Are you really, truly willing (and able) to assume all of the responsibilities of having a dog?
This quiz for choosing a dog should help you determine if you’re really capable and willing to bring a dog into your life. If you can honestly answer yes to most of these questions, congratulations! You’re ready to consider choosing a breed.
- Are you and your family able to commit 12 or more years to living with the dog? Could there be major, life-altering events in your future, such as divorce, moving to a different city, having children, or having to take care of elderly parents? Will you be able to take care of an aging dog that may have health issues?
- Does your family (or maybe even your roommate) want the dog? A dog can cause a great deal of stress and friction among family members if one or more people are against the idea.
- Do you have the financial resources to get a dog? A new puppy can set you back in many ways: veterinarian bills, spaying or neutering costs, costs of supplies like leashes, bowls, dog food and treats, dog beds, brushes, collars, dog tags, and even registration with the city or town. And don’t forget to add in the occasional chewed shoe, ripped sofa cushion, or soiled carpet to the expense list.
- Do you have the time to train your dog and spend time with him or her? To have a well-behaved, well socialized dog, you’ll need to spend hour upon hour teaching your dog commands like sit, stay, get down, not to mention teaching your dog that it’s not OK to nip at children, bark at the postman, or stiff Uncle Bob’s crotch. Even after training, you’ll need to take time to take your dog for walks, clean up the dog poop in the back yard, brush his fur and clip his nails, feed and water him every day, and play with him. Some breeds, like Bichon Frises, take a lot of time to groom, and you may even need to get a professional groomer to help out.
- Do you have the relaxed, flexible, patient, personality that’s best suited to owning a dog? It will be much harder to have a dog if you’re the kind of person who’s a neat freak who needs everything in its place. Dogs are messy creatures, and not particularly respectful of the fact that you want your shoes to be in a neat row in the closet. This brings up the need for patience. Will you be able to keep your cool when your adorable puppy poops on the living room rug for the second time in a day? Answer these questions honestly — you’re the only one who really knows how you’ll deal with the disruptions that a dog brings.
- Do you have the physical environment a dog needs? Most dogs need a nearby park or huge yard for walks and to go to the washroom. A fenced yard is also a huge bonus, as is room for a dog run. You’ll need a place to put your dog’s bed and dishes, and the facilities to groom her or clean her if she’s muddy and messy from being outside.
- Do you expect your dog to be alone for long periods of a time, on a daily basis? Many so-called behavioural problems simply result from a dog that’s cooped up to long inside a house. Dogs that are alone for too long can chew the furniture, chew shoes and furniture, scratch doors, relieve themselves indoors, and bark constantly. You may need to seriously consider that you’ll have to arrange for someone to take care of the dog during the day, let him out for a run, playtime, and administer medication, if necessary. Whether this means that you need to come home during your lunch hour, you need to send your dog to doggie daycare, or you need to hire a part-time dog sitter, it’s an important consideration in getting a dog.
- Are you willing and financially able to spay or neuter your dog? Many unwanted dogs are euthanized each year simply because owners were unwilling or unable to spay or neuter.
- Will you be able to get someone to take care of your dog while you’re away? While this is especially true for those who travel a lot, few people enjoy being tied to their home because they can’t find a good kennel or dog sitter.
- Have you owned a dog before? This is a good indicator of how well you’ll be able to take care of a new dog. Did you enjoy having your dog? Was your dog well behaved and well trained? If you answer yes to these questions, it’s a good sign. However, if you’ve had to give a dog away, for any reason, you should seriously consider if getting another dog is a wise decision. You need to really examine the reasons for giving the dog away, and if they’re likely to repeat with a new dog.
- Can you make a commitment to set rules and limitations for your dog, such as not jumping on people or furniture, or will you just let the dog run all over you?
- Will a dog be happy living with you? This is important. Will you be able to give a dog everything he needs to be happy? It’s just not fair to a dog to give it a life where it’s bored or poorly cared for. And trust me, if a dog’s unhappy, you’ll know it through how they act (think barking, chewed furniture, and aggression).
Not sure a dog is still for you? That’s okay, my book discusses all these topics and more in greater detail. Find out about which breeds are right for you and what steps you can take to get the dog you always wanted.