Is your family dog-ready?

Updated on Aug 24, 2012 02:09 PM IST

Who among us can resist the draw of a puppy's soulful eyes or a happy wagging tail? A lazy Spaniel or a bouncing Labrador, dogs can so easily make us fall in love with them. Having a pet dog can...

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Who among us can resist the draw of a puppy's soulful eyes or a happy wagging tail? A lazy Spaniel or a bouncing Labrador, dogs can so easily make us fall in love with them. Having a pet dog can provide your family endless joy with its unconditional loyalty and affection. It is a known fact that dogs help relieve stress and are in many cases even used therapeutically.

But getting a pet is a big decision. It is certainly not a cliché when people say it is like having a new baby. A pet demands serious commitment too - not only of time and affection, but finances too. If you have owned pets earlier, you would already be aware of the commitment and responsibility involved. But if you are new to the world of pets, it is important to consider these key pointsand honestly evaluate your lifestyle before you decide to bring a dog home.

Why: The obvious place to start is to figure out why you want a dog? Is it an impulse buy, perhaps on seeing an adorable puppy?Are the kids insisting you get a puppy just like the one their friends have? Remind you children that the cute little puppy will grow up into a big, possibly very big dog. You wouldn't want to add to the statistics of dogs that are abandoned or tied up in the backyard and forgotten once they outgrow the adorable puppy stage.

The novelty of an impulse buy will wear out soon, but your dog will live with you for about 10 to 15 years. That is why it is important that your reason for wanting a pet has to be for the love of a dog and not anything else.

Time: Make sure you have enough time to care for your dog in the various ways they need. It is not enough to feed them, they also need exercise, care, and companionship every single day. Puppies need lots of playtime and socialization with humans and other dogs. Just like a baby, a dog cannot be ignored just because you're tired or busy. It is not uncommon to see dogs developing behavioural problems simply because of lack of adequate care.

Family situation: Make sure there is one adult who can take up the ultimate responsibility for the dog. Caring for a pet is a wonderful opportunity to teach children responsibility, but however old your children may be, they cannot be entrusted with caring for the dog by themselves. Also consider how old your children are. While some toddlers do very well with four-legged friends, some may be too terrified to settle down with them.It is a good idea to let your children spend time with a pet at a friend's house before getting your own.

Puppies have extra-sharp teeth and claws, and chew on everything in sight, including little fingers and toes. The breed also has to be chosen according to your circumstances - toy-sized dogs may be too delicate for an exuberant toddler; large dogs can knock a child over andsome breeds, despite size, are domineering or high-strung.

Also check if anyone in the house is allergic to dog hair? Even dogs with short coats shed hair and cause severe allergies to a sensitive person. If you or someone in your household has allergies, spend some time around dogs to see if the symptoms can be managed, else you may need to rethink your decision.

Finances: Owning and caring for a pet involves substantial expenses that you need to be prepared for.Assuming you are buying a dog, expenses of pet ownership start with the cost of the dog and go on to includeveterinary care, food, training classes,accessories etc.

Houseproofing: Are you prepared for chewed slippers, ripped upholstery and carpets, scratched furniture, nibbled cables, toilet training accidents and a host of similar unforeseen circumstances that can mess up your beautifully kept house? As careful as you may be, an energetic, determined puppy is capable of destroying your precious belongings in the blink of an eye. If you are determined to get a puppy, you will first need to puppy-proof the house completely, at least till he or she is toilet trained and perhaps undergone some behavioural training too.

Vacation care: Do you have alternative living arrangements available for your pet when you go on vacation? This may not be the deciding factor to get a pet, but it is certainly an important one. It makes sense to get your pet gradually acquainted with the 'vacation' house, so that he or she settles in easily when left for a long stretch of time. There are also many kennels and boarding houses that take care of pets for short durations, but be very selective and careful when selecting one.

House space and Neighbourhood rules: Dogs of all breeds need exercise on natural ground. Ensure that your neighbourhood has enough spaces where pets are allowed to walk and run around to play. Also check the pet related rules in your neighbourhood, especially since some societies are very strict about restricting pets to certain spaces for relieving themselves. Choose the breed of dogthat fits your lifestyle and living arrangements.
Foster a pup:If you are not yet ready to make a full commitment, you can opt to foster a pup for a short period of time, till a permanent home is found for it. Organisations such as Red Paws Rescue ( that work to rescue and rehabilitation of stray and abandoned dogs, have such foster programmes in place for very young puppies that may fall sick in shelters.

This would also be the perfect opportunity for you to get familiar with Indian breeds that are smarter, more intelligent, easy to train, very adaptable to their surrounding and climate and hence much more suited for our homes than the pedigreed/foreign breeds. You can choose to give a home to one of thousands of street dogs and pups that are homeless.

It may be a huge commitment to keep a pet, but the returns are immense. Make your decision based on the right reasons, love your pet wholeheartedly and you will be looking at years of joy, fun and unconditional love.

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