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The Pros and Cons…of Owning A Dog.
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Those who frequent The Blue Honor Blog will be familiar with Shagbottom Theater and the antics of my rescued Golden Retriever-Yellow Labrador Mix, Miss Sadie Sue Shagbottom. I also curate information on healthy pet parent relationships, for those who bring dogs into their lives. Pet ownership isn’t easy, regardless of the pet you choose. Personally, I think dogs are the pinnacle, because of the level of responsibility one takes on. It’s a lot. And, no one should enter into it lightly. Unfortunately many do, because they just think about the pros and that squishy cute face. So, let me go over the issues of which you should be aware.
Cons of Owning a Dog
You never know how much time you have. Many individuals buy or adopt a dog and think they’re going to have years of joy ahead of them. It’s a great feeling and in most cases, you will. That said, you should be aware that just as in humans, there are childhood diseases and low life-expectancy. None of this is breed specific, but it is specific to another major con of dog ownership.
Backyard breeders produce several litters a year without concern to genetic lines and genetic predisposition. These lines can be inbred and they carry with them a higher risk of disease and deformity. Sure, the pups are cheap, and they’re here now, so they need homes, too. However, in the long run, you’re going to cost yourself a lot by supporting this kind of breeder. It’s better that if you’re not going to adopt, that you find yourself a reputable breeder and pay the higher fees. The higher fees are due to the veterinary care and proper handling of the animals being bred. These breeders are not trying to steal you blind. Backyard breeders sometimes charge higher prices, so price alone is not an indication of health and good standing. Ask local veterinarians. Do your research. The AKC is a great place to start.
If you don’t want children, don’t think that a dog will be more satisfying. Dogs remain in the mentality of a human toddler throughout their lifetime. If your attitude is that you can just shut them up in a room and not deal with it, then please don’t get a dog. They don’t deserve that. Your job as their pack leader is to figure out what is going on with them, not put them away until you can deal. (I’m glad you chose not to have kids. That means you understand your limits. I hope you’ll understand that dogs aren’t much different and are likely not for you either.)
Prepare to lose some sleep. A new puppy is very much like a new baby. They don’t sleep through the night, and they don’t sleep late in the morning. The have needs and they will cry like a baby to have them met. If you don’t meet them, you’ll end up with a bigger problem than having to scuttle down to the street or out to the backyard in your pajamas to walk them. And, don’t think that just because your dog matures and becomes potty-trained that these special wake up calls will all be over. Just like you and I, they get sick. Whether they’re vomiting or having diarrhea, which can go for days when serious, one Sunday night before the work week is all you need to have your rest amply disrupted for the week.
Rugs will get destroyed. If you have a carpeted home or wood floors with area rugs, expect to have to replace them. That can be quite an expense. Dog will look for a place to have their accidents or get sick that seems absorbent and like the grass outside. They think they’re doing you a favor. No matter how hard you clean up after their mess, you’ll start to notice after the years, that you detect an odor. Area rugs, of course, are easier to deal with. You can take them out and have them thoroughly cleaned (expensive, unless you do it yourself in the backyard, which won’t be as good as dry cleaning), or just replace them (expensive). Did I mention that puppies, and sometimes adult dogs, chew carpets? And, you thought cats were destructive to carpeting! Again, that should be rare, but keep it in mind, especially if you have that nice wool rug you inherited from Aunt Harriet, worth a boodle in sentiment and otherwise.
Don’t think that they stop at rugs. Your shoes, purses, riding chaps—you name it, are susceptible to becoming a chewed mess. Sure, there are ways to avoid this, but your vigilance cleaning up after yourself is the key. Don’t get mad at the dog for doing what dogs do.
They’ll dig up your yard and garden. Not all dogs are diggers, but I haven’t met one yet that doesn’t try.
They do weird shit you can’t explain, like licking the couch cushions, which makes them stinky. So much for the new couch.
