What to think about before getting a dog

Whether you’re a first-time owner or you’ve had dogs before, getting a dog is an exciting prospect. But it’s a long-term commitment.

What to think about before getting a dog

Sue Ketland explains what to think about before getting a dog.

So, if you’re thinking of getting a dog, it’s important you make the right decision.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself.

Is a dog definitely the right pet for me?

Think about why you want a pet. Take the time to find the right animal for you and your lifestyle to make sure you can have a lasting, happy relationship with them.

Does the whole family want a dog?

Everyone who will be living with the dog needs to feel comfortable. Think about who will be the primary care giver. If anyone is worried or unhappy about getting a dog, you might like to consider a different pet.

Do I have time for a dog?

On average, dogs live between 8-15 years. And all dogs need daily exercise and stimulation. They’re sociable animals, and many don’t cope being home alone for hours every day. So make sure you can give them plenty of time and attention.

Can I give the dog everything it needs?

The Animal Welfare Act outlines the five duties of care you have as a pet owner. So you need to be ready for the commitment.

You must give the dog a suitable environment

This means a safe, loving and stable home – treat them as part of the family. Our dogs are our companions, they don’t fare well with long periods of isolation, and they want to be with us.

You must feed the dog a suitable diet

They need the right amount of nutritional dog food and constant fresh water. We recommend feeding a good quality complete diet, free from colourings, additives and preservatives. It’s appropriate to choose the age-range specific to your dog’s age.

You can bulk out your dog’s diet with tinned meat if you need to, but don’t overfeed them. Obesity causes health problems and shortens life expectancy. Every dog is different, so you must make sure you understand what yours needs. For example, neutered dogs or senior dogs don’t need as many calories as other dogs.

You must make sure the dog can behave normally

They need suitable play and exercise for their breed. Some dogs like running exercise, while some like retrieving; such as fetching a toy back, others like tug-of-war games. Playing search games with a toy can be a great outlet for behaviour. Ideally, most need two good walks a day with time off the lead to explore and run around. And don’t forget mental stimulation, like training, games and food-based activity toys. Enjoy doing your research to find out what your dog likes!

You must make sure the dog has interaction and alone time

Dogs are sociable and need to interact and play with people and other dogs. But they also need a quiet place to be alone when they want.

You must protect the dog from pain, suffering, injury and disease

You will need to register your dog with a vet and keep them up to date with vaccinations, and flea and worm treatments. This will help fend off disease and infections that can be hard to get rid of. If your dog shows signs of illness, you must take them to the vet as soon as possible. And if they get seriously ill or have poor quality of life, you must be prepared to make the hard decision to put them to sleep.

Giving your dog vet care is part of being a responsible owner. But it can be expensive, so we recommend you get pet insurance. Always do your research before you buy it, and ask for recommendations and advice from your vet.

Can I afford a dog?

The cost of buying a dog is just the beginning. You need to factor in the cost of everything from food and vet care to toys and training, throughout their life. You should also allow for dog walking and holiday care costs, so your dog stays stimulated and well cared for if you’re not around.

Here’s what you need to budget for:

  • Pet insurance (the monthly cost plus the excess to pay on claims)
  • Vet costs (without insurance this could be £1,000s)
  • Vaccinations and yearly boosters
  • Regular worming and flea treatment
  • Neutering
  • Good-quality dog food, and a food bowl and water bowl
  • Leads and collars
  • Identity tag and microchip (you could be fined if your dog is not microchipped)
  • A dog bed
  • Socialisation classes and training classes and aids
  • A harness or crate for the car
  • Dog toys
  • Kennel or dog sitting fees if you’re going away
  • Dog walker fees if you’re out for more than a few hours a day

What if my lifestyle changes in the next six months?

If you’re moving, changing jobs, going back to work or having a baby in the next six months, think carefully about getting a dog, and what impact the change could have on them.

What if I already have pets?

How would a new dog affect the pets already in your family? You especially need to consider older pets or those with health conditions – the change could be difficult for them.

What dog should I get – a puppy or an older dog?

Although puppies can make a wonderful addition to the family, they take a lot of time, hard work, dedication, training and patience to become a well-rounded adult. If you think you’re ready for a puppy, read our guide to getting a puppy.

There are also plenty of older dogs looking for new homes, and they can make fantastic family pets. They still need plenty of attention, but have been through the tricky house-training stage. If you’d like to give an older dog a loving home, have a look at our guide to getting an older dog.

Which dog breed is right for me?

There are many different dog breeds, with different needs and energy levels. Research each breed thoroughly to see if it suits your lifestyle. Don’t just consider size. Some small dog breeds need much more time and energy than some large dog breeds. Would a unique mixed breed suit your lifestyle? If you have a family, what’s the best dog for kids?

Call us on 0300 303 9333 if you want to talk about a specific breed. Or you can speak to a vet or check the Kennel Club’s Breed Information Centre. You could even get more information by speaking to breed clubs and other owners.

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