Animal behaviour expert Karen Wild discusses what you need to consider if you are getting a pet
Adding a furry friend to your household is a big decision, and it’s important to understand the responsibilities and commitment involved.
In the United Kingdom, there are currently over 12 million households that own a pet, with dogs being the most popular pet of all. (Cats are on the increase in this statistic by the way!)
The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) estimate it can cost up to £30,000 to care for a dog throughout their lifetime. This cost includes food, veterinary bills, and general supplies.
If you have a dog with inherited health issues (e.g. pugs, bulldogs and so on, amongst others), expect that cost to rise dramatically. Always make sure you know your dog will be healthy!
In addition to the financial cost, owning a dog requires a significant amount of time and effort. The RSPCA recommends that dogs need at least two hours of exercise per day, including walks and playtime. They also need regular veterinary check-ups, vaccinations, and grooming which in today’s busy family life is more like having a new baby to care for (and in my view, similar to one that doesn’t develop past toddlerhood but is faster and a lot furrier).
It’s crucial to find a dog that fits your household’s lifestyle and energy level. Most people simply look at breed, but this can be a big mistake. You must be prepared for your dog to have their own specific needs and they will not be automatically a ‘good family dog’.
Be clinical about this decision, as this is for the entire dog’s life and a great deal of yours. Breed stereotypes aren’t always accurate, and individual dog personalities can vary greatly.
The Dogs Trust advises adopting from a reputable shelter or rescue centre, as they will have provided medical and behavioural assessments for the dog.
Ensure that their advisors are qualified – a vet and a clinical animal behaviourist both hold specific qualifications for this important task.
So let’s not take a rose-tinted view, but be realistic. Owning a dog requires a significant commitment of time, effort, and finances. However, with proper planning and attention, the rewards of having a loyal and loving companion are well worth it.
Take the time to research different litters (and don’t rely on breed to tell you what your dog will be like, because this is not a guarantee.
Adopt from a reputable shelter who have a team of qualified clinical animal behaviourists who will assess the dogs in their care. Finally, start with a commitment to your future dog’s care and well-being.
With effort at this early stage, your new furry friend will become an integral part of your household – and will save you a lot more effort later on.
Next week we will look at what happens when you bring your dog home, providing the best for them in a sensible and practical way.