Friday, 19 September 2014

10 tips on getting a dog

In the 2012-2013 financial year 49189 dogs were received by the RSPCA (this is their report). Of these, 17946 were reclaimed; leaving a staggering 31233 dogs to be re-homed, of which 10355 were euthanised. If you've ever loved a dog (or a cat, the statistics for cats are even worse) this is mindblowingly tragic.

I once had to re-home two beautiful spoodles; Ernie and Maisie. My long term relationship ended, he didn't want to keep them and I (financially) had to move into a share house. It was impossible to find shared rentals in (Brisbane) Australia that would allow two indoor (one highly challenging) dogs. It took time to find them homes and they both ended up with very loving owners. But I don't know if I will ever get over it. I am tearing up writing about them and still have dreams where I am trying to save them (often from a flood!?!). When I got Ted I committed to being his forever mum. One dog is much easier to manage than two and he has been treated and trained to be suitable to live anywhere I may need to. I am not making the same mistake twice and I don't want you to ever suffer the heartbreak I did so I put together this practical little guide. I am no expert, there are plenty of guides out there from experts; this is based on my own experience, research and time working with rescue groups.

1. Get what YOU want.
Don't buy a dog for the kids, they will be leaving home in the next 5-15 years (hopefully) and the dog is going to be around at least 10 so plan for that. No matter what you had hoped for, your kids are not going to walk it and play with is as much as you had hoped- you bought them iPads remember?

Similarly, don't make the mistake I did. Even the best relationships sometimes don't last, think about what you would do in that circumstance and make sure that keeping your pet with you is going to be achievable.

2. Match your dog to your level of activity. 
I know you have fantasies of becoming an early morning, lycra-clad running machine; but if you sign up for an active breed and don't follow through with the exercise you won't need to worry about those shiny new running shoes, your dog will destroy them (and every other item you value). All dogs need exercise, so factor that in, but there are options for everyone- adopting a more senior dog might be a good alternative if you are just after a stroll around the block.

3. Do the maths.
Dogs are not cheap to run. They need food, debugging, vaccinations, training, and at some stage you will need to replace the items that didn't survive his/her puppyhood (Ted ate through the internet cable. Twice). Make sure you can afford all of this.
For example, Ted costs me:
Food- $50/month. I feed him a premium food but even a cheap one is still around $40 a month- you need to feed more (which creates much bigger poos...)
Debugging- $20/month. I use a once a month heartworm/intestinal worm/flea combo.
Insurance- $65/month. This is a luxury but if something were to happen and Ted needed surgery I can get it done. A cruciate ligament repair (very common in active cattle dogs) can be $3000, bloat and gastric torsion (more common in larger breeds) can cost $15000. I don't want to ever look into his eyes and say "No, I can't afford to save him". I just forgo buying daily coffees and put that money into insurance.
Then there is yearly checkups/vaccinations and the extra trip to the vet here and there so allow an extra $15/month. That is $150/month. Are you prepared to give up your Foxtel?

4. Prepare yourself and your home.
Make sure your fences are high enough, that there are no gaps for pup to fit through, that the plants in your garden are non-toxic for dogs. You should probably read this.

Be prepared to adapt. The Bookworm's folks have two border collie pups (brave, I know). They live out of town, on a large block and the dogs have plenty of room to run around. When the first pup was brought home, an additional dog-run area with extra safe fences was created to keep him in. Pup number two, let's call her Dora (the explorer), is now about four months old and has escaped more than once. They are reinforcing the fences as we speak.

5. Socialise
Yes, it's important for you. It's also incredibly important for your pooch. Puppy preschool will introduce your dog to other dogs but you need to continue this regular interaction or you will end up with a scared (snarling, barking) dog- not exactly conducive to a relaxing morning walk. If you ever plan on having a cat or child you need to ensure that your dog is exposed to these creatures from the get-go. Too many animals are dumped once baby comes along because they don't understand what the new screeching creature is and get scared. Often fear comes across as aggression (flight or fight).

6. Train the beast.
Different types of dogs require different levels of obedience (do your research) but every dog needs to at least sit or drop on command for basic safety reasons. Ted is not highly trained in the traditional sense but his 'sit' command is almost 100% first time, every time. When I used to take pictures of the rescue dogs looking for homes it always amazed me how many did not even have this most basic command. It makes the dog so much easier to control. If your first language is not the most common language spoken where you live it is worth teaching your dog to sit in both languages. When I found Puffin I assumed she was untrained, turns out she 'spoke' Italian.

