Getting A Dog – Considerations To Keep in Mind

Bringing a dog into your home is a big decision. Dogs add a wonderful quality to the home, unique relationships with each family member, a willingness to play at any given moment and can be a comforting presence. But dogs also need considerable time, care and expense to maintain them. If you are thinking about adding a canine companion to your family, take a moment to understand the reality of bringing another living creature into your family.

Dog Size, Dog Breed and Canine Care Needs

All members of the family should be involved in decision-making about the size and breed of the dog. They should also consider the care needs of the breed. Sporting dog breeds will need significantly more exercise than smaller breeds. Dogs need mental stimulation. Some breeds require significant interaction and playtime to be happy. Longhaired breeds will need regular bushing to keep their coats properly maintained. Some breeds require regular visits to the groomer. The question of whether to get a puppy or an adult dog depends on your family’s willingness to put in the time for basic house training and other types of training. Many people choose a puppy to ensure that it adapts well to their household and habits, but caring and training a puppy takes considerable time and effort. If you would prefer an dog that might already have some understanding of housebreaking and good behavior, an adult dog may be best for you. Adult canines are quite adaptable and can easily adjust to most home schedules and tempos. These factors should all play a part in deciding what kind of dog would be best for your family.

Understanding Basic Dog Care

If this is your first dog, make sure everyone in the family becomes educated on proper dog care and are on the same page. A wide range of books, CDs and websites are available from the Humane Society and other reputable sources that can clarify all that is necessary to keep your dog healthy and train him to be a responsible member of your family and the community. If you intend your children be involved in the day-to-day care of the animal, make sure they have the information they need to do a good job. The adults in the family should research issues such as necessary vaccinations, required licenses, positive-reinforcement training and the availability of veterinarians in your area.

Teaching Children Responsibility and Dog Safety

Having a dog in the house is an excellent way to teach children the responsibility of caring for another living creature, and it can be an important tool for instilling the habit of putting aside selfish concerns for the sake of others. Caring for a dog can also be a good basis for understanding the importance of all animals and their contributions to humanity.  However, children should be old enough to perform care taking duties adequately. Giving a small child the task of walking a large dog around the neighborhood could be hazardous for all involved. Similarly, small dogs are quite fragile. Children should be carefully taught how to properly handle and care for a small canine breed.

zoomie bulldog with sunglassesAll About Puppy Care

If you decide to get a puppy, you will have to set up your household much like you would to accommodate a baby:

  • Puppies chew everything including furniture.
  • Puppies can be injured by chewing on electrical cords or other items.
  • Puppies must also be kept away from substances that can be poisonous or choking hazards.

A great resource to check items that may be poisonous to your dog is Puppies or new dogs should be supervised. An exercise pen is a great way to contain your puppy or new dog. Use of a crate is an excellent method of teaching the puppy proper bowel and bladder control. Puppies and new dogs must be kept on leash whenever they are outdoors. Make sure your dog is microchipped and has an identification tag on his or her collar with your name and phone number.

Puppies should be taken to supervised playgroups or puppy social classes run by a reputable positive-reinforcement training school. Your puppy can begin class as young as 7-8 weeks of age as long as they have received 1 set of vaccinations at least 7 days prior to the first puppy social class. Please see the Puppy Socialization Position Statement published by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (“AVSAB”) to learn more about the importance of puppy socialization

You should have a veterinarian give your new puppy a thorough examination to ensure its health. The vet will provide information about an appropriate vaccination schedule, feeding and other health issues.

Good preparation, education and effective organizing can help your family to ease into dog ownership more easily.