Dog lovers are quick to tell you the reasons you should get a dog: companionship, laughter, exercise. And there are numerous studies that show the health benefits of dog ownership. But is a dog really for you or your family?
Here are 6 Reasons Not to Get a Dog:
1. You don’t have the time.
Dogs are supremely social beings. They will want to cuddle up (or play fetch, tug, eat) with you in the morning, afternoon, evening, and night. You may be able to sub out one or two of these times in a day, but not much more if you want your dog to thrive. This includes time in the kennel or some other form of isolation.
Sometimes, getting two animals can help with the first one’s loneliness, but if you are not planning on spending time with your dog, why get one in the first place? The same goes for frequent trips. If you like to be able to pack up and go at any notice, plan on bringing your dog with you – or not having one in the first place. A good boarding kennel or trustworthy friend is an indispensable asset for any dog owner, but they’re no substitute for your dog’s best friend.
If you want a dog, make sure you are prepared to put in the time your dog needs. Think of it like this: you likely have many in your social circle – family, friends, co-workers, and more – but your dog has you (and maybe the neighbour’s dog over the fence when you let him out to do his business). That’s a big responsibility. Be ready for it.
2. You don’t have the money.
Dogs aren’t cheap. There are all the first time expenses, such as the dog itself, bed, dishes, grooming tools, crate, collar, leash, and so on. And there’s the regular food expense. Treats and toys, also. But there are plenty of incidental and hidden expenses, too, such as vet bills, replacing damaged furniture and household items, training, regular health upkeep, and boarding kennel or pet travel expenses. Bottom line: pets, particularly dogs, cost money.
The BCSPCA cites $1,071 as the actual yearly cost of dog ownership. Add to that the life expectancy of your dog, and you’ll see you are paying a lot of money for that best friend. Most dog owners will say it’s worth it, but if you’re already living month-to-month, a dog is only going to add more financial stress.
Don’t want money to be the reason you miss out on a dog? Factor in the expenses. See if there are other areas of your life you can cut back on to incorporate a dog. You need about $100 a month, and likely some more upfront for initial costs and incidentals. Don’t let your dog suffer because of your poor planning.
3. You or someone in your family has a severe allergy.
If you or someone who shares a home with you has a severe allergy to dogs, you shouldn’t get one. There are no truly hypoallergenic dogs, only some who shed less antigens. However, getting a breed known for being hypoallergenic can make living with a dog bearable for one with allergies. If your allergies are only mild, you may not even notice them with hypoallergenic dog breeds.
There are also a number of methods for reducing pet allergy symptoms. Using a topical allergen-reducer (such as Allerpet), keeping your house clean, and grooming your pet regularly can help you live with both your dog and your allergies. But while these methods can and do reduce allergies, know that no amount of product or no certain dog breed will guarantee to completely rid you of your allergies. If you can’t live with the possibility of enduring mild allergy symptoms, you should not get a dog.
4. You won’t put the care in.
Dogs require more than just time spent with you. For one thing, all dogs require daily exercise. For most, this means a half-hour walk at least once daily – maybe more. Certain small lap dogs may get by with exercise around the house occasionally, but you will still likely need to put in some toy laser, fetch, or tug of war time. You need that walk just as much as your dog, but you may not always want to put in the time (think: middle of winter weather). If you are unwilling or unable to take your dog for a walk, be prepared to find another solution, such as asking a friend or paying a dog walking service.
Dogs also require regular grooming and I don’t just mean a haircut, though that may be necessary, too. Dogs need regular brushing, dental care, nail clipping, and bathing. Many dog owners neglect these essential areas of their dog’s care, but they aren’t doing themselves or their dogs any favours. Neglecting brushing leads to painful hair mats and excess shedding. Ignoring teeth can lead to bad breath, expensive vet bills, and even debilitating diseases such as heart, liver, and kidney. Unclipped nails can dig into the footpad or split, causing extreme pain.
Be willing to do what is necessary to care for your dog’s health. He doesn’t beg for it, like he would his need for food and attention, but it’s no less a requirement for his quality of life.
5. You can’t deal with hair or other pet messes.
Dogs are messy. They shed hair (even "non-shedding" breeds). If you are getting a puppy, they have accidents. Lots of them. Dogs also slobber, leave paw prints when they come from outside, and they have a certain smell to them. You will need to clean up their presents in the backyard (or litter box) every once in a while. Truthfully, dogs are a bit gross.
There are some products that can help control the messes your dog makes. Nature’s Miracle Stain and Odor Remover is an enzyme-based spray that actually breaks down organic material such as pet waste. It eats away most stains and smells your pet can produce. I would recommend it (or another enzyme-based pet spray) to any pet owner as an essential item. Furminator de-shedding brushes are some of the best at removing loose pet hair before it ends up on your couch. A quality vacuum cleaner (especially those designed for pets) is also a must-have.
You can reduce pet messes with good training and some helpful products, but you will never rid your house of them completely. If you cannot deal with pet messes, you should not get a dog.
6. You don’t like dogs.
This may seem obvious, but if you don’t like dogs, you should not get a dog. While you may come to love a dog, you also may not. Dogs deserve to be cared for, but they also deserve to be wanted and loved – not resented. Dogs are living beings with a range of emotions. They are not trinkets, toys, or fashion statements. Dogs are not things to be bought and given away.
So while you may be reading articles about how dogs decrease stress or improve health, take to heart that they are also so much more than that. Give dogs a chance, but don’t get a dog only for one of these reasons.
Also, all dogs are different, but within breeds there are common personality traits. Factor these breed dispositions into your decision-making when choosing a dog. Personality considerations are not trivial. They will likely affect your relationship with your dog more than you expect.
By all means, get a dog. But get a dog for the right reasons. Or don’t get a dog.
Sources and More Information
- Dog Ownership Cost Statistics are from Canadian Living (Robins, Tudor, Canadian Living. Pricing Pets: The True Cost of Dogs, Cats, Rabbits, Birds, and Other Critters. Accessed March 17, 2014.)