10 Things to Consider Before Getting A Dog

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

I love my four Chihuahuas, and while four may seem like a lot to some, it's my life and I wouldn't have it any other way.  Some people spend money on their hobbies like cars, shopping, and home improvement project, but my hobby, and my life, is taking care of my Chihuahuas. I absolutely love my babies more than anything else in this world so that’s enough for me. I never complain about the responsibilities or costs of owning a dog, let alone 4!

Keep in mind that owning a pet, especially a dog, is certainly not for everyone. Anytime you see someone looking for a new home for their dog, that’s a perfect example of a person who thought they were ready but in the end couldn’t fully commit. I say that because I have already experienced a tough decision of having to move home in order to keep all 4 dogs, as no apartment complex would have taken all 4.   Giving one or two up even temporarily is NOT an option.   And if I didn’t have the option to move home, I would never have owned my babies, but I knew that would always be an option for me. 
When you make the decision to get a dog, you have to think long term.  So in order to help you or anyone else determine if they are ready to commit, I put together a list of 10 things to consider before you make the decision to get a dog.
And remember, not every dog will have these things apply to them, but still, much of this list is applicable in the majority of cases.

1. Initial Cost if purchased from a breeder
A dog can cost anywhere from $0-$1,000 depending on the breed and situation. If you think $500 is a ridiculous price for a dog from a breeder, then let me explain to you how they price them. A good breeder does it for the love of the breed, not to make a profit, because in the end they rarely make a profit. I know this for a fact because I have several responsible breeders as friends.  The cost of most dogs includes these little expenses that add up to the breeder:
  • Vet bills for first checkup
  • Vet bills for delivery of pups (some dogs need C-section)
  • Lighting/Heat/Electricity in the room where puppies are born
  • Food costs
  • Time off work to care for the puppies
  • Vet bills for the mom while pregnant
  • Supplies for newborn pups (blankets, bedding for birth)

I will say that you get what you pay for, and if you buy from a quality breeder that breeds dogs for tempermant. If someone is giving them away for free, it may be because they were an accident and the father might not even be owned by the breeder.   That means you won’t necessarily know the background or any medical conditions that could be inherited.  There is NOTHING wrong with that and I am a huge supporter of rescuing and adopting dogs, but some people aren't able to handle a dog that may not be  

2. Initial Cost if adopted.
Adoption dogs usually have a small fee and it can cover the costs of a spay/neuter and their initial shots. However sometimes there's a non-monetary price to pay when adopting a dog, so make sure you do your research about each dog and read why they are there, and how their behavior has been. I’ll get to the other details with rescue dogs later. Adopting a dog is GREAT to give it a home, just make SURE you are ready because it’s a TERRIBLE thing to adopt a dog, and then end up giving it up down the road. No animal deserves to be in a shelter, so let’s keep them out of there and give them great homes where they WON’T be surrendered.
Sofa Covers, Doggie Blankets, and Steps are a common site in a dog owner's house

3. Sacrificing Luxuries in Your Everyday Life
I don’t even remember what it’s like to come home and go straight to your computer, sit down, and watch TV right away.  Taking a nap the second you walk in the door, what's that? When I walk in the door, I have 4 dogs dancing and yipping at me, that immediately need taken out to the bathroom, fed, monitored so no one steals food, taken out again to go number 2, and then tidied up after if they make a mess. I don’t just do this because I love them; I do it because it’s what's right.   Would you come home to a crying baby and leave it in it’s crib for 20 minutes so you can nap? No, you would tend to it right away. That’s the same for a dog.
Another luxury is the ability to stay somewhere overnight last minute whenever you please. When you own a dog, you need to make sure you are there to feed it in the morning, and let it out as often as possible . If you can’t accept that responsibility, then you certainly aren’t ready. Also, sleeping in isn’t as common when you have a dog that needs to go out or be fed.
And if you have expensive decor or other items in your home, you better be willing to dog-proof the place or make sure you get the breed that's best fit for your living situation.   
Here are some things you’ll find in a dog proof home, like mine:
  • No food or plates ANYWHERE but on a table
  • No books close to the ground
  • No piles of laundry
  • No shoes sitting out of a closet
  • No trash cans without a lid or being elevated
Be prepared and accept that while you have to live a more cautious lifestyle, you get the great joy of having a furry companion by your side!

Tired Puppy

4. Initial Care Costs
When you first get a dog, it’s important to get them to the Veterinarian for an initial checkup and get them in the system.  I don’t know about your vet, but I know the prices for mine and I don’t care if some people can get it done cheaper, I like the quality that comes from the great staff at mine.  

