Who doesn’t love a puppy? They’re cuddly, funny, and loveable. However, for most people, the appeal dims once that puppy grows up into a dog. In fact, the problems may happen even before that, when the puppy proves to be more of a handful than expected.
When people get in over their heads with a pet, the results are awful. Animals are dumped and abandoned, and animal shelters are filled up. I don’t want to be an alarmist, but I want to be clear about something: a puppy is a huge responsibility! That little life is dependent on your care and devotion.
Never go into pet adoption lightly. Consider these four essential questions before you get sucked in by a pair of puppy eyes.
Do You Have the Funds? Animals can get expensive. Even if the upfront cost is minimal, there are costs that build up over time, and significant surprise-costs that will put a dent in your pocketbook. It’s said that a child costs $200,000 or more to raise, or about $12,000 per year.
Animals aren’t quite as costly, but it’s still good to put things in perspective before you adopt. An animal is very much like a child. It’s estimated that dogs cost $1,000 the first year of ownership, and an additional $500 each year after that. And that’s a modest estimate. Many pets end up costing a lot more, depending on the pet itself, and what kind of an owner you are. So consider your money needs before you pick up that “free” puppy outside of the grocery store… it’s far from free. Costs will include:
- Veterinarian fees: There will be upfront costs in shots and neutering, and then subsequent costs when your pet gets sick, or hurts himself.
- Registration fees
- Supplies: a collar, leash, dog house, pillows, dog bowls and toys.
- Regular grooming
- Flea and tick treatments
- Damage to your home: Many pet owners find it wise to invest in a carpet cleaner, or a better vacuum. Also consider that even with a well-behaved dog, there’s always a possibility that you’ll come home to a shredded-up couch.
- Doggy day care, or a dogwalker if you’re someone who’s away from home during the day
- A dogsitter or kennel for when you’re on vacation
Do You Have the Time? Pets are long-term commitments. One should expect a dog to live 10-15 years, depending on the breed. Not only should you consider time in terms of years, but also hours in a day. Dogs need time with you. They need companionship for the sake of their health and well being. If you live alone, and if you’re usually gone during the day, consider doggy day care, or a dogwalker, or even a neighbor who can check in during the day.
Do You Have the Space? Ask your landlord what the terms are for pets. Many people don’t like to rent to pet-owners because they can devalue their property. At the very least, if you’re renting, most places will require a pet deposit, or a monthly fee on top of your rent to cushion the cost of cleaning and repair when you leave. Make sure that at every property that you rent, this is at the top of your list of questions to ask the landlord. If you are unable keep your dog in your house, you might have to give it away.
Will your pet be inside or outside or both? If they’re going to venture outside, do you know their safety needs? For example, scan the yard for poisonous plants that puppies might chew on. If there are prowling coyotes, take safety precautions for a small dog. Dogs should always be in fenced-in-enclosures to protect them from passing traffic, and to keep them from wandering off and getting lost.
Do You Have the Heart? Dogs require more than your time, money, and space. They require honest care and emotional investment. If you’re not made of stone, prepare for them to take up a lot of room in your heart, too. Making judgment calls about training, discipline, time spent together, health expenses, and travel arrangements can be difficult. Prepare for this creature to become a part of your family. If you’re ready to welcome your puppy into your home and heart, the amazing rewards will be worth all of the sacrifice and effort required.
By: Christine Hill