Guide: What to Know Before Getting a New Dog

Updated on December 3, 2016
Stray Dogs
Stray Dogs

Only a few days separate us from Christmas. As we talk, hundreds of parents are ready to to succumb to the wish of their children asking for a dog or cat as a Christmas gift. However, the arrival of a new member in the family can't be considered an ordinary gift. Giving a pet to a child as a Christmas gift is a big mistake.. A dog, cat, rabbit or even a bird is not a toy. It's not something you can simply stop "playing" with once you get bored.

Acquiring a new pet is an act of kindness but also an act of liability. It requires long-term personal commitment and one must know the changes it brings to life. It shouldn't be the result of an impulse that comes with an expiration date...

Regrettably, the advice above is often ignored and as a result the number of abandoned pets on the streets and shelters increases exponentially after the Christmas period. The vast majority of these unfortunate creatures are dogs. In an effort to reduce the phenomenon of abandonment, I will mention some of the parameters that you should take into account before becoming a new dog owner.

The family

The arrival of a new dog at home is usually an exciting family event. It is a wonderful addition as long as all members are prepared to provide the necessary time and effort. Therefore, everyone must be involved in the decision.

Do not forget that this will be a symbiotic relationship that will last 10 to 20 years. The family must feel ready to commit in the long term and have answers to key questions such as who will be involved with feeding, daily walks, who will keep the dog in case of holidays etc.

Once you give all these questions a good thinking it's time to decide what kind (breed) of dog suits the lifestyle of your family best.

Lifestyle & Breed

Lifestyle, economic status, the nature and size of the family and the size of the household, are some of the factors that should be considered before choosing the right breed.

It is very important to decide, for example, if you want a friend for a walk or a big guard dog that will discourage burglars. If you have enough time and mood for a breed that needs a lot of exercise or prefer a breed that by nature is more relaxed and less active.

Most dog breeds have been 'designed' for specific needs and tasks. Before the decision, we must ask ourselves seriously whether we need a dog for hunting, a herd leader, one that pulls sleds on icy areas or a couch potato!

One of the main reason why dogs are abandoned is because they are not suitable for the lifestyle of the owners.

Do you have enough space for a large dog?
Do you have enough space for a large dog?

Space

Generally, the size of your apartment or house decisively determines the breed and size of the dog you want to get. As expected, small breeds tend to adapt better to the smaller spaces of an apartment. This does not exclude some large but less energetic breeds that adapt equally well. The rule is, the bigger or more energetic the dog is the more space and exercise it will require.

Time

Nowadays people, especially those in big cities, have a hectic pace of life and the time that can devote to their dog is limited. With kids going to school and both parents working, there is no other person at home and this means that the dog stays long hours alone, awaiting eagerly the arrival of his beloved owners.

If that's the case, we have to choose a breed that has fewer requirements and can better cope with loneliness. We should also avoid puppies, their raising takes a lot of time and guidance.

If the absence exceeds ten hours a day, seven days a week, better get another type of pet, for example a cat which (because of its independent nature) requires much less care.

Children

If there are infants or young children up to 10 years old in the family, we should show special attention to the breed. The small breeds are more prone to accidents and injuries during the game with children or other dogs, because of their small stature.

They have thin and brittle bones and are easier to slip and fall from an unstable childhood hug. On the other hand, certain large breeds are nervous and less patient and may injure a small child. Choose medium or big sized breeds or big, which are known for their patience to young children.

In any case, never leave young children unattended. in the same space with dogs.

Puppy Requirements

A puppy is perfect, because it will come of age and familiarize naturally with the standards and needs of the family, but don't forget.. it's just a baby. It needs constant supervision and training and frequent visits to the vet. Also you need to have great tolerance to annoying behaviors (e.g. furniture chewing), separation anxiety when you leave home etc. The best age to acquire a puppy is around the age of 7-12 weeks and is very important to know the size it will have once full developed.

Generally, dogs come in three sizes:

  • Smaller dogs weighing less than 10 kg
  • Medium sized, 11-25 pounds
  • Large 26-50 kg
  • Giant, 51-80 kg


There are even some very large dogs that can exceed 100 kilos. It is therefore crucial to know the expected weight your puppy will reach,

A common excuse, just before abandoning a dog is: ''I did not know that it would become so big.

Expenses

Acquiring a dog is a long-term commitment that comes with recurring expenses. The main categories of expenditure are three. The food, veterinary care (e.g. vaccines) and various accessories ranging from regular stuff like collars, toys, food bowls to more specialized things like a dog tracker. All three of these costs are unavoidable and must be provided in the best possible quality. There are also occasional expenses, such as the hospitality of the dog in special facilities when it can not come with us on a trip or a vacation.

Two other factors that affect the expenses is the size and coat. In terms of size, it makes sense that the bigger the dog, the more increased the costs of food are. The "hairy" breeds or those who need special treatment, in addition to increased grooming time by the owner, require frequent visits to a professional groomer.

Friends and acquaintances who have dogs are always a good source of information if you need some quick advice on the costs arising from the cohabitation with a dog.

Food and health

Proper nutrition is the number one factor that directly affects the health and energy of your dog. The dog, regardless of size, is not meant to only consume foods made for people. The dietary needs of your dog are going to change during every stage of it's life, so make sure to ask your vet about any adjustments you need to make.

A dog should also follow a proper vaccination program in order to gain immunity to serious diseases.

Don't forget. Providing the best quality food and consistent veterinary care, means you will have a happy companion for many, many years to come.

Exercise and training

The vast majority of dogs need enough daily exercise. The best way is to long daily walks in parks or open areas where the dog will have enough space to play and run. Adequate exercise is vital to a dog and prevents unwanted behaviors like hyperactivity, annoying barking and other unwanted behaviors.

Remember to always have with you a special bag for feces when taking your dog for a walk!

Dog training is a very important chapter in the development and socialization of your dog. It will solve many potential behavioral problems like aggression, biting, destructive chewing, etc. The training can be done by you or another family member. If you think you are unsuitable for this (or don't have the time) it's better to consult a professional trainer, who beyond basic obedience will help the dog to develop many other skills.

Some closing thoughts

Remember.. Owning a dog can be awesome. Especially during the first days when the fire of excitement is still burning! But owning a dog is also a huge responsibility. Make sure you are up to the task before getting one!

And another thing.. Shelters are full of stray and abandoned dogs. Yes, you can always buy that super cute and super expensive breed. But unless you have a very special reason, please consider visiting a shelter and bringing joy to an abandoned soul!

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