Puppies are just too cute, it is almost beyond words! However these cute puppies grow up very quickly and become ‘real’ dogs. The puppy stage only lasts for a few months and the honeymoon phase is often over after a couple of weeks of sleepless nights and urine stains on the carpet. So make sure what you really want is a dog and not just the puppy.
Pointing out the obvious, a puppy is a 12 to 15 year commitment and a lot of things can change during this time. Some things are out of our control, such as family and relationship break downs, death, or sickness to name a few; others are very predictable: moving out, getting married, having a baby, the children growing up, going overseas, having an extended holiday, changing jobs, moving, again just to name a few.
Considering the high number of dogs in rescue shelters, not every new puppy owner has thought about changes in their lives and how they will care for their dog during these challenging times.
I recently posted on my Facebook page that: “If you work full time, have three children under the age of six and work full time, do not get a puppy.” My argument was that the puppy would not get the training and socialisation she will require to grow up into a well adjusted dog. I also said that the puppy should not be left home alone for long periods of time in the first few weeks. There was a backlash: How could I say that some people should not have a dog just because they work full time? How could I deny a child the opportunity to grow up with a puppy? I was called arrogant, out of touch and a few more things.
Is owning a dog a right or a privilege? I just read the book Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets by Jessica Pierce, it really makes you think twice.
We love our dogs, but is this enough? I do not think so. I also do not think owning a dog is a right. It is a privilege that comes with a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices. You may have to forget about sleeping in for a few months or years, going out every night and or extended holidays.
Before you make a decision, ask yourself: Do I really have the time and commitment it takes to bring up a well adjusted and confident canine citizen? Will I still be in a position to look after my dog in 10, 12 or 15 years’ time?
Are you ready for sleepless nights, puddles on the floor, the puppy pre-school, daily socialization outings for the next 12 to 18 months?
Are you prepared for the challenges of the teenaged dog and the heartbreak of living with an older dog?
I meet a lot of mothers whose families decided to get a puppy for the children, sometimes against the wishes of mum. But often, after the initial excitement, it is the mothers who look after the puppy and they struggle to deal with the additional responsibility and to provide appropriate care. Not because they do not try but because they just do not have the time, next to a full time job, the children and much more.
My tip here for all mums: Unless you want a puppy do not get one: Not for the children, nor the husband (who works full time, too) or for your other dog!
Here a list of some of the no-no’s (in my opinion) – and excuse me for being blunt.
Do not get a dog if you:
- will not allow the dog in the house.
- are not able to put the time in for socialization and training.
- work very long hours or travel a lot.
- have very small children.
- have a household member who is allergic to dogs.
- are not in stable financial position.
- are a clean freak living in a designer loft.
Before getting a puppy you should also consider alternatives such as rescue dogs. Considering your lifestyle you might be better of with a senior dog or rescue greyhound.
After all that, let’s assume you are ready.
- Make sure you research breeds that match your lifestyle and find a reputable breeder. I leave this topic for another day. If you buy a dog online or from a pet shop you are most likely supporting a puppy mills and while your puppy may have a loving home, her parents never will. They will live in appalling and cruel conditions and you are indirectly supporting this inhumane practice.
- Even experienced dog owners can find puppyhood a bit overwhelming. One key point with socialisation is that you cannot postpone it, which means it makes sense to plan the arrival date carefully.
- Get a consensus in your family on the basics: sleeping arrangements, exercise, house training, where is the puppy allowed etc. before the puppy arrives, and stick to them.
- Puppy-proof the house which means remove dangerous things such as electrical cords, cleaners, small objects and set up a confinement area including crates and baby gates.
- Be ready with the essentials such as beds, collar, ID, leads, treats, food (in the beginning same as the breeder), toys, food dispensing toys, interactive toys and more toys.
- Get in contact with service providers such as puppy pre-school, day care, walkers, groomers in your area.
On a different note, in Switzerland, prospective dog owners are required to take a course BEFORE getting a puppy or a dog. This course consists of four hours theory to prepare for the arrival of the new family member. While this is minimal it prevents impulse buying and at least sets prospective owners up for success. The sale of dogs in pet shops has been banned for decades (some information in English here).
While none of us will probably ever be fully prepared for a puppy or a dog, we can make sure we are fully committed to make our puppies the best dogs they can be. This will help navigate any setbacks and challenges ahead. Bringing up a well-adjusted dog is very fulfilling, great fun and worth every minute!