A Dog Is For Life Not For Christmas

A very good neighbor dropped in yesterday for a coffee. Or at least I thought that was it. In fact she was so upset that she was in tears before the coffee had even brewed. Thinking that her husband must have run off with the particularly buxom waitress at our local diner, he and his buddies endlessly discuss this lady's virtues, and I am always amazed at their tendency to confuse ambition with ability, but I digress. I gave her my full attention. I sat down and comforted her, expecting all to be revealed.

The tears dried up instantly and I got a complete mouthful of the angriest language that I have ever heard this mild lady use. Fortunately it wasn't directed at me, but I am now very impressed by her, shall we say 'streetwise' vocabulary. What had made her so mad was a very sad case of the utmost cruelty to a dog. At this point I was firmly on the bandwagon too, and the air was blue around us. This brings me round to something I have a real bee in my bonnet about. And that's the lack of thought that many people give to choosing a dog.

My neighbor works for the local RSPCA (Royal Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals in the UK). She works principally with the dogs that they rescue and take in. I probably shouldn't be, me being rather more senior in years than junior now, but I am always astonished at the reasons why people abandon their dogs or decide that they just can't keep them anymore. Now I'm not talking about the genuine reasons, such as an old person falling too ill to care for a pet.

I mean the blatantly selfish reasons that some people find acceptable and which I, on my high horse, clearly DO NOT. My poor friend has to rehome as many of these poor friendless dogs as she can. I am very happy to say that Stalin's interrogation techniques couldn't be more impressive than hers when it comes to making sure that these unfortunates do not end up being discarded again. I am pleased to say that getting a dog away from her tender care is not for the faint hearted.

A dog can be a wonderful addition to your family, as long as everyone is prepared to put in the time and effort required. So many people think a puppy would make a wonderful present for their children, only to forget about them once the novelty has worn off. A very popular excuse for being unable to keep a dog is 'I didn't realize he was going to get that big' well Der. He was born with those big paws, and he is a GSD, didn't that give you a bit of a clue. Honestly, I know I don't have a lot of patience with some people but they really do take the biscuit when they have checked out the breed, seen how big they grow and it STILL comes as a surprise.

Ok, I'm going to calm down now. Before you make the leap and introduce a new pet to your family make sure you know what to expect and that you're prepared for all the consequences of bringing a new family member into your home. Let's look at some of the things you should consider before you take the step of picking your puppy or dog. Who is going to be responsible. It's all well and good to tell your children that the new puppy is theirs to care for, but remember, the first time they have to choose between picking up after it and hangin' out with their friends you know there's going to be a problem.

So if there is no one prepared to step in and look after the animal on a regular basis perhaps rethinking the gift would be a good idea. Do you have room for it. The type of home you live in and what type of backyard you have, will be a major factor in both deciding on what type of dog you should get. Add to this whether or not you're prepared to exercise the dog, if you don't have the room to let it run free in the backyard.

If you can't supply the room for a dog to run or are not willing to exercise them on a regular basis then a dog is not right for you. Are you a neat freak. No matter how well prepared you are, or how well you train your dog is, there will be accidents. These can range from the normal potty training problems to digging up your prize garden, chewing your new shoes, or shedding their hair on your sofa. If you're not ready to put up with any of the above at some stage of the dog's life then perhaps a dog is not right for you.

Can you afford it. Caring for a dog means more than just paying for its meals. While dinner time scraps are a common food source, they need more than that. A well balanced diet is essential throughout their life, but particularly when they are young and still growing.

Food is not the only cost though. There are also the worm tablets, vet bills, registration fees and other costs associated with caring for your pet. If you are struggling to pay your bills now you shouldn't add to those costs. All too often it's the animal that misses out on what it needs. What about it's training.

Funnily enough, dogs don't come 'pre trained' unless you are very lucky, that is. An untrained dog will be a nuisance, a hazard to himself and to humans and other dogs. If you haven't got the patience to train a dog then either get an older one who already has some manners, or don't get one at all. Not knowing how to train a dog will be no barrier to a keen dog lover because they will either take the dog to classes or learn how to train the dog themselves. And finally, Time, do you have enough.

Please don't get a dog if you don't plan to spend anytime with it. Ignoring it and leaving it alone for long periods of time will bring problems as it feels bored and is unable to develop a loving relationship with you. A dog is a sociable animal that needs company preferably human, and if you can't give a dog any time then please don't get one. These are just a few things to bear in mind when you're thinking about getting a new dog, or any new pet, come to that. If you now understand some of what is expected when you get a new dog, and you decide you still do want a dog, then yes go ahead. Provided of course you can fulfill one other key requirement.

Being prepared to offer lots of love, caring and patience. The undivided loyalty, love and affection you will get back from your dog are the greatest gifts you can ever have.

Debbie Boffa is a fully trained dog lover, and with a dog like Arnie, a stunningly beautiful Briard from a dog rescue, her training skills have really been put to the test. For her 'Top 10 Free Training Tips' that will create peace in your household, sign up at


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