Not Just for Xmas
As a volunteer instructor at a local dog club, I’m often asked for advice on choosing a dog. A common misconception among prospective dog owners is that the main concern is matching a dog to your living area.
People who live in flats tell me they’re contemplating a small dog. These dogs tend to be highly energetic and yappy. Not a good combination for flat dwellers and their neighbours.
Others with big backyards will say they’re thinking of a larger dog. Left alone in the backyard, these dogs soon demonstrate how destructive a bored dog can be.
It’s lifestyle, not living area that should determine whether you buy a dog. Regardless of size, dogs need a lot of attention. In addition to regular exercise, play and training, dogs need a commitment that borders on monotony, but is vitally important for ensuring a settled, stress-free dog.
People seem to forget that dogs live a long time. Playful puppies grow into wilful two-year-olds, mature around five-years-old and then slowly slide from middle-aged eight-year-olds into elderly dogs of twelve to fourteen years or more. Dogs are long-term investments.
As with any investment, prospective dog owners should research their options beforehand. Visit a local dog club, watch how different dogs behave, listen to them and talk to their owners.
Above all, people should not buy a cute puppy or adopt a rescue dog unless they are fully prepared for the ongoing responsibility (and cost) of being a dog owner.
Because as my Harry who turns ten on Xmas Eve reminds us, a dog is not just for Xmas. As responsible dog owners, please pass on this message to any family or friends considering buying a dog this Xmas.
© 2008 Robert Fairhead
N.B. This piece appeared in the Village Voice newspaper December 2007 and is also published on Tall And True, an online showcase and forum for writers, readers and publishers. I was fortunate to have three more Xmases with my dear old, Harry. You might like to read the blog post about when I first met Harry, My Good Dog Muse.