I own a dog. My family has owned two before I bought my Pembroke Welsh Corgi, Sadie. First, there was Rocky, who sadly died from parvovirus, and then there was Buddy, who had cancer. Dogs are great creatures, I love dogs. They’re giant balls of energy, fur, and dorkiness. There is nothing not to love!
But as a dog owner, I had a lot to learn and I’m still learning. So, as I watched Sadie bark at the lawnmower (her favorite summertime activity behind barking at vehicles and other dogs), I was forming all the information that is important for people who are looking into their own goofballs.
Important things you need to consider before purchasing a dog:
Your lifestyle – are you active and have a lot of energy? Are you kinda lazy and a couch potato? Are you hardly ever at home? These are important questions. Your dog is going to be an integral part of your lifestyle, and you need to be able to take care of them. They are a living, breathing entity and you need to remember that. If you’re never home and have to send someone to make sure your dog is getting exercise, you should probably not get a dog. If you’re a couch potato, chances are, your dog is gonna be right there next to you. If you’re active, you just found yourself a new running buddy!
The environment (physical space) – are you in an apartment? A suburb with a tiny yard? Or maybe you’ve got some acreage? You have to remember your dog needs exercise! If you’re in an apartment, locate the nearest parks, both dog parks and otherwise; look for hiking trails; make sure you get out and walk that little bugger everyday! Same with a suburb home. Make sure your dog has room to play and if need be, walk them. Depending on the acreage and fencing, you may have room to play fetch or frisbee or to run around. Fat dogs are not necessarily happy dogs; neither are super skinny dogs. It is up to YOU, new owner, to help your hound work off that energy!
The environment (family) – do you have children? Are they younger than age 10? Older than age 10? Are you a young person on your own? An older person? Do you have a partner? What about other pets, like a cat? These are all crucial roles in a dog’s life. There is a difference between a “young person’s” dog and an “older person’s” dog. I’ve witnessed this myself: Sadie has been with us for the past seven years; I was fourteen when I got her, and my brother was nine years old. My grandmother had bought Belle, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, as well, a year or so earlier, and there’s a definite difference. Belle is a lot more mellow than Sadie, who only stops when she’s tired, and even then, pushes on. You also need to make sure that your family is going to be both physically and mentally okay with a dog. My five-year old cousin is absolutely terrified of dogs, while his younger brother is not; bringing a dog into that home at this stage in the boys’ life would probably be a bad idea.
Size matters – do you want a large dog? A medium-sized dog? Or a small dog? A dog is gonna grow – some of them end up being huge, while others need a hand up on the couch. Some smaller breeds interact better with children than others, as do larger breeds. Some breeds are better suited for older people in general. It also depends on where you live. Large dogs need more space, especially if they’re Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Pyrenees and Bernese Mountain Dogs, or Wolf/Deerhounds. All too often you hear about people abandoning a dog because it got too big.
Purebred vs. Shelter – would you like to rescue a dog? Or would you prefer to have an AKC/UKC/etc registered breed? All dogs need a home, whether they’ve been traumatized or if they’re pups who have been bred for the sole purpose of being perfect visions of a standard. Purebreds may cost more, and you have the option to have open papers, which allows you to breed your dog. Shelter dogs are going to be neutered or spayed and you don’t know what their personality is going to be like until they’re in your home. That doesn’t mean one is preferred over the other!
Purebred Dogs (health) – Going with a purebred? Remember that you should always go to the kennel the puppies were born at. Ask about any health issues. Research the breed you’re interested in before you go out and buy, because that cocker spaniel puppy you want? Cocker spaniels are a breed in which a syndrome called the “Rage Syndrome” occurs – they can go into a frenzy and attack whoever. Some breeds are more prone to cancer or heart problems or bone issues. Corgis in general, being a long-bodied, short breed, have problems with their hips and backs. Scottish Terriers have a tendency to develop what is called a “Scotty Cramp” after exercise when young. You must remember this when looking into a dog.
Shelter Dogs (health) – You chose to rescue a dog? Good for you! These dogs need a loving home and a place to thrive. However, keep in mind that these dogs may have gone through abuse or neglect. This could manifest itself in the dog snapping at you when you do a certain thing, such as get too close to its food bowl.Perhaps it doesn’t like being touched in certain areas. The dog could end being afraid of people or maybe not like other animals. Make sure you can provide stability and safety for your new dog.
