Before You Buy That Doggie in the Window...

Christmas is around the corner and many kids and people will be asking for a furry friend to call their own. How much is that doggie in the window? Don't be deceived by a puppy's price tag. Dogs cost a lot in money, time and effort. Most of all, they need heaps of love.
Before heading over to the pet shop, find out everything you need to know about your new pet.

A friend of mine bought a Jack Russel puppy a few weeks back. It was an impulse buy. A week later he realised he couldn't take care of her so he asked around to find out who could. After careful consideration, my family took her in.

There are many factors to consider when getting a pet. Do you have space for a dog? Do have the time to take proper care of him/her and to take them for walks? Can you afford good food and proper veterinary care? How will your family and its existing four-legged members (if any) react to the new addition?

If you are looking at a specific breed, an online search will lead you to that breed's specific needs. Dogs with long fur will need careful grooming. Some dogs need yards or to be taken for regular walks (or running marathons) and others do not. Can you handle a big dog or are you the petite to medium type?

The next question is whether or not you'd prefer a puppy. Yes, puppies are adorable but they're a lot of work. Your puppy will need to be house-trained if living indoors, taught to follow commands and disciplined. They also require lots of engagement with you and play time. Raising puppies can be very much like raising children, just ask anybody who has done it. My partner and I took turns to take our first puppy to the toilet (to the untrained eye it looks like the outside lawn) every time he'd wake up crying next to our bed in the middle of the night in mid-winter. It wasn't easy but in return our puppy was house trained at four months old in comparison to the average of eight months.

Know what you're getting your self into. If your kid wants the pet, make sure they know what it entails and realise that you'll have to fill in whenever they fail to live up to the expectations. After you've decided that you can get a pet, you can find out where.

Most pet shops and breeders are just a money business. You can walk in to a pet shop, buy a puppy of your choice for the price displayed and walk out. Buying from breeders may be a better option because you at least get to witness the condition that the animals are bred in and how they are treated. Generally people selling animals don't care or ask questions about where the animal is going. Rather than buy from them, it is advisable to adopt.

Accept that you are taking responsibility for another life. Getting a pet from people who understand this makes sure you are on common ground with people who likely have a better understanding of animals than you do. Many pets out there have been abandoned and abused. The numbers will probably grow this festive season with more families going on holiday and leaving their dogs behind to fend for themselves. The numbers of dogs needing homes is startling. Any home may have hundreds of pets up for adoption. Search online for the shelters or SPCA nearest to you and pay them a visit.

You can look around for puppies, which come and go quickly or opt for an older friend. You are advised to socialise and get to know any dog before taking it home. This way you'll get an idea of the animal's personality and habits before you make a commitment. In my experience, the pet chooses you. They'll come to you with big bright eyes which scream; "Take me home please." 

Animal shelters usually do home checks before they allow you to adopt. This ensures that your house and facilities are adequate for your new pet. They will advise you if you need to make any changes.

Adoption fees are around R600 depending on the shelter. The fee covers some of the shelter's expenses and includes all the pet's vaccinations and sterilization. If you ask me, that's a bargain. If you get the animal elsewhere, aside from the price you may pay for the dog itself, the first year's vaccinations and sterilization will cost you about R1,500 in total at private vets. If you choose not to sterilize, it will cost half of that. Animal shelters work with their own vets to make things more accessible. Moreover, the shelter will follow-up with you after the adoption to find out how the pet has settled in.

Adopting is a more affordable and ethical option. Before you buy that doggie in the window, know that your perfect friend may be in a caged shelter somewhere waiting for you to take him or her home.


Maja Dezulovic

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