Puppies are cute. From watching Andrex commercials to seeing them on social media who could be blamed for wanting one. But did you also know that devastatingly, hundreds and thousands of animals are neglected and in need of rehoming every year in the UK.
In 2016, the Dog’s Trust took in 13,197 dogs which needed rehoming, 6913 which came directly from owners. These statistics don’t include dogs taken in and rehomed by other agencies so just imagine the number of dogs which are given up every year in the UK.
We live in a society where instant gratification is possible. We want, we can get. Sadly when it comes to owning a puppy, the same can apply and we see them being discarded like an object too often as a result. This isn’t to say that everybody who rehomes their dog has merely discarded them when they’ve become too “difficult” or the reality of ownership has sunk in, however, we would be lying to ourselves if we said all dogs who enter shelters are rehomed for circumstances which couldn’t be prevented.
So this article hopes to help you in making an informed decision about buying a puppy and give you some realities to ponder beforehand. It took me over a year to get Baxter from when I first started thinking about owning a puppy. I know others who have taken the plunge after a week or month and there is no time limit. But for me this was my first puppy, my first pet even and it was only through that time I took to research, talk to dog owners and really try to understand the reality that I felt I could truly commit to owning a dog of my own.
Anyone can buy a puppy (sadly) but not everyone can commit to raising them throughout their entire lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are currently wanting to get yourself a puppy and are wondering whether you can commit.
It is by no means a “tick list”. There are ways around most if they are a current road block through careful consideration. Hopefully these questions get you thinking about areas you may need to think about in more detail rather than end the dream of owning a puppy!
1. Can you afford it?
This is the biggy. From owning Baxter and being a part of many a dog orientated Facebook group, this is often a big issue when it comes to truly caring for a puppy.
Puppies are not cheap. Monthly, they need food, pet insurance, toys, leads, poop bags, grooming products, worming and vet visits. Not to mention additional costs if you have a job and can’t be home or want to travel abroad without your little one. I spend around £75 on Baxter every month in essentials but this goes up and down dependent on what he needs. For example, if I’m working away from home two days a week one month and he needs boarding that’s usually an extra £120 a month. It’s not cheap, a puppy is a long term investment. For me it’s easily £200 a month I need to keep aside to be safe. It’s better to overestimate than underestimate!
“Oh we can’t afford to put him in the boarders or get a dog walker every day” – this is something to consider BEFORE owning your puppy not after. It is not fair to leave a dog home let alone a puppy for 8 hours straight because you can’t afford the dog walker or meet their care needs. Cost is something to factor in before you get your puppy not afterwards to prevent these situations from occurring. If you work all day, do you know if there are local boarders and dog walkers you could use? Hearing complaints about the expense of dog walkers/ boarders AFTER the puppy is home and using it as excuses for leaving puppies home for long hours as a result is so frustrating and in my opinion irresponsible if you know you will be out of the house. A puppy needs more attention for its first few months and a whole work day out is not humane. So can you afford it?
2. Can you commit to walking your dog 2 x daily?
Okay so you can buy different breeds dependent on the amount of exercise you can provide. However all dogs need walks. Can you commit to two walks (most days, if not every) through cold, wet damp weather?
Baxter is supposed to be a lower energy doodle compared to a cockapoo but his energy levels definitely aren’t low and most puppies are likely to be the same. Walks provide mental stimulation, exercise and time out of the home for your pup. It also means when you do leave them, they can have a nice nap and aren’t full of energy to tear up your lovely pillows! I see a change in Baxter when he isn’t walked – he is expectant of the walk and so I commit to at least one walk and mostly two. He likes routine!
I had to commit to 6am starts for this. I’m not a morning person so it was hard! Part of owning a puppy or dog is to adapt your routine and commit to those changes.
3. Can you commit to never leave your puppy for more than 4 hours?
I work and it frustrated me that rehoming was highly unlikely due to my 9-5 working hours. I feel you can have a dog and work but you need to consider what you will do when you are at work. That’s the biggy.
Do you have a neighbour who would come in and give an hour of their time? Are you committed to paying for boarding or a dog walker? If so, it can work and it sure does for me!
Baxter has been left for 5 hours on occasion but this is rare (say once every few months). If it’s any longer he is boarded or a family member will check on him. Do you have people around you who could help? Do you have a busy social life which would make it hard? Can you come back at lunch if you work? These are things to consider early on as it can get expensive! However it is possible!
4. Can you commit a minimum of an hour a day to train, play and groom a puppy?
Similar to above, what commitments do you already have which take up your time? Do you have a busy social life? Are you committed to clubs, memberships etc that take up considerable time? Have you got family commitments?
Especially early on, a puppy needs your attention around the clock. Even as a grown adult dog, training, play and grooming are important. Baxter is a poodle mix so grooming is even more important but teaching a dog commands and just enjoying some good old fun are vital.
