Are You Ready for a Dog in Your Life?  

Posted by — Kim in , , , , , , , , ,

Here's some great information that I thought I would pass on...hope you find it helpful! –Kim

10 Questions to Ask Yourself

So, you want to buy a dog?! Here are ten questions to help you decide if you're really ready for the responsibilities of dog ownership:

  1. Do I have enough time for a pet? Daily care includes affection, grooming, feeding, training, exercising, clean-up and possibly walking several times a day (if there's no secure yard, for excretion of body waste).
  2. Do I have adequate space and housing area for a dog (including a secure yard for certain breeds)?
  3. Can I afford veterinary care, licensing, food, training and grooming costs? This could run up to thousands of dollars a year.
  4. What would I do with my dog when I go to work or go on vacation or if I have to travel for my job?
  5. Am I willing to obey community laws concerning animals?
  6. Am I willing to be patient in training and housebreaking?
  7. Can I deal with my favorite shoes being mauled, my furniture being chewed and all of the "marking" and messes and accidents pets have? (Male dogs will often "mark" their territory with urine as a notice to other dogs.)
  8. Are my children responsible enough to help care for the dog? Will they be gentle with it and treat it well?
  9. What happens if I move? Am I willing to deal with the occasional frustrations of finding temporary dog-friendly housing?
  10. Am I willing to make a commitment to this dog for its entire life? Have I ever made a commitment that spans 15 years or more?

"Not for Rent"

Be aware that dogs are not "things." They are living creatures who, by no choice of their own, are totally dependent upon us – and are at our mercy – for their very survival, not to mention their quality of life.

As pack animals, their mental health is dependent upon being with their "pack." That may be other animals, or it may be us. It is very cruel to leave a dog alone all day. Dogs need a lot of attention. They need regular, systematic aerobic exercise for at least 20-30 minutes, at least 3-4 times a week, just to be healthy. Few dogs get the exercise they need for good physical and mental health.

Lack of exercise is the number one reason, (before lack of training), that dogs become mischievous and burdensome, and are then blamed, then dumped and too often, killed. ("A tired dog is a good dog.") Having a yard is not sufficient. Dogs do not exercise themselves unless chasing something along the fence line, and that, in and of itself, is a problem.

To make good pets, they need training. And most importantly, to be safe pets, they need early socialization. Lack of socialization the first 4-6 months of a dog's life creates shy dogs, which too often become fear-biters. These, along with those who were simply born with poor temperaments, are responsible for the majority of the 4.7 million dog bites annually. (60% of victims are children; half of all kids 12 and under have been bitten by a dog; every day, more than 900 people are hospitalized with dog bites; every year, 25 people are killed by dogs.)

Pet adoption can be a rewarding experience for a child. Your kids should be involved in every step of the process, so that they understand the responsibility of pet adoption. This also gives them a say in the process of bringing a new pet home.

Good chemistry between the dog and your child is key in the early stages; if a dog and owner bond right away, the adjustment period after you adopt a pet will be easier for everyone. Because dogs are pack animals by nature, it's important to establish a dog's new "pack" status with you and your family quickly. Your child will also be more emotionally invested if he or she helped adopt a pet, rather than having one picked for him or her.

Also, if you're adopting a puppy, make sure your home is pet-proofed so your new dog cannot be injured by unstable furniture, electric cords and poisonous substances in your bathroom, kitchen, garage and other areas.

If you cannot be a responsible dog owner, please wait until you can be.

Choosing Your Dog

Do your homework about the breed you are interested in adopting. Knowing a breed's characteristics, whether purebred or not, is an important step to finding the best match for you. We strongly discourage impulse buying or adopting. Our pets deserve homes that are prepared for their arrival and owners who have realistic expectations about lifestyle changes and temperaments as they become a member of the household.

Have you taken into consideration your preferences in regard to your prospective pet's size, activity level, personality type, coat type, amount of shedding or grooming requirements, tolerance with children or other animals? Visit SelectSmart (see links below) before you visit the shelter or, if you have found a potential pet, before you take him or her home. You may find that the breed that strikes your fancy might not be the right breed for you, or you may find many other possibilities you hadn't considered! Your choice will hopefully be part of your family for 10, 12 or more years.... Choose carefully!

