The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : 7 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Adopted A Dog The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : 7 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Adopted A Dog

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

7 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Adopted A Dog

Picture of puppy
Twice in my life I've owned a dog. Both times, I was so enamored with the dog, all cooped up at the shelter and ready to escape to a loving home, that I pushed aside any serious concerns about the responsibility I was taking on. I figured I'd deal with problems when they happened. For the most part, that worked. After all, you can't worry too much about what hasn't happened. But you can be prepared.

Both of my dogs have given me very different opportunities to learn what truly goes into owning a living, breathing, eating, pooping, thinking, chewing, high-energy, accident-prone, vaccination-needing, attention-seeking being. And while nothing could make me regret bringing home either of my wonderful dogs — no matter how high the vet bills or how frustrating the training — I do wish that I'd have gone into the adoptions with eyes wide open. (And maybe a little more padding in my savings account.)

While I only have hindsight, it is 20-20. I hope that it can help someone else prepare a little more for what they're getting into when they sign up for a dog. Here are the seven things I wish someone would have said to me before I signed the adoption papers, just so I knew exactly what I was getting into.

1. You're going to spend a lot of money. A. Lot. Of. Money.
Whatever you think you're going to spend on a dog, triple it. Better yet, quadruple it. And depending on your dog, double whatever the sum of your quadrupling.

Americans spent $55.7 billion on pets in 2013. We spent an estimated $58.5 billion in 2014. In fact, every year, we spend billions more than the previous year on our non-human family members. Why? Because we care.

The bulk of what we spend goes toward better food. These days it's tough to trust just any old can of ground-up goodness-knows-what. Is it nutritious? Is it safe? Is it ethical? More and more pet stores are offering better options like dehydrated or frozen raw food made with organic ingredients. Honest Kitchen, Grandma Lucy's, Small Batch, Orijen, Stella & Chewy's, Primal, Natural Balance and other brands have come onto the market to offer dog owners only the best for their pups. And they aren't cheap.

Beyond the absolute basics of food, there are the basics of annual vaccinations and licensing your dog with your city. There's also microchipping your dog and getting him registered in search databases, which is a huge step in ensuring a lost dog can be returned to his or her owner.

Then there are the vet visits — not predictable in when they'll happen or why, but predictable in that they will indeed happen. Some dogs are prone to skin infections or allergies or ear infections. Young dogs run the risk of injuring themselves in overly rambunctious play. Old dogs run the risk of developing arthritis, or the scary c-word, cancer. And there's always the expense of monthly flea, tick and heartworm medications. Some pet owners opt to get pet insurance with monthly payments in case of an emergency or as a way to handle expensive prescriptions if the dog has special health needs, so there's another monthly cost to consider.

Then there is the money you don't spend on your dog but you spend because of your dog. Replacing furniture or carpets, for instance. I've had to get a toilet repaired (ball got stuck in it) and a window replaced (ball went through it) and a new fence installed (ball went under it so dog went through it).

There are the necessities like baths and grooming and nail trimming. And there's the fun stuff like collars, tags, treats, beds, crates, harnesses, leashes, sweaters or boots if you live in cold climates, cooling blankets if you live in hot climates, bully sticks and marrow bones, chew toys and stuffed toys, replacement toys, replacement toys for the replacement toys, Chuck-Its and tennis balls, training treat pouches, poop bags ... I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.

And there's the cost of classes. An obedience class or two is a must. But there's also private trainers to get one-on-one help. Special classes for dogs with particular issues like reactivity or shyness. There are canine good citizen classes or agility classes or rally classes or scent work classes.

What if you travel a lot and need to board your dog with someone while you're away? Or what if you work all day and need to hire a dog walker or enroll your pooch in doggy daycare so they get enough exercise and don't tear up everything in the house?

So when I say double what you quadrupled, I'm not exaggerating. You're not paying for an adoption fee, a collar, leash and some food — oh, not by a long shot. Still, all this doesn't add up to not getting a dog. It just means you'll need to do some serious thinking about budgeting for and making decisions about what you're going to spend money on and preparing for that fact.

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