As dog owners will know, having a dog is not just a walk in the park. There are so many things to consider.
1. Poo and Sick
All dogs poo. Usually twice a day and sometimes more. They also get diarrhoea, and occasionally they puke. If your household is anything like mine, no-one wants to clear it up. Why would they? So it's going to be you.
I cleaned up some very nasty looking offerings this morning, after my son alerted me to the dog-retching noise going on downstairs.
Top Tips: Get into a routine with your dog so that it can relieve itself at regular intervals. Always carry poo bags.
2. Vets' Bills
Sometimes dogs get ill or get in accidents. This costs a hell of a lot of money. They also have to be treated for fleas regularly. Eventually they get old and frail and trips to the vet become frequent. Pet insurance is on average £24 a month (I just Googled it). You are going to need to have an abundant source of wealth if you want a dog. I'm looking at Animal Friends Pet Insurance - anyone recommend anything else? Hit me up on Facebook!
Top Tip: Shop around for the best deal on pet insurance and give your dog good food to keep it as healthy as possible.
I'm not a pet professional so I don't know all breeds inside and out, but I do know that all the dogs I've had the good fortune to spend time with, need two walks a day. The length and time of walk they need varies according to the breed. Dog walks are a breeze when the sun is out and your surroundings are delightful, however when it's cold and pouring with rain, dog walking is a real drag and the come in muddy and soaking. Oh and they love to roll in fox shit. That stinks to high heaven. You have to hose them down.
Top Tip: Apparently rubbing ketchup into the fur will get rid of the smell. Obviously you will need to give the dog a good lather with dog shampoo to rinse that out, because a ketchup-fragranced dog is only a slight improvement on a fox-shit-scented one. Some dogs can be trained to run alongside your bike when you cycle. Good luck with that.
Dogs are not solitary creatures. They crave company. YOUR company. All they want to do is follow you around like a shadow. Unless of course they are so psychologically damaged that they don't want to be near anyone. That's even worse. A dog with good mental health wants to be around people. And some dogs like other animals too. But not all. If you are out at work most days, then perhaps having a dog is not for you, unless you can afford to have a dog walker come in every day and give the dog exercise and company. If you are retired or work from home then you may have the idea environment for a dog.
Top Tip: Hand in your notice and start your own business from home so that you can be with your dog every day. (Don't worry, it only takes 5 or 6 years to make a living out of it!)
Some dogs bite. Some kill livestock, or other pets. They don't come with built in road sense. They jump up. They knock things over. OK some are brilliant deterrents for burglars, but from my YouTube studies I have discovered that although they will bark, they won't always defend physically, just make a big racket.
Top Tips: When it's warm weather, don't fuss the dog and don't allow kids or anyone else to fuss it. They can get moody in hot weather and if they bite it won't be their fault, but yours for bothering them.
Never leave a dog in a hot car, even with the window open. Don't get me started - that's a whole 'nother blog.
When going in for a stroke with a strange dog, put your hand out first and let them sniff it. Also check with the owner that the dog is up for your attention.
There are dogs, for example our Border Terrier Daphne, who wish to fight with other dogs. This is not very sociable. We hoped that Daphers would grow out of this aggressive little trait, but sadly she is still very keen to get at all strange dogs, and some familiar ones too. You are going to need a lot of patience and a good trainer to socialise your dogs, and with some dogs you will never achieve a decent level of socialisation.
Top Tip: If you are trying to introduce dogs to each other, always take them for a walk on neutral territory rather than letting them loose on each other in the house.
7. House Training & Behaviour
If you get a puppy or a shelter dog they are most likely not going to be house-trained regarding their toilet habits. If, like me, you believe in force-free methods, you are going to need tons and tons of patience, kindness and compassion. If you are a gentle, loving person then rest assured that most dogs are able to be successfully house trained within a few weeks. If your dog shows tricky behaviour, I can recommend an excellent training expert... Helen Motteram of Social Paws and Pet Professional Network. There are thousands of dogs in shelters needing loving homes. Please, please consider giving a home to one of these abandoned animals before considering getting one from a breeder. The world doesn't need more dogs, we need to make sure the existing dogs are happy and cared for before we breed more of them.
Top Tip: If you have a short temper don't even bother having a dog.
Children can really annoy dogs. They poke them, man-handle and harass them and won't give them any peace. Dogs sloping into bedrooms can annoy partners. If you are in a relationship it may be wise to train your dog to sleep elsewhere than the bedroom, and not to disturb the bliss of sleep until a sensible hour.
Top Tip: Check that your whole family is happy about having a new member of the family, before committing to it.
Many people have pet allergies. This could make life a misery. Make sure the type of dog you are getting is not going to set you off, or anyone else in your family. It would be so sad to have to give a dog back to the shelter or breeder if things don't work out.
Top Tip: Borrow a friend's dog the same as your desired breed to make sure no-one in the family starts sneezing and wheezing when it's around.
You will need to find the perfect diet for your dog. There is dry food, wet food, raw food... so many options. Some are expensive; some are cheap. I recommend Beco Pets ethical dog food. Your dog will also enjoy chews and treats, and must have constant access to fresh clean water. Water is very important. As well as feeding your dog twice a day you will need to leave several bowls of water around for it. We have one in the kitchen, one in the garden, one outside the bathroom and one in my son's room. Check regularly that they are topped up.
Top Tip: Have a big jug around for easy filling of water bowls.
Who Let The Dogs Out?
Those are just the ones that came to mind freely off the top of my head as I wrote. If I'd have done a bit of research I'd have come up with another 90 of them. So take heed.. think carefully. If you do take the plunge, you may discover that the joy of living out your days with the company of a dog will be more than worth all the time, effort and expense.
If you are ready for a dog I know a good shelter that has some absolute beauties in it. We fell in love with Chance at Cheltenham Animal Shelter. At time of writing, he is still there. He's an Alaskan Malamute and can only be re-homed with people who have experience of Malamutes, and no children under 16. Malamutes have some traits that an inexperienced owner would not be able to cope with, hence he's been returned to the shelter already by a couple who unfortunately had to admit defeat.
I also know of a sweet Staffie/Pit Bull cross who needs a loving home too. She cries constantly if left alone so will need to go to someone who can spend all their time with her and have patience teaching her to cope with times of absence.
If you are wish you could offer a home to a pet but can't, there's always the option of donating to Cheltenham Animal Shelter to help support the care of all the animals they take in. Thankfully they don't put animals to sleep, so the harder to place ones can be there for quite some time. It costs a lot to run the shelter so all donations are gratefully received.
Love Sal x