I’ve worked with dogs since I was 16. I’m not talking about our own family pet dogs throughout the years; but as a career when I started working in a show kennel while still going to school. I loved my job even though I worked weekends, bank holidays, Christmas and New Year’s day. It taught me early on that caring for an animal has no days off.
Later, I moved onto working with horses; but there were always dogs about, they seem to go pretty much hand-in-hand. I once puppy-walked three cute Bloodhound puppies for a local bloodhound group many years ago. This also entailed them actually living in our home for six to eight weeks working on socialising, getting them used to everyday sights, sounds, smells, other people, dogs and animals.
They looked adorable, but they chewed everything, mauled everything in my garden until not a single plant existed anymore; dug holes, looked for exits in every nook and cranny in the garden and just basically ran wild on their instincts.
I loved those silly pups, called Lavender, Limerick and Lucky. But I was also very glad to see them go back home, as happy, well-adjusted youngsters ready to take on the world. But boy were they a big learning curve! And it taught me that looks can be very deceiving when it comes to those big brown eyes and that irresistible ‘cute factor!’
Without the right knowledge, tools and resources, pups like those can easily become demons in disguise and can shred everything you love in your home, create fall-outs with your lifetime friends or neighbours and simply make your life a living hell.
I’m not going to sugarcoat the truth here because dogs and puppies are still being bought as Christmas presents for children as if they were mere toys and it has to end.
Ask yourself, how many toys need 24-hour care? Need to be fed 3 or 4 times a day? Require cleaning up after them? Need bedding and toys bought for them? Need to be kept safe and healthy? All just to be able to play with them?!
If you’re considering giving a puppy as a Christmas present, have you done your homework? What size will this puppy grow up into? Is it a lively breed? Have you seen it’s mother, is she a nice-tempered dog? Will you have to secure your garden to make it safe? Who’s going to look after this ‘present’ when you go on holiday? At work? Who is going to look after it, train it, get medical care and more? It certainly won’t be your child!
So rather than ignoring or brushing off all these questions, Please Really Think about them! If you aren’t willing NOW to even think about these questions or do the necessary homework, then please buy your child a cuddly toy, adopt a panda or give them riding lessons, because you aren’t ready to take on a dog right now.
I always wanted a horse of my own and asked twice a year (every birthday and Christmas!) for one when I was growing up. I didn’t get that horse until I was in my twenties and bought it myself! And I certainly didn’t hate my parents for not giving into my demands and getting me one. Instead, they aimed my focus to a local riding school where I learned to ride and then later worked at for free lessons and rode my friend’s ponies instead.
And during this time, I learned what it really takes to look after, clean out, exercise and feed a horse. Yes, they were fun! But they were also expensive to keep in food, medical attention, bedding, blankets, bridles, saddles and more! To me there is very little difference, on the commitment level, between horses and dogs and what it truly means to properly care for that animal. You wouldn’t buy a racehorse for your child if they don’t even know how to ride yet, would you?
Take on a shorter commitment: Foster a Rescue Dog
If you really like the idea of owning a dog, but are still not 100% sure, then go and talk to someone at your local animal rescue or shelter about fostering. They can help you decide if it’s right for you and what type of dog would suit your lifestyle and family. Some of them will even help share the costs of food, bedding and vet care while you’re fostering for them.
3 out of 5 Foster Parents end up Adopting their Foster Dog or Cat
This is usually because they realise how well this animal fits in with their life and want to keep them instead of giving them up to another good home.
If it doesn’t turn out to be a good match (which can sometimes happen), then you are at very little financial loss. You’ve also done the rescue a wonderful service and given a needy animal a home life and love while it waits for a new family. You will also learn whether you are actually ready for a dog – if at all!
So this year, please don’t think, “I’m going to give in to the kids and buy a dog.”
Instead think, “How can I teach my kids about the commitment of owning a pet?”
For more information on fostering a dog, here’s a great website: Fosterdogs.co.uk.
Wishing you all a wonderful and safe Christmas and Happy New Year!
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