Is a dog the right companion for you?
When we talk about dogs being our best friend, there are thousands of years of experience of this unique partnership to back up the claim but taking on a dog is a long term and expensive commitment – both in terms of money and time – and, however attractive the thought, it really isn’t right for everybody.
Dogs are great companions and our relationship with them is mutually beneficial. Their capacity for unconditional love enables them to share our lives’ highs and lows. Research shows that living with a dog is beneficial to our health. However, before making the commitment to share your life with a dog, here are some things to consider:
- Lifestyle – Creating a bond with your dog can be enormously rewarding and this involves a lot of compromise, commitment and time. Realistically, if you expect a dog to fit seamlessly into your existing lifestyle you will not be meeting the basic needs of your dog, and hence, the relationship between you and your dog will not be mutually beneficial. The rewards from living together will come from seeing your dog thrive, and that will only happen if you make compromises to your lifestyle.
- Commitment – The commitment to share your life with a dog should be regarded as a ‘contract’ that you undertake to ensure the wellbeing of your dog throughout their lifetime – which could easily be up to fifteen years or more. On top of regular feeding and providing fresh water, every dog needs the opportunity to be autonomous and act upon their natural instincts be that exercise off the lead, time to sniff, play, chew, and adequate rest.
People may think it is acceptable to leave a dog for several hours at a time, every day while they were at work but we now know that that can cause significant stress in the dog. Unless you can regularly provide the interaction and level of exercise that your dog requires or can make adequate arrangements for other responsible people to spend quality time with your dog during the day, it may be that having a dog is not right for you – or the dog.
- Health care – Your dog will need veterinary care on top of regular health checks and vaccinations, and an older or unwell dog is likely to demand more investment in terms of your time, let alone cash. Veterinary fees are expensive and dog insurance is the only way that most people can guarantee to meet future veterinary bills.
- Financial cost – It will help if you take the time to set out a budget to allow for expected and unexpected costs which include feeding, comfortable bedding, toys, veterinary fees, and possibly dog insurance.
- Holidays – Will you be able to take your dog with you – safely and comfortably – or will you need to consider a friend/relative, dog sitter or boarding kennel which may incur significant costs.
If, having considered all these factors, you still believe that a dog is the right companion for you then welcome to the worldwide group of people who enjoy sharing their lives with their dog.
If you decide that you want to share your life with a dog, what is the next step?
Just like people, each dog has its own personality and this can vary enormously between individuals and between breeds. Some dogs need far more exercise than others, some shed their coats heavily, some hardly at all, some will have a strong guarding instinct which can cause difficulties while others will greet an absolute stranger as if they were an old friend. Most breeds have certain character traits, but these are more of a guideline as to how your dog might turn out than anything more rigid – or reliable.
To explore this further, please read Choosing a dog to share your life with.
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