Dear Dr. Evans,
My kids have been clamoring for a puppy non-stop. I’ve never had a dog and I’m not sure I want one, but the kids are wild about the idea. What do you think?
—Not Too Sure
There are so many wonderful reasons to get a puppy. You get a puppy because you are happily looking forward to many years of mutual friendship and nurturing. You get a puppy because there’s nothing more amazing to snuggle with. You get a puppy to be an exercise buddy, a playmate, a comforter when times are rough and a cheerleader when times are great. You get a puppy because you love the smell of puppy breath (or maybe that’s just me).
You don’t get a puppy because someone else wants one.
Is there anything sadder than a Christmas puppy? During winter break, the kids are rolling around with the pup like they’re littermates. Then school starts, and reality sets in. For Jingles the Christmas puppy, reality looks like this: school and work demands take precedence over playtime; the hours in the crate start to mount up; outside the crate, boredom leads to chewing and scratching behaviors that exasperate Mom and Dad. Soon, nobody’s happy.
If that scenario sounds too bleak, remember that it applies only to unwanted puppies. If you know that adding a pup to your family will be a joyous act that everyone in the household anticipates eagerly, go for it. You’ll get so much back in return. Dogs love unconditionally. Rich, poor, shy, extroverted, tall, short, preppy or Goth — they truly don’t care.
But please ask yourself some key questions before taking the life and happiness of a young dog into your hands. Do you have time to exercise the pup? Train it? Do you have the means to pay for quality food, toys, grooming, and so forth? Can you afford routine veterinary care, which can be intense in the first year? Can you afford emergency treatment (if a puppy eats your underwear, it could cost you lots of money to get it back) or pet insurance for extreme circumstances? Are you ready to see your pup grow into a adult dog (maybe not quite as much fun as a pup) and then an aged dog, in need of care?
But most of all, ask yourself if you are ready for the years-long commitment, as well as the potentially boundless joy, of bringing a baby dog into your house? Think it over. I hope you will be ready someday, if not right now. You’ll get so much back.
Dr. Lynn Anne Evans of the Barrington Veterinary Clinic has been practicing veterinary medicine for 26 years. Do you have a pet question for Dr. Evans? Please email [email protected], with “Dr. Evans” in the subject line.