Are you ready to answer this question: “Daddy (or Mommy), can I get a puppy?”
You might be inclined to reply: “Go ask Mommy (or Daddy). Everyone has played on that mommy- daddy merry-go-round both as a child and as a parent.
One answer is: “Yes! Let’s go get one right now.” Or, “Yes! What kind should we get?” But wait, not so fast! Getting a puppy is a big commitment of time and money. We need to think about this before deciding.
Getting a puppy is a big decision to make, and you should answer at least 12 questions before making this big. And some might say life-changing choices because getting a dog is somewhat like adopting a child. It becomes a family member, and as all new family members do, a puppy needs care, love, and attention.
1. Can You Have Dogs Where You Live
The first question to answer might be: Can you have a dog where you live? If you are renting, your landlord or lease agreement might prohibit pets. And if pets are allowed, you will likely need an additional security deposit.
Your dog will probably cause some damage to the property by digging holes in the backyard or pooping on the carpet, or scratching on the doors despite your best efforts. You may promise to repair any property damages, but not everyone will. So landlords usually require a deposit for fixing up the place after you move out.
If you live in a home supervised by a Home Owners Association (HOA), you better check to see what restrictions they may have. HOAs can be difficult and expensive to battle, so don’t ignore them.
Some local governments may also have regulations regarding animals. Not many, I suspect, prohibit dogs, but there may be some. Here, for example, are the animal regulations of Marion County, Oregon. The county does not generally have any restrictions about pets on your property, but not all animals qualify as pets.
If it is not legal to have dogs where you live, the discussion may end right there unless moving is an option.
Assuming there are no legal restrictions, there are still other factors to consider.
2. Can You Afford A Dog?
One of the most touching scenes to me is seeing a homeless person with a dog. That scene reminds me that a dog doesn’t care if you are rich or famous or good-looking. Live in a big house or on the streets. If you love and treat it right, it will be a loyal, dedicated companion no matter what your circumstances. If a homeless person can love and take care of a dog, why can’t everyone?
Those sentimental feeling aside, owning a dog is expensive. If you buy a pure breed dog, the cost of a puppy can be substantial. However, no matter the initial cost, it is only a down payment on what you will spend on your dog over its lifetime.
Food, for example. My current dog is a miniature schnauzer, Fancy. She is 12 years old. The dry dog food I buy for her costs me $25 per month. That means that over 12 years, I have spent $3,600 on dog food. She is a small dog, so she eats about a third of what a German Shepherd would need. That breed would have cost over $10,000!
Add on top of food, the cost of vet bills, and other expenses, and you can see that owning a dog is not an insignificant expense. One of my miniature schnauzers developed diabetes, and her vet bills were over $4,000 for the last year of her life. I don’t regret spending the money, only that I could not control the disease, and it finally took her life. I named this website for her.
You can save money, initially, by adopting a dog from a shelter or a friend. Adopting a dog is a noble act, and I encourage you to visit and support your local dog rescue organization. The overwhelming dog population in these facilities is a testament to too many people’s irresponsibility regarding pets.
3. Should You Get A Puppy If Someone Is Allergic to Dogs?
Another possible problem for the “can I get a puppy” question is that someone in the family may be allergic to dogs. This problem may be a tough one to overcome. The health and wellbeing of your family are more important than owning a pet.
Several small breed dogs are hypoallergenic such as the Miniature Schnauzer, Bichon Frise, Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, and several others. If you prefer bigger dogs, you are not out of luck. You might select a Portuguese Water Dog, Giant Schnauzer, or Afghan Hound. The American Kennel Club (AKC) has a complete list of hypoallergenic dogs on their website.
Even if someone has a dog allergy, you might find ways to cope with it, such as medications or setting up dog-free zones. In any event, if someone in your family is allergic to dogs, you should consult an allergist before bringing a dog into your home.
Maybe someone in your home isn’t allergic to dogs but doesn’t like or is afraid of dogs. Fear of dogs might be something that may or may not be solved. You may have to consult an expert to see what your options are.
And someone not liking dogs? Is that a real thing? My Miniature Schnauzer, Cleo, once whispered to me: “You can never fully trust anyone who doesn’t love dogs!” Or maybe, I just thought she said that. It might have been my imagination. Anyway, it sounds about right to me.
4. Who Will Take Care of the Puppy?
When you ask, “Who is going to take care of the puppy?” your child will answer enthusiastically, “I will.” Please don’t count on it.
Some experts say have a family meeting to decide who will be responsible for taking care of the dog. I say, forget that. Maybe you will come to a family agreement, and everyone will agree to do some part, but in the end, you are likely to be in charge of feeding, grooming, exercising, cleaning up puppy messes.