Some costs to consider are:

First Check Up:
Appointment Fee - $30-$50
Rabies Shot - $40-$50

In the first year it’s also HIGHLY recommended (DO IT!) to get your dog spayed or neutered. The price will differ depending on the size of the dog and the gender but there are a lot of breakdowns in cost as well, that should always be considered.
For example:
Anesthesia - $100 (that’s just for a dog 45 pounds or less)
Fluids - $37 (Recommended so your dog is more comfortable and healthy waking up)
Blood work - $50 (optional in most cases but a good idea so you know the true health of your new dog)
Spay/neuter - $100-$200 (it’s usually more expensive for females b/c it’s more invasive)

Poor Rocky had a small bump removed from his noggin.  He looks like a football head!

5. Ongoing Care Costs
Generally, a dog needs to visit the vet once a year to get their regular vaccination. Rabies shots are every 3-5 years. Regardless, here’s a basic breakdown of yearly costs for owning a dog.
Health Checkup Office Visit: $30-$40
And here is a breakdown of some other expenses that you may need over the years:
Dental cleaning:$200-300 (generally once or twice in a dog’s lifetime)
Flea and Tick treatments: $100-$200 a year (6-12 treatments)
Sick dog checkup and meds: $100
Emergency Vet Visit Appointment Charge: $75-$100

Even at the age of 21 I was responsible enough to own 2 dogs

6. Maintenance
A dog needs money invested in it in order to stay healthy and happy.  
Grooming: You can either pay to have it done, or make sure you take the time and patience to do it yourself with monthly bathing, nail trimmings, teeth brushing, hair clippings, etc. Also, the Furminator is a great brush so that your dog sheds less and there’s less hair around your home.
Proper Exercise to stay in shape: You should play with (fetch for example) or walk your dog at least once a day. 

7. Proper Diet Knowledge and Cost
Sure, you can feed your dog any old food from the grocery store, but they will have a better quality of life if fed a proper nutritious diet.  I feed my dogs Blue Buffalo which is all natural. It may cost more than a crappy bag at the grocery store but it lasts longer because it’s more nutritionally dense. So the cost of dog food can range anywhere from $20-$50 a month for one dog.

You can’t just get a dog and expect it to be over and done with. You have to consider training ($100 at Petsmart), time spent practicing, the efforts and patience needed for potty training, correcting bad behavior, and socializing your dog so it can safely interact with other animals and people. There are correct and incorrect ways to discipline a dog, for example rubbing it’s nose in its poo or pee IS NOT OKAY! Always read up on proper discipline tips and tricks and make sure you invest in training. It works wonders, I promise you! Also, be prepared for accidents in the house. Your dog is learning, just like a baby does, so you can’t expect them to get it right in the beginning.
Another thing to consider is the hardships of the first few days with a puppy. They will cry when you leave them alone but you HAVE to stand strong and not give in so they can learn that crying won't work.  Every dog needs to see that their master WILL come home, will be there in the morning, and won't abandon them.  If you end up spoiling and babying a dog, you’ll regret it down the road!

The rewarding appreciation in the eyes of a rescued dog

9. Emotional Attachment
This isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s something that you need to make sure you can handle. The price we pay for getting to share our lives with beautiful creatures like dogs is that their lifespan is less than that of a human.  Selfless love is very necessary especially in the end.   When the "TIME" comes, are you able to make a good decision to benefit your dog rather than fulfill your own selfish needs of not having to say goodbye yet?   Once you experience the loss of a pet, you’ll understand (hopefully) that it’s still a worthwhile investment for your heart to own a pet, regardless of how sad you’ll be someday. I know some people are afraid to own a pet ever again after they experience the loss. 

Baby Pixie and her bear in bed

Adult Pixie still lounging in bed with her bear

10. Commitment
Owning a dog is a lifetime commitment, for the lifetime of the dog of course. Consider everything you can when making the initial decision, such as:
  • Can you keep this dog in an apartment?
  • Can you hold on to it through a move, job loss, or new baby?
  • Does this breed fit my lifestyle?
  • Can I manage to clean up poop, pee, vomit, and who knows what else?
  • Can I afford the upkeep for this dog?
  • Do I have enough spare time to properly devote to this dog?
I truly hope this information helps you make a responsible decision when it comes to bringing a dog into your life.  
What other things should be considered?  And what stories do you have of the decision to share your life with a furry friend?

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  1. What a helpful post! These are definitely some great points to consider. I love that you are a dog lover!

  2. great advice. I would also say have a "rainy day fund" or consider a Care Credit Card or something dedicated only to vet care. $2000 emergency vet bills are not fun. :)

  3. I love this post and the photos! Your pups are beyond adorable!

  4. I am a dog lover too and I own too. It's true that people need to research the type of dog they get or you both may end up very disappointed. I have been very lucky with my dogs and I know that is in part because I did my homework. When my husband and I got married he had a Labordoodle and I had a Corgi. Our dogs had a hard time at first adjusting to one another.


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