Oh, puppies. They're fluffy little contradictions. They can be adorable or annoying. They can be wildly energetic or Olympic-level nap machines. They can be sweet, tiny balls of pure love (with an energy level to match) or the source of untapped wells of frustration deep in your soul (at least until they are housebroken!) In honor of National Puppy Day, which is coming up on March 23, we spoke to Erin Askeland CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA of Camp Bow Wow about the list of questions all potential puppy adopters need to ask themselves before adopting a new dog.
1. Do I have the time it takes to raise/train a puppy?
One of the biggest factors in your ability to effectively parent a tiny new family member is time. In general, raising a puppy take two to three solid hours of a pet parent's time every single day, spread out between the day and night. This number includes time spent on house training, feeding, and other regular puppy tasks like vet trips for vaccinations and basic dog training.
"Puppies require flexibility and time at home to allow for potty training, obedience training, and to bond with your puppy," Askeland says of the time commitment that comes with getting a puppy used to its new home. When they get old enough, they'll also need time spent on socialization skills, where they get to learn how to behave around other dogs, distractions, and other people, like regular visits to the dog park. "Young puppies cannot hold their bladders for longer than a few hours, so you'll need to be able to let them potty several times throughout the day and at night as well. At the very least, you'd need to hire someone to accommodate this schedule during the week if you are not able to work from home, take needed breaks, or have a flexible schedule."
Even once they are housebroken, you may need to have an opportunity to walk your new dog during the day. This can help keep their energy level in check and discourage unwanted behavioral issues. Relieving some of their extra energy can even help with separation anxiety.
2. Do I live in a puppy-friendly home, and is my home capable to handle the disruptive nature of puppies?
While puppies can thrive in a variety of home situations, there are some spaces that are better equipped to handle the tornado of rambunctious cuteness (and sometimes destruction) that a new pet puppy brings with them. If you live in a smaller space (like an apartment or condo) or don't have access to a private yard, you may need to factor in extra time and work to your new puppy dog-training plan. On the other hand, if you live in a particularly large home, you may need to invest in extra equipment, like baby gates to keep your furry friend out of certain areas in the house.
"You can make most living situations with a puppy work, but if you live in apartment, you may be running your pup up and down stairs more frequently than you'd like," Askeland explains. "Puppies should always be monitored, whether inside or outside (even if in a fenced area or inside in a kennel) during potty training and to ensure they are safe. Smaller spaces can work well because it's easier to monitor your pup, but you can also use baby gates and block off areas in a larger home so your puppy is in one area where you can see him."
The other big factor to consider when it comes to the space you live in, of course, is if you rent or own. Renters need to find out first if their home is pet-friendly, but should also talk to their landlord about other costs that might be associated with adopting a young pup.
"If you're renting a place to live, consider any additional expenses you may have to bring a puppy in," Askeland advises. "This includes pet deposits, pet fees, and cost of any damages a puppy may cause." It's sad but true that some landlords don't like to rent to people who own certain dog breeds. It could be a good idea to talk with your landlord before you go through the adoption process, just to be sure there aren't any unpleasant surprises later.
3. Will a puppy destroy my stuff, and can I live with that?
On a related note, any new puppy owner needs to take stock of not just their physical home, but the possessions inside of it. A puppy, and even a grown-up rescue dog, can be destructive and you need to make sure that you're either prepared to sacrifice some stuff to the teething gods or prepared to thoroughly puppy-proof anything you'd be devastated to lose.
This is another area in which the time you have to dedicate to your new dog can play a huge factor, Askeland says, since regular monitoring and redirecting can go a long way toward curbing behavioral issues like unwanted chewing.
"Puppies will almost certainly find something to chew on that you don't want them to," she says. "However, this phase can be managed with good preventative measures like picking up and storing items you don't want chewed, keeping your puppy in an area where you can monitor him, not letting the puppy wander unsupervised, and refraining from investing in expensive or easily damaged items. Providing a puppy with proper items to chew, redirecting the puppy to these items if seen chewing on inappropriate items, and understanding that chewing is a natural behavior in a puppy, so yelling at them or scaring them isn't the right way to discourage the behavior. Ensuring you spend enough time with your puppy for attention, training, and exercise can also help decrease excessive chewing."
