by Barbara Rivers from K9sOverCoffee.com
Did you know that February is “Responsible Pet Owner's Month”? What a great opportunity to outline the responsibilities of dog ownership one needs to be aware of PRIOR to welcoming a new furry family member!
Let’s review the most important aspects needing to be considered:
1. Which Breed Is The Right One For You & Your Lifestyle?
You probably have a more or less vague idea of what you want your ideal canine companion to look like. While the color of his coat & his overall size may be somewhat important to you, the more pressing question is: “Which dog breed is the right one for me / my family / my lifestyle?”
Be sure to research the breeds you are considering, in order to find out about their respective exercise & grooming requirements. Then ask yourself if a high-energy dog such as an Australian Shepherd or Weimaraner truly fits your lifestyle.
Unless you are a very active person who loves the outdoors, you would probably be better off with a more laid back breed, such as a Bulldog or a Shih Tzu. Energy levels differ between dogs of one breed, of course, but you’ll get a good general idea of what to expect when adopting a certain breed.
I have a friend who owns two Australian Shepherds of different energy levels. Her male pup Shade is incredibly energetic and very hard to tire out, while her female Solea still fits into the active Aussie picture, but is a little more mellow than her “brother” (from a different litter). Mind you, my friend does an excellent job with her Aussies: She does competitive agility with them, takes them swimming, roller blading, and backpack hiking. I probably forgot to mention a few other activities, but you get the picture.
Unless you’re ready for some intense sporting adventures, please don’t get an overly active dog breed. Without meeting their need for high-level activities, they will find outlets for their pent-up energy, such as destroying your favorite Manolo Blahniks, digging through your backyard, or harassing the neighbors with frustrated barking sessions.
A different friend of mine, Dawn, used to own two Bulldogs who also had different energy levels. Her male pup Atticus (who unfortunately lives on the other side of the rainbow bridge now) fit the general picture of a laid back, a bit on the lazier side, Bulldog. As a matter of fact, he hated going for a walk, while her female pup Ada has a surprising amount of energy for her breed! She loves to walk, and run!
2. Do You Have Time For A Dog?
The next equally important step is to ask yourself if you have the necessary time for a dog. Regardless of breed, each and every dog needs to go for at least one daily walk (their need to migrate is engraved in their genes).
Dogs are social creatures and pack-oriented, which means they don’t do well if left by themselves for too long, let alone all day. If you work from home and welcome several breaks throughout the day in which you can go for a walk with your pup, or have some training or playtime sessions, you sound like a great candidate for dog ownership.
If you’re a stay-at-home mom or dad, and your respective better half works 40 + hours: Congratulations, you sound like you’ll be able to manage a pup.
If you’re a full-time working couple however, then you’ll have to ask yourselves how you would be able to integrate a dog in your busy schedule.
I’ll break it down for you. Say you usually get up around 5:45 am in order to being able to leave the house by 6:30 am. You live 30 mins away from work, which means you’d spend your lunch break at work, and won’t get home until 5:30 – 6:00 pm.
Now let’s add a dog to that picture. Say you adopted a two year old, house broken pug, whose energy level is fairly low. You’d still have to take him for about a 30 minute walk each morning, then feed him, and spend a little quality time with him.
You just added about 90 minutes to your morning routine, meaning you are now looking at getting up at 4:15 am. Unless you are able to extend your lunchtime and come home in order to give your pug some time for relief as well as socialization time, you would have to come up with a solution for having this need met.
Let’s fast-forward to your evening routine. You’ve had a long, hard day at work, and all you want to do when coming home is lie down on your couch and watch some TV.
Simply put, you won’t be able to indulge in this habit once you own a dog. He will be wagging his tail in a greeting manner when you walk through your front door, and then you’ll have to take him outside for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Add playtime and dinner, and before you know it you won’t be able to say hi to your couch until 7:45 pm.
Now, you may have the luxury of working for one of those “pawsome” companies which allow you to bring your dog to work. In that case, you hit the dog owner jackpot. Or you may be the boss at work, which means you’ll be able to make the decision that bringing your dog to work is allowed. However, if both scenarios aren’t realistic, and you also don’t have the luxury of being able to drop off your pooch at a family member’s or friends’ house for the day, you’ll have to come up with a plan B.
You could, of course, hire a professional dog walker to drop by your house and take Mr. Pug out for a walk, a potty break, and some playtime. If you live in a somewhat urban setting, a doggie day camp may be another option. However, both options don’t come free, and will run you anywhere between $100 – $200 per week, depending on rates.
3. Can You Afford A Dog?
Which brings us to the next question. Do you have the financial means for a dog? Besides the extra cost of having your pooch taken care of by a professional, you will be facing costs for regular vet visits, and I don’t mean the ones that arise out of a medical emergency.
