Following up on my discussion of the Five Freedoms (or Five Welfare Needs) of Animals and how they relate to your future dog, here I’ll spend a little more time discussing what resources are actually required to properly take care of one. Since you’re reading this article, I’m hopeful that it means you are in agreement with the kind of care a dog needs and deserves and are prepared to honestly evaluate if you are capable of committing to that level of care.
People often buy dogs on impulse not considering the cost of care nor the amount of time it takes to properly raise one. They are unprepared to live with the adult dog he/she becomes. Inevitably, due to the lack of planning and foresight or perhaps also because of the owner’s fading interest, the dog becomes more and more neglected and may even be abandoned. Some are sentenced to a life in miserable confinement. Others develop behavior problems because the owner failed to address socialization and training needs.
As an informed and responsible future dog owner, you want to avoid failing your future dog in this way even if this means that you will hold off on acquiring that puppy for now. From our rather profound discussion of animal welfare, we will now jump into a less emotional and more practical enumeration of dog needs. Consider below a list of important things to think about before getting a puppy or dog:
I won’t go into much detail or exact figures, but some rough estimates are discussed below to give you a general idea of what you can expect when committing to proper dog care. Rates (mentioned in Philippine Pesos) and requirements of care may vary depending on where you live.
When you go through the list of considerations, be honest in assessing if you are able to provide the resources that are mentioned in appropriate measure to what was mentioned in the discussion of the Five Animal Welfare Needs.
Properly taking care of a dog costs money. Do you have a steady income and enough money in your monthly budget to allocate to dog expenditures? If you are still dependent on your parents for money, consider who will be shouldering your dog’s expenses and discuss with them if they are as committed as you to providing complete care.
Some of the things you will need to account for in your budget are listed below.
Just to give you an idea in terms of rough estimates: A large bag (around 16-20kg) of premium dog food will cost about 2500-3000+ pesos. This will last about 2 to 3 months for a small to medium dog and about 1 month to 1.5 months for a large dog. Cheaper options found at groceries, wholesale or hardware stores are likely of very poor nutritional quality so we will be avoiding these at all costs. If you are thinking of scrimping on dog food, be aware that feeding unhealthy cheaper brands can predispose your dog to future chronic illnesses that will incur expensive veterinary costs anyway. Premium dog food, or better yet, a balanced home-prepared diet (not meaning leftovers or table scraps) may be more expensive but they are the healthier option and a worthwhile investment in your pet’s health and disease prevention.
Supplementation is not always required, especially if your dog food is of premium quality. But some dogs with chronic conditions will benefit from taking a few vitamins or other health supplements to boost their immune system and other bodily functions. This again may add another few hundred pesos to your monthly budget.
Some dogs will require more grooming than others. Low maintenance, short-coated dogs can be maintained on a weekly bath, but long-haired breeds and dogs with full coats will require grooming by a professional every month or two. On the average, costs can range between 400-1000+ pesos per grooming, depending on the size of the dog and services offered by the groomer. If you plan on keeping a long-haired or full-coated dog, don’t think to do the hair-trimming yourself if you have had no experience or training doing this. You may seriously injure your dog due to improper use of grooming equipment.
Vet visits will be costliest in the first 2-6 months of a puppy’s life. In general, your puppy will need deworming and vaccinations every 2-3 weeks until he is about 4 months old. Average costs range between 300-600 pesos per vaccination for the core vaccines, and deworming can cost roughly between 100-400 pesos or more depending on the dog’s body weight. Again, veterinary care is not something you want to scrimp on since disease prevention through vaccinations is much more affordable than treatment of a preventable viral disease. Not to mention that you want to spare your puppy from getting sick in the first place!
Once the puppy shots are done, your dog will require less frequent visits provided he is healthy. At the very least, quarterly to bi-annual vet visits for routine check-ups are what I recommend. You should also be prepared in case of illness or emergencies. You will not find reliable, free veterinary advise on the internet, so if your puppy gets sick be prepared to spend money for a proper consultation with a veterinarian followed by treatment and medication.
