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August 04, 2008


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There's no such thing as a free dog...But, like kids, if you are ready they are worth it. BTW one of our sons doesn't complain to bad about scooping poop.

There was a great article in Parade Magazine this Sunday. It dealt with whether your should purchase a pure breed or a mutt. It may help some people decide on which to choose. I know it made me want to purchase a mutt after reading it. Here is the link:

I read the article in Parade yesterday. It really ticked me off, because not once did it mention how most people acquire purebred dogs - pet stores or newspaper ads. Pet stores sell puppy mill dogs, almost without exception, as reputable breeders will not place their dogs in these places. Newspaper ads have dogs from backyard breeders. In both cases, the puppies are likely to come from dogs that are not temperament or health tested, often come with little or no veterinary care, are not returnable in the case of problems, and support irresponsible practices. Most health problems in purebreed dogs come from these sellers.

I'm a little tetchy on this topic because I volunteer for a rescue and foster dogs myself, so I've spent a lot of time in and out of animal control. I see the dogs, mutts and purebred both, who through no fault of their own end up there and don't make it back out.

I would recommend that, when you are ready, you talk to some local rescue groups. There are generic dog rescues, and there are breed-specific ones, if you have your heart set on a specific breed. The real advantage to adopting from a rescue is they know the dogs, they live with them, and can tell you specifically the temperament of the dog, whether they're good with kids, etc. A reputable rescue will take a dog back at any time. And the dog will come with basic veterinary work already completed, which usually would cost more than the adoption fee they'll ask for.

Good luck in your hunt for a new family member!

Our family has owned dogs for many years. Currently we own two wonderful Black Labs. We have found two things: (1) Dogs are happier and less trouble (time and money) if you have two that can be friends. (2) The largest single expense (assuming relatively good health) can be boarding the dogs in a quality facility when you travel. Overall, the expense is worth it if you enjoy companionship and unconditional love.

You may get a firm commitment from your kids, in fact, you probably will. They may mean it absolutely, 100%. And that will last for a few weeks. But if you and your wife aren't prepared to pick up the slack when the kids find it's suddenly more interesting to surf the internet then walk the dog, it will be the dog that suffers. Dogs and kids are a great combination, responsibility and kids - less so.

I second the person who mentioned having two dogs - two dogs are much easier to take care of. If you have a large enough yard for them to play, the need for walks and constant attention decreases quite a bit. However, make sure you don't get two puppies at the same time, particularly not for the same litter. Unless you put endless amounts of time in the early stages bonding with them separately, the dogs will bond to each other and much less so to you and the kids. That's asking for problems when it comes to training, amongst other things.

If you end up without a huge yard, or without the ability to do long walks/runs, either go small or go big when it comes to picking out the right dog. The biggest dogs (the "giant" breeds - great danes, St. Bernards, that size) require much less exercise than medium size dogs (Labs, for instance, require nearly continuous exercise). Small breeds get much more exercise from running around a yard or a house.

Whatever you do, please don't buy a dog from a pet store or the newspaper classifieds. If you want to compete with your dog(s) or you want predictable personality and type, look for a good breeder, one that shows their dogs regularly. These are the one who are breeding their dogs responsibly, and you will have to go through a fairly rigorous screening process; they're interested in making sure their dogs have the best possible home. They'll also be there to support you for the life of the dog. Often these breeders will also let you board your dog (sometimes even free of cost) while you're away, minimizing that expense. If you're prepared to roll the dice a bit more and don't intend to do AKC events (conformation, agility, obedience) with your dog, then adopt from a reputable animal shelter. Alternatively, if you want a purebred, but don't necessarily want a baby puppy, go to the rescue organization for the breed you prefer. There are lots of purebred dogs who grew out of the "cute puppy" stage but still need homes.

Finally, I highly recommend Patricia McConnell, Karen Pryor, and Jean Donaldson as authors to read on training and living with your animals. Stay far away from the monks of New Skete when it comes to training manuals.

Good luck in getting an animal, whenever you decide the time is right.

The biggest expense (as you mentioned) can be the impact on your home. In addition to the typical damage, the "dog smell" is something that can have significant impact when it comes time to sell your home. Regardless of attempts to clean the carpets, air-fresheners, etc., the smell is still there. Many homeowners have been living in the stink so long, they are not aware of such an odor problem and don't deal with it, despite advice by real estate agents.

For us, we will never buy a home that has had a pet.

To verify how committed the kids are, you can volunteer to friends and neighbors that your family is available to pet sit their critters at your house. I just did 2 weeks of this for my boyfriend's cat. It required injections twice a day, as well as being pilled twice a day for an on-going medical condition. It's a very sweet cat and I didn't mind the company since I work from a home office. It has made me think twice about having a pet of mine own on a full-time basis - especially when I see how much the vet bills and meds are! And, as if that weren't enough, his other cat was just diagnosed with a serious medical condition.

I agree with what Steph said about not getting two puppies at the same time or two that were litter mates. A friend had this happen with his two boxers and it was incredibly frustrating for the family.

I applaud you for looking at the costs associated with pets. I think it's responsible to make sure you've considered the financial ramifications of owning a pet -- just like a child. You don't HAVE to be in good financial shape in order to take on the responsibility of a pet or child, but if you do give thought to it, you are serving the dog or child much better.

