Thinking About Getting a Dog?
Getting a dog for the first time can be extremely exciting and full of fun. Some people have memories of their childhood dog. Others have longed for a dog for many years, having never experienced life with a dog in the home before.
Dogs are wonderful pets that bring life and happiness to a home. Their antics will make you laugh, their beautiful dog eyes stare at you with love, and they are always so pleased to see you. What could be more rewarding than owning a dog that gives you unconditional love and hours of joy? Of course you want a dog.
However, there are a few things you need to consider before getting a dog. Whilst they are amazing members of the family, they are also a commitment and dog ownership brings with it some responsibility.
Do You Really Want a Dog?
You should never get a dog on impulse. Those cute puppies in the pet shop or sad-looking dogs in the shelter are a long-term commitment. The thought of taking them home and giving them lots of love probably fills you with happiness.
However, dogs that are brought home on impulse often find their way back to the shelter or are given up as new owners (however well intended) do not fully comprehend the responsibility of dog ownership.
Please don’t let me scare you off. Owning a dog does not mean that your life is over, but it does mean it will change a little in order to accommodate the new family member.
Most dogs live between 8-16 years, some even to 20 years old. You need to think about how your new pet would fit into your current life but also your future plans. If you have always dreamt of travelling for example, maybe fostering dogs would be a better option for you than taking a dog on full time.
Maybe you are already in another country but your visa could expire – would you be able to take your dog with you when you left? There are some great fostering programmes across the world and you would be helping many dogs on the way to finding their forever homes.
Which Dog Is Best For You?
Selecting the right dog to suit your lifestyle can be challenging but it’s essential. You do not want to end up regretting your decision. Putting some research into finding the type of dog that would most enjoy your routine will go a long way to ensuring that you both live a long and happy life together.
This might not be the dog that you had in mind when you decided you wanted a dog but it will be the best one for you. Check out my blog ‘What dog is best for me?‘ for help narrowing down your options and selecting the right breed, temperament and energy levels that will suit you best.
I never saw myself with a greyhound when my fiancé and I first decided to adopt but now I cannot see myself owning any other breed. Greyhounds make wonderful pets. They are undemanding but happy to walk along with you wherever you go.
They like their own space at times but are always keen to nestle in for a cuddle on the sofa. I have absolutely fallen in love with these gentle (slightly goofy) giants. They are certainly not the brightest of breeds but they have beautiful souls.
Dog Proofing Your Home
Puppies pee and poop. Dogs like to chew things. And just because we know that the medicine cupboard is for human consumption only, it does not mean our dogs understand this too. Dog proofing your home to keep your dog safe and prevent your favourite shoes from being ruined is an overlooked consideration when getting a dog.
You do not need to completely remodel or buy expensive items but some simple changes could help prevent harm or damage. One mistake I made when bringing our greyhound home was to child-gate him into the kitchen when we left the apartment.
I had basically left my new dog locked inside the candy shop and had expected him not to try and get at the goodies. Well, that night I came home to cupboards ripped off their shelves and the remains of a few cereal boxes and breakfast bar wrappers. Lesson learnt. We bought a crate, moved the child-gate to the living room door and removed any food.
I recommend crates for all dogs. Young or old, from a breeder or shelter, crates give your dogs their own safe space within the human home. Crates are like bedrooms for dogs. As dogs are den animals, having a crate covered with a blanket and placed away from the main footfall of the home is instinctively homely for them.
It allows us to ask them to go to their beds when there is commotion or we are leaving the home, and they will be happy to go there. The key is not to use it as a punishment and always reward them for going in there when asked.
I would also recommend a dog gate or child gate, especially if there are areas of your house you would prefer your dog not to roam. Gates are wonderful aids in teaching your dog social manners. They can make a great “naughty step” to discourage certain behaviours. Never for longer than a minute, but when timed right, they can be very effective.
Other things to consider are puppy pads during any potty training period. Providing toys and chews to keep their brains and mouths occupied (and away from our wardrobes). Covers for your sofa or furniture to protect them and to make washing out dog hairs easier.
Be prepared that your dog may need training. Puppies will certainly need training. Rehomed dogs will generally need training. No dogs instinctively know how to behave in a human household. They have to be taught what is socially acceptable and what is not.
You have to teach them not to jump up on people, something they learn (instinctively) to do with their mothers to request milk. You have to train them, through positive reward-based techniques, to respond to certain cues and commands.
Dogs will repeat a behaviour more regularly and more eagerly if they are rewarded for doing so. You will need to work with them every day to coach them to behave in a way that fits in to our society. This is what we ask of dogs and so you should be ready to give up your time and commit to helping your dog become a well behaved, happy hound around other dogs, people and pets.
The best way to train your dog is to be consistent, patient and provide plenty of rewards for behaviour you want. Ignore the behaviours that you do not want (where possible) as even being told off is attention to a dog.
Simply walking away or being placed on the naughty step for a minute can be a strong enough negative experience to discourage an unwanted behaviour. The Essential Guide to Dog Training by ISCP (The International School for Canine Psychology & Behaviour) founder Lisa Tenzin-Dolma is a great book for any dog owners wanting to know how best to train their dog.
I am a qualified Canine Psychology & Behaviour Practitioner so please free free to contact me for any dog-related questions. I would be only too happy to discuss behaviours with you. Contact Me.
Dogs Need Your Time
Dogs are social creatures. They are family pack animals. When growing up in a family pack is not an option, they form neighbourhood packs. Dogs have been domesticated over hundreds of years to adapt to living with humans, so now we are their family pack. Ensuring they get enough of your time and attention is essential for their happiness.
Dogs that are left alone for long periods of time or that do not have playful and meaningful interactions can become very depressed. They can develop behavioural problems in an attempt to cope with both boredom and loneliness. Neglect can create a range of physical problems too as a dog starts to disengage with the world. They become less active, eat less and parts of the mind and body will slowly start to be affected.
When you bring a dog home, it is key to understand the amount of physical exercise they will need. But, alongside this, think about the amount of mental stimulation and affection they need too. Most dogs generally sleep 12-14 hours a day (some breeds more) but when they are awake they will want to be engaged and active.
If you are studying all day and working a night job to pay the uni bills, hold off on getting a dog. Whilst you might take great pleasure in their company while you are home, think about how they will be alone and bored when you are not around. Bringing a dog into your home should work for both you and the dog. If you are unable to give a dog the essential time and attention it needs, it is not the right time to get one.
If you know the essential needs of a dog, you will be well on your way to understanding what you need to know before getting a dog. Their basic needs are the same as our own. All these needs should be met by you daily.
- food and water
- shelter and comfort
- exercise and play
- a sense of belonging
- love and affection
Spending your life with a dog can be a truly amazing experience. Studies have shown that when dogs are in physical contact with their owners or families, their brains release the ‘pleasure chemical’ dopamine in exactly the same way as our human brains do when we feel happy and relaxed and with the people we love. It was like we were meant to be. It is no wonder dogs are called man’s best friend.