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SHOULD YOU BUY OR ADOPT A DOG?
by Dr. Roberta Lee, D.D, PhD., N.D. Part One in a Series
A dog can complete a family with or without children. Dr. Lee says a dog is often perfect for career couples who have tremendous love to share so the question is… big dog, little dog, good with kids, long coat or short, purebred puppy or shelter rescue adult?
Somewhere along the way, our society has lost sight of why we have pets. We used to have the “house” dog or cat, for companionship but sadly, in today’s world many people purchase a certain type of dog because it is fashionable, or matches the furniture. I know that sounds preposterous but in donating time to shelters, I was actually told by a person who came to "swap out" their dog it was because the dog didn’t match the living room any more! I suggested a lovely but rather standoffish cat instead and they agreed because she was a "much better color" for their new decor.
A family dog should match your lifestyle for at least the next decade!
I am going to start with adult education because you can’t teach your children what you yourself don’t understand. It is my wish that we adults have a more enlightened approach to the acquisition and maintenance of our friend, the dog. We have to acknowledge that today’s world is a throw away, instant gratification society. Many companies no longer manufacture their products to last because they know that in a year or two the family will need an excuse to buy the latest color, style, or new invention. Buying a dog should not be like that.
You are getting a friend for life. That’s right. For life. The only shame of it is that the dog’s life isn’t as long as ours but the memory of a family dog will never die. So give thought to what space you have to provide as an adequate environment for the dog, how much time you are willing to spend with the dog, and what your expectations are about the animal.
For example, you wouldn’t want to get a high energy dog if you live in a one bedroom apartment and will never have the time to run and play in an open area with him. And if you are buying a dog for your one year old child ... well, don’t.
A well-bred, well treated dog never wears out and is always in style...
Here is a list of things that you need to consider before you venture out (or online) to look at dogs. And, by the way you answer the questions, you will know; 1) if you should even buy a dog or not, 2) what type (breed) of dog to buy, 3) where to go to get your dog and 4) what you can expect from that breed.
So if you are ready let’s get to it.
#1. Why do you want to buy a dog? Are you just married and you think that it is cute to have a “baby” in the house? This may not be such a good idea. It is perfectly normal for the “nesting” urge to take over right after a new relationship (being married) is formed. But, sooner or later, you are going to have that human baby, and then what will you want to do with the dog? And is the dog of a breed that will easily accept the new baby?
Most young couples think that having a dog will be “less” responsibility than having a baby. WRONG! Think of this. Your child grows out of the diaper stage and eventually can fix his own cereal. But with the dog, you will forever have to take him out to use the bathroom. You will have to consider his feeding and potty schedule before you make plans to go out, and you will probably need a critter sitter or a boarding kennel if he can't travel with you. If you're not ready to have kids because of the commitment then you need to realize that many breeds live to be in their teens. By that time, kids can take care of themselves if called on to do so, but a dog cannot.
When you buy a dog you do indeed acquire a loving, giving soul that will give you more hours of enjoyment than you can imagine but he comes loaded with responsibility. Just as with kids, there will be puppy shots for immunization, potty training, (do you work all day?) and obedience training.
Can you afford a dog right now and if so, what breed?
And then there is the expense of having the dog. Are you getting a breed that is high maintenance? Then you will have to consider the cost of groomers or set aside time to learn how to groom the dog yourself. To ignore professional grooming, can, and does lead to health problems. What about medical care? Veterinary care is becoming more expensive and you will either have to bear the cost of care should your dog get sick or purchase pet insurance which is sure to become available, but expensive.
Next you must ponder what type of dog do you want? Well, let’s look at it this way, what is your life style? Are you a couch potato? Or are you high octane? Are you out every weekend climbing mountains, or do you prefer reading or watching TV?
What part do you want your dog to play in your activities? Do you want a companion to go with you and share in your fun? Or do you want a friend to cuddle with you on the couch? Are you scared to be alone so all you really want is a security system? It would be cheaper for you and kinder to the dog if you get the electronic type of security. You have to remember that you are buying a living, breathing, feeling, and giving soul.
Do you want the dog to be a toy for your child? Wrong again. If you want to have a dog to grow with the kids, then you will have to learn about the different breed characteristics. Mongrels can be wonderful family pets but if you have a checklist of your wants like predictability of coat, adult size, good with kids, and health concerns, you should realize those things are impossible to predict in mixed breeds. So, sit down and consider just what you want the dog “for” - a cute toy, security system, or as a "good with kids" friend and family member.
Where do you go to get the dog after you have decided that you are ready for the responsibilities and know what characteristics you want. NOT A PET SHOP! Pet shops keep the "puppy mills” in business. The puppy's parents are kept in filthy conditions, often spending years in one small cage, never being taken out even for health care reasons. The female dogs are bred over and over again until they die. You want no part of that, especially having contributed to the continuance of such horror.
Animal shelter or purebred dog breeder, take time to check.
So if you are on a budget you can go to the local shelter or humane society and pay an adoption fee. If it is the pure bred dog you are after, shelters often have those too.
Check references. Check to see if there have been complaints filed. Go to the facilities of the breeder and verify that it is a clean, safe, humane, loving environment that has brought your puppy into the world. If not, then DON’T be talked into buying your dog there, and run, don’t walk, to the nearest humane society and give a report on what you saw.
If it is a specific breed you want, check your local newspaper for the “Rescue Society” for that particular breed because some wonderful animals have been given to these societies due to the illness or death of the original owner. And of course, check the listings in TheDogPlace.org Dog-e-Directory and the breed sections for national dog clubs and certified dog breeders.
If you feel that all of the above is just to much trouble for you to go through just to own a dog, then believe me, you are not ready to get a family dog. It would be unfair to you and totally unjust to the dog. Perhaps later when things are more settled. Perhaps a pet bird or a self-sufficient cat.
I hope that we have covered what you need to think about before you buy a dog. Although I sometimes counsel pet owners, you should always seek a second opinion. There are books on dogs and you are right here at TheDogPlace.org. It is the first dog website anywhere and I know these people LOVE dogs. They have a whole section on All Dog Breeds, Explore the characteristics of each "group" of dogs, then pick a breed. You can then find dog breeders listed or you can go to the shelter knowing what breed or type of dog fits you best.
Thought to remember; "When God gave us dominion over the animals of this earth, he expected us to care for them with love and responsibility."
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