REASONS NOT TO GET A DOG
Why you shouldn’t get a dog. Despite all the hoopla about the health and mental benefits of dog ownership, there are just as many reasons not to get a dog. Not every home, not every family, is a perfect place for a pet. And, although every dog should have a home, not every home should have a dog.
Here, spelled out plainly, are a few of the reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog.
If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, this could be a big factor in your decision. I am not one of those who thinks you need to be rich to own a dog, but you do need to have your head firmly above the financial waterline.
Dog food is expensive. The cheapest out there is the bargain basement Old Roy from Walmart (which is not the healthiest food for a pet), at about $20.00 per 50 pounds. On the other end of the scale, Taste of the Wild dry dog food goes for $65.00 per 28 pounds. A 40-pound dog will need 2.5 cups a day, so you will be buying a new bag every 45 days or so. This equates to almost $550.00 per year only in food for your pet.
Dogs, like any other living creature, need regular veterinary visits to maintain health. You should expect to pay around $250.00 every year for necessary shots/examinations/blood tests. Then add the cost of an annual dental – running from a basic $300.00 and ending up near $1,000 depending on the number of teeth that need to be extracted. Add to that the expectation that, at least at some point in your pet’s life, you will have to provide urgent medical care. Emergencies or serious health conditions can easily top $2,000 – are you prepared for this eventuality?
If you travel, on vacation or for work, you will have to make arrangements for someone to take care of you dog while you’re away. Expect to spend $15.00 to $35.00 per day when you’re gone. If you have more than one pet, this can add up quickly. In-home pet sitting is an alternative, but not necessarily less expensive. In short, add about $250.00 to the cost of your one-week vacation for each pet you have.
LOCAL GROUP TRAINING
Petco, and many other pet stores, offer group training for owners and their dogs. While this type of training is useful for some dogs, easily distracted dogs and those with fear issues may not benefit from these. Average cost here is $110.00 for a six-week session. Remember, these classes are for training behaviors – sit, stay, etc. – not for solving behavior issues. For those, you will have to go to a trainer who works with individual dogs.
The average cost for an individual trainer is about $50.00 per hour. Add to that your time in attending these classes with your pooch. (Don’t listen to a trainer who says you don’t need to be involved – effective training must be a collaborative exercise between dog and owner.) Depending on how trained you want your dog to be, i.e. attuned to your every move versus knowing how to sit and stay, total layout could be $500.00 or more.
If you have time commitments beyond the usual, a dog might not be for you. Examples are having an ill child, caring for an elderly relative, working massive amounts of overtime, or travelling often for work. Dogs need time and attention. Without it they can become bored and destructive. And your first priority should be the humans in your care. If any of the above conditions apply, make sure you or someone else in the family is able to devote enough attention to a new pet.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T GET A PUPPY
Time is particularly important if you’re thinking of getting a puppy. Puppy’s bladders are tiny and they need to be taken outside frequently in the first months to potty. One of the most common reasons puppies and young dogs are surrendered to shelters is house-breaking issues. If you can’t be home on regular occasions throughout the day, plan on hiring someone to give your pup necessary potty breaks. Otherwise, adopt an adult dog, or put off adoption until your circumstances change.
OTHER IMPORTANT FACTORS
Do not get a dog if even one member of the family is against it. There will be times when all members of the family will need to pitch in. The person who usually walks the dog has the flu – the other must step up and help. One is travelling for work; the rest of the family needs to take on the responsibility. Make sure everyone is dog-friendly and willing to help when necessary.
Don’t bring in a dog if you’re having problems at home. Just like having children, bringing a pet into a difficult relationship only adds stress. Wait until things calm down, or have changed. Then you can think of moving forward.
It’s natural to want to start fresh in a new neighborhood, maybe with a pet dog. But stop, before you rush into that decision. Moving is one of the top ten stressors in a person’s life. If you have kids, add to that their adjustment period as they go to a new school and make new friends.
Your current dog will do fine, since he’s already used to the people in his life. But a new dog needs time and patience from her family in order to adjust to her new situation. You won’t be able to devote that time, if you, too, are adjusting. Wait three or four months, until the newness of your situation wears off. Then you’ll have the energy to help a new pet acclimatize to your family!
OVER DEPENDENCE ON CHILDREN FOR PET DUTIES
Yes, adopting a pet is wonderful for teaching children responsibility, and love. But you should NEVER expect a child to take on the majority of pet duties. Children lose interest quickly, and often don’t have the perseverance to follow through on a task. Then they become teenagers. Enough said?
It’s great to assign each child one specific task related to your pet, but do realize that you’ll need to step up and do this task if the kids don’t. And the threat to take the dog back to the shelter if the kids don’t take responsibility ends up hurting only the dog. If you’re determined to have consequences for lack of follow-through by your kids, find another way to foster responsibility – one that doesn’t involve a living being.
If this is important to you, you may want to reconsider getting a pet. Although you can train a dog not to lay on the furniture, or chew on your shoes, or get into the trash, dogs are naturally messy critters. There will be hair, sometimes lots and lots depending on the type of dog. There will be mud. And, as your dog ages, there will be accidents of the urinary kind. You can certainly keep a nice home while owning a pet – you can’t keep a spotless one. Even keeping a nice one will take some extra work.
YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY
If you invite friends over to your home on a regular basis, you might want to explore their feelings about dogs. Most people will be fine, but if you have a close friend who is frightened, or allergic, realize you will have to meet at her house or a public place from now on. And if that person is family, really consider whether this is the right time to adopt a pet.
WHAT YOU MUST HAVE TO GET A DOG
There are the dogs that try even the most ardent dog-lovers patience. The dogs that get into everything, tear up paper, furniture, plants, etc. All the while maintaining an angelic smile. The ones who drive their owners quietly insane while being, during their time off from exploits, the most loving, docile creatures in the world. The black lab, Buckeye, whose photos are in this post, is one such dog. Owned by a friend of mine – I can assure you that not one of these photos were posed.
Although you may not deliberately choose one of these guys, it’s not always possible to know beforehand. Are you up for surprises? Willing and able to deal with small, or not so small, messes? Eager to see what the next day will bring? If not, pass on the pup, at least for now.
WHY SAYING “NO” IS SOMETIMES THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO
Dog people (and I have to plead guilty to this one), just cannot understand why anyone wouldn’t want a dog. To us, they’re worth the trouble, the shuffled priorities, and the extra time and money. But not everyone feels this way, and that’s fine. If having a dog would be more than you could handle – just tell your friends who ask that you’re waiting for a better time to make that commitment.
Just not a dog person? Say so. Not everyone needs to be. And, if you’re not a cat person either, that’s okay, too. Although animal rescuers will try and promote pet ownership to anyone who will listen, remember that they are looking only at the number of animals needing homes. Given a moment to think, they’ll be the first to agree that dog ownership is not for everyone.
You have to make the best choice for you, if that’s “later” or “never”. But, if it’s “later”, when that time comes, please adopt!
Photos of “Buckeye” courtesy of his long-suffering, but loving Mom