Guest Column: Are you ready for a dog?

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 27, 2018

By Michelle Nelson

Michelle Nelson is the owner of  The Pet Authority in Albert Lea.

Michelle Nelson

Dogs are referred to as “Man’s Best Friend” for a reason. They are the first ones to greet you when you get up in the morning or come home from work, they overlook all of your flaws and are always ready to shower you with plenty of affection. Dog ownership is a decision that reaps many rewards from a healthier lifestyle, a more active social life to constant companionship, but to fully enjoy these benefits, you must ask yourself the right questions before getting a dog.

• Can I afford to have a dog? Expenses such as food, supplies, veterinary fees, grooming and boarding are a weekly expense. The price of food can vary greatly. Keep in mind the less you spend on food in the beginning, the more you will likely spend on vet bills later on in life.

• Am I willing to make a lifelong commitment to a dog? A dog’s average life span is 12 years. Does a dog fit into your plans for the next 12 years?

• Is my house big enough for all of us? Is my yard big enough for proper exercise? Daily exercise is extremely important, whether it’s playing fetch in the backyard, a brisk two-mile walk or playtime at the dog park. Cooped up energy results in a naughty dog.

• Will someone be at home for the dog during the day for physical attention, feeding, potty times, or will I be at work 10 hours a day without coming home? Pets need daily bonding time with their owners other than just filling the food and water bowl and being let outside.

• Will I have time to train, groom and care daily for my dog? Training is the largest time commitment when getting a new puppy, from potty training to the sit, stay and come, proper training in the beginning will result in years of enjoyment with your dog or lack of proper training can result in years of frustration for both you and your pet.

If you can answer yes to these questions, then it’s time for the next step: the breed.

This is such an important decision as the options are endless. Lap dogs (daschunds), hunting dogs (German short hair), herding dogs (Australian shepherd), guard dogs (German shepherds), family dogs (golden retrievers), they are all cute when they are puppies, so we easily get swept up in all that cuteness and forget to look at the future needs of the breed. Here are some things to consider when choosing the right breed:

• Size: Does the size of the dog suit your home, car, children and family/friends who might watch the dog while you are away?

• Coat length and type: Do you mind spending hours grooming a non-shedding dog that requires regular trips to the groomer, or do you prefer a shedding dog with minimal grooming but frequent house cleaning?

• Health: Are you willing to deal with possible health issues? From hip displaysia to respiratory issues, certain breeds are prone to certain health issues.

• Temperament. Some dogs are bred for looks, others for working, others for hunting, all of which result in a wide range of temperaments. Always meet the parents to see what their temperament is like.

Finally, you need to decide if you want to adopt or purchase from a breeder. That can be a pretty controversial topic with pros and cons to both. It all comes down to doing what is best for you, your family and your new pet. The long-term goal is to provide the best possible home that your new dog can thrive in for their entire lives.