So you’re thinking about getting a puppy. If there is no puppy in sight in your home just yet, and you haven’t paid any deposits for buying one, let me say to you: Congratulations! You have resisted the urge to buy a puppy on impulse! But the thought remains in your head and you continue to consider it. You are getting excited. You may have caught the Puppy Fever! Let me tell you, I’ve been afflicted with Puppy Fever many, many times. After all, it’s difficult not to be constantly thinking about puppies when I’m surrounded by so many adorable fur babies at work – be that in my Puppy Training 101 class or when I go on veterinary house calls. It certainly doesn’t help that my Facebook and Instagram feeds are full of puppy pictures at any given time. Often they outnumber the pictures of people that can be seen! It’s a tough battle to fight on a daily basis, but I persevere! And so, as I’ve done many times now, I will ask you also to resist the Puppy Fever as well. For now, at least, attempt to leave all emotion behind that might cause you to make a rash decision that you truly were not prepared to make.
To help you examine your motivations more deeply, let’s first look at some of the possible reasons for how the idea of getting a puppy got into your head. What I would like for you to do is go through the following list, be honest, and contemplate if your inclination to get a puppy is backed by one of the following reasons. If it is, consider your impending decision more thoroughly.
Why? Because puppies bought on a whim, without forethought, and without preparation often become the victims of neglect and abandonment. I may make my living by helping people with dogs, but that does not mean I will encourage everyone to get a dog. In fact, I will be the first one to try and dissuade you from doing so if it means that in doing so I might be saving a dog from having a bad life. Also, I would like to spare you from enduring that roller coaster ride of emotions starting with the high you experience when you acquire your puppy and ending with your frustration when you realize that you bit off more than you can chew.
Here are some of the reasons I’ve heard for why a person may start thinking about getting a puppy. Some are bad, others worse, and a few are debatable:
Going on an impulse-driven shopping spree is fine if we’re talking about retail. But dogs are long-term commitments so impulsiveness should definitely have nothing to do with your decision to get a dog. Here are a few impulse-driven reasons you should avoid making a decision on.
Getting a dog exactly like the one in the movie is NOT going to result in you getting a dog that behaves exactly like the one in the movie. Movie dogs are highly trained. Their handlers invested many, many days and even months to years in training them. These dogs perform tricks or “act” in front of the camera. Often, they perform behaviors that mimic human behaviors and emotions. This appeals to us because, well, we are human. Also, there’s a lot of movie magic that can make any dog look like a dream. Our mistake is that we buy into that idea of a perfect dog, and we immediately go out and get a dog that looks like the movie dog we just saw. More likely than not, the puppy doesn’t turn out as you expected.
Bear in mind that all dogs are individuals, they will be similar in some ways if they are of the same breed. But genetics, temperament, physicality can vary from one dog to the next. Factors such as breeder practices and the puppy’s experiences early in life can affect behavioral development. Thus, you should not be basing your decision to get a puppy of a certain breed on only one encounter with an adult of that breed. Do in depth research into a breed and meet as many dogs of that breed as you can before deciding if it is the one for you.
Similar to Reason 2, you might be inclined to buy a puppy because you see how popular they are. Popular breeds like the Siberian Husky, Shihtzus, Beagles, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Chow-Chows suffer most from impulse buys. Did you know that you might need to spend P500-1000+monthly just for the grooming of Shihtzus and Huskies? Did you know Shihtzus are prone to eye problems, Huskies are prone to skin problems, and Retrievers are prone to joint problems? Did you know that Beagles are extremely energetic? Or that Chow-chows are prone to problems of aggression? Many discover too late that their puppy is prone to certain diseases or behavioral problems that they are not equipped to deal with and when problems arise they end up regretting the puppy they bought.
Online sellers, pet stores and street vendors rely heavily on us buying things on impulse. Walk away from that purchase now because you are definitely not prepared.
You are not doing the puppy any favors either by getting him/her on a whim. Also be aware that buying from online sellers, pet stores or vendors could mean that you are buying from a puppy miller. If you don’t know what that is, a puppy miller is a person who breeds dogs without regard for their health and well-being. Reason 5 will explain why it’s a bad idea to buy a puppy from them even if you think you’re saving it.
Emotions play a huge part in our decision-making situations. But emotions can sometimes lead us to act irrationally. Before you make any decisions, try to think also in practical terms and try to see the bigger picture.
Puppy mills and backyard breeders are numerous in our country since breeding is unregulated and animal welfare laws are poorly enforced. You may feel you are saving one puppy by buying him and giving him a home, but in doing so, you may very well have condemned other animals to abuse and neglect. Whenever puppy millers and unethical breeders make a sale, you reinforce their practices by showing them that there is someone willing to buy their “product” and the cycle of inhumane breeding continues and more animals suffer. If you want to rescue a dog, consider visiting your local animal shelter.
