Paws First: Considerations When Getting A Dog

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sleeping puppy “Let’s get a puppy!” When we start to think about welcoming a dog into our lives, we all-too-often get swept away in the romance of the idea. We hear about all the mental and physical benefits of being a canine caregiver. The good news is they are true! Us “dog people” know that being with our four-legged friends is nothing short of awesome! But, let’s come back down to Earth for a minute. There are some real logistics and important considerations to take into account before you take the leap into puppy parenthood.

I’ve been asked numerous times about “what it’s like getting a dog.” By request, the following is an essentials guide to adopting a canine into your family. The basic considerations form three categories: Time, Cost (initial and annual) and Lifestyle Impact. The purpose here is not to overwhelm you, but instead offer some variables to consider that can be overlooked (and make for “fun” surprises later!).  All to often the large picture of getting a dog and what that means is overlooked, leading to these fantastic companions being left to fend for themselves or integrated into a adoption system hoping they are taken home before it is to late.

Note: Each category could include much more detail than what is listed here. If you’d like more information on any particular topic or want to add something that I’ve missed, please leave a comment below.

Time:  

Dogs are social creatures. They love to be with their calendar:clockfamily “pack” and need to get out and socialize with their human and canine communities. Time investment depends on many, many factors. Regardless of breed, size or age, all dogs need daily appropriate (safe, healthy and fun) activity. This includes both mental and physical stimulation. Going for walks, meeting a friends at the off-leash park, dropping and picking up from doggy daycare, trips to the beach, going out to do their business, and regular training sessions all take time during your day. Depending on your living situation (e.g. within the city or in a condo/apartment) getting to locations with green space, off-leash zoning, etc. can increase the time allotment required for each activity. Scheduling plans and arrangements beforehand can make sure you and your family has your canine’s needs covered before you get stuck with no time and no fun.

Puppies

Bringing a puppy into the home is a grand adventure. Just like any adventure, it that takes some planning and forethought to accomplish. We all have jobs and schedules we need to keep – but puppies do too. They need to go out and do their business on a frequent, set schedule as they learn the household rules. They also have a high requirement for socialization. It is extremely important that puppies are taken out into their communities to meet lots of new people and dogs regularly and that they are involved in educational programs such as puppy, basic and advanced training. If you work full time at a facility or office that does not have a pet policy in place, you should inquire as to the reasons/rules and see if they are open for change. In the meantime, taking some vacation time and/or having a network of people that can help fill in those moments is vital and could mean the difference between coming back to a happy puppy and a mess on the carpet or a trip to the vet (or both).

Rescues

Rescues, whether they are adults, puppies or seniors, need special time consideration as they adjust to their new lives in their forever home. Rescuing is an extremely rewarding experience but we need recognize that these canines have been through recent trauma. Regardless of their past lives and the dog rescuebehaviours they have learned from those experiences, simply going through a rescue situation and adjusting to a new life (with a new home, new smells and new parents) is a lot to go through. It is reasonable to assume that the behaviour you see within the first few days may change as they become more comfortable with their new surroundings. For some, that means they will settle down; for others, they can become more adventurous as they explore their new boundaries. You need time to begin to understand their behaviours, likes and dislikes. Make sure you account for this, especially over the first three to four weeks and then make a plan to ensure they keep learning good behaviours and unlearn some of their past, less productive, behaviours.

Remember…

You can’t expect perfect behaviour (there is no such thing), so you should be ready to reward the best behaviour and redirect the less-than-perfect habits. Developing a balance between structured events and “fun time” within their routine early on can help them understand what is expected of them in their new home and out in the world – a framework that will certainly pay off for you both tenfold down the road. Unsure of how your canine will react in a particular scenario? Check out our post on the Yellow Dog Project to find out how you can be more prepared!

Cost:

You want to comfortably budget your new family member into your life. What can you expect to pay up front and what do dollar-551932_1280annual costs look like? Below is a breakdown of the costs to begin care for a canine, with information sourced from the BC SPCA. Some one-time costs may vary depending on the organization, region and the size of dog you are interested in (e.g. crates can range up towards $200 depending on size and quality and bedding can be quite expensive depending on the materials used [e.g. memory foam]).