You’ll have more laundry to do. Whether they’re getting sick on your bed in the middle of the night, or throwing up on a blanket you quickly grab to throw under their nose before they yak on the rug, you’ll need to clean that up. They’ll knock into your glass or pull things off tables with a swipe of their tail. They jump up with muddy paws. I could go on.
Veterinary care is super expensive. Unlike humans, dogs don’t get medical insurance, at least not like we do. Insurance that is available is expensive and doesn’t quite cover what you’re going to encounter. It’s mostly for routine check ups. Big whoop! They charge several hundred a year to cover a couple shots. Either way, you end up paying more. It never came out good for me, anyway. Sadie’s last vet visit cost me $200. She needed a couple shots. Her heartworm and anti-flea/tick meds cost just under $100 for four to six months. And you have to keep up their routine care. It’s PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE. If you think you can skip it, you’re endangering your dog’s health and your future finances. Things don’t go away, they get worse. The worse they are, the more costly to your wallet and your heart they become.
Feeding is expensive in a lot of cases. Environmental changes, breed changes, and changes in the produce used to make their food have led to increased sensitivities and allergies in dogs. What you feed matters. You can’t grab a sack of Kibbles N’ Bits and expect a healthy dog. You’ll need to speak with your vet (or, if you used one, the breeder) to see what they recommend for feeding. Then you’ll need to pay attention to the affects it has on them. Itching, chewing, vomiting, redness, breathing issues, etc. can indicate an allergy or more serious issue. You’ll need to consult the vet. Usually a breeder will tell you what they are feeding. It’s recommended that you get a small bag of whatever they’re feeding, and transition to the preferred feed if necessary. Avoid feeding table scraps. Many human foods contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs. We might share 85% of our DNA, but it doesn’t contain the parts that make the same food good for each other. Here’s a tip: Read labels. Onions are in just about everything, and they are highly toxic. See this article for more.
You’re going to have to brush their teeth. This is something I still struggle with. Sadie is a good chewer, and I don’t give her soft food, so I there isn’t too much to worry about. She’s seven and won’t need a tooth cleaning probably until next year, maybe the year after. Regardless, to clean their teeth, they must be put out. This is dangerous and they will tack it onto other procedures to reduce the use of anesthesia. Once their teeth are cleaned, that’s only good so long. Some dogs produce more plaque than others. My Jack Russell was a plaque monster, and there was no getting it off! I had to have his teeth cleaned about five times in his 13 years. It was about $500-900. The change in cost was due to rising care cost and his age. When they’re older, they use a more expensive anesthesia that is less likely to kill them. But, imagine having to pay that every couple years, on top of routine care, and on top of surprises.
Oh, and there will be surprises. Dogs are pretty unpredictable. Not only is their health a guessing game, but their behavior is largely a guessing game, too. Don’t be fooled. All the training in the world might not be enough to ensure that your pooch does as they should in every single situation. Should something upset or startle them, they could take off. When they’re out roaming the streets without you and a lead to keep them close, anything can happen. People are cruel. So don’t expect your neighbors or transient traffic to be kind. And, beware teenagers. They do the most psychotic things for kicks, and your pet could end up the target. That all boils down to expensive heartbreak.
Training is a must. No training can guarantee that they will be completely unpredictable. Even if you can only afford a puppy class, that is a good start on the basics. Those classes are there to teach you what you need to teach them and how to go about doing the training. Now that you’ve had a puppy class, you can figure out via research what comes next. Leash training is one of the hardest, as is come and stay. Distraction is the culprit. Dogs pretty much all have ADD. You need to have patience, and lots of healthy treats (be careful giving them out because you could make them overweight, which will lead to health issues).
