After some frustrating real-life inspirations, I had full intentions on posting a blog about selecting the right dog for your family today…but in writing it, I realized I had to preface that with an “is a dog right for your family” post. It’s not terribly uncommon for me to encounter folks who have adopted/purchased the wrong dog for their lifestyle. It really is a common occurrence …but what I’ve encountered more recently are folks who are not just poorly matched to their dogs but who are… not well suited for having a dog in general. This is a much more difficult predicament to maneuver around.
People want all the benefits of having a dog … without any of the work, responsibility, or lifestyle adjustments that must happen. These things can be exacerbated by getting a dog that is not a good fit for a family, but there are times when it’s simply a sign that the person/family is not yet ready for a dog, any dog.
I have come up with a series of questions I think people should consider before getting a dog. There is no right or wrong answer, no “if you score this amount you should never own a dog” type implication. These are just questions and concepts that should be thought about and/or answered before a family decides on a dog.
**Why do you want a dog–why do you want it now? (companionship, some activities like agility, family pet, because the kids are begging you?)
**If you do not have children, do you plan on it in the next 10 years? Will you remember to consider whether you are planning on kids when you are choosing a dog to bring into your family? (While you may want a Border Collie/Lhasa/Chow-chow now, two years down the road when you know you want children, that may not be the best fit–what are the implications for the dog?)
**Do you have the financial stability to support another body in the house and provide adequate care? (Grooming needs, training classes, vet care, proper nutrition etc.)
**If you work in the morning, are you ready to start getting up a little earlier so you have time to, at the very least, take your dog for a potty walk? If you have a high energy breed are you ready to get up a full 30-45minutes early to give them a proper walk?
**Are you committed to a minimum of two 30 minute walks each day? Rain or shine…snow or sleet? How about the additional 10-20 minutes of training each day…or the games of fetch/running time?
**If the dog is for the children, are the adults 100% prepared to care for the dog when (not if) the kids lose interest?
**Is there anyone in the house even mildly allergic to dogs? How about in your immediate family? Is grandma or auntie severely allergic–what happens if these are regular visitors to your home?
**How long are you home during the day? Of that time when you are home, are you committed to spending a significant portion of it exercising, training, feeding, and caring for a dog?
**Do you like to travel? Are you prepared to pay to have your dogs boarded regularly at a good facility, pay to have a professional pet sitter, stop traveling, or find dog-friendly vacation sites?
**Are you prepared to tolerate some level of damage to your property? A soiled rug, a chewed shoe? Of course you aim to not have these issues… but at some point something will probably happen.
**It’s 3am and your pup is whining like he needs to go out… are you willing to get out from under your warm covers to let him out? If you choose not to, who will you be frustrated with?
**Are you the Saturday night last-call bar-hopper? Are you willing to end your night out early because you have to get home to let your dog out? How about being the designated driver because you are unable to stay at your friend’s house where there was a party–you have to be able to get home to the dog.
**Are you willing to struggle to find housing if you have a dog (and even worse with certain breed restrictions an in certain areas–I had to start looking months in advance and was very limited in my options and ended up paying a higher rent so I could have Shayne with me).
If there are multiple statements up there that make you cringe.. or shake your head no… or think twice….then perhaps a dog, regardless of breed, is not right for you at the moment. Dogs come with their own set of challenges, their own needs and requirements…if people are unwilling or unable to fulfill these things, it’s probably not a good time to bring a dog into the family.
Dogs are dogs.. if you want a dog to never bark, to never jump, to never by hyper, to never be rude, to never drool over food, to never find something naughty to get into, to never need walked, to never have an accident, to never vomit on your favorite rug… to always be perfect… (and to not want to work toward these goals), a stuffed animal dog may be the best thing for your lifestyle at the moment–and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you should never have a dog, just that right now a dog may not fit into your life.