We begged our parents for five years for a dog.
After proving we were responsible enough by caring for other creatures (turtles, bugs, snakes, hamsters, gerbils, rabbits….), by keeping up with our chores, and since we were consistent with our desire for a dog, our parents realized how important this was to us.
Kippie is one of the most memorable parts of our childhood. It’s hard to explain how much having a dog makes a difference to a kid. She went everywhere with us. We loved her. She was truly special.
Our hearts dulled a little when we lost our Kippie after 14 years. Over 20 years later, we can’t even mention her name without a tug. We know some of you understand this loss. It’s not the same as losing a loved person; it’s different but profound. We can still see her last day with us with such clarity. Remembering her even at this moment brings a smile along with sadness.
Over the years, we have missed her little shadow, bringing light to our lives. Having a dog as a kid forges a bond that seems to stay with you. Someday, we thought, someday, maybe we could have that simple joy again.
Although we often longed for another dog through the years, between busy lives and rarely being at home, we knew it was unfair to bring a tiny life home that would spend most of its time alone.
With changing circumstances, we began to think seriously. We loved our little Schnauzer but wanted something a little different.
Boy, did we get different!
We wanted to make sure we were making the right choice and were prepared for the commitment of time and money. We view owning a pet as a lifetime commitment. If you are thinking about it, please do your research!
There are so many pets in shelters as owners discover they are lots of work, difficult, costly, and perhaps more rambunctious than anticipated. If you don’t want a challenge – pick a lazy dog that obeys easily. Don’t let the cute factor or social media influence decisions – so many dog breeds need a firm hand and mental stimulation, or they will become destructive – not their fault, but ours.
should we get a dog?
We sat down as an extended family to consider if we were ready for a dog. It’s not could we… but should we?
(Printable Version in Resouces Below, and an additional How to Choose Tips)
Does the entire family want a dog? Each person contributes to creating a safe and suitable home for the whole family.
Everyone living in your house will be affected by a dog, so be sure everyone is comfortable with a new pup and prepared to deal with the frustrations and chaos that ensue!
Time, Attention and Exercise
Dogs need a lot of attention. Puppies demand even more attention.
Daily walks, mental stimulation, training, nurturing, grooming – even a dog that is ok with being left alone during the day needs attention before and after work or school.
Some dogs require more exercise, attention, and stimulation than others – a 40-minute walk may be fine for some, but high-energy or high-intelligence breeds may need hours of activity! Can you commit – or afford to hire a dog walker?
Insufficient stimulation can lead to destructive and dangerous habits, like chewing, digging, and even self-harm tendencies.
Will someone be home most of the time, or is everyone out working and at school?
Do you have an active social life? Travel often? Have a hectic schedule or heavy responsibilities?
Dogs are social – leaving them home alone for hours every day can create behavioral issues. They need daily interaction and stimulation.
Some dogs tolerate being alone better than others, but having a plan, such as adjusting schedules or hiring a dog walker, is important to consider.
Life can be unexpected, but if in a year or two there are some planned changes or potential for change, will your pup still fit in your life?
If you currently work remotely and at home all day, will you still be in a year?
Are you planning to move? Downsize?
Would you be comfortable with a dog around a newborn if your family grows?
Do you travel a lot?
Will the dog come with you?
Are you willing to adjust to pet-friendly vacation spots?
Or would you hire a sitter or use a kennel?
Is there enough space to eat, rest, sleep, and exercise?
Where will you walk? Go potty?
Is the yard fenced in, or do you have an alternative?
If there is no yard, keep in mind the pup will need to go potty often.
If you are in an apartment, are there parks nearby or walking trails? Also, be sure to check if dogs are permitted if you rent.
Dogs and spotless houses do not mix well.
Dogs..well..are dirty, messy little creatures. Accidents, muddy footprints, and potential damage from play or chewing are part of doggie parenting.
If you love white carpets, white furniture, and glistening floors… perhaps get some fish instead.
Conversely, a messy house can be a hazard – a tidy house is a safe house. Dogs are curious and will get into (and frequently eat) anything that looks fun or smells good!
Who will be the primary pup parent? What happens if they, or your family, can no longer care for your dog? Is there a friend or other family member who can take your pet, so it doesn’t have to be surrendered to a shelter or rehomed?
We agreed as an extended family that if circumstances changed – someone else in the family would take the pup. We would socialize him well with everyone to ensure that he was familiar with all, making a change of primary parent less traumatic.
No pet will behave perfectly, and it’s important to consider how you’ll deal when problems arise (we have some experience with this…stories to come in future tales!)
It’s normal to feel overwhelmed by a pet with behavioral issues (especially biting), and it’s vital to be honest about your ability to handle these situations before ending up with an out-of-control dog.
Would you stick with training for however long is needed – a year or even years – or would you surrender or rehome the puppy?
Patience is essential – especially when bringing home a new puppy or adopting an older dog. It takes time, patience, and love for all household members and the new pup, to adjust.
This includes considering the patience of all in the house – kids, in-laws, and roommates.
Everyone needs to work together and be consistent with training and care (a little tough with young kids or other pets who don’t always grasp this concept!)
Some breeds are better suited to children than others.
Some dogs are better with older children than toddlers if you have children.
Is everyone (who is old enough) willing to help with care – walks/feeding/grooming…and poop cleaning?
Would you be comfortable with a dog around a newborn?
The initial pet purchase is just the beginning! Vet visits, toys, food, training, dog walker, dog-sitters, groomers, nail trimming, pet insurance etc
The average cost for a dog is about $200CDN a month – depending on health, size (big dogs eat more!) and other factors.
This can increase if unexpected behavioral issues need more training or if health problems arise.
How will they interact if a puppy is introduced?
Are there smaller pets (hamsters, rabbits, etc.) that could appear like a tasty snack?
Do you have the time to devote to training?
Will you pay for a trainer and socialization classes, or do it yourself?
Years prior, we had been at a large party where there was a Scottish Terrier. He was calm, wandered in and out, and mostly kept to himself, except for a select few he deemed to bestow with a dignified greeting. We were tickled when he came over to the two of us and asked politely to join us on an outdoor seat. After a few moments of affection, he was satisfied and wandered off.
We kept that moment in mind, thinking an independent, calm dog who could do his own thing would be a nice fit.
This pup was primarily company for our mom. Important factors included: an independent dog (not a clingy one), cold weather tolerant, outdoor-loving (she is a gardener!), protective, only moderate exercise requirements, hypoallergenic and non/low shedding. Just a few, eh? Plus, she really liked that Scottie from years ago.
So, we did our research. And more research. And… more research.
The tenacious Scottie won.
While we searched shelters extensively, we never came across a Scottie. We ended up researching reputable breeders focused on family pets – we were not concerned about pedigree, just health and coming from a loving home. We were not in a rush but willing to wait for the right choice.
And the call came. There was one boy available.
The Scottish Chronicles Begin!
Do You Choose the Scottie Token?
The Scottie is one of the most loved Monopoly board pieces. It was chosen partly because of how popular Scotties were at the time.
For fun, this interesting Marketplace blog reveals what research reveals about what your Monopoly token says about you – and what it means if you pick the best piece – the Scottie, of course!
*Pexels free photos
Should We Get a Dog?
Questions to help a family discussion.
How to Choose?
Big, small, puppy, adult, mutt, purebred, adopt, breeder… here are some tips to help decide.
And then do some more research…
Download this tip sheet – hopefully, it will be helpful. It includes some resources for searching for breeds online by trait.
The Big Sis