Your dog needs exercise, even if you are too tired to care. Blessed are those who have well-trained dogs and an ample fenced in yard. They don’t need to care. Flipping open that back door and letting the dog out for a run is all that is needed. I am endlessly green with envy for a big fenced yard. Recently, I rented a new place with a small yard, and it is amazing to have even at it’s small size. However, in winter, it can get smelly quickly because she’s going in the same confined space. That means bacteria. This is another reason you need to get them up and out. They need lots of room to turn into their toilet. They need to stretch those legs. Honestly, you need the exercise, too! Walking is a bonding exercise. It will not only make your pet happier, but they will reward you with more affection for having gone the extra mile. Walk time is engagement time for your pooch. They need to sniff, see the light, get some air and see other animals. Imagine if you were cooped up all day everyday! You’d be maladjusted for sure, not just out of shape.
Dogs rely on you for everything they need. A dog cannot get up and out and get a job. They can’t drive to the vet or the store. They can’t get their cereal in the morning, or a cup of water. You have to do it all for them. Neglect is not an option, not even when you are sick and hurting.
Grooming must happen. Dogs can’t brush themselves or clip their nails either. Some might chew on their nails, indicating that you’ve let them go too long, but they can’t do the grooming properly. A chewed nail can split and lead to painful situations. Learn how to clip their nails correctly (ask your vet). Brush them according to what is proper for the breed. Every coat is different.
Even though you might groom them constantly, you’ll need to clean the house constantly. Hair will be everywhere. Hair becomes a condiment in your food. It becomes an accessory you’ll wear to work and out on the town. Most breeds shed. If you’re not down for this, find ones that don’t, but don’t expect it to be perfect. You’ll still find hairs.
Fleas and Ticks are opportunistic nuisances. Fleas, once they infest your home, are one of the most difficult things of which to get rid. Did you know that a flea egg can hibernate for a couple years waiting to sense a new host? They can. Females breed constantly. They can feed on you. As for ticks, you’ve heard of Lime Disease. LD is a nasty thing to get for both you and your pooch. There is a vaccine, and I have had my dogs vaccinated. Max was diagnosed with LD prior to the vaccination coming on the market and was sick for quite sometime. Antibiotics can help, but the disease remains dormant and flares up causing joint pain, fever, aches, vomiting and a long list of other uncomfortable symptoms. If you know someone with LD, they can give you the low down on how awful it is, if the list above hasn’t convinced you.
Dogs don’t always like other dogs, or kids, or cats, wild animals, or even other humans. And, you can’t make them. Some dogs are just built that way, just like humans. This can make outings difficult and uncomfortable, if not dangerous.
Research is needed to find the right breed for you. Not every breed is right for you. There are behaviors that are breed specific, as well as energy levels, grooming needs, appetites, trainability, health risks, and temperament. Just because you saw a cute little puppy in the window doesn’t mean that you should take that puppy home. Many shelters take in dogs and puppies because the owner couldn’t handle them. It’s the number one reason next to dropping them off because circumstances have changed and wanting a younger pet. Yes, these really are reasons people give.
Bringing a dog into your life is for their entire life. Don’t be that person who returns pets like a piece of clothing that doesn’t fit, or act as if they’re trade-ins for newer models. Just don’t. Animals are not unthinking and unfeeling. They get attached, even if you don’t. When you abandon them, they don’t understand why and suffer deeply for it. If you can’t love your dog, don’t get one. They’re not accessories. They’re family.
You’ll have to consider your dog in your routine. You can’t go out after work without having arranged care. Remember, your dog is reliant on you for getting outside and eating. The same goes for vacation. You can’t always take them with you, which means boarding expenses added to the vacation. Living arrangements can also become limited. Not every apartment will welcome dogs, and if they do, they usually want the tiny ones. Some breeds are forbidden. If you think having a house frees you up, think again. Insurance companies have clauses about specific breeds that could nullify your coverage.