Dog Breed Selector Quiz

Can't decide which dog best suits you? Get some help making this important decision with this personalized guide. It's simple: You provide some answers about your preferences, and in return, they'll match you with a list of dog breeds, in ranked order, that best meet your requirements. Check out these dog-selection quizzes to help you decide:

Mixed Breed or Purebred?

It's a matter of personal taste. Some people assume that mixed breeds must be healthier than purebreds. Both pass on their genes to their offspring, both good and bad traits. Genetic problems occur in all animals, not just purebreds, but we can only track the diseases as being hereditary when we have a long pedigree, as we do with purebreds. Choose a responsible breeder if you choose a purebred, and do some research on where the seller gets their puppies!

Mixed breeds have a charm all their own. If one-of-a-kind unique is what you want, consider a mix!

But beware of the latest fad in puppy mills, selling high-priced trendy mixes to pet stores. You may feel like you are "rescuing" that poor dog from the pet store window, but in handing over your hard-earned cash, you ensure that your pup's parents are destined to be used again and again to produce more for the pet industry. We can only put them out of business by NOT buying pet store pups. (Get the facts on Puppy Mills, and keep reading below for more information.)

How Much IS that Doggy in the Window?

Don't fall into the puppy mill trap ... MOST REPUTABLE BREEDERS DO NOT SELL TO PET STORES! They are very particular and insist on meeting and screening the homes where their puppies go. They are also willing to give you ongoing support and are often willing to take that puppy back if for any reason you cannot keep it.

With popularity comes a price. "Popular" breeds are the most saleable, which means puppy mills, backyard and other unscrupulous breeders single out these breeds as "money makers." This often leads to an upsurge of genetic problems in both physical and temperamental defects. The larger numbers of these breeds "trickle down," showing up more frequently in shelters. Dedicated individuals and clubs create breed rescue groups to rehabilitate the abused and find homes for the latest group of cast-offs.

Small breeds are favorites of pet shops – not only are they irresistable to the public, but they have a longer "shelf-life" (they retain their puppy looks longer). Plus, a smaller dog is more likely to be a "spur of the moment" decision. Take note: does your local pet store have a regular "supply" of Miniature Schnauzers, American Eskimos, Shih Tzus and Poodles? Do the above "top ten" appear on its inventory often?

You must ask yourself: From where do these puppies come? Would a truly reputable breeder provide a regular supply of top quality puppies to a pet store?... Would a person who really cared about the future of its puppies ever turn the placement over to strangers in a pet shop – or the dealers who supply them?

Responsible Breeders vs. Backyard Breeders

Some people breed out of greed or ego or for reasons other than to improve the breed (i.e., to make the puppies better than their parents). Most purebred dogs, and of course, all mixed-breed dogs, should not be bred. The majority of dogs have some defect (in structure, temperament, health) that should not be perpetuated. Dogs used for breeding should be free of all defects – that's the definition of quality. ("Papers" mean nothing; they are simply nothing more than birth certificates. Plenty of dogs have "papers," but are so poorly bred, they actually look like mutts.)

No one should ever breed any dog without veterinary/laboratory testing and pedigree research to be sure that dog is free of (and not a carrier of) genetic defects. FAILURE TO TEST AND SEARCH FOR INHERITABLE HEALTH PROBLEMS IS THE PRIMARY MARK OF A BACKYARD BREEDER. It is also most damaging to canines, and most heartbreaking to puppy-buyers who end up with yet another generation of poor-quality dogs who too often develop expensive, early health problems and often die prematurely.

See an excellent chart that compares responsible breeders with backyard breeders.

Do Your Due Diligence

So, when you are looking to buy a new puppy, do your research. Don't be afraid to ask questions and confirm the responses! Require proof of genetic tests and hip and elbow x-rays and request to see one or both of the parents of your new puppy. The pet store may be the worst place to buy a puppy, and as long as there is a market for pet store puppies, other dogs will be condemned to death by mass-breeding only so a few people can make some money with no thought of their "product's" welfare.

This is not to say that a good pet has never come out of a pet store, as many have, but for each that has, many more have not. Remember, when you buy a puppy, you are adding another member to your family, not just another piece of furniture that can be disposed of at the smallest whim, and you are responsible for every piece of extra baggage that puppy brings. Why take the risks when so many reputable breeders are there to guide you along the way of your dog's development?

