Dog Care: Make sure that you ready to get a dog
If you want a dog because you think it’ll look great in that new BMW you just bought at 12% interest, think how much fun it will be when it tears up the leather upholstery so thoroughly that even the repo man is impressed. This isn’t like buying a new pair of shoes. It’s closer to having a child: A child that doesn’t speak English and occasionally eats poop. If that thought sends you screaming from the room, consider another kind of pet like maybe a fish or a plant or a pair of shoes.
If you work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. six days a week, you’re going to have a lonely, unhappy dog on your hands. And how do dogs show their unhappiness? In the absence of being able to say, “Pay attention to me, Poindexter,” they’ll do things like pee on your high school yearbook or methodically eat all your CDs. This isn’t their fault.
Here’s a little “pup quiz” that will help determine if you are ready to add one more member to the family. Answer “yes” or “no” to the following questions:
1. Do you like dogs? I mean do you REALLY LIKE dogs?
2. Does the health of your household allow for a pet dog? (allergies, etc.)
3. Does your building allow dogs?
4. Are you financially secured?
5. Are you OK with picking up dog poop, mopping up dog pee, or cleaning up dog vomit?
If you answered “no” to anyone of these, then you’re probably not ready to become a dog owner. That’s OK though . . . you’re still allowed to like them.
Decide on a dog breed that is suitable for your lifestyle or personality
Getting a pet dog is really a Zen process of self-discovery. You can’t know the right dog for you until you know yourself. For example, a jock would prefer an active dog. A lazy slug would prefer a dog that doesn’t require much exercise. A touchy-feely person would prefer a friendly dog. A tightly-wound person would probably prefer a dog that doesn’t bark or shed too much. Think of picking a pup like choosing a mate; you have to find one that compliments your personality.
Here are some very general guidelines. Of course, we won’t list every dog breed on the planet, but they’ll get you thinking in the right direction:
• German Shepherd
• Australian Sheepdog
• Belgian Sheepdog
Dogs with little exercise
• Brussels Griffon
• French Bulldog
• Manchester Terrier
• toy breeds (such as a Chihuahua or Pekingese)
Good with kids
• English Cocker Spaniel
• Basset Hound
• Brittany Spaniel
• Old English Sheepdog
Good city dogs
• Boston Terrier
• Lhasa Apso
• Welsh Corgi
• Scottish Terrier
• Chesapeake Bay Retriever
• Greater Swiss Mountain Dog
• Brittany Spaniel
• Bichon Frise
• Old English Sheepdog
• Bearded Collie
• Golden Retriever
• Labrador Retriever
There are dozens of breeds and dozens of traits to sort them by. You get the idea. Again, these guidelines are EXTREMELY rough. Picking a dog based on these lists is like getting a phone number off a bathroom wall. There are no shortcuts. You can try going to a dog show or talking to a vet. In our opinion, though, the absolutely best way to research is to talk to friends who have dogs. Believe us; they’ll give you more information than you care to know: Sometimes even more than what we know.
In case you didn’t realize it, all of the breeds we listed above are purebreds. This means that they are the product of parents of the same breed. To get a true purebred worthy of being in a dog show, you often have to pay thousands of dollars. Most people get mixes of some sort (the “cockapoo,” a combo of a cocker spaniel and a poodle, is quite popular), because rumor has it that purebred dogs can have personality problems because the gene pool is so small (think of people who marry their cousins). As a result, many people choose to go with a mutt, a mish-mash of different breeds. Mutts can combine the best of two or more breeds in a one-of-a-kind dog. Having a mutt is like the canine equivalent of owning an original work of art. Benji was a mutt. And who doesn’t like Benji?
Is this all sounding like too much work? Then go back again to chapter 1 and reread, because the work is just beginning. A dog is a living thing, but millions of dogs die every year because their masters didn’t realize how much work caring for a dog really is. We’re not trying to bum you out, but this is nothing compared to how bummed you’ll be if you become one of those failed former dog owners.
Decide what dog breed is best for your living environment
- Now that you’ve got yourself figured out, it’s time to figure out what kind of life you lead.
Evaluate your living space. How much space do you have for a dog? Do you have a fenced yard? What kind of life do you lead? Do you want a great big dog, a little bitty dog or something in between? Sure, that Irish Wolfhound matches your eyes perfectly, but it’s not gonna fit into your studio apartment. Conversely, that Chihuahua is never going to be able to navigate your 40-acre spread. It seems obvious, but no matter how well your personality fits a particular breed, you have to make sure that your living arrangements match it too. It would be cruel to keep a big dog locked up all day in a tiny apartment.
- Evaluate your schedule. How much are you home? How many times per day can you walk a dog? If you just thought “per day?” then go back to chapter 1 and reread it ten times. Some dogs are more independent than others, so if you’re not around a lot, it won’t do you much good to get a clingy dog. Always remember that dogs get lonely, and if you’re gone for days on end (even if the neighbor pops in just to feed it), the dog’ll still get depressed.
- Anticipate future lifestyle changes. Do you have kids? Will you ever have kids? Are you sure? You don’t want to get into a situation where you have to put the kid up for adoption because he or she can’t get along with the dog. Better to get a kid-friendly dog in the first place, just in case.
- Evaluate your activity level. Picture your idea of a fun time, and be sure that the right kind of dog fits within it. If you love to go hiking, a Yorkie’s not going to be able to keep up. If you like sitting and knitting, a Border Collie’s going to make your life a living hell.
Once again, do your homework. Talk to friends, vets, dog breeders, and trainers to find out which breed is best for you.