Hey, no one said it would be easy, and your family will help out. However, the rewards of the love, companionship, and fun you will have with a dog more than offset those other small pesky problems. At least, they do, in my opinion. And if you do all those things for your new puppy, you will become its favorite family member. That’s reward enough for me.
5. What Size Of Dog Should You Get?
Do you want a small dog, a big dog, or something between the two? Size does matter. Small dogs are much easier to control than big dogs. You can easily keep from being dragged by a 7 pound Yorkshire Terrier, but a 100 pound Bernese Mountain Dog may take you along for the ride.
If you want a dog for a specific purpose, for example, hunting or guarding, you will look for a suitable dog breed for that job. Every dog is an individual, but most dogs in a specific breed will have similar traits. For example, if you want a small lap dog, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is undoubtedly the right choice.
If you want a small, independent dog with a mind of its own, the Parson Russell Terrier is sure to meet those requirements. Not everyone is ready to take on the challenge of this feisty terrier!
6. What Breed of Dog Should You Get
Once you know how big you want your puppy to grow up to be, you still have many different breeds from which to choose. (Mrs. Beckman would be so proud that I didn’t end the sentence with a preposition!)
Of course, you may not want a particular breed at all. Maybe a mixed breed (mutt) is just the dog you want. Mutts are every bit as memorable.
If you have other family members or friends who have dogs, ask them what they like and dislike their dogs. Ask what breed they would recommend if they were going to get a new puppy.
Dogs come in all sizes and temperaments, so you have an almost unlimited number from which to choose. For some help making a choice, you can try out the AKC’s Dog Breed Selector.
7. Where Should You Get A Puppy?
If you take the Humane Society of the United States’ advice, you will skip pet stores and internet sites and go directly to your local animal shelter. I believe this is good advice, and my current Miniature Schnauzer is a rescue dog. She is every bit as loveable as the other five minis I have owned, which I bought from breeders.
Of course, avoid puppy mills altogether. We need to discourage people who breed dogs with no regard to how they treat them. If you want a particular breed, look for a reputable breeder. You can find them on the AKC website.
8. Should I Get A Puppy or an Older Dog?
Even if you want a dog, do you really want a puppy? Yes, they are fun and just about the cutest animal on earth. Who doesn’t love puppies? Maybe stepping into one of their messes will change your mind.
If you dread the thought of housetraining a new dog, getting an older dog that is already house trained is a better idea. That are many, many older dogs that need a forever home.
9. Do You Have Time to Take Care of a Dog?
Training and taking care of a new puppy requires a lot of time. If you work and have to leave your dog alone during the day, your dog may have additional dog separation anxiety problems. Anxiety can be a problem with older dogs as well as puppies. Dogs with separation anxiety can make quite a mess of your living room.
Dogs need exercise. If you have a big backyard that is secure, you might be able to let your dog outside. My experience is that my dog wants to be where I am. They don’t exercise when they go out. They will usually stay outside only a little longer than it takes to do their business.
If you don’t have a fenced backyard or you live in an apartment, you (or someone) will have to take the puppy for walks. This is not all bad because it also gets you out of the house for some fresh air, sunshine, and exercise.
10. Do You Have Time to Train A Dog
Although some breeds are easier to train than others, none that I know of can read a book and train themselves. So even if you are told that a particular breed is easy to train, plan on spending a lot of time explaining to your dog what you want it to do.
Some people make their living by training dogs. If you have any difficulty training your dog, especially if you want it to do more than tell you when it wants to go outside, one online dog trainer I recommend is Doggy Dan.
11. Do You Know How to Groom a Dog?
Most, if not all, dogs need grooming. Notable exceptions might be a hairless breed, such as the Xoloitzcuintli (sometimes referred to as the Mexican Hairless). No cutting of hair is required for this breed!
But they probably need a bath once in a while.
Some dog breeds should have frequent brushing to make sure their fur coats do not get matted. Some dogs with short hair may not need brushing at all. One such popular breed is the Beagle.
Breeds such as the Miniature Schnauzer, Poodles (of any size), Bichon Frise, and others will need periodic (every six weeks or so) trips to the groomers unless you learn to do it yourself. I groomed my Miniature Schnauzers for a time, but now I take them to a professional groomer.
12. Do You Want A Dog?
No one can answer the “Can I get a puppy” question for you. If you grew up with a dog and loved it, the answer may be easy. If you’ve never lived with a dog, it might be a more challenging decision.
When you have a dog, your life changes, you have to consider what you do with your dog if you want to go for a trip, vacation, or work. If you can work out these decisions, a dog will add a lot of joy and love to your life.
Get one (or more)!