Are youthinking about getting a dog? Please read this first to make sure you’re ready.
You KNOW you can take care of it for the next 12-15 years
Before anything else, ask yourself what the next 12-15 years holds for you. Remember that taking on a dog is a lifetime commitment. It is not a commitment until your lease expires, or you move interstate, or develop new interests where you don’t have time for a dog any more.
Today, I had a brief look on Gumtree. I actually visited it for a bit of research on puppy farmers selling their pups online, but I was surprised by the number of dogs being sold or given away because the owners circumstances had changed. One puppy was being sold again after just 10 days!
A dog is for life. If you’re not prepared to commit to the life span of the dog, you’re not ready.
You can afford basic health care
There is no such thing as a free dog. Dogs need vaccinating, desexing, parasite control, good quality food, and occasional trips to the vets when they become unwell.
Basic health care costs over $400/year in most cases. If you dog becomes unwell, it can cost considerably more. Pet insurance is a great way to protect yourself from big vet bills if your pet becomes very unwell or seriously injured, but there is normally an excess for most claims.
Every year we see puppies and young dogs dying from Parvovirus infections because the owners couldn’t afford the vaccines. This may sound harsh, but if you can’t afford to vaccinate your dog, you can’t afford a dog.
You have the time to train and exercise them
One of the biggest causes of dogs being euthanased is behaviour issues. This can be problems such as barking, escaping, aggression to people or other animals and destructive behaviours.
You need to have time to train and socialise your dog when they’re young. They need to be introduced to a range of animals and people at a young age (especially under 16 weeks of age), and should have daily training sessions. They don’t need to be trained to high levels, but need to be taught to sit, stay and come when called.
They need to be exercised daily and interacted with throughout the day. It’s not surprising that dogs that are locked in the back yard all day every day end up causing problems. They get bored and need to stimulate themselves.
You have done your research into the type of dog which will suit you
What sort of dog will suit your lifestyle and home? If you enjoy going for runs and exercising, a pug or bulldog may not be for you. If you have a small flat, a kelpie wouldn’t be a great idea. Matching the breed to your lifestyle will ensure the dog can be part of your life, rather than an interference in it.
You have considered a rescue dog
Once you have decided what sort of dog you want, have you had a look at rescue dogs available in your area? This isn’t meant to be a judgement on people who buy a dog from a breeder or asking people to compromise on what they want. Rather, it’s about encouraging people to look at rescue centres for the perfect dog for them. It means you save a dog’s life, save a lot of money, and you can avoid the destructive and time consuming puppy stage if you get an adult dog.
I own a Golden Retriever (Marvin) who was a rescue dog. He would have cost me over $1000 from a breeder, but effectively only cost a small amount to vaccinate, microchip and desex him. People who know Marvin will confirm what a beautiful boy he is.
You know what sort of health problems your preferred breed may be affected by, and what should be done to minimise the risk of your dog being affected
Golden Retrievers such as Marvin are known to be at increased risk of certain problems. Marvin has elbow dysplasia, which we manage quite well, as well as allergic skin disease. He is also at an increased risk of developing certain cancers. I know all this before I took him on, but he desperately needed a home which could care for his medical needs when he was found.
Had I been buying a Golden Retriever from a breeder, I would have ensured the parents were hip and elbow scored, and I would have wanted to examine the parents to ensure they were healthy with no skin issues.
Each breed is at risk of certain conditions, so you need to do your research on the breed you want, and ensure the breeder is doing as much as they can to ensure the good health of your puppy.
If you want the best chance of a healthy dog, a cross-bred dog will have a lower risk of most conditions as the genetic diversity is better in most cases.
You are prepared to visit the breeder and see the dogs parents (at least the mother)
You should visit the puppy and its mother at least twice before you buy a puppy. These visits should always be where the puppy was bred. You need to do this for several reasons:
- To make sure the puppies and mother are in good health
- To make sure they’re not coming from a puppy farm
- To ensure the puppy and mother are being kept in a clean, warm and comfortable environment
If the breeder won’t let you visit, that’s a red flag for them potentially being a puppy farmer. If they won’t let you visit, don’t buy from them.
If a breeder tells you to meet them somewhere other than their home (a park, car park, shopping centre, etc.) to pick up the dog, it’s another red flag for a potential puppy farmer.
You believe in vaccinations
We’re not asking you to believe in the tooth fairy or Santa here. Vaccines work and they save lives. Every year we see dozens of dogs die from Parvovirus infections. Of course, no vaccine is 100% safe (I have seen one dog in 17 years of vet work which am convinced died as a result of a vaccine reaction), but the risk of the vaccine pales into insignificance when I compare it to the hundreds of dogs I’ve seen die from Parvo.
I believe that all dogs should be vaccinated, but as infrequently as possible. We know that in adult dogs the parvo vaccine lasts for at least three years, so I don’t believe annual vaccination against parvo is justified.
If you’re worried about vaccinating your dog, consider talking to your vet about blood tests to check your dog’s immunity. You may find you can vaccinate even less frequently then every three years in some cases.
All puppies definitely need vaccinating. If you’re not prepared to vaccinate your puppy, please save me from having to needlessly euthanase another puppy for Parvo and don’t get a dog.
You want a pet, not a security system
If you want something to keep potential burglars out of your house, get security screens or an alarm system. Dogs are great for home security, but that is just a bonus, not the reason to get a dog.
You are prepared for something that will love you more than anything else in the world
Anyone with kids will tell you that if you want something to come rushing up to the door, super excited to see you every time you come home, get a dog.
Dogs will love you unconditionally. But remember, to you the dog is a part of your life and will not be there through it all. For your dog, you are their whole life. You’ll see them from puppyhood through to old age, and be there to say goodbye to them at the end. It’s a big responsibility to give that much love back, but if you’re prepared to do it gladly, a dog is for you.