Updated: Sep 4, 2020
So you’re thinking of getting a pet? Congratulations! Welcoming a new family member into your life is one of the most exciting and rewarding decisions a family can make. But there are some important considerations you should ponder and discuss before leaping in & bringing Fluffy home:
Is a dog the right pet for you?
Dogs can be the most rewarding pet of them all, but they’re not exactly low maintenance. Dogs are a highly companionable species and they require a lot of time and attention daily from their owners. They require exercise, play, grooming and training to keep them stimulation and fulfilled. You will have to go out with your dog every day, no matter the weather, keep them groomed and clean, play with them, feed them and look after their health. Dogs live for an average of 12-15 years, so this requires a long-term commitment to maintaining a dog-friendly lifestyle.
If you are not sure your family are ready for a dog, consider a more independent companion such as a cat or bird, or a shorter-lived animal such as a rabbit or guinea pig.
Puppy or adult dog?
Puppies are adorable but a lot of hard work! Bringing home a new puppy is a bit like bringing home a baby – they may not be toilet trained, may not sleep well initially, and they are not used to spending time on their own. For the first few weeks you need to be available all day and all night, especially if the puppy needs to be taken out to the toilet every few hours. Little puppies will take a while to adjust to life away from their litter and develop the confidence to be independent.
An adult dog (>1 year old) is more likely to have some basic house training, some basic social skills and might have less crazy energy to expend compared to a young dog, but not always. Adopting an adult dog, either retiring from breeding, being rehomed or rescued, is a great option if you don’t think your family can commit to the puppy phase.
Rescue or breeder?
Whilst RightPaw mainly focuses on connecting people with great breeders, we are also HUGE fans of rescue. Puppies and purebred dogs do come into rescue shelters but they are often snapped up quickly, so if you want a young puppy or have your heart set on a specific breed then a breeder might be a better option for you. Bear in mind that whilst rescuing a dog is a very special thing to do, if you are taking on a dog with an unknown history they might be more likely to have behavioural challenges or medical problems you are unaware of. A great rescue centre will never match inexperienced families with a dog they are unlikely to be able to handle, but the advantage of buying from an experienced breeder is that your dog’s personality and needs could be more predictable. It all comes down to personal preference and ultimately there is no wrong answer as long as you are picking a suitable dog for your family and lifestyle.
To read our statement about why we promote both breeders and rescue please click here.
Can I afford it?
Unfortunately having a dog is expensive! There will be initial set-up costs to contend with such as bedding, bowls, toys and leads. You also have to factor in daily costs such as food, monthly or annual costs such as parasite medication & vaccinations, as well as unusual costs like expensive vet visits and boarding. The RSPCA states that the average dog owner spends $2450 a year on their dogs. If your dog gets ill or injured and requires significant medical treatment, these often have to be paid upfront and can be unaffordable for many people without pet insurance, so this is also important to consider.
Are we in this for the long-haul?
Small dogs commonly live for 15 years or more, larger dogs usually slightly less. Adopting a dog is not a commitment to be taken lightly – once they are yours they should be yours for life except in extreme circumstances. It is essential to really think this through before making your choice – are your family ready for this responsibility for the next decade or more?
The RSPCA have a fantastic website dedicated to their ‘puppy guide’, that can help walk you through the thought process above: http://www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au/