When I work all day, it’s even more important to give Baxter that 1:1 time, partly through an evening walk, by playing games and by training him. It was a hard adjustment at first as I had someone dependent on me even when work was stressful and all I want to do is collapse in front of the TV! (Yes I’m not a parent!). Are you ready for that commitment?
5. Can you take 2-3 weeks off to settle in your puppy?
People going to work the day after getting their new puppy. How? What? Why?
An 8 week old puppy cannot hold their bladder for more than 2-3 hours and at first, they don’t even know where their toilet is! The first few weeks are vital in their training if you want them to be house trained quickly.
In addition, they have just been uprooted from their mother and home. The first few weeks are a time for you to bond with your puppy and get them used to your home! And don’t forget, you’ll be taking them out to toilet ALOT.
If you don’t feel you can take time off, what will you do? Is there someone who can?
6. Can you handle indoor accidents?
Like having a child, your puppy is likely to have an accident indoors at some point. I’m quite the clean freak but had to quickly accept Baxter was going to pee over the kitchen floor at times and yes even over our lovely living room carpet! It will happen. Can you handle that?
Like a child, a puppy doesn’t know where to toilet until it is taught where and when. Are you going to be able to remain calm when an accident occurrs? I never punished Baxter for toileting indoors. Some people do but for me that wasn’t the way. Mostly, taking him out often and rewarding correct toileting worked but it took awhile! But shouting at him, would that be helpful?
There are things which can help such as allowing your puppy access to your kitchen first then adding rooms as his toileting improves. There are solutions to clean up messes. I went as far as getting a carpet cleaner for the cream carpet because it made me feel better! This is also good for those wet and muddy paw days. There are solutions for the clean freaks out there but accidents WILL happen.
7. Can you commit to broken sleep for the first few nights/ weeks of your puppy’s arrival?
So the whining. Gosh the whining. A new home, new bed and in Baxter’s case sleeping in the kitchen away from us all led to whining! For the first few days he would whine when put to sleep.
In line with toileting too, when crate training (without training pads), puppies also need to be let out to toilet every few hours.
Can you deal with the whining and middle of the night trips outside so your puppy can toilet? Can you deal with the 15 -60 +minutes of whining when you put the puppy to sleep each time?
I love my sleep and luckily Baxter settled within a week. However that’s not the norm. Many puppies whine for hours when put to sleep and need to toilet for weeks into their training in the night. Imagine the worst case scenario – a puppy who whines for you when you put him to sleep, whines to go to the toilet and again after you’ve let him out to toilet and put him back to bed. Can you manage that?
8. How will you socialise your puppy?
Puppies need to be socialised from when they arrive home. How will you socialise yours?
Do you have friends with dogs? If not, how will you ensure this happens? I took Baxter to puppy classes and boarded him in a house full of dogs from early on (after injections) for him to get his dose! Parks also help. There are ways if you don’t have friends or family with dogs but can you commit to organising that for your puppy?
9. Can you commit the next 15 years to your puppy
Is your life stable? Have you got milestones ahead to consider? For example, getting married, starting a family, relocation plans. Will your future life have space for your puppy? Will you be able to keep him when you have children? Do you foresee any changes that might get in the way?
Puppies grow up to be adult dogs and will continue to need the nurture, care and finances they have had as a puppy to be looked after. Can you commit to that? The saying “A dog is for life and not for Christmas” comes to mind.
10. What might get in the way of caring for your puppy?
Inevitably life happens and things do get in the way of us looking after puppies. I’m currently completing my clinical doctorate and that means I often have days when Im swamped with work and stressed. Even when I’m there physically, sometimes mentally I struggle to give Baxter his walks and training sessions if I have a deadline. It’s not about being a perfect dog owner to me, but about being a good one who is aware of their limitations and tries to prepare for that. For example, I boarded him once because I had so much work to do and I knew the boarder would be able to offer him the time during that day. That helps not only him but prevents me from feeling guilty about not providing him with what he needs. I also plan my time out and call family to see who is free to ensure he is cared for when I’m out.
So what could get in the way for you? List them down and consider ways to manage these. There are lots of possible solutions but the starting point is knowing what the issues are.
Puppies can mentally exhaust you, do you have the headspace for that? It was far more overwhelming than I expected and I’d done a lot of reading around. It was strange that now after a busy day at work I had this puppy to completely throw my attention to, my routine went around his routine, I had to listen to him whine when I just went to get a shower. The mental side is far harder than cleaning up accidents so are you ready for that?
So there you have it. My 10 questions to get you started on your path to getting a puppy. Have you got any other ideas on what’s important to consider before you get a puppy? I’d love to hear your comments!