Cost – wait, what do you mean dogs are expensive? Sadly, it is true. First, you need to look at the cost of the dog. Most shelter animals, I’ve found, are around $100. Purebreds can range from $200 on up, depending on the breed, the kennel club, and the gender of the dog. Sadie cost $950, with open papers (an extra $350). And that’s just the dog. Secondly, you have to include food, toys, vet bills, grooming, and all that good stuff. It can get expensive. Are you going to be willing to spend not only time and energy but money on your new dog?
Supplies – what do you need for a dog anyway? Good question! You are going to need: food (some dogs are picky; Sadie only eats Eukanuba), food and water bowls (multiple water bowls, for outside access water; this is so, so, so important), a place mat (Sadie likes to put water on her food, so it gets kinda messy; your dog may do the same), a correct fitting collar for puppyhood to young doghood to adult doghood (or a harness), a leash (either retractable or not works), brushes for at home grooming, nail trimmers, doggy shampoo (though you can use people shampoo, but you have to make sure you get all of it out of their fur), a dog bed, and toys!
Things to Do With A Dog – is there anything I can actually do with my dog other than walk and play? Of course! Oh boy! There’s so much you can do that’ll bring happiness to your dog! Try dog agility, where you train your dog to run through obstacles, such as tunnels, jumps, hoops, and weave poles! Or maybe you’d like to train your dog to become a “dock dog,” a sport where you toss a toy out into a pool of water and the dog leaps through the air, and you see how far it can jump (water and hunting dogs particularly like this one; you can train all dogs to do it, just get them used to water!). Or maybe you are the stately and proud owner of a purebred, and would like to show off your dog’s exquisite physique – try showmanship! Say you own a dog that likes to herd, maybe it’s not necessarily a purebred, but it’s got German Shepard in it and loves pushing you around; try herding, and by herding I mean, what Babe the Pig does in Babe. You can actually do that, you can teach your dog how to herd and then enter them in competitions. There’s an endless amount of things you may do with your dog!
Other Important Information You Need to Know – what else is there to know? 1) Well, as soon as you bring home that pup, start training that little sucker. Make sure it knows how to sit, stay, and come when called. These are the three most important things you can teach a dog. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise. 2) Understand the hazards of feeding your dog people food – there are chemicals in our foods that could be fatal to your dog. You know how everyone tells you “don’t feed your dog chocolate?” Well, also stay away from anything with any sort of gum in it, such as xanthan, as well as grapes and onions! Keep them away from certain plants, like poinsettias; don’t let them near antifreeze; and keep chicken bones out of their mouth. Your dog may like the taste of something, but that doesn’t mean it’s good for them. 3) Also, keep items out of their reach. Some dogs are incredibly smart. Some are huge. Sometimes you will come home to find a shredded plastic bag that once had bread in it. Other times, you may find an item destroyed because dogs are actually quite spiteful little creatures and no one will actually tell you that (Buddy would destroy my dad’s stuff if he was mad at my mom and vice versa). And sometimes the cat will gladly push stuff into reach for the puppy who is in the teething stage (Holly, sometime after we got her, pushed a watch off my mom’s nightstand for the dog to chew). 4) They like dirty stuff. Mud, dirt, poop, dead things, it doesn’t matter. If they can roll in it, they will roll. I clearly remember swimming in mud holes when I was little and Buddy being right there next to me. There were times when he would come home from the dairy down the road and be covered in cow droppings. This is why you need doggy shampoo. 5) They like to roam. Dogs are busy. They like to do stuff. Sometimes you can’t keep them home. In the past week alone, I’ve chased my dog over to our neighbors, where she promptly greeted them, butt wiggling, and decided she was allowed in their house. This is embarrassing. Especially because she has an invisible fence. Keep an eye on your dog; they may end up injured. 6) Socialize your dog! Parvovirus may be a danger to pups, this is true, but it is important to make sure your dog is going to be with okay with other dogs. Sadie was poorly socialized and she snaps at other dogs when they sniff her. She’s not used to other dogs, and it doesn’t help, either, that she’s had bad encounters with large dogs. 7) Don’t adopt two or more dogs at the same time. You want your dog to know YOU are the leader of the pack and instead of focusing on you, they may focus on each other instead. If you want two dogs, adopt them separately with time between them.
Dogs are neat creatures. They’re friendly and loving and a lot smarter than we think they are. Please make sure you are ready for the responsibility of owning a dog. They are living beings; please treat them like one.