If you need to leave your dog in someone else’s care due to work or school or if you expect to travel occasionally, then also figure in expected boarding, pet sitting and daycare costs, especially if there are no family members available, willing or capable to help you out at home. Boarding and day care can cost somewhere between 500-1000+ pesos per day depending on your dog’s size and the available facilities. Some dog owners opt to hire an additional helper or doggie yaya specifically tasked to see to the dog’s needs. That is acceptable, so long as you remember that your own responsibilities to your dog should extend beyond paying money for someone to care for him. If you expect to be away from your home and your dog too frequently and for prolonged periods of time, then maybe don’t get a dog just yet while your schedule is still too busy.
Going back to what we discussed regarding the freedom to express normal behaviors, remember that a dog’s quality of life is determined not only by the food and shelter that you provide. Socialization, and mental and physical stimulation are also necessary. Walks or jogs around the neighborhood can certainly be stimulating enough. But also consider the cost of training programs, travel with your pet, and daycare for socialization. Aside from providing enrichment, these activities help bring your pup to his full potential as your companion and family pet. Furthermore, certain breeds and individual dogs have specific physical requirements and will require focused training and activities to prevent them from developing problem behaviors.
Grooming your dog, sheltering your dog, and providing your dog with training and recreation will all require equipment and accessories. Cheaper products will save you a few pesos but they probably will not last very long and may be unsafe. Expect to spend more if you are looking for safety, quality, and durability in pet accessories. Do-it-yourself solutions are also available if you have some crafting skills, but always remember to use materials that are non-hazardous for your dog.
Consider if your work, school or family activities will allow you to spend time with your dog. Younger dogs, especially, will require much exercise, supervision and training during their early years with you. If you currently enjoy plenty of free time after work: come home to dinner, then fall into bed without a care for anything, be prepared to have your schedule completely rearranged when a dog enters your life. Here are just a few things that will eat into your schedule once you get a dog:
If you feed your dog a commercial dog food out of a food bowl, your life will be pretty simple and you won’t need much time for food prep and feeding. But dogs do better when fed from interactive toys such as Kongs that challenge the dog’s problem-solving skills. Depending on the stuffing you want to give your dog, Kong preparation and cleaning will take considerably more time out of your routine. And so will preparing home-made food that is nutritionally balanced, but it is definitely worth the benefits to your dog’s health.
Potty training (specifically for puppies) requires strict maintenance of a potty schedule to prevent accidents from happening in the wrong places. This may require you to get out of bed at odd hours. Potty training can take a few days to a few weeks, to months even, depending on whether or not your puppy already has a good foundation in potty training from the breeder.
Little puppy’s can make really big and frequent messes. Aside from the poop and pee puddles, you will also be giving time to cleaning his crate and confinement area, his feeding bowl / kongs and other accessories that need regular washing. Count yourself fortunate if you have someone to do the cleaning for you. I am of the opinion, however, that if it’s your dog – it should be your mess to clean.
Whether or not your dog is a puppy or an adult, you need to put time in to teaching him some home manners and at least a little basic obedience. You will also need to exercise him through walks or play to keep him mentally and physically stimulated. I recommend at least 30-45 minute walks daily or even twice daily if possible, especially for young and energetic dogs. Training shouldn’t take more than a few minutes per session, but sessions should happen frequently throughout the day.
On top of professional grooming, you will have to bathe your dog at least once or twice a week. Brushing his teeth is effective only if done at least 3 or more times in a week. Ear cleaning and nail trimming may also be on your To-Do list.
If you live in an apartment or condo make sure it is pet-friendly. Some apartments will allow pets but restrict some breeds or sizes. Be sure to check what pet care rules and regulations are implemented by the building management. The same should be considered if you rent a house. For apartment-dwellers living in multi-storey buildings, consider if any balconies or rooftops are safe for your would-be pet or if you are allowed to install fencing or gates to secure access to them. In your living space, be it an apartment or a house, consider where your puppy will sleep, where he would poop and pee and if there are nearby places where you can safely walk or exercise him.
