Special Commentary: Doesn’t your family dog deserve better?

The price to obtain a dog runs the gamut from free-to-a-good-home to several thousand dollars. It’s not always true that you get what you pay for.

The price you pay in a pet shop is usually two to three times higher than what you pay a reputable breeder for a puppy of similar (or usually better) quality.

Too many folks spend all their available cash on a pet shop purchase and then have no money left for initial veterinary care, a training crate or obedience classes—all necessary expenses.

Remember, the purchase price of a dog is a very small part of what the dog will actually cost.

Save money for food, especially if it is a large or giant breed, grooming (fancy breeds like Poodles, Cockers, and Shih Tzus need to be clipped every 4 to 6 weeks); chew toys (the vigorous chewers like a Bull Terrier or Mastiff can work their way through a $8 rawhide bone in a single sitting.), outerwear (short-coated breeds like Greyhounds, Chihuahuas, and Whippets must have sweaters and coats in the winter or in lavishly air conditioned interiors.), and miscellaneous supplies like bowls, beds, brushes, shampoos, flea products,
odor neutralizers for accidents, baby gates, leashes, collars, heartworm preventative, and other needs.

Pet owners must also save money for veterinary emergencies. Very few dogs live their entire lives without at least one accident. Your puppy eats a battery or pair of pantyhose, your fine-boned toy breaks a leg, your big boy has bad hips, your dog gets hit by a car or beaten or bitten by the neighborhood bully. These surprises can cost $500 or more. Unlike our children, most of our dogs are not covered by health insurance.

But dog ownership is not only a question of money.

How much time and energy can you spend on a new dog? Various breeds and ages of dogs require different demands on a pet owner’s time. In general, the sporting, hounds, herding, and terrier breeds will demand more time in training and daily exercise than the guardian or companion breeds need.

A puppy or adolescent will need more exercise, training, and supervision than an adult dog.

And the first year with any new dog, regardless of age or breed type, will put more demands on the owner than any other time, for this is when you are setting up house rules and routines which will last for the lifetime of your dog.

America has become a nation of disposable pet owners. Doesn’t your family dog deserve better?

Choose wisely, for when the bond breaks, everybody concerned suffers. Make selecting your new family dog a life-affirming act.

(Jacque Lynn Schultz, C.P.D.T., Companion Animal Programs Adviser, National Outreach)

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