Dog Care : Make sure you can afford it!
Whoever said that two can live as cheaply as one never had a dog? A dog isn’t going to break you financially, but it is an investment. Over the life of the pet, you can expect to shell out as much money as you would on a decent used car (or a crappy new one). But really, which would you rather have – a Yugo or unconditional love? Be honest.
The actual dog isn’t expensive (you can get one for free at your local animal shelter). Rather, most of the expense will be buying dog food. Ask your vet to recommend a brand.
Vet? What vet? The vet that you’re going to take your dog to as soon as you get home from the shelter or breeder, Sherlock. Proper veterinary care is non-negotiable. Things like check-ups, shots, neutering or spaying, flea and tick control, and dental care will keep your dog in good running condition and win you a place in Good Dog Owner Heaven. Once a year is all it takes, assuming your pup isn’t playing in the street or smoking a pack a day. But it’s still an expense, and you should always have a little backup cash handy in case the dog accidentally swallows your eyelash curler.
Other doggie accoutrements that you’ll need to purchase include (for starters):
• Big, sturdy, stable, unbreakable food dish and water dish
• Comfortable, strong collar or harness and matching leash
• Dog bed
• Grooming supplies
• Chew toys
• Current ID tag with address and phone number (really important!)
• Solid, roomy crate for transport (many dogs also use them as a safe sleeping place in the house)
• Warm, dry, wind-and-waterproof doghouse (but your dear little pup will be an indoor dog, we hope)
• Little knitted doggie sweaters are optional in cooler climates.
Pick a place to pick a puppy
Once you’ve determined the right breed for your lifestyle, one possibility is to go through a breeder. You can find breeders by looking in the classified ads in your newspaper (the prices are usually pretty steep, ranging from $100 to $3000, depending on the breed and the quality of the puppies). Alternatively, you can call the American Kennel Club at 1900-407-PUPS. The breeder reference person will put you in touch with reputable breeders in your area. Then call several breeders and talk with them; they’re a valuable source of information about the breed you’ve chosen.
Breeders are a good route because you’ll get someone who knows all about your breed of dog, so if you have any questions, you’ll have a new friend to ask. Also, breeders generally take very good care of their dogs. So good, in fact, that they’ll usually interview the prospective buyer to make sure that the dog is going to a loving home. The drawback about using a breeder is the price – you can get a puppy for free at a shelter. But if you’re looking for a pretty puppy that you might eventually want to breed or take to dog shows, using a breeder is the way to go.
Also known as “the pound,” shelters are connected with purebred rescue programs, giving you that purebred chic look combined with the warm, gooey, self-righteous satisfaction of rescuing a homeless dog. The benefit of a shelter is that 1) it’s free (or really really cheap), and 2) you’re saving a dog’s life. The main drawback is that the dog could have some kind of personality or health problem (based on how it was treated before you got to the pound). That’s a lot to deal with.
As long as you’re at the shelter, consider strolling past the puppies and adopting an adult dog. Friendly, well-trained adult dogs will often wind up in the shelter through no fault of their own. Maybe their owner lost the appeal and got sent up the river for 20 to life . . . you never know. Actually, sometimes you do know. Many adult dogs come with a written history; some even come with the former owner’s contact number so you can get a character reference. Adopt an adult dog and you can save yourself the heartbreak of housebreaking . . . and very probably save the dog’s life.
Pet stores . . .
Just say no!
Here’s a way NOT to get a dog. When you see those little puppies in mall pet stores, our advice is: run away. Many pet stores sell dogs from puppy mills. If you thought that the plight of veal calves was bad . . . well, you’re right, it is. But puppy mills are right there with it when it comes to wholesale animal cruelty. They basically churn out puppies for pet stores, kill the ones that don’t look like they’d sell well, and keep the live ones in awful living conditions. And pet store puppies that don’t get bought are sent to the pound. You can get pet supplies from them, but NOT the puppies please!
Don’t be fooled by the breeding papers they’ll wave in your face. There’s a special place in hell reserved for people who sell puppy mill puppies. It’s just down the hall from the place reserved for people who buy puppy mill puppies. You’re not rescuing the dog; you’re perpetuating the puppy mill industry. Can you tell that we’re against this yet?