So You Want to Get a Dog? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Article by Penny Martin

Getting your first dog isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. Dogs require a lot of attention and training in order to be good housemates and it’s up to you to provide it! When you do, you’ll get endless love and loyalty in return, but if you don’t, you could end up in over your head. If you think you’re ready for the challenge of adding a dog to the family, here’s what you need to know.

Breed Matters

Dogs were raised for a lot of different purposes. Some dog breeds were bred for companionship, while others were bred for hunting, herding, and livestock guardianship. The role your dog’s breed was raised for has a big impact on its energy levels. Working breeds get stir-crazy when they can’t keep busy, while other breeds are content to cuddle as long as they get their daily exercise. If you want to pick a dog that’s a good fit for your lifestyle, understanding these breed predispositions is key.

At the same time, breed isn’t everything. Breed gives a general idea of a dog’s tendencies, but it doesn’t tell you a dog’s personality. You also don’t need to get a purebred puppy to find a great family dog. You can find all sorts mixed-breed and purebred dogs in animal shelters, and learn from staff about your new pet’s personality.

Dogs Are Messy

There’s no way around it: Dogs get dirty. It’s not because they want to track mud through your freshly cleaned home — it’s just their nature! Rather than stress over it, anticipate it. Keep towels near the front door to clean dirty paws, stock up on carpet stain cleaner, make a habit of brushing and grooming, and invest in a top-rated vacuum that does a really good job on pet hair. When you plan ahead, you can laugh at your pup’s antics instead of worrying about your carpet. Sometimes, however, cleaning up after your pooch can require more time than you have to spare. That’s where a cleaning service comes in, but it’s important to determine if you can fit this luxury into your budget. A house cleaning costs between $116 and $235 on average nationally. Also, the cost will also be determined by the size of your home.

Dogs Need a Lot of Your Time

Puppies are a lot like toddlers. They get into everything, go to the bathroom constantly, and haven’t quite figured out the rules of the house. If you want your precocious puppy to grow into a well-mannered dog, you have to do the work to make it happen. Bathroom breaks every two to four hours, daily training, and consistent routines are the top rules of puppy training. Don’t worry! Training your new puppy is the best way to strengthen the owner-dog bond. Some pet owners find that using a training collar can be helpful. Many of these collars don’t have a static shock, and some can even be operated by a remote. Note from MAAN: For those collars that do offer a static shock option, ONLY use after a professional dog trainer advises you on proper operation.

You’re not off the hook when your puppy reaches adulthood. Routines, training sessions, and daily exercise are just as important for adult dogs as they are for puppies. Without enough exercise and attention, your dog could turn into a troublemaker.

Being a Couch Potato Isn’t an Option

Speaking of exercise: Dogs need a lot of it! That’s great news if you have an active lifestyle with plenty of free time, but if you don’t, you may need to use dog walkers and dog daycare to meet your dog’s needs. This adds to your pet care budget, but it’s worth the expense. Dogs who get enough exercise are better behaved and healthier, which makes your life as a dog owner much easier. If you had a bunch of energy and no way to release it, you’d act out too!

Hanging out in the backyard is fun in limited quantities, but it doesn’t count as exercise. Dogs need daily walks as well as an opportunity to run at full speed, play with other dogs, and stimulate their minds. Use a variety of activities to keep your dog active, like playing fetch, going on hikes, and taking trips to the dog park.

Dogs are a lot of work — but so are most great things in life. As long as you’re prepared for it, getting your first dog could be the best decision you ever make! Discuss with your family how you’ll manage the daily responsibilities of dog ownership, and when you’re ready, start looking for your new dog.

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