Our intention to get a dog is sometimes sparked by a promise that we make to our significant other. I know plenty of couples who got a dog together and see their dog as a symbol of their commitment to one another. It is something of a stepping stone in their relationship that they now share a responsibility for a living being that is not as huge a commitment as a child. That situation can work out for the dog in some cases, especially when the couple’s relationship is a strong one. Especially, if from the very beginning, they both agreed that the puppy is a shared responsibility. At other times, it was actually just one of the two parties involved that forced puppy ownership upon their relationship. If you had to excessively prod, beg and bribe for your partner to concede that you get a dog together, then it’s a bad idea to push through with getting that dog, especially if your partner has strong negative feelings about it and if you cannot do puppy raising right without their support of time and resources. It is also a bad idea if you are thinking of surprising your unsuspecting partner with a puppy hoping that everything will turn out for the best.
I have heard this story too many times: A parent gets a pet for a child either to surprise said child or because the child begged for it. The child is ecstatic..for about a month or maybe less than that. The child loses interest and the responsibility of the puppy is left to someone else in the family who is not too thrilled about it. Children’s interests in this day and age are for technological devices and the internet, it seems. Very few can be pulled away from their gadgets long enough and regularly enough to give time to the care of a pet. Children can be great with dogs, but kids need to be educated and prepared for that responsibility before parents force this on them or before they give in to their child’s request to get a dog.
Whenever clients ask me if they should get another dog to be a companion for their recently acquired dog, I ask them to consider if they already have control over the dog that they have or if they have formed enough of a bond with the current dog. Getting another dog is not necessarily a solution to your dog’s behavior problems such as fearfulness or hyperactivity. You are not a bad dog owner if you deny your dog the company of another dog. You are a bad dog owner if you fail to provide your dog with his basic needs, if you fail to play with him, take him for walks or provide him with any physically stimulating activities on a regular basis. Examine your relationship and your living situation with your present dog first.
It’s not necessarily bad to get a new dog following the passing of another, but be sure you have given yourself time to grieve and that you are emotionally prepared to welcome a new family member into your life. Also, understand that your new puppy will not be the same dog as the one before him/her. I have heard many dog owners complain about a new dog because it failed the expectation to be exactly like the dog that they had before. That is not fair to the new dog. Each dog is an individual, so even if you got a dog of the same breed as your last one it cannot be guaranteed that they will be as affectionate, as calm, as gentle, as easy to train, as obedient, etc. as the dog that passed away. If that is what you expect of a new puppy, best to hold off on getting a dog for now because you need to evaluate the idea further.
It’s not enough to say you love animals. Profound emotions or experiences are sometimes what lead us to make decisions, and so it is with our attachment to animals. But if you call yourself an animal lover as many people like to do, consider in what way you truly are an animal lover: Do you say you love animals because you love watching YouTube videos of cats, dogs, puppies and kittens, and will stroke and cuddle a pet any chance you get? Or do you love animals and show your love by volunteering at an animal shelter, or leaving food out for strays? Qualify to what extent you would go to care for an animal. Realize that accepting an animal into your life is a responsibility that cannot be dismissed, and examine if you are truly prepared to make that commitment.
Some people think of getting a dog due to a perceived need for monetary gain, for protection, or for physical exercise. Not all these situations work out in the dog’s favor.
There are very few people who have the qualifications to be a breeder of dogs, and fewer still who hold themselves to a moral and ethical standard that protects both the dogs in their care and the owners that they sell to. Breeding is not a business any true dog lover engages in lightly. It is not something to dabble in. Many people simply get two dogs of a breed, have them mate, and sell their puppies, they breed their dogs without adhering to ethical standards and humane practices. This results in animal abuse, and it also contributes to stray dog populations which is bad for public health. Just as bad are the people who buy the “product” that they sell. Please read Reason 5 again for the explanation. Leave dog breeding to experienced and ethical breeders.
A break-in at a neighbor’s house may have prompted you to think that the best way to avoid falling victim yourself is to get a guard dog. You decide you want a German Shepherd, or a Belgian Malinois, or a Rottweiler to keep in the yard. Protection dogs are not born they are trained. True, a Shepherd or Rottweiler is more naturally inclined to guarding and territorial behaviors, and they may deter thieves from climbing into your yard. But consider if you have the space, the time, the resources, and the know-how to care for these large breed, working class dogs. I have seen many cases where, because of the owner’s lack of knowledge about the breed, the dog becomes aggressive towards the humans living in the house because of improper care and training. Consider a home alarm system and a CCTV camera. They are much easier to maintain.
Do you regularly do 5ks or 10ks and join every fun run you hear of? If not and you’re a self-confessed couch potato that thinks getting a dog will spur you into action, think again. Getting a dog is no guarantee. If you’re good at making excuses for why you’re not exercising regularly and you cannot commit to it on your own, how likely is it that you will be able to commit to all the daily requirements that a dog has? Of course, I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt, but again this is a reason I’ve heard numerous times, with really bad consequences for the dog. You can get a treadmill instead. If a treadmill doesn’t work to get you into shape then it, at least, will not suffer from your neglect.
As I mentioned, you must be honest and thoroughly examine your reasons for getting a dog. Think long and hard on what you will be getting into. If you claim you love dogs be conscientious and evaluate your current life situation and imagine what it would be like with a dog in it. Don’t sugar coat the idea! Dogs can be fun, but they can also be expensive, messy, and time-consuming.
If you are still thinking about getting a dog after having read this article, and if your reasons are more profound than I described, please read my next article coming up in a few days on More Things To Consider Before Getting A Dog.