By, Katy Cable-TWR / A 4 min. Read
Wanna know the WORST possible holiday gift you can give someone...-A NEW DOG they didn’t ask for! This time of year I see lots of happy pet parents stocking up for the “new addition!” And usually nothing makes me happier. But at the same time, many of these dogs are surrendered to shelters come February 1st. About the same time the novelty wears off and the responsibility becomes apparent. So as much as you may love dogs, here’s a checklist to review before you take the big leap and become a pet parent.
1. What are your plans for the next 5-15 years? If you’re lucky, a pet may be around for 15 years. Prior to getting one, evaluate your plans and goals. Like anything else, a new family member requires additional time and attention. You may want to hold off if you’ve just started a new job or are adjusting to the demands of a new baby. Also think about what the next 15 years holds. Will you be retiring, will you be in a position to care for a then aging pet.
2. Can you afford to care for a pet? New pet parents are often blind-sighted by the expense of a new dog. They assume adding a large bag of dog kibble to the grocery list and the costs of a few quick vet check-ups will be about all it sets them back. While my blog tips will certainly help with costs, you must anticipate the additional expenses of a high-quality food, pet training, initial pet supplies, regular vet care, dental care, grooming and pet daycare/boarding. If a pet gets injured or suffers from a medical condition you could be looking at thousands of dollars for treatment. It’s best to be realistic about your financial situation prior to bringing home a new pet.
3. Are all the adults in your home ok with getting a pet? Take it from someone who initially never wanted a dog. I was filled with anger and resentment that my feelings weren’t being considered. Thankfully I was actively involved in the decision making process and we had clearly defined agreements on pet care duties. I advise getting everyone’s input on the pet selected and who will be responsible for various pet care details.
4. Do you have the time and energy for a pet? Many new pet owners are surprised at how much time a new pet requires. -Especially a new puppy. If you’re rarely home, travel extensively or presently find it hard to carve out time to get out for a quick workout, a new pet may put you over the edge. New pets need time to bond with you and get a stable routine that includes training/obedience classes, daily walks, exercise, socialization, grooming, feeding and of course, belly rubs. If you leave the house before the sun rises and return completely spent late in the evenings, you’ll need to seriously consider if you want to set that alarm even earlier for a morning run with your new dog. Will you be ok with hiring a dog sitter while you’re away all day? Will you have the energy to throw on sneakers and get out for another walk after putting in a grueling 15 hour day? A bored, neglected dog will typically develop behavior problems and create unnecessary stress. Think seriously about whether you have the time to provide a new pet a good quality of life.
5. Lastly, are you prepared for a disruption in your home? One reason I initially dreaded getting a dog was the mess! I suffered from bad allergies and liked keeping my home obsessively neat. The thought of dog hair covering all my furniture and my designer shoes serving as the chew toy of choice for a new pet was my idea of a living hell. Be realistic about how important your fine clothing, furniture and household tidiness is.
If you’ve considered the above-mentioned points and it’s still a “GO,” let’s consider a few more important details:
What type of dog will be the best fit for your lifestyle? This is a biggie? Read up on different breeds and get an idea of energy levels and temperament. Do you want a cute designer dog you can pack in a purse and take with you everywhere? Are you the outdoorsy type that enjoys hiking, camping and water activities? A retriever might be the perfect breed. If you’re an avid runner or swimmer, some breeds are perfectly suited for those activities while others, like Pugs, overheat easily and typically sink like stones in water. Many people are misinformed and choose a breed that conflicts with their lifestyle and energy levels. I urge you to research breeds wisely first.
Are you prepared to deal with emotional or behavioral issues? I’m hoping and praying you will opt for getting your new pet from a rescue or shelter, but do want to remind you that most of these innocent animals were completely let down by humans. They weren’t properly cared for, trained or socialized. Often it takes time for the new pet to form a bond and trust again. Poor little Olive was a breeder dog who was tossed out in the streets after having a litter of puppies. Just a puppy herself, she had lived in a crate her entire life. She had no interaction with humans or other dogs. Coming into a new home was terrifying and overwhelming. She ran and hid at the slightest noise or anyone approaching her. I was so heartbroken for her but remained loving and patient. Three years later she was thriving, but it took lots of time. Remember most dogs are relinquished for house breaking problems, barking and other issues due to fear and anxiety. Are you committed to rehab this pet if needed.
Do you have an existing pet to consider? Usually after an adjustment period, a new pet can be happily added to the family but there are times when two pets simply DO NOT GET ALONG and leaving them alone together is an outright dangerous situation. I recommend planning a meeting at a neutral setting that’s not too busy and stimulating. Try a nice walk with both on leashes and slowly see how a short interaction goes with the ability to pull them away if one gets aggressive. If it’s not a match made in heaven try consulting with a good trainer before ruling things out. Often shelters and rescues have ideas and recommendations to help you welcome a new pet into the pack. Typically it just takes some time for the pets to adjust and have a balanced relationship.
I realize I’ve just painted a terribly grim and unpleasant picture of dog ownership. I left out all the best parts which is the unbelievable amount of joy they can bring to your life. The true unconditional love they shower you with, and all the happiness they bring typically FAR OUTWEIGH all the hassles and extra expense. However, I would rather prepare you for the worst case scenario and not have you blindsided by a rude awakening. These tips will hopefully make it a smooth, wonderful experience.
I hope many of your holidays include a special new addition. Please pass my website and blog on to any new dog owner friends that may find it helpful. Until next week: Pugs & Kisses 😘❤️🐾
🐾Katy Cable is a former actress appearing in “Back To The Future” and starring in the TV series: “Safe At Home” & “ Fired Up!” In addition to her dog health & lifestyle blog/vlog: The Weekly Runt, (https://www.weeklyrunt.com/) she’s a contributing writer to numerous publications including Thrive Global, & The Huffington Post. Cable lives at the beach with her husband, Rick and her rescue Pug, Olive.🐾