Are you ready to be owned by a dog?

by Elysian Magazine
spaniel laying on a bed

There’s more to just saying you’re ready. You have to be ready.

Waking up one morning and deciding today’s the day you’re going to go to your local pet shop and buy yourself a dog is not the way to bring a dog into your life. There’s a great deal you need to consider before you make this important life decision. At the end of the day, that dog is going to change your life in ways you cannot possibly imagine. Be prepared—and consider these things:

  • Time is of the essence: Do you have time for a dog: what is your work schedule and daily routine? Day care for your dog, more…
  • Who else will live with your dog? Make sure your spouse, children and other pets are on the same page about welcoming a puppy or new dog into the household, what if someone in your household is allergic to dogs? More…
  • Nothing in life is free. The cost of a puppy, veterinary bills, food and general care is not something you pay for with spare change. Be cognizant of the costs involved in supporting a dog, More…

Evaluate where you live
Can your home accommodate a dog? This section poses the questions to city-dwellers, suburbanites and country people alike. It’s not necessarily how much space you have but whether your space — indoors and outdoors — can meet the needs of a dog.

What size dog is right for you?
If you are physically active, you can probably manage an active dog, such as a Labrador Retriever, German Shepherd or other dog, that by virtue of being bred to work and run, thrives in the out-of-doors, as you do. If you are petit and prefer quiet pastimes, a small dog—affectionately called a lapdog, such as a miniature Poodle or Pomeranian—is a better choice for you. A Corgi or Scottish Terrier as the sole canine member of a family with small children would be well worth consideration. An older person would have difficulty taking care of a dog that requires a lot of care himself, such as an English Sheepdog or Collie, which requires daily grooming. All you have to do is look in a mirror and see who you are. There’s a lot of truth and rationale behind the observation that people look a lot like their dogs.

If the breed fits, wear it
Which breed suits your lifestyle? If you live in a studio apartment, owning a Saint Bernard would be a tight fit. And yet, the AKC’s longtime most popular breed, the Labrador retriever, a hard-running sporting dog, is a common city dweller. Learn about the breed and what it is bred to do, and determine whether its disposition and nature corresponds with yours — and with your lifestyle.

Time is of the essence
Does your work schedule and daily routine allow you to give your surplus time freely to a dog? This is a tough question that the would-be dog owner must sincerely ask himself. Do you have the time and patience to devote to a dog that has been waiting for you all day long, when you yourself are exhausted after work? Are you ready to deal with a commitment that will last the lifetime of your dog?

Day care for your dog
…is a desirable but costly solution for people who work. Can you afford it? If not, what are your options? This is a critical question for people who are regularly out of the house for long stretches of time. Here’s what to look for in pet day care facilities and the types of services and environment they provide; also, selecting outdoor kennels and fencing, evaluating electronic containment systems, and finding a pet sitter.

Who else will live with your dog?
Make sure your family is on the same page as you about welcoming a puppy or new dog into the household. What do you do if your small child is frightened? How do you teach her to handle a dog? What if your spouse has allergies? If an older person is living with you, how do you insure he will not fall (literally) under the spell of an energetic puppy?

How do you deal with your old dog when you bring a new one home?

For years we’ve had a little dog,
Last year we acquired a big dog;
He wasn’t big when we got him,
He was littler than the dog we had.
We thought our little dog would love him,
Would help him to become a trig dog,
But the new dog got bigger,
And the old little dog got mad.

Ogden Nash, “Two dogs have I”, The Private Dining Room, 1953

Adding another dog to the family may not be as easy as you think. Your old dog has long staked his claim to his territory and may not welcome an “intruder.” Two males (neither of which are neutered), two alpha females, or a breed that does not favor canine company can spell
t-r-o-u-b-l-e. On the other hand, a new puppy or an adopted dog may delight an older dog, fulfill the maternal instincts of a spayed female, and happily add to the household. Here’s what you need to consider…

Cohabitating With Pets of a Different Ilk

They both of them sit by my fire every Evening and wait with Impatience; and at my Entrance, never fail of running upon to me, and bidding me Welcome, each of them in its proper Language. As they have been bred up together from Infancy, and have seen no other Company, they have acquired each other’s Manners; so that the Dog gives himself the Airs of a Cat, and the Cat, in several of her Motions and Gestures, affects the Behaviour of the little Dog.

Sir Richard Steele, The Tatler, 1711

Cats and dogs are infamous for not getting along, but more often than not you will find they are quite amenable to sharing the same house. How do you bring a puppy home to a house that has been dominated by a feline friend? I look into this potential quandary and give some advice on how to stake the territory you perceive to be your home (even though your dog and cat undoubtedly believe it‘s theirs.)

Nothing in life is free
The cost of keeping a puppy is not something you pay for with spare change. The cost of a puppy purchased from a reputable breeder is a significant expense; then there’s the veterinary bills, dog food and more. Be cognizant of the expense of supporting a dog; and while inoculations and vet visits are relatively the same for all breeds, a corgi eats less than a St. Bernard and requires a smaller kennel. Here’s how to put things into a perspective that fits your wallet.

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