I want to remind you that keeping a dog caged or tethered reduces the quality of life, so caging a dog or keeping him tied up somewhere in your house should not be something that you are considering. I’m not talking about your dog having the run of your entire house. But your dog should have enough space to move about to prevent bone and muscle degradation, and other conditions that can arise due to long-term restrictions to mobility.
Dogs can come with allergens that only certain people in your home are sensitive to. Some family members may happily welcome the dog while others will just see it as a bother. So consider carefully if everyone is comfortable having a dog around the house? Or if they aren’t, how will you ensure that the dog doesn’t bother them? Does anybody have any phobias? Allergies? Some illnesses or disabilities have needs that may clash with the needs of a dog. Who will be responsible for the needs of the dog. Is the dog going to be a shared responsibility or is the person who got the dog the only one responsible for him/her?
While getting a pet for companionship may be a personal decision, unless you live alone, you cannot overlook what the effect of a pet would be on everyone who shares your home with you. Be considerate.
Consider your other pets, too! Many animals will not take kindly to another animal coming to share their living space. Some old and under-socialized pets may find this particularly stressful, while others may adapt to a new furry family member with ease. Try to see things from your current pet’s point of view and possibly consult with a trainer or behavior consultant who already knows your pet to see if they think getting another pet is advisable.
If you plan to travel soon, if you are going abroad for work or school in the near future, now is not the best time for you to get a dog. Dogs are a life-long commitment, they cannot be discarded on a whim. A dog can live up to 10-13 years, maybe even longer depending on the breed and the quality of life. Certainly, you might think of leaving your dog with a family member if travel or moving away suddenly becomes an option in your future, and this might work out well for some pets. But also consider the emotional stress this will put on your dog with whom you have bonded.
Aside from travel, you may be thinking of moving in with someone, getting married or having kids. Changes in your family structure may have an impact on what happens to your dog. At worst, you may have to re-home him due to circumstances beyond your control.
To help you make an honest evaluation of your ability to take care of a dog, talk to people who you know to be responsible pet owners – those that take their pet to the vet regularly, feed them properly, have them groomed regularly, and that provide their dogs with adequate recreation. Talk to those people who you know adhere to providing the Five Freedoms to their dog. Look for those that have dogs of the breed or size that you are interested in. Ask them important questions like if they could give you an estimate of their monthly to yearly budget for dog care and how much time they spend with their dog. Then ask yourself if that is something to which you can commit. After all, you want to enjoy your dog and not feel like he or she is a burden in your life.
At last, you have completed this blog series to help you make the decision of getting a puppy (or adult dog). I’m pleased you took the time to read through to the end of this 3-part self-education and self-assessment series. There aren’t many who will take the time to so thoroughly consider what having a dog entails, so whether or not you end up getting a puppy, consider yourself better informed and better prepared for any future decisions regarding dog ownership that you will make.
Take a few more days to think about this. Bring everything into consideration, discuss your plans to get a dog with your family. Complete your self-assessment honestly and thoroughly as guided by this and the previous articles.
If your conclusion, following it all, is that you are not prepared to take on the role of dog owner, then I would still like to applaud you for completing this journey with me, and for being responsible enough to recognize that perhaps now is not the right time for you to get a dog yet.
On the other hand, if your self-assessment reveals that you are truly prepared for dog ownership, your next step – if you haven’t done so already – is to make the pledge to be a responsible dog owner and to fulfill your duty of care:
The Responsible Pet Owner Pledge is a pledge I drew up based on the Five Animal Welfare Needs. It hopes to exact a promise from you, on your honor, to be a responsible guardian of your animal. I suggest that you download and print this pledge, sign it and prominently display it where it will serve as a constant reminder to you and your family of your duty of care to your beloved dog.