A family pet can add a new dimension to any home and is a welcome addition for children and adults alike, but it also comes with great responsibility.
Owning a dog is more challenging than many people think and although the rewards are more than worth it, several factors need to be taken into account before making the commitment.
The RSPCA has the following advice for families who are keen to welcome a puppy to their home, to help ensure any decision is an informed done and the transition is as smooth as possible.
Letter of the law
What some prospective pet owners do not realise is that owning an animal makes them subject to the Animal Welfare Act, which requires dogs and other animals to be cared for properly.
However, this is not the only law that applies to dog owners – there are several that range from ensuring they are microchipped, to putting a collar and tag on them while being walked, to controlling them around livestock and cleaning up their waste. More information is available here.
Is my house suitable?
Before worrying about the size of the dog you would like, it is worth thinking about the type and size of the house you live in, and the amount of outdoor space you have.
Any dog will feel cramped if it is kept in a small room, but particularly a large dog, whereas any dog can become bored or destructive if left alone for long periods of time.
Dogs are intelligent, so try to provide plenty of stimuli in the form of toys, chews and areas to explore, which may involve leaving doors open for the dog to wander when you are not home. Our guide looking at how to pet-proof your home can also prove useful.
Having the ability to let the dog out into an enclosed garden that they can consider their own personal space can also provide a degree of freedom and allow them to get frequent exercise and also a place to go to the toilet.
Keeping them company
Just like humans, dogs can become lonely if left for long periods of time, so if the house is generally unoccupied for long stretches then getting a dog may not be a great idea for the time being.
If you do have to work long hours but have trusted neighbours, friends or family who are willing to check on them and can walk them, it can help to break up the day and also ensure they are getting both company and exercise during the time you are away.
Leaving dogs alone for excessively long periods of time can lead to separation-related behaviour, so be mindful of the ways to prevent and treat this. More information is available here.
Humans are capable of voicing pain and discomfort, but this is sometimes not the case with dogs, so it is important to be vigilant when it comes to their behaviour.
Providing a safe environment for them to live in can extend from keeping them away from steep staircases, to ensuring ground is not sharp or dangerous, to making sure there are no poisonous plants in the garden.
Like many animals, dogs are inquisitive creatures and will try to get into unusual spaces and places, so your home and garden must be free from potential hazards of this nature.
In addition to the above, there are many, many considerations involved with buying a dog, and any decision should only be made after the whole family has been consulted and you have fully explored the possibilities.
The average age of a dog is around 12 years, but many live for several years longer than that, which provides a significant long-term commitment. Potential vet bills, insurance, food costs, toys, pampering and other financial considerations are all factors that must be taken into account.
If you are getting a puppy, bear in mind that they are far more challenging than older dogs and will require more attention and effort. Also be prepared for items to be damaged or broken while they get used to their surroundings and become toilet trained.
Ultimately, dog ownership is immensely rewarding, but any potential owner needs to be aware of the commitment involved and the environment that the dog will require. Unfortunately, some families may find that their circumstances are just not suitable for owning a dog at the moment.
However, if you can follow the above advice and feel that you are in a position to get a family pet, then enquire about owning a dog and see if you can welcome a four-legged friend to your home.
The RSPCA offers advice on how to care for a variety of pets. Visit the website to find out more about which pets may be the most suitable for your family: http://www.rspca.org.uk/home.