Getting your first dog is a huge responsibility. Frequently, aspiring dog owners do not give it enough consideration. They rush into buying or adopting a dog, only to be caught unprepared for what dog ownership entails. Owning a dog is similar to having your first human baby. You have to walk them, train them, feed them, and make sure they are happy and content. Before going out to your local pet shelter, here are five things you need to know before you get a canine companion:
If you are adopting a dog, it is much trickier to know exactly what breed he/she is compared to when you are purchasing one from the store. Of course, the latter is ill-advised as it encourages and supports the ongoing operations of puppy mills. Either way, the dog breeds are essential to know as it helps determine what health complications they are prone to as they get older. Mutts, or mixed breeds, usually have fewer health issues than pedigree or purebred dogs. Smaller breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, are prone to breathing problems, especially in the summertime, while larger and bonier dogs, like greyhounds and African ridgebacks, are more prone to hip dysplasia.
A dog’s diet can vastly differ. While you can get away with feeding your dog store-brand dry food or kibble, you’ll want to make sure they are getting the right and enough nutrition from their diet. Moreover, some dogs become allergic to some food, such as chicken or beef, in which case you will need to adjust his or her diet accordingly. The amount of food and the number of times you feed your beloved pup will invariably change. Due to biological and physiological differences in the design of a dog’s body compared to that of a human’s, dogs are also not allowed certain foods, such as grapes, chocolate, onions, bread, etc., as their digestive system cannot process it.
Whether you decide to adopt a puppy or a dog in his/her retirement years, you’ll need to make sure they have all the required vaccinations. Not only is this important for his/her health and the health of other dogs that he/she socializes with, but it’s also mandated by most if not all states, and failure to comply could lead to hefty fines. Between six to eight weeks, a puppy should be given vaccines for distemper, measles, and parainfluenza. Between 12 to 24 weeks, your puppy gets his/her rabies shots. Some vaccines are administered in multiple stages while others are required for re-administration every one to three years.
Just like how humans need to socialize to function appropriately, dogs also require time with other dogs to achieve holistic health and growth. Without regular and positive social interactions, your dog can start forming aggressive habits and behaviors. As his/her owner, it’s your responsibility to make sure he/she gets enough time outside to socialize with people and other dogs. This is especially important since you could be held liable if your dog bites and injures someone. And because puppies still have high energy reserves, be prepared to invest an hour or two at the local dog run or public park.
The costs of owning a dog are similar to raising a child. Food alone can cost anywhere between $200 to $600 per month, more or less depending on what your dog’s diet is, such as kibble or human-grade food. To add to that, you will also be shelling out money for vaccinations and pet insurance. It makes sense to get pet insurance as your dog gets older as that’s the time when they start developing health complications and require regular checkups. The cost of pet insurance can range from $25 to $100 per month, depending on coverage. Supplies, such as poop bags, pee pads, and treats, can also rack up a steep bill over time.
You can train your dog in basic commands, such as sit, stay, and come, either on your own or with the help of a professional trainer. The latter is a much faster way of training your puppy, especially if you don’t have the experience or the patience to do it yourself. However, keep in mind that it costs anywhere between $50 to $150 per hour to get a personal dog trainer. A healthy and happy dog requires structure and discipline that comes from regular training exercises.
Getting your first dog is a huge commitment. You’ll want to make sure you are mentally, physically, and financially prepared to take on the responsibilities that come with pet ownership.