4. Do I have realistic expectations about what it's like to raise a puppy?
Puppies are needy little creatures—they're babies, after all. This might mean sacrificing some social plans after you bring your dog home, to put your furry friend's needs first, but it goes beyond that. According to Askeland, it's important to have a human support system around also, if you're raising a puppy or getting used to any new dog, because odds are there will be times when you need to be able to turn to some dog lovers you trust for help.
"Getting a puppy is an exciting and fun adventure, but it can also be stressful because of the time commitment and necessity of arranging your schedule around the puppy," she says. "Until your puppy is fully potty trained and able to be left along for longer periods of time, you'll need to be close to home or have a reliable person to help you out."
Adopting a puppy could also necessitate making bigger lifestyle adjustments, particularly if you work long hours or travel frequently.
"You'll need to plan your schedule around taking your dog out to potty and for exercise, making sure he's not home alone too long, and making sure you have accommodations set up in the event you travel or are away from home for a longer day than normal," Askeland says.
5. Do I have a good support system for adopting a puppy?
What does a good people puppy support system look like, you might be wondering? Well, if you live with other people, be they relatives or roommates, it means first and foremost making sure that everyone in your household is firmly on Team Puppy before you pay your adoption fees.
"It's best to have everyone in your home involved with caring for the puppy, even if you are the primary caregiver," Askeland says. "This is because dogs are quite social and should be comfortable with others in the home. It would also be unfair to the puppy to have someone in the home but unwilling to provide any attention or support the puppy's needs as they arise."
On a practical level, Askeland says, this means it's important to have candid conversations with the other people (especially the other adults) in your home before adopting a puppy, so that everyone is on the same page about division of responsibilities and what to do in case of puppy-related emergencies.
"Because of this, it's important to have discussions on schedules, responsibilities, and emergency scenarios prior to bringing a puppy into the home," she says. "For example, if you and your roommate work different hours, it's reasonable that whoever gets home first would take the puppy out to potty and ensure the puppy is set up in a pen or area that's easy to monitor. This may or may not be the primary caregiver that gets home first, but it's a good example of the type of scenario that may arise."
6. Can I afford to adopt a puppy?
On a practical level, you'll need to conduct an honest evaluation of your finances and make sure you can afford to care for a puppy. According to the ASPCA, the average first-year cost of raising a puppy is $1,471 for a small breed dog, $1,779 for a medium-sized breed dog, and $2,008 for a large-breed dog. These figures account for annually recurring costs like food and healthcare, as well as one-time expenses, like spaying, neutering, and a microchip. All dogs should receive regular medication to prevent heartworm.
The AKC cites data that suggests the lifetime cost of raising a dog from puppyhood to senior years breaks down as follows:
- Small dog: $15,051 (average life expectancy of 15 years)
- Medium dog: $15,782 (average life expectancy of 13 years)
- Large dog: $14,480 (average life expectancy of 10 years)
The point is: Puppies can be expensive beyond the initial adoption process and you need to be prepared for those costs.
"Fees for adopting a puppy can vary greatly, but that's just an initial cost," Askeland says. "You'll also need to budget for veterinary visits with booster shots, bloodwork, fecal testing (for parasites), etc. This veterinary care continues throughout the puppy's life and you also need to think about emergency funds for any future medical issues. Other costs of dog ownership include pet care supplies (toys, bedding, crates, leashes, collars, etc.), food, training classes, pet-sitters or daycare and boarding, and additional cost of cleaning your home, car, and the pup."
7. Do I have a puppy-friendly lifestyle?
While some things, like the pet adoption cost, can be clearly accounted for, other factors in deciding if you've found the kind of dog that is right for you are more subjective and nebulous, like your lifestyle. Ask yourself, is this dog something that's going to fit into your life, or can you change your life to fit into it?Askeland drew on her years of expertise to point out some lifestyle factors potential new pooch owners should consider.
"If you travel frequently for work, a puppy may not be an ideal choice because of the time commitment involved," she cautions. "It's also important to be with your new family member in order to create a bond, develop a schedule, and ensure the puppy has consistency in training. It's also not wise to adopt a puppy just before a vacation you have planned or during times of year where your focus is needed on another project, whether work or home."
Ultimately, whether you discover that the right dog for you is a li'l bitty puppy from a rescue group or an adoptable full-grown doggo from an animal shelter is up to you. Now you're armed with some important questions that can help guide your choice and make sure your furry friend relationship is as perfect as paws-ible.
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