7. Desex desex desex
You don't need to desex three times, just the once will do, but you must do it (unless you are a registered breeder, obviously). Forget your pride, just because you want to keep your knackers doesn't mean your dog needs his (or her uterus as the case may be). Spaying your female dog reduces her risk of mammary tumours, removes the risk of pyometra (uterine infection which is expensive to treat and life threatening) and of course, there is no risk of pregnancy and associated complications (how would you feel if your fur-child died giving birth while you were at work? It happens...). Neutering your little fur-man decreases his risk of prostate disease, perianal hernias and perianal tumours; and removes his risk of testicular cancers. Not to mention the obvious- no unwanted puppies. Remember, 10355 dogs euthanised.

8. Microchip
Here's why. I also suggest ensuring you dog is wearing an engraved tag with your contact details. Microchips can fail or there can be a delay in getting them scanned whereas a tag ensures that the person finding your pet can return him immediately.

9. Match the dog to your furnishings.
Unless you are getting something non-shedding like a poodle (if you are getting a poodle or poodle x please pay extra attention to #6 and good luck- an intelligent dog that has been bred to jump high and do tricks is a challenging beast without discipline), think about your decor and get a dog to match. I have dark brown/grey carpet and tiles and a mostly white, medium-length-haired shedding extravaganza. I have learnt to accept that my house will never look nice again. We are currently saving for one of those specialist pet-hair vacuums. Then we just need someone to get it out of the cupboard regularly. Other buying guides don't tell you about this. You're welcome.

On a serious note, I have actually heard of dogs being rehomed for reasons like this. 

10. Consider a rescue.
Most pounds/lost dogs homes euthanise enormous numbers of animals every week because people do not pay attention to #5 and #6. These are beautiful animals with no fault other than lack of care resulting in fear aggression and therefore a failed behavioural test. Rescue groups operate in all major cities (around the world). They spend time and money training and rehabilitating scared and malnourished animals and can provide a lot of information about the dogonality (personality of the dog- get it?) of their beasties, assisting you in getting a pet that will meet your needs. In Australia the website Pet Rescue gives you a one-stop contact point for the majority of rescue groups. As I write this, there are 659 dogs available for adoption in Victoria alone. Six hundred and fifty nine. Ninety of these are puppies. While I am on this subject, consider adopting older dogs- there is a lot to be said for bringing a toilet-trained dog into your home. Ted was about 6 months when we got him and only peed on the floor twice.
Never ever buy a dog from a pet shop. Please, read this if you are considering doing so.

With a dog you get out what you put in and this time I'm not talking about food quality and poo. If you want a beautiful, affectionate adaptable animal you need to spend the time with him or her to achieve that. In the 19 months Ted has been in our lives he has blossomed from a loving but overtly submissive, scared pup into a caring, demanding, joyous, intuitive and protective young fellow. There is nothing his wiggly butt and swooshy tail doesn't help with, yet he was days away from being number 10356 to receive the big green needle.


  1. Very important things to consider!!!! Love this post Nicole.

    1. Thank you Bec. I get so sad when I hear that dogs need to be rehomed...

  2. Such great tips, wherever on the planet you're dog hunting.
    Particularly agree with no 4. I knew what we were getting into with two crazy spaniels, husband less so. He fell completely in love with them and the adaptation is complete but for a while we were knackered, cold, in need of a break (a dog friendly break!) and fed up of cleaning up pee and poop, more preparation needed I reckon!
    M x

    1. You are the bravest woman I know to adopt siblings but then the world would be a sadder place without all the Pete photos on Instagram

  3. How perfect, and spot on as well! xx

    Emily | Lynde Avenue

  4. Everyone where we live gets a Cavoodle. It kinda drives me a bit crazy seeing all these 'purebred cavoodles' running around. My Dad calls them mutts. x

    1. Haha. And God forbid you say to someone "Is that a poodle x cavalier?" They always correct you. The worst part is that so many of them come from pet shops/puppy farms. I see lots of 'Pugaliers' in my neighbourhood, pretty cute, but a mecca of genetic issues- poor things.

  5. this is perfect. i don't have a dog, but when i get one this is the first place i'm looking :)


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