When planning to purchase cars, appliances or other costly items we often rely on doing extensive research first. This strategy should also apply to finding a suitable pet.
A few months ago I had the pleasure of meeting veterinarian Dr. Thomas Ryan whose Feathers, Tails, and and Scales Animal Hospital has been serving the needs of a diverse variety of animals in the Westminster area for over 25 years. When asked if he could provide a message to potential pet owners, he immediately replied, “Never get a pet on impulse!”
Without researching the needs and characteristics of the chosen animal (appropriate diet, equipment for housing and feeding, safe toys, approximate lifespan, signs of illness, veterinary care, inherited heath issues, and learning that animal’s body language signals) the pet may not thrive.
Another issue that potential pet owners need to address is if they rent their home or apartment they may need to get permission from the landlord to be able to keep a pet, which may increase the rental fee. Some rental properties require weight limits on dogs.
Another aspect to pet ownership that may be overlooked are the expenses involved. An article in “Money,” stated the lifetime costs of owning a dog are:
- Small dogs with a life expectancy of 15 years: $15,051;
- Medium sized dogs with a life expectancy of 13 years: $15,782;
- Large dogs with a life expectancy of 10 years: $14,480;
“Excluding the initial cost of purchasing or adopting a dog, many estimates of the cost for the first year of dog ownership fall between $1.600-$2,000 .”
Additional expenses for dog owners may include:
- The cost of the dog (purchased from a breeder or adoption fee from a shelter);
- Professional grooming;
- Dog food (between $150-$500 per year);
- Training classes to help socialize the puppy and establish good manners ($100-$150 per session);
- Safe toys, healthy treats and a crate (for transporting dogs safely, house-braking and preventing damage to the home);
- Boarding/Daycare (to help owners who work long hours).
Veterinary Care is probably the major expense the pet owners must face and entails not only annual check-ups, fecal exams, inoculations, and testing for parasites. Talk with a vet regarding spaying and neutering pets which prevents unwanted litters, deadly uterine infections, some forms of cancer and may improve a pet’s behavior (like reducing territorial marking and aggressive behavior). Spaying and neutering may cost between $60 to $800. Low-cost spay/neuter clinics in the area are listed on the Humane Society of Carroll County’s website, click on “Services.”
Unfortunately unexpected illnesses, conditions, accidents, and injuries occur that require emergency care with veterinary specialists in the fields of cardiology, neurology, internal, ophthalmology, and orthopedic medicine. Evaluations and treatment for pets can become very expensive (over $1,000) when a pet is in the care of specialists. Owners may want to investigate pet insurance providers to possibly reduce their veterinary expenses.
Potential dog owners can begin their search by visiting the American Kennel Club’s website to view the nearly 200 registered breeds of that have been divided into seven groups based upon the purposes for what function the dog was bred to perform. Please note that “designer” breeds are not included because they are classified as “All Americans” and can compete in several enjoyable AKC canine sports like obedience, Rally Obedience, Scent, Detection, and Agility.
- Group 1: Sporting dogs include pointers, retrievers, setters, spaniels.
- Group 2 : Hounds include sight hounds like Greyhounds, whippets and Afghans and scent hounds like bassets, beagles, bloodhounds, dachshunds.
- Group 3: Working include Bernese mountain dogs, boxers, Doberman pinschers, Great Danes, Rottweilers, Siberian huskies.
- Group 4: Terriers include Cairn, Scottish, miniature schnauzers.
- Group 5: Toys include Chihuahahua, Maltese, Yorkshire terrier, pug, toy poodle.
- Group 6: Non-sporting include Boston terrier, bulldog, dalmatian, French bulldog, miniature and standard poodles.
- Group 7: Herding include border collie, German shepherd, collie, Shetland sheepdog.
On the AKC’s website, click on “Breeds” then scroll down the list to the breeds that appeal to you, study the information regarding breed’s description, temperament, etc.
You may discover that the dog you liked might not be a good match for you or your family because it has a high energy level and might not be safe for your children or you cannot provide enough energy-burning activities to satisfy the dog.
Also view the Parent Breed Club’s website to learn about the breed’s health and behavior issues that may be inherited. Reputable breeders have their potential breeding dogs tested for inherited health issues and won’t use affected animals for breeding that may perpetuate the health problem for future generations.
- “The Cat Behavior Answer Book” by Arden Moore.
- “Choosing a Dog for Dummies “ by Chris Walkowicz. (Despite this book’s demeaning title, it presents an overview of over 200 different breeds of dogs with useful information regarding the energy level, life expectancy, inherited health issues, if the breed is good with children, protection level, size, weight, and sensitivity to weather conditions.)
- “The Power of Positive Dog Training” (2nd Edition), by Pat Miller