Is a dog the right pet for you?
It’s no secret that people with dogs are happier and healthier. Just looking at your dog is known to increase the amount of Oxytocin, the “feel good” chemical, in the brain. Before taking the plunge into dog ownership, you might want to ask yourself a few questions.
DO YOU HAVE…
Time? Dogs require more time than other pets for exercise and interaction with their owners. The are not generally suitable for people who work long hours or who are away a lot.
Long-term commitment? Dogs can live up to 15 years, so it’s important you choose a pet that will suit your long-term needs. If you can’t make a long-term commitment, there are many elderly dogs in shelters that need adopting.
Space? Some breeds of dog, like Kelpies, are highly active and require large outdoor areas. Other breeds are perfect for apartments. Whatever the size of your house and outdoor area, there will be a breed suitable for you.
Children over five? Puppies are not generally recommended for young children. If your kids are under five years, consider choosing a mature dog.
Other pets? The types of pets you already have might inform your decision to get a dog.
Choosing a Breed
Like humans, dogs have different personalities and with firm guidance and proper obedience training, almost any dog will grow into a reliable and loving companion. However some breeds will be more suitable for your lifestyle and house. There is a range of online resources to help you choose the right breed. Click here to check one out.
Mixed breeds are less expensive, have lower risk of disease and are easily adopted through shelters. The downside is that their ancestry is often unknown, so it can be difficult to predict the dog’s size, temperament and genetic predispositions.
Pure breeds can be quite expensive and often more susceptible to genetic conditions. However, because their ancestry is known, it is much easier to predict their size and temperament. They are also more suitable as show dogs.
Buy or adopt?
The benefits of adopting
Every year, up to 250,000 cats and dogs are euthenised in Australia. By adopting a dog, you will almost certainly be saving a life. A common misconception is that animals in shelters are badly behaved and have histories of abuse. While this is true of some dogs, many end up in shelters due to changes in their owner’s circumstances, such as divorce, relocation or aging owners. The truth is that shelters house plenty of healthy and well-behaved dogs that will make loyal and loving companions.
Buying from Breeders and Pet Shops
If you want to buy rather than adopt, it is critical you verify that your dog is not from a puppy farm, where dogs are bred in cruel and inadequate conditions. Under current regulations, pet shops are not obliged to carry out these checks, so the only way to know this for sure is to visit the puppy’s breeder. The RSPCA has a great resource on what to look for when buying from breeders - Click here to check it out.
Things to keep in mind when buying from a breeder or pet shop.
- Visit the Breeder. Ask to see where the puppies live and ensure the animals are well exercised and cared for.
- Meet the puppy’s parents. A healthy mum will usually mean a healthy pup.
- Ask for medical histories. This should include date of birth, worming history, vaccinations, de-sexing history and known medical conditions of both the puppy and its parents.
- Get a veterinary check. This will ensure you know prior to purchase if there are any obvious health issues.
Introducing your dog to other pets
Dogs usually settle well into their new environments, however the same cannot always be said for other pets. Here are a few tips to ensure your dog makes a welcome addition to your household.
- Find neutral ground. If you have dogs, introduce the new pup in a neutral place like a neighbour’s yard or park. If you have a cat, make sure the meeting takes place away from the cat’s comfort areas.
- Introduce them slowly. If possible, take your existing dog to meet the new dog at the shelter/pet shop. If you have a cat, introduce the new dog’s bedding. This will help your cat adjust to the smells before the new dog comes home.
- Supervise the encounters. When your new dog finally meets the other pets ensure it is for short, supervised encounters with at least two adults. Keep all dogs on a tight leash so you can remove them if you need to. Never leave the animals alone to “sort it out”.
- Let them explore. While two dogs will naturally want to sniff each other, a cat may have the instinct to flee. Let this happen; the animals will work out their social standing very quickly. Some dogs will instantly want to play – this is a great sign that they have established a connection.
- Give each pet an “area”. Keep each pet in a confined area that is safe, warm and comforting. After each supervised visit, return each pet to their safe haven. Gradually move the animals’ areas closer together until they are comfortable living in closer quarters.
- Give it time. Getting pets used to each other can take time, particularly for different types of animals. Keep persevering – gradual change will produce the best long-term results.