Welcoming a dog into your family can be an excellent idea. A dog can help your children to learn responsibility and empathy. It can be a friend and a constant companion. A dog will protect you and your home, and mean that you always have someone to talk to or give you a cuddle when you are feeling low. There are many advantages to owning a dog, and most families wouldn’t be without theirs. Those of us that had dogs when we were children are often keen to welcome one into our own families and wouldn’t feel complete without our furry friends.
But, buying or adopting a dog isn’t the same as buying a new pair of shoes. It’s not something that you should rush into without first asking yourself if you have the time and money to give a dog the care and lifestyle that it deserves. Even once you are committed to the idea, and sure you are ready however, there are still things to think about.
Dogs, like people, vary. They come in different shapes and sizes, and different breeds have varying traits, behavior, and personalities. Before you rush out and buy a dog, you should think carefully about which breed and particular dog would best fit into your family.
Rescue or Puppy?
Some people long for a cute little puppy to welcome home, whereas others prefer to think of themselves rescuing a dog from a shelter, and giving an unwanted dog a home. For the most part, it’s all about making the right decision for your family.
When you buy a puppy, they really do grow with your family, having been yours from day one. You can usually learn about their parents, to get an idea of their temperament and personality, and you’ll know all about their ancestors. But, puppies, especially purebreds, can be extremely expensive, you’ll have to pay for vaccinations, chips and passports, and commit a lot of time to train them, which can be a difficult and stressful process. This can be even harder if you have young children at home, who are keen to play with their new pet straight away.
When you rescue a dog, you are giving a home to a pet that has previously been uncared for, or who has lost loving owners. It’s a lovely thing to do. Rescue dogs should have had all of their vaccinations, and might have been trained already. Older rescues may have experience living with children and can be easier to fit into your home. When you rescue a dog from a shelter, you can typically find out about their background, health and ancestry, giving you an idea about their temperament, and you will be able to ask the shelter staff about their behavior. You may even have the chance to speak with previous owners.
Do You Work Long Hours?
If you work long hours, or there are extended periods when no-one is at home, what will you do about walks and exercise? Ideally, you might want to consider a less energetic dog, who doesn’t need as much exercise, like a chow-chow or a basset hound. You could also consider employing a dog walker.
Do You Have Space for a Large Dog?
Dogs come in a massive range of different sizes, from very small, to massive. Big dogs might not need as much space as you’d think, but you should still ask yourself honestly how much of your space you are willing to give up to an animal? If you live in a small apartment, without a garden, a smaller dog like a pug might be ideal.
Are Your Prepared For Frequent Long Walks?
Some dogs are happy to lie around the house all day, taking only short essential walks. Others love nothing more than long runs outside. These breeds are often more playful and energetic. If one of the reasons that you want a dog is to increase your exercise and spend more time outdoors, a lively dog, such as a spaniel, might be a good choice.
Do You Have Children?
If you’ve got children, especially young ones, welcoming a dog into your family can be a fantastic decision. Your dog will grow with them and become a true friend. But, you’ll want to give more thought to safety, and the temperament of the dog that you choose. Look for breeds that are good with children, like a Labrador or Golden retriever, but also ask questions of previous owners, or their parents, and try to look for an animal that has previous experience living with, or being around young children.
Do You Understand the Grooming Commitments?
Some dogs shed a lot more than others. Some require greater care and more grooming. Others are fairly low maintenance. Make sure you understand the specific needs of any animal before you bring them home.
Pure Breed or Mixed?
Pure breed dogs, such as a silver lab, are very popular. They conform to a registered standard, as their parents are from the same breed. As a potential dog owner, this can mean that you have a better idea of what you are getting. You can look at their parents and other dogs in their breed for clues to their personality and behavior. You can also make good predictions on how big they will get, how much they shed, and how long they will live.
With a mixed breed dog, less is certain. They could inherit traits from either parent and if their parents were also mixed, there might be more than two breeds in the mix. But, this can mean that you get more positive traits. Mixed breed dogs are also less prone to any genetic imperfections and can be cheaper. The best thing to do is focus on the qualities of a specific dog, instead of just their breed.
It’s often a mistake to think that you would happily make broad changes to your lifestyle to care for a dog. While you may be happy to live less spontaneously or travel less, you are unlikely to stick to huge changes that you don’t really want to make. Think about your life right now, and be as honest with yourself as you possibly can. Remember, it wouldn’t be fair to welcome a pet and settle them in, only to have to give them up if things don’t work out.