One Time Costs

Adoption fee
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Branch for current adoption prices)
 $145.00-$395.00
Spaying (female) and tattoo
(Approximate estimation only, please check with your local Veterinarian for actual prices. BC SPCA adoption fee includes spay/neuter & tattoo)
 $156.00-$265.00
Food and water dishes  $15.00
Collar and leash  $25.00
Brush and comb  $15.00
Toys – balls, frisbees, etc.  $25.00
Crate  $65.00
Total  $290.00-$540.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Annual Expenses (12-15 years)

The annual expenses here were again retrieved from the BC SPCA website. I would treat these numbers as guide to the very basic costs that each category could represent. Cost of food and treats will depend on size, breed, activity and type of food being fed (large bags of food can range up to $85-90/bag versus the given $45.00/bag, and raw diets can be more). Veterinary care can cost more, especially while you are getting “comfortable” with your canine, their tendencies and behaviours. One extra trip a year that includes a test and/or medication will potentially double the value given and it goes up from there. It is also more likely that puppies and senior canines will need more frequent care as puppies get their initial checkups and seniors receive their continual preventative care such as blood panels and teeth cleaning.

You can also save money by learning basic groomingdollar-42338_1280 techniques and performing them on your own. Brushing your canine’s teeth regularly can save huge costs later in life when periodontal disease can be disastrous. Knowing how to properly trim your canine’s nails in a low stress and positive way can save in time and money in the long run. Want to learn a fast, low stress technique? Contact me to set up a grooming training session!

Food  12 bags dog food (18kg) @ $45.00  $540.00
Biscuit treats  2 boxes per month @ $5.00  $120.00
Veterinary care  Yearly Visit – exam and vaccinations  $200.00+
Nail clipping  6 trips to the vet  @ $15.00  $90.00
License fee  $30.00
Grooming  Spring bath and brush out  $40.00
Vacation  2 weeks dog care  @ $25/day  $350.00
Total  $1,370.00*

*Please note that is not the adoption cost at a BC SPCA shelter, rather the estimated expenses related to being an animal guardian.

Reference: http://www.spca.bc.ca/pet-care/adoption/5-steps-to-adoption/cost-of-care.html#.VLVnOyeqQio

Lifestyle Impact:

The introduction of a canine family member into our life is a truly amazing experience, but it does bring significant and very road tripreal changes to our routines. Without over-personifying the relationship, the easiest way to describe the change is like being responsible for a younger sibling or having a child in our care. While we still have flexibility in our time, we are now stewards for the mental and physical needs of a dependent living creature. Dogs cannot feed themselves, take themselves for a walk or go to the vet without our help. Each activity and checklist item above is a reason to consider how your daily schedule will change when you address their needs.

A good way to picture your day as a canine caregiver is to write on a weekly calendar what your normal “me” day would be. Now add in 2-3 daily feeding times, training time, play time, and snuggle time with your new family member and then take a look at your new schedule. Is it feasible? Is it something that you can realistically do?  That you still want to do? Some day-to-day activities and events can/will change, but a dog’s basic needs (mental and physical) will not.

Some of us are lucky to work in a pet friendly office, work from home or use our house as a base of operations, and/or have a spouse or a committed friend who does. Having someone to help can be a big relief, especially when emergencies and last minute things come up (and they will). Determine if this new lifestyle is fair to both of you. Are you willing to give up a date night to take care of a sick puppy, or change your old routine so that they can get out a few times during the day? Alternatively, do you have a budget for doggy daycare or a dog walker? , and making sure that both the caregiver and canine are able to find a happy one.

Other situations to take into account are events like traveling, which usually means your spouse/partner will be withSleepypod1 you. We don’t want our vacation to turn into our canine’s nightmare, so we need to plan out house sitters, determine how long to be away and make sure all their needs will continue to be met. If your canine is coming with you on your trip, you might find you can no longer stay at your forever favorite hotel in location “X” because they don’t have a pet policy in place to allow four-legged guests. While finding pet friendly hotels is becoming easier, they aren’t everywhere. Beyond hotels, there are many other considerations to take into account when canines travel with us. Canines By Design tackled this subject so if you would like more information, check out our post on traveling with your dogs.

Offering a loving home to canine previously exempt from the opportunity, or watching a puppy grow up and develop their own personalities as a beloved family member is in itself a rewarding experience, regardless of our personal gains as a “dog person”. We know that becoming active canine caregivers is a remarkable experience that brings us many mental and physical benefits, but is important that we take a step back to first assess the topics above to ensure that we continue to feel this way throughout our canines’ lives. While 12 to 15 years is only a snapshot in our own lifelines, it is the entirety of our dogs’ lives. Considering their daily quality of life will help make sure we are prepared to be there for the entirety of the good and the bad that life throws at us.

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.     — Author Unknown

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