Puppies are just too cute, it is almost beyond words. However these cute puppies grow up very quickly and become ‘real’ dogs. The puppy stage only lasts for a few months and the honey moon phase is often over after a couple of weeks of sleepless nights and urine stains on the carpet. So make sure what you really want is a dog and not just the puppy.
Pointing out the obvious, a puppy is a 12 to 15 year commitment and a lot of things can change during this time. Some are out of our control, such as family and relationship break downs, death, or sickness to name a few; others are very predictable: moving out, getting married, having a baby, the children are growing up, going overseas, having an extended holiday, changing jobs, moving, again just to name a few.
Considering the high number of dogs in rescue shelters, not every new puppy owner has thought about changes in their lives and how they will care for their dog during these challenging times.
I recently posted on my Facebook page that: “If you work full time, have three children under the age of six and work full time, do not get a puppy.” My argument was that the puppy would not get the training and socialisation she will require to grow up into a well adjusted dog. I also said that the puppy should not be left home alone for long periods of time in the first few weeks.
There was a backlash: How did I dare saying that some people should not have a dog just because they work fulltime? How could I deny a child the opportunity to grow up with a puppy? I was called arrogant, out of touch and a few more things.
Is owning a dog a right or a privilege? I just read the book Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets by Jessica Pierce, it really makes you think twice.
We love our dogs but is this enough? I do not think so. I also do not think owning a dog is a right. It is a privilege that comes with a lot of work and a lot of sacrifices. Forget about sleeping in for a few months or years, forget about going out every night and forget about extended holidays.
Before you make a decision ask yourself do you really have the time and commitment it takes to bring up a well adjusted and confident canine citizen? Will you still be in a position to look after your dog in 12 or 14 years time?
Are you ready for sleep less nights, puddles on the floor, the puppy pre-school, daily socialization outings for the next 12 to 18 months?
Are you prepared for the challenges of the teen aged dog and the heartbreak of living with an older dog?
I meet a lot of mothers whose families decided to get a puppy for the children, sometimes against the wishes of mum. But often, after the initial excitement, it is the mothers who look after the puppy and they struggle to deal with the additional responsibility and to provide appropriate care. Not because they do not try but because they just do not have the time, next to a full time job, the children and much more.
My tip here for all mums: Unless you want a puppy do not get one: Not for the children, nor the husband (who works full time, too) or for your other dog! It is not going to work.
Here a list of some of the NO – NOS and excuse me for being blunt
Do not get a dog if you
- will not allow the dog in the house
- are not able to put the time in for socialization and training
- work very long hours or travel a lot
- have very small children
- or a household member is allergic to dogs
- are not in stable financial position
- are a clean freak with a designer loft
Before getting a puppy you should also consider alternatives such as rescue dogs. Considering your life style you might be better of with a senior dog or rescue Greyhound.
Lets assume you are ready.
- Make sure you research breeds that match your life style and find a reputable breeder. I leave this topic for another day. If you buy a dog online or from a pet shop you are most likely supporting a puppy farm and while your puppy may have a loving home, her parents never will. They will live in appalling and cruel conditions and you are supporting this inhumane industry.
- Even experienced dog owners can find puppy hood a bit overwhelming. One key point with socialisation is that you cannot postpone which means it makes sense to plan the arrival date carefully.
- Get consensus in your family on the basics: sleeping arrangements, exercise, house training, where is the puppy allowed before the puppy arrives and stick to them.
- Puppy proof the house which means remove dangerous things such as electrical cords, cleaners, small objects and set up a confinement area including crates and baby gates.
- Be ready with the essentials such as beds, collar, id, leads, treats, food (in the beginning same as the breeder), toys, food dispensing toys, interactive toys and more toys.
- Get in contact with service providers such as puppy pre school, day care, walkers, groomers in your area.
On a different note, in Switzerland prospective dog owners are required to take a course BEFORE getting a puppy or a dog. This course consists of four hours theory to prepare for the arrival of the new family member. While this is minimal it prevents impulse buying and at least sets prospective owners up for success. The sale of dogs in pet shops has been banned for decades.
While you probably will never be fully prepared for a puppy or a dog you can be fully committed to make your puppy the best dog she can be. This will help navigate the set back and the challenges ahead.
Bringing up a well adjusted dog is very fulfilling, great fun and worth every minute!
First published by Pet Professional Guild