Once your dog has had his initial puppy vaccines, he will have to come back for one to two Wellness Check-ups per year, as well as more or less frequent vaccination boosters (the question of how many of those are indeed necessary is a different topic altogether). While we of course hope that you will never be faced with the stress and costs of a canine emergency, it is wise to financially plan for one.
It’s a good idea to invest in medical dog insurance or to open an emergency savings account which is strictly to be used on Fido. Also check with your human liability insurance provider if they include doggie liability insurance (USAA does, by the way).
In case they don’t, look into purchasing one.
The more obvious costs will be for a high quality dog food (the higher the quality, the less frequent vet visits will be!), monthly pest preventatives, accessories such as a dog bed, food & water dishes, collar & leash, and toys. All breeds also benefit from professional obedience training, so pencil that expense in (6 weeks of obedience training usually run around $150).
In general, the larger a dog breed, the higher the monthly expenses. Obviously they will multiply if you have more than one dog!
I will use our monthly costs for Buzz & Missy as an example of what to expect from a financial point of view.
The pups are grown Boxer mixes and get fed a mixture of kibble and some wet food, with occasional toppings of pumpkin puree and veggies such as carrots or green beens. The monthly cost for those items is about $170. Add a few treats here and there and we’re looking at a whopping $200 just for food for two medium-large size dogs.
The pups are on monthly pest preventatives: Heartguard against heartworms, and K9Advantix against fleas, lice, ticks, and mosquitoes. We usually buy a six month supply of each, lasting us a total of three months for both dogs. A six month box of Heartguard costs about $45 (prices vary with each retailer, so comparing them pays off, literally!), while the same amount of K9Advantix is about $65 (again, comparing prices is worth it!). So we’re looking at roughly $110 for three months and $37 per month in preventive meds.
Missy & Buzz are enrolled in medical doggie insurance with PetsBest, which runs at $74 every month.
Those three basic needs alone add up to about $300 every month. We are also faced with the cost of two yearly Wellness exams at their vet’s, which are about $40 per dog per exam, adding $160 of basic vet care to the equation each year (essentially another $13 per month). Again, we’re talking about necessary vet appointments ~ those do not include any unforeseen medical emergencies.
Granted, we have our dog insurance which kicks in at that point, but still have to contribute to emergencies with our annual co-pay of $200 per dog, and 10 % of each medical bill.
So all in all we’re looking at about $300 of basic doggie related expenses each month. There are always potential $$$ add-ons for toys, bedding, pet care, and other accessories such as collars, leashes, backpacks, poop-bags (we do indulge in the luxury of purchasing poop bags now that we live in an area where poop stations are non-existant)…the sky is the limit, really, as far as pet accessories go!
Unless you are a home owner, you’ll likely also be faced with dog security deposits and/or monthly pet rent. We had to pay a non-refundable pet fee of $ 400.00 prior to moving into our last rental home in NC, before making the step towards homeownership.
Thankfully, there was no additional monthly pet fee. We did, however, have to use a professional carpet cleaning service to steam clean our carpets throughout the house before moving out, as well as use a professional exterminator, per our lease agreement.
The apartments we lived at in Northern Virginia always charged a monthly pet rent between $35-45 per pet, meaning the pups had their own monthly rent between $70-90, as well as a non-refundable pet security deposit between $300.00-400.00.
The bottom line of listing all these doggie related expenses is that dog ownership does not come cheap! I encourage you to take a piece of paper and a pen in order to figure out your potential doggie costs.
4. Are You Able To Care For A Dog For Life?
Now, after having covered those questions, please ask yourself the following one, and please answer honestly: Do you realize that a dog is for life? If you are planning on adding a puppy to your family, please keep in mind that a puppy outgrows its cute initial size, and rather quickly, too!
Are you willing to share your life with your dog for the next decade, and possibly longer? How will a dog affect your vacation planning? If you can take him along: Great! But what if you can’t bring him? Who will watch him? Are you able to afford a week’s or longer worth of pet care?
If you are planning on having kids, will your dog still fit into that picture? Are you willing to put in the extra work necessary to prepare your pup for the arrival of the human baby?
And what happens should you move? Be aware of the fact that certain States and Cities enforce BSL (Breed Specific Legislation), meaning ownership of certain breeds deemed vicious is prohibited or restricted (its effectiveness remains doubtful and is yet another topic for discussion).
Bottom line: Thousands of pets end up at shelters every year due to owners who are overwhelmed with their care. Please think wisely before adding a fur kid to your life, and spread the word!
Barbara is a professional dog walker & pet sitter who began blogging about her canine passion in August of 2014. Her focus lies on responsible dog ownership, training, and healthy nutrition. You can connect with her at www.k9sovercoffee.com!