Death is inevitable. If I could wish for anything, it would be that dogs have longer lives (or maybe that humans be more compassionate toward animals). The only regrets I’ve ever really had about owning a dog is that they do not live long enough. If only they had horse lives—but that, too, would be too little for me. Dogs, when you let them, and sometimes when you don’t, steal your heart. They’ll take a good chunk of it when they pass away. There is no replacing them.
Pros of Owning a Dog
Someone will always be excited that you came home (your dog).
You’ll feel loved, even if science wants to tell you that it’s more about pack unity and getting what they want.
Depression has to take a backseat to pup’s needs. This is a good thing that can help you get out of the funk. For those with chronic depression and anxiety, they can ease symptoms in many ways. (To be on the safe side, I’d have a conversation with your therapist before getting a dog, to make sure you are ready for the additional work, which can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and hopelessness.) In my case, Sadie forces me to get up and out. She gets out of bed whether I am ready or not, and she needs to hit the lawn stat. There really is no laying about until after breakfast, at least. Dogs give you purpose.
Dogs can enhance your routine, meaning they make you take one up if you don’t have one already set, or they make you make room for them if you do. And, it will be the highlight of your days and nights.
You’ll have someone to share things with (so long as table scraps are safe to give, you can pass them on to your dog, but be careful because they can pack on the pounds).
The exercise and time you spend will make you happy and healthier. There are studies proving it.
The little hairs on your jacket will remind you of your buddy, and you’ll smile. At least I do. I also feel guilty for leaving her home while I go off to do things.
Holidays are richer. I love shopping for Sadie for the various holidays. Treats and toys are always welcome. Birthdays matter again, so bring cake.
Training can be a lot of fun. Think of it as play time, not a job. With your research done, you’ve selected a dog that meets your threshold of patience, even though they can all test you at times.
You’ll always have a travel companion. Resorts all over are starting to wake up to the boon pets can mean to them. That means many are becoming pet friendly, so you don’t have to leave your buddy home on vacation.
Your dog will not like bad people. They have a sixth sense it seems about questionable humans. Sometimes, however, they might just be jealous. Still, don’t ignore the signs. They’re highly intuitive.
Ear scratches. Speaking of which, that smell they get behind their ears when they’ve been out in the cool fresh air. I live for it.
Your dog doesn’t judge you for not showering on days off, or even getting out of your jammies.
Your dog is up for a nap if you are, and resting with your dog can make your sleep better.
If you’ve done your homework and are truly ready, you’re going to have years of companionship that will outshine even the best of human friendships.
You’ll have a glimpse into what pure emotions look like without all the gamesmanship we apply to our interactions. That can be very refreshing in a world of repression and mask-wearing.
There may be more cons than pros in my list, and I spent more time explaining each con compared to the pros, but that’s because the cons are so serious. If the pros still outweigh them, you’re probably ready to own a dog, or already do!
Let’s hop on over and see what the other authors put down for their pros and cons…
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P.J. MacLayne says
How about the way a dog can sense when you’re feeling sad and will snuggle up with you when you need love the most?
Captain Maiel says
Have you read my piece “My Miscarriage and My Dog”? I thought for certain my very mushy pooch would be all over me. She wasn’t. My roommate’s cat was, however. Most of the dogs I’ve owned haven’t really acted in that manner. It’s not that they can’t tell your feelings, but that they don’t always act according to a lot of the behavioral (for lack of a better word) rumors around them. I have heard other dog people talk about it, but it’s not something I have experienced. That said, Sadie does seem to be getting more mushy and clingy as my pregnancy continues. I’m assured she knows by smell, but for the most part, she’s not to think much of it. And, that is Sadie. LOL
Stevie Turner says
I’ve never owned a dog, having been bitten on the leg by a stray Alsatian that chased me along the road when I was 10 years old. I’m afraid that episode put me off dogs for life. However, I’ve known many dog-lovers and can tell that their dog is part of their family.
Captain Maiel says
I’m sorry that happened to you. Most bites can be avoided, and should, because you don’t want to grow up afraid of them. They’re wonderful.