Tuesday, 5 July 2016

So You Want a Dog, Eh?

Aside from my obsession with politics, I would have to say that my next greatest interest is dogs.  I grew up with dogs and now have a dog of my own, who I just love to bits.  I've spent a lot of time learning about dogs, their behaviour, their breeds and so forth.  In the last couple of years, I've had the privilege of volunteering with several dog rescue organizations and I am always eager to help anyone who is considering getting a canine companion.  That being said, I'm actually not going to use this blog post to talk about why you should get a dog.  Instead, I'm going to talk about why you shouldn't have a dog.  The reason I'm doing this is that a lot of people would love to get a dog, but only some of them are ready to have one.

When you come across a cute, cuddly little puppy, you might think to yourself, "I want one of those." It's the same reaction that you might have if you see a nice pair of shoes or a really elegant dress. Children are especially susceptible to this kind of thinking, because they just don't know better. Unfortunately, a lot of adults don't know much better than children and may end up getting a dog on impulse without doing their homework and finding out what needs to be done in order to take care of Fido properly.  And what happens when people don't know how to properly care for a dog? Usually, nothing good.  Some of them are severely neglected and even abused.  Some of them are abandoned by their owners and end up in overcrowded shelters, where they risk being euthanized in a matter of days or hours.  All because there are a lot of idiots out there who think getting a dog is just like getting a new piece of furniture or a new car.

So what does it mean to be a responsible dog owner?  In short, it means giving your dog sufficient food and water, giving it adequate exercise, which includes both physical and mental stimulation.  It also includes properly socializing your dog with people and other pets, not to mention training it to be well-mannered inside and outside your home.  Lastly, you must provide your dog with the veterinary care that it needs to keep being a happy, healthy dog.  None of these things are easy to do and all of them require a commitment for the dog's entire lifetime.

Giving your dog sufficient food and water is probably the easiest task of a responsible dog owner.  Or is it?  Sometimes, making sure Rover is well-fed and has enough to drink isn't as easy as it sounds. Your dog might be a picky eater and it may take you a while to convince him to eat the food set down for him.  The food that you give your dog might also disagree with him and he may throw it up all over your nice Persian rug, which means that not only will you be paying a hefty cleaning bill for your rug, but you'll also have to keep searching and paying for dog food until you find the right one that suits your dog's stomach.  That's gonna be expensive.  In fact, it might be even more expensive if your dog has some sort of allergy and requires special food that will inevitably cost more.  You may even have to get food that only your vet can prescribe, and trust me, your vet will charge you an arm and a leg, but we'll get to that later.

Okay, so now that Rover has his food and water, you can rest easy, right?  News flash, folks.  A dog is not a fish that you can just feed and leave for the rest of the day.  Your dog will need exercise and probably lots of it, especially if he's a young pup.  So you better get used to waking up early in the morning.  How's 6 am for ya?  Maybe even earlier, depending on how strong your dog's bladder is, or whenever he decides he wants to wake up and start his day.  Now if you're lucky, you may be able to let your four-legged friend out in the backyard to do his business and run around a little bit before you head off to work.  But maybe your among the growing number of dog owners who don't have a backyard.  That means you're probably going to have to take your furry pal out on a leash. Just imagine, it's the middle of winter, still dark out and minus twenty degrees.  No way you're going out there, right?  But guess what?  Fido still has to go do his business and get some exercise. How about when you come home from work dead tired and just want to crash on the couch.  Tough luck! Because your dog has been waiting for you to get home all day and he's itching for a long walk and playtime.  You may be able to get a reprieve from your dog if you hire a dog walker to take him out during the day while you're working, but of course that'll cost you a pretty penny.  So if you want a dog, be prepared for early mornings, late evenings and a lot less down time.

You might even have to sacrifice even more time if your dog ends up having any behavioural issues. Say your dog doesn't play nice with other dogs, or he's not good on a leash.  If you're a responsible dog owner, you won't just ignore these kinds of bad behaviours.  Before you know it, you might be sacrificing your hockey game during the night because you need to take your dog to obedience classes, not to mention the fact that it's going to mean more money out of your pocket.

Actually, the money you spend on feeding and training will probably be the least you spend on your four-legged friend, because you haven't even been to the vet yet!  The fact of the matter is that if you want a dog, you should be prepared to spend a lot of money on veterinary care.  And I mean A LOT of money.  Simply paying for routine vet expenses like vaccines can cost a small fortune.  And if your dog requires any type of surgery, you'll likely be shelling out thousands.  You can get pet insurance which may help you with some of the vet bills, but just like health insurance in the U.S., there's a lot of fine print, deductibles and exclusions, which means that your dog may not be covered for all cases in which he needs vet care.  Tragically, many dogs end up in shelters or are even euthanized because their owners cannot afford the vet care they need to keep them healthy and happy.

To make a long story short, having a dog requires a lot of patience, a lot of time and a lot of money. It also requires a big commitment on your part to take care of the dog for its entire lifetime; not until he gets too big or too old, not until you have that newborn baby, and not until you move someplace else; for his ENTIRE lifetime.  If you don't have the patience, time or money to commit to a dog and can't commit to taking care of a dog for its entire life, then my advice to you is simple: Don't get a dog.      

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