Don't Forget the Shelter...

When you're thinking about adopting a dog, here are some good reasons that may sway you to head to your local animal shelter:

  • Grown dogs usually don't need to be housetrained, which is a BIG timesaver!
  • Dogs need exercise, and that means you'll get more exercise, too.
  • Walking your dog is a great way to get a daily workout and meet new friends at the dog park.
  • Dogs provide much needed companionship for everyone, especially the elderly.
  • Pet owners are happier and live longer than people who don't own pets? That's a great reason in itself.
  • Dogs are good guardians. They provide a sense of safety, alerting you to unwanted strangers near your home, and protect you on the street
  • When you adopt a dog, you're not just bringing a new member of the family into your home – you're also saving a life.

Up to 40% of the dogs that come through shelters are purebred, meaning that if you are patient and persistent, you can usually find the dog you want. But the other 60% or so are also good dogs in need of loving homes. There are also pet rescue organizations in most cities, as well as purebred rescue clubs, and thousands of these groups all over the Nation. Ask around and do your research. The Internet is also a great resource.... Check out the list of No-kill Shelters and Rescues at the bottom of this page.

The most important thing to remember when choosing a new dog for you and your family is not necessarily which breed of dog will best fit your lifestyle, but what energy level will best fit your lifestyle. If you choose a dog/puppy with a high or very high level of energy and you are a medium or low energy level person, you will automatically become a follower, not a leader to your dog as he or she ages. This will create communication problems between you and your new dog, as well as behavior problems in your dog in the very near future.

Try to choose a dog or puppy with the same level of energy that closely equals you and your family's. Do plenty of research on the breed of dog that you are thinking of getting long before you start looking for a new dog. Each breed of dog was originally bred for a specific task or job, and it will be very important that you know what your dog will need in terms of exercise, discipline and training.

For instance, do not get a Rottweiler, German Shepherd or Doberman Pinscher if you are not looking for a guard dog. Do not get a Border Collie, Australian Shepherd or Heeler if you do not want a dog that will endlessly herd you around the house and nip at your children's heels. Do not get Labrador Retriever, Brittany Spaniel or German Shorthair Pointer if you have no intentions to doing any hunting. Get the idea?

Be a Part of the Solution...NOT the Problem!

We have a severe pet-overpopulation crisis in the US: We slaughter thousands of beautiful, vital, healthy dogs every single day. Every puppy produced by a puppy mill or backyard breeder and placed in a home takes the place of one killed in a shelter, because no one would adopt it. And every puppy produced by a backyard breeder can make more puppies, and those puppies can make more puppies, and so on. (And of course, backyard breeders, through their encouragement and the dispersal of misinformation, have a knack for turning uneducated buyers into yet more backyard breeders.) There just are not enough homes (not to mention "good" homes) available for all this type of over-breeding.

No matter how hard one tries, only 30% of all dogs (and their pups, and their pups, and so on) live their entire lives in the home to which they went after weaning. 70% will be given away or abandoned or dumped along the way for one reason or another. (Common excuses are, "We didn't have time for him," "He was too much trouble," "He kept jumping on us," "He bit my child," "We couldn't afford him," "We had to move," etc. None of these were good homes to start. The buyers failed to socialize or train, or they lacked time, money or commitment. Again, there just are not enough "good" homes for all the puppies born, until others who care come forward.) So, why not leave breeding dogs to those with the ability and desire and quality animals to do so at a "professional" level?

If your dog's only credentials are that it is a great pet, then love it, socialize it, train it, exercise it, give it the best in feed, comfort and veterinary care. But, for it's own good (including better health – ask your Vet!) and for the sake of puppy-buyers, society and all canines, get your dog spayed or neutered.


See the List of No-kill Shelters and Rescues at the bottom of this page.

Also, see:

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2009 at Tuesday, June 02, 2009 and is filed under , , , , , , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

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List of No-kill Shelters and Rescues

List of No-kill Shelters and Rescues: 
NATIONAL SEARCH
Find local shelters near you! LOCAL SEARCH
You can adopt or foster from any of these shelters or donate to support their efforts. Be sure to confirm that they are a "no-kill" shelter. Then, be a part of the solution!

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