All About Pets

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Things to consider before getting a dog

Dogs are wonderful companion animals, providing their owners with loyal friends who are seemingly always up for walks or games of frisbee.

Dog ownership is rewarding, but it's also a significant responsibility. Before adopting a shelter dog or buying from a breeder, prospective dog owners should consider a host of factors to determine if now is the best time for them to welcome a new four-legged friend into the family.

• Time: Some pets do not require their owners to commit much of their time. For example, fish and bird owners don't need to take their pets outside for walks or bathroom breaks, making them ideal pets for men and women who want a pet but don't have the time to devote to caring for more needy animals. Men and women considering getting a dog should make an honest assessment of how much time they have to take care of their animals. Dogs don't just need their owners to take them for walks and let them into the backyard to go to the bathroom. Dogs are social animals and need their owners to spend time with them every day. Men and women with especially hectic schedules may want to delay getting a dog until they can free up more time in their days.

• Money: Owning a dog requires a considerable financial commitment, one that extends far beyond the adoption fees or prices established by private breeders. Dogs need food, comfortable shelter, toys, and medical care, which can be extensive should dogs get sick. Some dog owners buy pet insurance to offset the cost of veterinarian visits, while others simply pay out of pocket when their dogs have medical expenses. Dogs tend to hide physical problems from their owners, which is why routine veterinary visits are so important. Many veterinarians recommend at least annual visits for dogs under the age of 10 and visits every six months for dogs 10 and older. Men and women should make sure they can afford those visits before bringing a dog into their lives.

• Climate: Where you live should also influence your decision to get a dog. Though climate won't necessarily prevent you from adopting a dog, you may want to avoid adopting certain breeds of dogs depending on where you live. For example, short-nosed breeds, including English bulldogs and pugs, are highly susceptible to heat stroke, as their shorter airways give them less of a chance to cool the air they draw into their bodies. Men and women living in especially warm climates may want to avoid short-nosed breeds in favor of dogs that are better equipped to handle the heat.

• Age of the dog: Many prospective dog owners want to adopt puppies so they can be with their new best friends throughout the dogs' lives. But puppies can be difficult to house train, and that training takes a combination of time, money and patience. If you are not ready to commit all three to house train your dog, then consider adopting an older dog that is already house trained.

• Family members or roommates: Dogs make wonderful additions to a home, but not everyone is cut out for living with dogs. If you live with other people, be it family members or roommates, it's best to consult with them before bringing a dog home, as dogs can change the dynamic of any living arrangement. In addition, you may unknowingly live with someone who has a dog allergy and cannot cohabitate with a dog. Consult the people you live with before bringing a dog home, and only do so if you have their blessing.

Dogs are great companions who can greatly improve their owners' quality of life. But dog ownership is not for everyone, and prospective dog owners should first consider a host of factors before bringing dogs into their homes.