Getting a puppy is a lot like having a baby. You can spend hours just gazing at their adorable faces. Strangers stop you in the street to coo over them. But then there’s the mess, the constant need for attention, the systematic destruction of your home…
I should know. I often like to joke that I have three children. There are the two sons I gave birth to and then there’s my ‘problem eldest child’ – a naughty cocker spaniel called Alfie.
Alfie came on the scene a year before the kids. On the plus side, a year in his company made having children seem easy. On the minus side, trying to deal with a newborn and an excitable one-year-old dog barely out of the puppy stage would have frazzled the nerves of Mother Theresa.
So is having a puppy the right thing for you? Have a look at the questions I wished I’d asked myself.
Am I at the right stage in my life to get a puppy?
If having a family is even on the distant horizon for you, it might be a good idea to delay buying a puppy until you’ve had the kids. You may be lucky and end up with a dog that is fantastic with children, but there’s no way of knowing that, and you’ll inevitably be nervous of how he will react.
Having a dog before having children certainly makes life harder than it needs to be. The sight of a heavily pregnant woman trying to catch a spaniel in full pursuit of a squirrel may look funny, but is no laughing matter if you’re the woman in question.
Even if your children have already grown up, you should still take a close look at your lifestyle to make sure a dog would suit you. If you’ve got a demanding career or other commitments, like elderly parents to take care of, you just may not have the time to take care of a puppy.
Why do I want a dog?
You may be imagining years of loyal companionship and long walks in the countryside with your dog. In reality, he will have a personality of his own. Our dog spends much of his time studiously ignoring us. And long walks? He pulls in every direction other than the one you actually want to go in, making you wish you’d left him at home.
If it’s your kids who want a dog, think twice about giving in to the pestering. A puppy is a huge commitment, so make sure getting one is something you want to do too, as chances are you’ll be the one walking, feeding and clearing up the mess.
Take a tip from Michelle Obama. “Even though the kids are supposed to do a lot of the work, I’m still up at 5:15 a.m., taking my dog out,” she said of Bo, her Portuguese water pup. “So for everyone who has a child asking for a puppy — you have to want the dog, as I do.”
Can I afford it?
While the initial cost of buying a puppy, particularly if you want a pedigree dog, may be the most significant one-off payment you make, caring for a dog is not cheap. According to a recent survey, the average lifetime cost of owning a dog is just under £17,000. Costs such as food, vet’s bills, or paying for their care if you go abroad can mount up – though you can help to protect your dog with dog insurance.
Do I like my carpet?
Housebreaking accidents aside, dogs can be destructive, chewing up your soft furnishings and expensive shoe collections. Even when they’re out of the chewing phase, the fact of life is that even clean dogs can come with that unmistakeable doggy aroma which may distress you if you’re particularly house-proud.
What can I offer a dog?
Finally, remember that owning a dog is very much a two-way thing. Make sure you have something you can offer the dog, too. Aside from meeting basic needs of food and shelter, remember all the other things that keep dogs happy and healthy such as training, loving companionship and lashings of the thing he craves most – your attention.
This is a sponsored post by guest blogger Tamsin McCahill on behalf of Sainsbury’s Bank.