It’s so easy to do! You get swept up in the excitement of having a cute little puppy, or the kids talk you into it, or you know someone that has a really cool dog and you want the exact same kind. You figure a cat takes care of itself so it won’t matter that you’re not home much and you succumb to the little ball of fluff someone at work offers you (because their “damned cat” got out and got pregnant.)
STOP! Don’t do it! Any shelter or rescue worker can tell you about the endless deluge of unwanted dogs and cats that are dropped off by their owners at the shelters every day. In fact, to give you an idea how despicable people can be, it is estimated that as many as 50% of the dogs and cats dropped off at the shelters as “strays” are actually being dropped off by their owners, who find out there’s a small fee to relinquish your pet to a shelter but dropping a stray off is free. Nice, huh?
Surprise! Dogs need attention. Lots of it. They aren’t born knowing where they are supposed to go to the bathroom. They don’t miraculously train themselves to act like the well behaved dog your friend has. If you leave them outside, they get bored and look for something to do. Digging, incessant barking at noises or squirrels and chewing inappropriate things are all reasonable things to do if there’s no one around. Toy breeds are inherently afraid of children, who move quickly and are loud and sound funny. Did you know if you relinquish a small dog to a shelter because it was afraid and nipped or bit a child, it will be deemed a biter and most likely euthanized? That very same dog may have been perfectly fine in a home with only adults, but once it bites a child it is considered a risk and a liability by shelter standards. If you are a parent and you think you should have a small breed dog because you have small children, we’d ask you to research whether the breed you are considering is really good with kids. If a larger, more child-friendly breed doesn’t appeal to you, perhaps it would be best to wait until your children are older (we consider sensitive breeds for kids older than age eight.)
Contrary to common perception, cats do best as indoor pets, or allowed out only in yards secured by a cat fencing product (see www.catfencein.com). Cats are wanderers and often the neighbors don’t appreciate a cat in their yard. In addition to the obvious dangers of infectious disease, cars and predators, cats are taken from their neighborhoods and dropped off as strays at shelters, or worse, dropped off in the country somewhere. An indoor cat is safe, and if provided with a companion (preferably feline) and a few toys, can entertain itself just fine while you’re away at work. Oh yeah, and the most important factor in keeping your cat healthy and safe while curbing the pet overpopulation problem…Neuter or Spay your cat!
The importance of selecting the right pet goes beyond just committing to taking your dog for a walk every day. Some dogs need lots of social stimulation or they develop “leash aggression.” Committing to routine visits to a fenced dog park can make a huge difference in their ability to greet other dogs on leash. “Working breeds” are highly sensitive, very active dogs and they need lots of exercise and mental stimulation. Activities such as Agility classes allow these dogs to perform a job while creating a stronger bond with their handler. Consider whether you are someone who has lots of energy and does a lot of outdoor activities, even after your work week, or does the sofa and a good DVD call out to you? These are things that will make a difference when selecting the right pet for your lifestyle. At least if you want to make a good match!
If you are a more quiet, less active, homebody, or a senior, the smartest thing would be to select an older, more calm dog, who has already been trained and will be satisfied with just a walk every day. We often meet seniors who want a puppy and we continue to stress the importance of making compatible matches. Consider these questions: How old are you? A puppy will live twelve to eighteen years. How old will you be when your dog is a senior? Do you feel you will be able to afford the vet care your geriatric dog may need? Will you be able to lift your dog into your car for visits to the vet? Will you be physically able to take your dog for walks?
Do the smart thing. Don’t just pick a pet because it seems like a good idea at the time. Do your homework. Ask questions. Remember, pet stores and many breeders are just selling their wares. Whether or not the pet is a good choice for you is not of interest to them. It is up to you to identify the best pet for your lifestyle. The time you spend will be worth it because you will end up with a companion that stays with you for its entire life. You will, in effect, be helping to end this nations tragic euthansia statistics.
Oh yeah, and the most important detail in keeping your dog healthy while curbing the pet overpopulation problem: Neuter or Spay your dog!
And if you are looking for a dog that is already housetrained and doesn’t dig, bark, chew or shed…
or a cat that always hits the litter box, doesn’t claw the furniture, meow during the night, or shed…
These may be the perfect pets for you: