Owning a Dog

If you have the time, the money, the energy, and the love to give to a dog, owning a dog can be a magnificent addition to your life and family. Studies have shown that dog owners are healthier and live longer! However, if you are busy, on a tight budget, have very young children, have a very important career, have very little patience, or love a pristine home, a dog may not be the right addition to your life.

Don't get me wrong. Dogs are AWESOME! I love my two dogs to death. (A 10 year old male German Shepherd and a 6 year old female Akita. Both over 90 lbs!) But if we are being honest with each other, dogs are a massive load of work and money. And even when you put in all that work and money, you may still be frustrated and irritated with what you get.

Here are some examples:

Dogs are dirty! We own an Akita which is one of the very cleanest breeds. She keeps her body as clean as possible, and most of the time she smells quite nice. Our GSD is quite the opposite. For all the licking he does, he is pretty darn rank. He smells better after a bath, but that only lasts about 24 hours. No exaggeration. Plus, our floors are constantly coated with a thick layer of dog fur, despite the fact that I vacuum DAILY. And it is not just the floors, but the counters, pots and pans, furniture, and all of our clothing.

Dogs need grooming. Some need very little and others need a lot. Some require regular bathing, like our GSD. Most dogs require frequent brushing. Those of you who might like to pay someone else to groom your pooch will pay handsomely for this service.

Dogs require vet check-up's, vaccinations, tests, costly preventatives, and sometimes medications. Visits to the vet are not cheap! We spend MUCH more money on these types of visits for our dogs than we do for any of the human members of our family. This may be because our GSD has had numerous health issues for his entire life, but the fact is that you never know what you are going to get when you bring a dog into your home. Illness and disease may be part of the package.

Dogs destroy things. Our dogs happen to be especially good about not destroying anything of value in our home. But this is not necessarily the norm. Some dogs love to chew and will use couches, chair legs, shoes, toys, clothing, cabinets, and you-name-it to satisfy this urge. Puppies and young adults are often the worst offenders here.

Dogs need exercise! This cannot be stressed nearly enough. Dogs need to be walked on a leash for a long stretch of time every single day. In the rain. In the snow. During Super Storm Sandy, with the winds whipping over 60 miles per hour, driving the rain horizontally into our faces, we walked our dogs over to the park in order for our Akita to poop. She WILL NOT POOP on our property. Never. EVER! So the walk to the park each day is absolutely non-negotiable. It happens no matter what. (Never mind that we own a 10 acre farm with plenty of woods. She is picky this way.) Dogs also need to run and play. This a separate and different need from the walk. (See The Dog Whisperer books and DVD's created by Cesar Milan for a full, in-depth explanation of these needs.)

Dogs require discipline. Again, this fact cannot be underestimated. A dog with a strong leader will be the very best possible version of this dog. A dog missing a strong leader might still be okay, depending on the dog's innate personality, but also could become a complete train wreck. Again, I highly recommend the Dog Whisperer DVD's created by Cesar Milan for anyone even contemplating bringing a dog into their home.

Most dogs also require plenty of human and/or canine companionship. Some very independent types might be fine left alone for long stretches each day, but we must keep in mind that dogs are pack animals. The natural state of affairs is for dogs to live in groups, in communities, with constant companionship. Many dogs will be happy enough with human companionship, although some dogs will do better if they also have a canine friend. Most dogs will be very unhappy if left alone outside for long stretches. Many Akitas end up in rescue after being left in their yards, constantly escaping, and ending up on the streets. This is how our beautiful girl came to us.

After this long litany of requirements, maybe you still want to bring a dog into your family? If so, that's great! If the requirements for owning a dog don't even phase you, then it is a sure thing that you will be an awesome owner! And the shelters and rescues are brimming with gorgeous dogs of every breed who are desperately in need of good homes. Check out Petfinder.com to peruse the listings of available animals!