Growing up, I was surrounded by dogs. Beautiful dogs like my grandmother’s lab, Kelly, and my aunt’s mutt, Smokey Toes. At the age of 16, I was lucky enough to get a dog of my own. She was a beautiful Siberian husky mix I named Banshee. Since that day, I have not felt that my home was complete without a dog. You are never lonely when you share your life with a dog. They always miss you when you are gone, and are over the moon to see you when you get home. I am convinced that there is not a
nother living being that thinks as much of me as my dogs do.
Now that I work from home, I don’t feel that a day of work is complete without my fuzzy editors. As I write this, my king Charles cavalier spaniel is at my side, and my cocker spaniel is in my lap. When it comes to creating a comfortable work atmosphere, this may sound counterproductive. However, since this is a book about dogs, it would seem inappropriate to write it without a dog in my lap.
In 50 Things To Know About Getting A Dog, I will share the 50 things I have learned from decades of being a dog owner. You will also find true stories of my adventures
with dog ownership included in many of the tips because sometimes it helps to know that you are not alone.
1. Contemplating Why You Want A Dog
Many people get a dog because they are lonely. This isn’t exactly the wrong reason to get a dog, as they are wonderful companions. However, dogs work so hard to make us happy, that it is easy to get confused and think they are here to serve us. Trust me, you are here to serve them. Think about it, you feed them, entertain them and pick up their poop. The day I brought my King Charles spaniel home I became his slave. In the morning, I get up because he insists that snoozing is not an option. This message is usually expressed with him sitting behind my head and breathing into my ear. It forces me to stumble out of bed, let him outside for his morning bathroom break and serve him breakfast. This is followed with a day of naps, playing outside, walks and snuggling. I see to my needs in between his. I’m telling you, it’s a dog’s life.
2. Taking Time To Think It Through
When you decide to get your first dog, take at least three weeks to think about it. Consider the magnitude of the decision you are making. This is a huge commitment that will last over a decade, and it deserves more than 5 minutes of consideration. This creature will be completely dependent on you for everything, and you will be responsible for satisfying all of their needs. The dog will intrude on your social life, as you will have to consider things like being home in time to take the dog out when making plans. The dog will mess up your house because dogs shed and puppies have to be housebroken, and housebreaking a dog doesn’t happen without a few accidents. The dog will destroy your property because the puppy doesn’t know that $300 shoes are not chew toys. And through all of this, you have to be patient and loving because this was what you signed on for when you decided to bring a dog home.
3. Budgeting For A Dog
Like children, pets are not cheap. There are many monthly and annual expenses you will need to be aware of when fitting a dog into your budget. Monthly expenses will include items like food, treats, toys and bones. You will also need to replace equipment like kennels, leashes and collars on occasion. Annual expenses will include a trip to the vet for a check up and vaccinations. Some areas may require you pay an annual fee to license your dog. You will also want to make sure your budget allows for emergency care, as dogs will get sick or break a leg. Failure to provide such care, even if it is due to an inability to pay, can legally constitute neglect.
4. Making Time
Spending time with your dog is not optional. This is part of the responsibility of dog ownership. It takes time to see to a dog’s daily needs, like feedings and walks. Dogs also require your attention, as they are social creatures and need to belong to a pack. An insufficient amount of time spent with your dog can cause anxiety and undesirable behaviors, such as chewing or barking. A well-behaved dog begins with the investment of your time. This isn’t just about training, although that is important too. This is about the dog’s emotional wellbeing. A happy dog will be calmer and listen better, and a happy dog begins with you.
5. Preparing A Pet Friendly Home
Do you have room for the dog to play? Is the yard safe? Is the fence secure? Do they have a sleeping area? Is there an eating area set up for them? These are all important questions to ask when you are preparing your house for a dog. Dogs require consistency, and they will need to eat and sleep in the same places each day. They are also curious by nature, and will take advantage of any breach in security to go out on a little adventure. Make sure that they cannot escape kennels and yards so you can keep them safe. This also applies to inside the house. My little cocker spaniel is a lovable and rebellious pup. He must be contained to the same room as you, or else he will likely do something naughty. His rap sheet includes offenses like chewing up ear buds (that were on a shelf and sealed in a bag), lifting his leg to mark a basket of freshly laundered clothes, and chewing on a vacuum cleaner power cord (while I was in the process of vacuuming!). Yes, he is a handful, but it is our responsibility to remain diligent and maintain constant surveillance over his activities. For his safety, it is a responsibility we take very seriously.
6. Providing A Forever Home
No one can predict the future, but you should intend to keep a dog for its entire life. Dogs become very attached to their owners because you are their care provider, otherwise known as their universe. They depend on you, and need you to be as committed to them as they are to you. Our pet dogs may not resemble the wolves they are descended from, but they still possess many of the instincts, and one of those instincts is belonging to a pack. Once a wolf finds a pack, they stay with it. Banishment from the pack is reserved for those that commit serious and unpardonable infractions. Dogs need to be accepted into a loving pack, and remain with that pack, in order to feel stable and happy. Separation from their pack is very difficult for a dog. Try to avoid this damage to a dog’s emotional wellbeing by being as positive as you can be that you will never part with the dog before you bring it home.
7. Knowing What Your Responsibilities Are
Do you know all of the responsibilities that come with having a dog? It isn’t just about playing Frisbee in the park on a nice day. It is about walking in the rain. It is about spending hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars to keep them healthy and safe with vaccinations and visits to the vet. It is about picking up smelly dog poop, and cleaning up the messes they leave. There are also legal considerations, like leash laws and pick up poop laws. Make sure you know everything that is expected of you.
8. Considering A Dog For Children
I love children, and there are few visions as wholesome as a young boy playing with the family dog in the backyard. I also believe that a pet is a wonderful way to teach a child responsibility. However, not all children know how to behave around animals, and they can cause an animal enormous stress. Most dogs are very tolerant of children, but supervise them if you have any doubts. Teach your children how to play with the dog. Show them how easily dogs are hurt, and how to play with them without hurting them. This isn’t just for the safety of the dog, but for the children too. Even the gentlest dog could potentially bite when it is frightened or injured.
9. Getting A Second Dog
I remember the idea I had in my head when I got my cocker spaniel. I thought my king Charles cavalier spaniel loves playing with other dogs so much that he would just love a playmate! I was wrong. I was so very wrong. Spazzy, my king cav, was cool with it for the first two hours, and then you could see him slowly figuring out that this new dog wasn’t a visitor. That night, Spazzy stopped sleeping in bed with me, and showed overall disdain for my decision-making abilities. He often gives me a “stupid human” look, but he was serious this time. It has been several years now, and they have gotten used to each other, but prepare for some jealousy from the first dog when you bring the second dog home. The first dog will require some extra attention and one on one time to help them adjust.
10. Asking Yourself: Am I Ready For This Responsibility?
Before you even start looking at dogs, and get pulled in by a set of big brown eyes, ask yourself, am I ready for this? Consider the financial commitment you are making, the constraints that will be placed on your time and the patience that dogs require. Now ask yourself again, am I ready for this. It is not an exaggeration to compare dogs to children. They share many of the same duties like feeding and cleaning up doo doo. You can evaluate your readiness by adjusting your routine to one a dog would need. If you don’t take a daily walk, add a 30-minute walk to your evening. You should also check with veterinarians in your area to price the cost of a check-up and vaccinations, as that will be an annual expense. If you travel a lot, you will want to consider how you will provide care for your dog while you are away. Dog sitters and kennels are common services. Prices will vary and you will want to know that expense ahead of time also. All of these things can and should influence your decision to get a dog.
To read all 50 Things please download the book on Amazon.