Dogs are great companions. They’re exercise buddies, and a great way to improve your health, and can also be good friends for children. But while there’s almost certainly a breed or cross to suit your lifestyle, do you suit owning a dog? And can you afford to make a mistake before you buy one? Ask yourself:
- What will you have to buy for your new dog?
- Is pet insurance a ‘must have’?
- Do you have enough room for a dog?
- Do you have enough time for a dog?
- Are your children dog-savvy?
What will you have to buy for your new dog?
Before you bring a new dog home, you’ll need at least a bed, some food, and a collar and lead for your new pet.
- Did you know this? The Control of Dogs Order 1992 says dogs in a public place must wear a collar and tag with the owner’s name and address on it, and there’s a potential fine of up to £5,000 if caught without one.
Yearly vaccinations make sense, and you’ll need kennels or a pet sitter if you go on holiday. Some dogs need regular visits to a grooming parlour to keep their coats under control (poodles and Lhasa Apsos for example). And then there are vet bills to think about: vaccinations, microchipping and unexpected treatments if you don’t have pet insurance.
In fact, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals’ 2014 Paw Report suggests it can cost from £16,000 to £31,000 to keep a dog during its lifetime, depending on the size of animal of course.
Is pet insurance a ‘must have’?
No – and yes. Pet insurance isn’t compulsory. There’s no law that says you have to insure your dog, but small monthly premiums may represent good value, depending on what the policy offers.
While some policies don’t cover routine treatments (like vaccinations), many cover unexpected vet’s fees up to an annual limit and offer insurance against unforeseen public liability (things like your dog causing a traffic accident, for example).
So just think: could you afford a huge vet’s bill tomorrow? Or would you have to have the animal put down because you couldn’t afford to treat it? You may pay insurance premiums for years and never make a claim, but pet insurance is as much about peace of mind as it is about money. Everyone who loves your dog will probably like being reassured there’s a plan in place if things do go wrong.
Do you have enough room for a dog?
A big active dog like a Husky won’t be happy in a small city flat, a Chihuahua would get lost in the mud on a farm. If you’ve fallen in love with a breed that’s not right for where you live, you’ll have to work hard to keep them happy.
Do you have enough time for a dog?
Dogs need walking, grooming and training. Some breeds need more attention than others, and puppies will need more than adult dogs. Did you know a puppy needs feeding up to four times a day?
Are your children dog-savvy?
Having a dog can teach children responsibility, but they’ll need to learn the right way to behave with a dog. Children need to be supervised with dogs at all times. Don’t leave a child alone with a dog, no matter how much you trust it – or your child.
However, if you answered yes to all five questions, congratulations. You’re probably a good candidate for dog ownership. Don’t rush into it though, do your research, choose a breed or crossbreed carefully, and remember that a dog is for life – and could be with you for the next 18 years or so.