So … you want a dog in your life? Great!! Come and sit here beside me, and we can talk about your new adventure with your new lifelong friend and companion.
This is so exciting! How did you reach your decision to have a dog? What kind of dog do you want? By that, I mean, what breed interests you? Why? Have you owned a dog before? Did your family have a dog while you were growing up? Where will you find your dog – a breeder, an animal shelter?
Oh … you haven’t thought about it? Can you appreciate that your life is going to change, for the better of course, but that there may be some challenges along the way? There will be good times and there will be times when your patience, and your planning and your bank account will be affected.
Let’s start by considering some points:
- First, do you realize that a dog in your life is a full-time, lifelong commitment? You will need to think about your lifestyle and how a dog in your life may affect that lifestyle. Ideally, you want to choose a dog who will share your interests and enhance your enjoyment of activities. Are you an outdoorsy kind of person who relishes a brisk walk on an autumn day, or going for bike rides, or hiking in the woods? Or are you content to sit quietly by the fireplace and read the latest novel by your favourite author? You need to know that different breeds and different sizes of dogs have been refined through the ages for particular jobs or duties. Choose carefully. If you are an avid indoor introvert, you don’t want to adopt someone like a Border Collie – regarded as the most intelligent breed who obsesses about job performance, has endless energy, can reason and make decisions, who thrives on training and enjoys the great outdoors. Do some homework and check out a website like that of the American Kennel Club (akc.org) and read about the attributes and the pitfalls of more than 180 different breeds before choosing.
- Second, you have narrowed your field of choices. Now, ask yourself – “where do you live”? a house? an apartment? do you have a fenced yard? or are you close to a park where you can take Fido for exercise? Dogs need exercise and stimulation. Bored dogs can be depressed, destructive and unhealthy dogs. “Healthy” means healthy in mind as well as in body. Remember, too, that exercise can be good for you too. It doesn’t have to be the marathon, but a quick-paced 20-minute walk twice a day will do wonders for your waistline as well as Fido’s.
- Diet – yours and Fido’s – is important. No, you cannot feed Fido your lunch. You and he have some very specific dietary requirements. Then there are some different approaches to the diet plan – do you want the convenience and the relative economy of a kibble-based diet? Or do you adhere to the premise of a raw diet – yes, raw. Or a prey-based diet – not just the choice pieces of meat, but the whole chicken, or the highly-prized organ meats (yes, that means the heart, stomach, liver, brain) where all the essential nutrients reside. Hang on, okay, take a deep breath, you were turning a bit green. Okay? Now, again, breathe. Relax, you can strike a balance between the two, depending on your timelines, your willingness and your pocketbook.
- And while we are talking about diet, let’s move across to health and doctors. In this case, veterinarians. You should find one who will act as your guide, your consultant, your friend, and who is willing to work with you and Fido. Someone with whom you can discuss options for issues such as the spay/neuter debate, or vaccinations, or behavioral concerns, and who will be available for emergencies. Speaking of which, it would be a good idea to take a canine first-aid course. You just never know.
- Have you attended any dog shows or obedience trials? No? Then go! Watch! Listen! Learn! Ask questions! Then go to the next one, and the next one, and the one after that. Dog-breed enthusiasts love to talk about their breed and their animals. Listen and learn some more.
- Speaking of obedience, you may or may not want to participate in any trials, but both you and Fido would benefit from some basic manners and routines. Why? Well, for sociability, for control, and for safety. Every town has at least one dog group, or your vet (when you find him or her) can direct you to a Thursday night class. And when you have mastered the basic stand, sit, down, stay, gentle, then the whole dog world opens up with advanced obedience, rally, flyball, agility, therapy dog, tracking, search and rescue, and the list goes on.
Remember that Fido will never criticize, or demean, or argue. He will always love, support, enjoy, console, be a confidante and a friend. There is nothing like a warm lick on the hand, or a comforting paw on your knee. He will always be eager to greet you and will listen attentively as you describe your day. He will give you 110% of everything that he has and everything that he is. Be prepared to accept it graciously and return it in kind.
So … you want a dog in your life? Great!! Let’s talk some more.