Have you been dreaming about getting a puppy? I bet you can picture exactly what your puppy will look like, where you’ll go for walks, the games you’ll play, the cuddles, the admiring looks from everyone you meet, the adoring looks from your own new best friend… PAWS and think about this!
Getting a puppy is definitely not a decision to be taken lightly. It will affect your life, the lives of those you live with, and of course, that puppy's future happiness and wellbeing. It can also be one of the best decisions you'll ever make – but only if you’ve taken the time to really understand the realities of dog ownership. Are you ready for the ongoing costs, the time commitment, the walks in all weathers, the mess?
Let’s look at the big questions to ask yourself:
Do you work from home, or can you take time off for a week or two to settle your puppy in? And will you be home, or can you be sure that you’ll have back-up (family, neighbour, day care, dog walker, etc) after that?
Puppies are very time-consuming. While hopefully much of it will be great fun, don’t let thoughts of moments of enjoyment blind you to the very real, daily chores involved in puppy training, feeding, exercising and at the start, the early mornings and broken nights.
At a couple of months old (the age they usually leave the breeder) puppies need 3 - 4 meals a day, to be taken to a suitable area to toilet at least once an hour during the day (sometimes more often), and most will not be happy on their own unless asleep. Although pups need a lot of sleep, during the day, it’s often taken as short naps. So, at the start, someone will need to be around almost all day to make sure their needs are met.
Of course, your puppy will in time grow up. Older dogs can be left for longer periods, but it still wouldn’t be advisable or fair to leave them alone all day. Unless there's someone at home for long enough during the day, or you can take your dog to work with you, you may need to arrange for a dog walker, doggie day care or one or more visits to spend some time with your dog and to let them out to toilet.
With a dog in your life, all your plans will need to take their needs into account.
According to a recent PDSA report, the average dog owner will spend between £21,000 - £33,000 during their dog’s life (average life expectancy varies by breed but likely to be between 10 – 15 years).
To start, there’s the cost of buying a puppy and all the basic essentials. After that, you will be paying for food, medical treatment to include regular vaccinations, worming and flea control, and insurance (the latter is almost certainly a good idea as an unexpected illness or accident could be very costly indeed). Some dogs will need regular visits to a professional groomer. Of course, they don’t have to have expensive toys or beds, but these days the shopping opportunities are endless, and you will be tempted!!
You'll also need to consider the cost of training whether it's to be group classes, an individual trainer, online or a mixture.
Don’t forget to factor in the cost of dog walkers, sitters, doggie day care or kennels if you're likely to need them.
In addition to learning as much as you can about what’s involved in bringing home a puppy, it’s important to research the different breeds available. Learning more about them is also likely to help you decide whether to get a puppy at all.
There are hundreds of different breeds. Some are 'pure breeds' and then there are any number of mixed breeds – the so-called Designer Dogs (what we used to call cross-breeds or mongrels) have now become the nation's favourites.
If you want to give yourself the best chance of a finding a dog to really suit you and your lifestyle, it's very important to decide which breed (or mix) to choose. Don’t pick a puppy based on the type you think looks adorable, cool, smart or because you fell in love with one in a book or a film. If you and your future dog are going to enjoy a life-long companionship, you owe it to both of you to pick a breed likely to be compatible with you and your lifestyle.
One of the comments I most often hear from new puppy owners is: ‘when people told me it was like having a baby – I didn’t realise they meant it was like having a baby!’. So, do your research before you decide if you are ready to have a puppy!
If that sounds like a lot to take on but you still want a dog in your life, do consider an older dog from a rescue centre.
Would you like some support with making your decision? Join our dog coach Vicky Carne on the free Are You Ready for a Puppy 5 day Challenge, where you’ll cover everything you need to consider.