Before you bring a dog into your home, you should ask yourself the following questions:
- Why do you want a dog? At the MSPCA, we feel that the best reason to add a dog to the family is for the companionship. This makes them a shared responsibility among all family members. When dogs are gifted to children or treated as a reward, oftentimes the responsibility that comes along with being a great dog guardian is forgotten. Similarly, we feel that dogs should be kept as indoor pets, rather than guard dogs or outdoor animals. Dogs who are left outside for the majority of the day, even if provided with the bare necessities, lead a lonely life. But if you're looking for a hiking buddy (or maybe a couch potato to watch the nightly news with you!), then a dog can be a great choice.
- Do you have a lifestyle that will suit a dog? Most dogs want to spend as much quality time with their family each day as possible. Those who work full-time can care for a dog quite well, but may need to think about hiring a dog walker or other care provider if their dog is a puppy (and cannot "hold it" for an extended period of time), an incontinent senior, or otherwise in need of exercise or company midday. People who spend lots of time at home may be able to manage more quirky behaviors, including separation anxiety. Also, some dogs are suitable for families with children or other pets, and some do their best living in an adult-only home as the only pet. Every dog is different, and in many cases there is a match available. The exception to this would be the person or family who has very little time to spend with a pet. In which case, we'd ask - why do you want a pet if you don't have the time for one?
- Can you afford proper housing, nutrition, and medical care for your dog? According to a 2005-2006 APPMA National Pet Owners Survey, the average family spends about $1,500 each year on their pet dog. While this does include a few "extras," like boarding expenses and training classes, it doesn't include any diagnostic procedures or emergency medical treatments. These can run in the high hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars. One way to help prepare for this possibility is to purchase pet health insurance. While this will add to the regular monthly costs, it can save a family a lot of money in the long run should a medical emergency ever arise.
To be the best dog "parent" you can be, it's important to learn about dog behavior and health from your veterinarian or other animal professionals, including MSPCA staff. If you have a question about a particular behavior, click here. Or contact your local MSPCA to learn more about responsible dog care. The staff is happy to help!