog really requires. Dogs are companions are not good with being ignored. Make sure in your daily schedule that you would have the time to put towards a dog.
Think about those days when you are tired from working all day, and yet when you get home, your dog will require you to drum up some energy. Remember they have been alone for a long period of time and need to be exercised. They aren’t trying to be bad, they just need to get out and move.
Cost of health and training
Along with a huge commitment of your time, and energy, dogs do cost money. You will need to spend money on their health and training.
In the first year, you are on the hook for vaccinations and of course getting your dog spayed or neutered. Being a responsible dog owners is very important to help control the pet population.
After that making sure your dog eats healthy and gets plenty of exercise, can go a long way in making sure your dog is healthy.
A healthy dog has the best chance of living a long and happy life. Now that you are making sure they are well looked after by having regular vet visits, getting them trained is also key to a well-balanced dog.
A dog with good canine etiquette, is always way more respected and received by family and friends. Nobody wants to be around a dog that is misbehaving. A bad dog is way less likely to be allowed to join you on any excursion away from home. Taking your dog training early on, is always recommended. It helps build the bond between you and your dog as well as teaching them the proper way to behave in social situations.
Always remember that you are responsible for your dogs behavior. There are no bad dogs, just bad owners. If you dog attacks someone, or hurts someone, you are the one that is responsible. For this reason, I say with 100% certainty that enrolling your dog in training is the best idea and you will not regret it. Setting them up for success is our job as their parents.
Responsible dog owner
Being a responsible dog owner, means not leaving your dog outside alone for hours. Don’t let them bark unattended for long periods of time. It is not fair to your dog and definitely not fair to your neighbors.
There are many key items, that will help you make sure that you are ready for a dog:
- Do you rent or own your home and are you allowed to have a dog
- Can you afford to get them groomed a few times a year
- Do you have other pets in the home already
- Are you ready to exercise with your dog
- Clean up after them
- Do you travel a lot
- Fenced yard
- Proper licensing and ID tag
I know the list seems long, but these are super important things to think about when thinking about getting a dog.
Eyes Wide Open
When I think back to my first dog Rumour, I am always reminded of many things I did wrong. Like. I didn’t pick the right dog for myself. I had no idea what things a German Shepherd dog needed.
This particular breed is a working dog breed. What that means is that they need a job to keep them busy. Just look at how they are used today, as police dogs and service dogs. Now don’t get me wrong, I loved that crazy dog til the day she died. Unfortunately she didn’t live that long, but boy I sure learned a lot being her mom.
Picking the right dog breed for your family is most important. If you want a cuddly dog that likes long walks and doesn’t have a crazy amount of energy then check into a breed that best fits those characteristics.
I didn’t do all the things on that list, so I made it that much harder on myself and my dog. By not having my eyes wide open to the situation, I made a lot of mistakes with her. None of them were her fault, so by telling you all the things that I did wrong, I hope that it will help anyone make the right decision when it comes to getting a dog.
Personally I took all my mistakes and knowledge I learned from my first dog to good use when I picked my next dog. I did all the research and work to ensure that I picked the right dog. This time we went with a Cockapoo who was fun, sweet, cuddly and required just the right amount of exercise. It was a perfect fit. Our boy “BOO” lived almost 16 years and was the love of our life. 5 years later we got our boy “FINN” who was a Labradoodle. He gave us almost 11 wonderful years of cuddles, clowning around and just utter joy.
Making the right choice for my family allowed us to fit them both in perfectly. They were the right choice together as brothers and they were the best boys. This just proves, that when you make the right choices and know what you are getting into, your dogs can bring you the most joy. The toughest part of all is that unfortunately we all have a tendency to outlive our pets.
From personal experience I can tell you when they are gone, the hole that is left behind is huge.
The moral of this story is that dogs are a big responsibility and this decision cannot be taken lightly. When done correctly, a dog forever change your life for the better.
Although we are not ready to get a new dog yet, there will be a day when our hearts will be mended enough to allow another dog back in.
It is not an easy thing being a dog parent, it is a lot of work. But you can’t put a price on the love of a dog.