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Questions To Ask Before Getting (Or Gifting) A Dog

Posted on 12/17/2014 by Ali Meza in tips and tricks dog rescue holiday

Imagine this: Your loved one wakes up on Christmas morning with an extra bounce in your step. They throw off the covers and run down the hall, skidding to a stop in front of the tree – and what’s this? The most omigod-so-adorable fluffy little furball anyone has ever seen! A puppy?!? Best. Gift EVARRRRR! You instantly win parent/spouse/sibling of the year, right? WRONG!

While we are firmly in favor of dog ownership, it has to be consensual. Moreover, it has to be the right dog in the right home. Because you're not just giving a puppy. You're giving an entire new lifestyle, with a new set of boundaries and rules that your loved one may not realize they are signing up for. You are giving 10 to 20 years of responsibility, including daily exercise, feeding, medical care, training, and more. Pets are living things with physical and emotional needs; not objects, like toys, to be discarded when you're done playing with them. 

Now I know a lot of people will protest, saying that their four legged Christmas present was the best thing that ever happened to them. I applaud those pet parents who stepped up to the challenge to provide a loving home for an animal. But unfortunately, statistics speak louder than individual success stories. January and February are always the months with the highest numbers of abandoned Christmas gifts, dumped at shelters or worse, on the side of the road.

Dog ownership is hard work! So if you're considering getting a dog (or God forbid, gifting a dog), here are some questions to ask yourself to make sure you are prepared for all the "joys" of dog ownership:

How much space do I have?

(Bonus question for renters: what’s your landlord’s pet policy?)

Some dogs are happy in 600 square feet or less. Some need more like 6,000 square feet.  But don’t think you just need to match the size of the dog to the size of the space. My pit bull, Roach, would have lived in a studio apartment as long as I was in it, while many smaller dogs, like terriers, have LOTS! OF! ENERGY! And if they’re cooped up in an apartment all day, that energy can become anxious or destructive. Which brings us to the next question…

How much time do I have to exercise my dog?

At Doggie Joggie, we often say, “a tired dog is a happy dog.” Dogs need regular exercise – probably more than you think. And taking a 10-minute stroll once a day isn’t enough for most. Think two walks a day of at least 20-30 minutes each. It’s a significant time commitment! And most dogs really benefit from more than just dog walking – they need the cardio exercise of running. Of course, if you’re not up for daily walks or regular running, you can always factor in the cost of hiring a dog walker. Another option is to research low-energy breeds, like English Bulldogs, that don't require a lot of exercise.

How much time (and patience) do I have to train my dog?

Training puppies is really hard work. It's not just a daily session of practicing commands. Think about potty training every couple hours. Or, you can look forward to coming home and cleaning up "accidents" (or, again, you can budget for the cost of a mid-day dog walker). All dogs can be trained, but some are much easier to train than others. If you're short on training time, adopting an older dog is a great option. Your local shelter or rescue group can help you find a dog that’s out of the puppy phase and has mastered at least a few basic commands. Rescuing a potty trained dog can be clutch!

What’s my dog's budget?

Food, treats, and supplies like bowls, a leash, collar, toys, and a bed or crate are a monthly expense. Then you’ve got vet bills and (possibly) pet insurance. Of course, if you invest in high-quality dog food and regular exercise, you can probably keep vet bills down. But some breeds are just notorious for having frequent and expensive vet visits for various reasons. (Those breeds also tend to cost the most upfront when you buy them from breeders, too.)

What’s my lifestyle – now and for the next 10-15 years?

Sure, now

you’re single, rent a place that allows pets, and have a job with regular hours. But do you plan to get married? Start a family? Are you up for a promotion that will mean frequent business trips? Thinking of moving? How will a dog fit into those plans? You might need to look for a dog that's good with kids. Or a dog that most landlords are likely to accept (less than 30 pounds and, sadly, not a pit bull, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, etc.). Because dogs and humans have lived together for so long, and because we’ve bred dogs for every trait imaginable, there is a dog for every person who wants one – but one person’s lively Dalmatian is another's shoe-chewing terror. You have to be patient and do the research to find that “just right” dog. How do you do that? You can start by researching different breeds online. Ask friends who have dogs for recommendations. Talk to vets or people at a shelter or dog rescue – and be totally honest! And if you still really want to give a dog as a gift, talk it over with the lucky dog owner-to-be first. Take them to a shelter and let them make a connection with their future furry family member. That will make every day feel like Christmas morning!