Updated: Nov 10
To decide whether a dog is the right pet for you, and whether now is the right time for your family, there are many important things to ask yourself:
Is a dog the right pet for you?
Can you afford a dog?
Should you get a puppy or adult dog?
Should you get a rescue dog or a dog from a breeder?
Are you committed to a dog for life?
Welcoming a new fur-baby into your life is an exciting and wonderful experience, but it will not be right for every household, or at every stage of life. RightPaw have put together this article to help you work through this huge decision, to make sure a dog is the right choice for you.
Is a dog the right pet for you?
Dogs really are man's best friend, but they’re not exactly low maintenance. Having a dog is a huge commitment for a long period of time. Dogs are a highly companionable species and require a lot of time and attention from their owners every day. They require exercise, play, grooming and training to keep them stimulated 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.
Bear in mind that if you work long hours, travel a lot, are living in a small home or on a tight budget, you will have to accommodate your dog's needs around all of these lifestyle factors. Children can never be left alone with a dog, so having both in your family is a big responsibility. 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.
Can I afford a dog?
Unfortunately having a dog is expensive! There will be initial set-up costs to contend with, such as bedding, bowls, toys, a harness and lead. 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 becomes ill or injured and requires significant medical treatment, these fees usually have to be paid upfront and can be unaffordable for many people without pet insurance.
Should I get a 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 will not be toilet trained, they will keep you up at night, 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 when 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 mum and littermates, and to develop the confidence to be independent.
You should only opt for a puppy if this is something you really want, and you are ready for the effort it takes to raise a new baby. If your family are more interested in an adult dog and want to skip the puppy stage, there are many places you can find the right adult dog for you. 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. These are general rules, but every individual is different. Adult dogs are sometimes available from RightPaw breeders when they are retiring from breeding. There are also many amazing rescue organisations who can work with you to help select a dog with the right characteristics to suit your family.
Should I get a rescue dog or one from a breeder?
At RightPaw, we are passionate about rescue dogs. Our mission of connecting people with responsible breeders, is all to ensure that no RightPaw puppy, ever ends up in a rescue shelter. We want people to be matched with the right breed, from the right breeder, at the right time, and to have life-long support so their dog will always have a home, no matter what life brings. If you have decided that a puppy isn't the right option for your family, you should definitely consider an adult rescue dog.
If you do have your heart set on a puppy, or on a specific breed, then these can be tricky to find from rescue shelters. If you are going to buy a puppy from a breeder, it is essential to know that they are responsible, ethical and operating with the highest standards of animal welfare. Unscrupulous breeders and puppy farms can disguise themselves behind great marketing, and they are kept in business by ordinary families accidentally supporting them. With a RightPaw breeder, you can be confident that they have been thoroughly verified by our team. We know who they are, we have seen their dogs and their living environment, and the breeder abides by our vet-approved Code of Ethics. Browse responsible RightPaw breeders here.
The choice of whether to find your dog from a responsible breeder or a rescue shelter, is really personal preference. Whilst rescuing a dog is a very special thing to do, often this means taking on a dog with an unknown history. Behavioural challenges or medical problems are common in rescue dogs, so this is also a big responsibility. A great rescue centre will always discuss your experience and comfort levels before adopting you a dog. They should never match an inexperienced family with a dog they are unlikely to cope with - but this is very important to discuss upfront so that your specific needs are understood. One advantage of buying from an experienced breeder, is that your dog’s personality and lifestyle requirements could be more predictable. Ultimately, there is no wrong answer as long as you are picking a suitable dog for your family and lifestyle.
For more help on choosing between a puppy from a breeder, or a rescue dog, click here.
Are we in this for the long-haul?
Small dogs commonly live for 15 years or even 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’, to help guide you through this important decision: http://www.rspcapuppyguide.com.au/