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July 20, 2004 > HEY! Let's Get A Dog!

HEY! Let's Get A Dog!

by Nancy Lyon

Bringing a dog into your family can be a wonderful experience with many benefits if done with forethought and careful consideration. It can, however, quickly develop into a disaster if you have never had a dog before and have not done careful research into what having one realistically involves.
An increasing number of people in the Tri-City area have had little or no prior experience with dogs, yet are enthusiastic about becoming "dog people." Many come to the animal shelter or to rescues looking to adopt without any knowledge of the physical, social and emotional needs of a dog. In fact, many are surprised that dogs (and other animals) actually have these qualities.
First of all - why are you considering adopting a dog? The answer so often heard is that "We want a dog for the children. They just kept pestering us for one so we finally gave in, and they have promised that they will take care of him forever."

This is reality check time. HAVE NO DOUBT, your children will soon tire of feeding, scooping poop, exercising and grooming Fido. If you hold back on caring for your dog in hopes that, if given enough time, they will magically live up to their promises and become responsible - remember it's your poor dog who will pay the price and be subjected to neglect. Children's enthusiasms change quickly and other activities will capture their interests and time. Make no mistake; you will be Fido's primary caregiver and companion. If you are reluctant from the beginning to accept this role - then don't get a dog. A dog deserves a much better life than you can offer.

A quick trip to your local shelter will show you the sad destination of too many dogs who have been relegated to a life of being a forgotten family member. So, for everyone's sake, especially that of a trusting and dependant canine, honestly ask yourself if bringing a dog into your home is a caring and responsible act of commitment -- or a momentary whim.

If your primary interest in getting a dog is for protection, then also think again. Get an alarm system or other more appropriate protective device. Dogs used for this purpose often lead lives of loneliness and isolation. When their social needs are not met, such dogs will predictably become frustrated and seek undesirable outlets for their pent-up needs with destructive and sometimes aggressive behavior. If you don't want a dog as a loving companion - then don't get a dog.

If you can honestly say that you will commit to a dog and meet his need of being an integral part of your family for the rest of his life -- no matter what your life-changes may bring; If you can provide him with regular time and attention -- not just when it's convenient, with often expensive veterinary care and immunizations, quality food, grooming, exercise, training and socialization so that he may become a canine good citizen - then it's time to continue your search.

Often people new to dogs have this Disney-like perception that a puppy will be the answer to their search. Just any puppy! Puppies can be wonderful but they are a challenge in numerous ways. A very young dog for the inexperienced can often result in the growing puppy becoming unsuitable to the family's circumstances. "I didn't think he would get so big" or "he's developing negative habits" that the more experienced person would be able to recognize and quickly correct by positive means. Be realistic about your ability in time and knowledge to meet the needs of a young pup, soon to become - even worse -- a teenager. Don't reject the idea of an older, more stable dog can be just the right for first timers.

Take time to research what kind of dog will happily fit into your family's lifestyle. It's always surprising how many people think that there is this "generic" dog that happens to come in different body sizes and types, colors and coats. Not so.

Canine breeds and their crosses have a great variance in behavior and needs, and can carry breed-specific health problems. When studying what type of dog is right for you, it is probably wise to seek the advice of someone who isn't in love with that breed and tends to overlook its downside. Breed crosses can exhibit characteristics of both or more, so it is wise to consider what the cross may be. Many people are first attracted to a "look," but behavior and other breed-related characteristics are much more important than appearance.

Dogs are wonderful; there's no question about it. And this information only touches on the many aspects of responsible and caring dog guardianship. Should you choose to bring a dog into your family, he will require your knowledge, time, energy, patience, financial support and loving commitment for a successful relationship.

The life expectancy of a dog can range from12 years and more. And remember that a dog will always be as a child, just one that will be increasingly dependent upon your faithfulness and love as they age.

Give bringing a dog into your life great thought. Dogs are loyal, loving and bring great joy to those who appreciate the gifts they bring. If you are up to the challenge, it's a fantastic relationship - one that you will never regret or forget.

Before you get a dog
Recommended reading:

  • Mother Knows Best...Second Hand Dog...The Chosen Puppy...Surviving Your Dog's Adolescence - by Carol Lea Benjamin
  • The Dog Who Loved Too Much - by Dr. Nicholas Dodman
  • Good Dog Bad Dog - by Mordecai Siegal & Matthew Margolis
  • The Adoption Option - by E. Rubenstein & S. Kalina
  • Don't Shoot the Dog - by Karen Pryor
  • How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend...The Art of Raising a Puppy - by the Monks of New Skete
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