Each week I get numerous calls from new dog owners needing guidance on what they should do now that they have made this often blind leap into pet parenting. Here are a few questions that I wish some of these owners had asked themselves first.
Should I get a dog?
For obvious reasons, this is the single most important question to ask yourself. Sure, they are cute and fun to play with but they also come with a whole laundry list of responsibilities. You have to take the time to truly assess your life situation, not only your financial ability to support a dog but also your personal energy level. If you don’t have the time to exercise your dog properly this can cause behavioral and health issues. This is not to say that you have to be some sort of Olympic athlete, just that you have to make sure you know to match the energy level of yourself with that of your potential new family member. There are so many breeds and mixes out there that there is something to fit just about anyone’s needs. So before you dive head first into that rambunctious puppy, be sure you have the time and energy needed to give them a lifetime of fulfillment.
So you decided there is space in your life for this new addition. Now you need to take a look at your family dynamic and figure out just what you are looking for in a dog. You may be looking for a laid-back companion to snuggle on the couch or perhaps a dog that excels at agility or obedience is more your style. Whether you are looking for a pet for your young child or to fill your empty nest, variable breed temperaments can be found for any lifestyle. Your local veterinarian, groomer, animal shelter or all-breed club will have a wealth of knowledge to point you in the right direction. Look up local events in your area to get out and meet dogs. Madison has an Annual Dog Fair and other events that host rescue organizations.
Now that you have a few ideas of what type of dog you wish to find, you’ll next have to take a look at how these different options may affect your pocketbook. All dogs will need routine veterinary care and grooming. There is no magic to the mixed breed as far as health problems go. Last I checked the cute mutt from the shelter visits the vet just as often as the purebred from the reputable breeder. The amount of training a dog will need can vary a bit by breed. If you are not an experienced dog owner, you may want to research a bit about how trainable the dog breed is that you are looking into. Certain breeds, like poodles and border collies, are extremely smart but can sometimes be too smart for the unknowing new parents. Families that want to be a little more laid-back about training may want to try a golden retriever or collie that tend to be more laid-back and easy to train. No matter what the breed, I always recommend starting with at least a socialization class that will teach them basic manners. The most influential cost on a dog-to-dog basis is often the grooming. Many people bring in these adorable balls of puppy cuteness in with no idea about their grooming requirements. Most long-coated dogs need grooming every 5-8 weeks with lots of maintenance in between. If this seems a bit daunting, you may want to lean toward the less furry option. While still in need of regular bathing and nail clips, the shorter haired breeds are certainly easier to maintain at home. Lastly, of course, you must remember that larger dogs equal larger food bills.
Be sure to take your time researching before making your final decision about your furry family member. I advise that every pet parent find a veterinarian and groomer they trust. Having a strong team of pet professionals is crucial to guide you during the years you will dedicate to you new family member.