That being said, I think the ultimate thing to keep in mind is that the financial issues of pet ownership aren't the primary consideration. Yes, you want to account for how you'll meet the expenses it will cause you. But -- are you getting a pet for the right reasons?

Are you welcoming a pet into your home as a member of your family?

Are you prepared to take care of the pet and its needs -- to be loved, appreciated, cared for, fed, exercised -- as well as the money obligations?

Are you ready to cherish a pet? Or will you treat it like a burden?

Please have good answers to the non-tangible considerations.

I just had to put my best friend of 16 years to sleep. It was the hardest decision of my life. I would choose him again as a puppy in a heartbeat.

I didn't think through the money when I got him, but it all worked out well in the end. I won't think of how much various vet bills cost me, or the money I paid out in pet rent or incidental home repairs. I'll remember the friend who was never too busy with his own life to be overjoyed that I walked in the door.

While I may at times disagree with you on the value of owning a pet, I never disagree with your assessment of how much it costs to own one. I volunteer in dog rescue and so many of my foster dogs are homeless as a result of financial problems. Anything you can do to educate people on the costs of dog ownership before they make that commitment is very much appreciated.

That being said, as one commentator mentioned, no promise from a child to take care of a dog can be taken seriously, no matter what their intent. The adults in the household must assume that the responsibility for the dog's case will fall fully on their shoulders. A good way to try out the responsibility of a dog is to volunteer as a foster family for a local dog rescue. This gives you a wonderful taste of what dog ownership is like and, if you absolutely fall in love withe the dog, it's usually yours to keep. If it turns out it isn't a good match or your family doesn't want the responsibility, no harm no foul - the dog will go on to another foster family and you will have helped it on its way to finding a forever home.

Forget the kids doing anything. If you have a yard and a doggy door, a lot of the daily effort will be taken care of. I say, go for it. The love you can give and get with a good dog is immeasurable. In terms of the breed, be sure you get the right kind. You don't want a dog that will be a negative in your life. Excessive barking, excessive shedding, ornery personality -- this is all stuff that can make being a dog owner real drudgery.

If you're thinking of a purebred dog, it's important to do some research on the particular breeds you are interested in. What are the typical behavioral traits, health problems, life span, etc. I agree that purchasing from a reputable breeder is the best way to acquire a purebred puppy. Beware, however, that even the best laid plans can go awry! We purchased a purebred puppy from a top breeder, had it shipped across the country, paid $3000 + shipping. By the age of 4, the dog had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes (requires 2 injections per day, supplies costing up to $100 per month) plus a heart problem that required a pacemaker implantation costing about $4,000 including all the diagnostic testing. Healthwise, he is definitely a lemon. The fact that he is a very sweet, beautiful dog makes up for it, at least for us, as the expenses have not been a burden for us (double professional income no kids).

I guess it's the fact that everybody just assumes that they WILL damage your home that bothers me, but more often than not, it's the lack of exercise and/or affection that YOU give it that makes the dog do damage to the home.

I have a wonderful Lab and she has never done any damage to the house. Sure, she has dug a couple holes in the backyard (it's built into them, plus we have a mole problem), but with proper training, that was easily taken care of and she does not dig anymore. She gets daily exercise and a good amount of affection from me. She also stays home by herself for 10 hours a day while I'm at work. I trust her enough to let her roam the house while I'm gone.

The vet can be expensive, but if you promote healthy habits and proper training, they wouldn't get themselves into trouble (as much). I realize that, just like kids, pets can get into some trouble, but lots of things are preventable if the human just takes the time. that's the key.

I say go for it. They will love you forever, no matter what. Treat them well because they depend on you.

Blog of Dog --

How do I find a foster pet care place in my area? Contact a shelter?

FMF: The best place I know of to look for a rescue shelter in your area is through You can search just for shelters or you can do a breed specific search if you're looking for a particular animal. They're a great resource. My parents (who run a rescue shelter in Kentucky) use them to list animals available for adoption.

Toughmoneylove is 100 percent right--two dogs are better than one. They keep each other healthier and happier. Dogs are social creatures and need interaction with others of their kind.

Also, a lot of the problems mentioned so far could be prevented with a little knowledge about what dogs need--exercise, discipline (not punishment, but a clear understanding of their expected behaviors) and last, affection. Watch The Dog Whisperer or buy Cesar Millan's book to avoid a lot of problems down the road.

My wife and I love our Chocolate Lab. Labs are wonderful dogs that become your best friend within a matter of months. Whether you get one from a breeder, pet store, or shelter, they are great dogs and can be trained to do almost anything.

I agree with some of the previous comments about exercise and discipline. They love exercise and will behave a lot better when they get more and more of it. Train them diligently and it will pay off for years to come. Our dog stays in the house and has become a great member of our family.

My lab must be on the lazy side - he is content to lay around all day in the house. I'm pretty sure his dream day would be to wake up, eat breakfast, go outside and do his business, come back in and sleep a few more hours, let us pet him for awhile, eat dinner and lay around and watch us play with our son.

In that respect, I have to say that I disagree with a few of the above comments that 2 dogs are easier than 1. We got a second dog about 2 1/2 years ago and she is definitely more active than he is and tends to try to start stuff with him - like pawing at his face when he is laying down. It's all just playing but sometimes we have to separate them if they get too loud/rough.

That being said, I can't imagine not having dogs in the house. My son is absolutely in love with them and gives them hugs at least once a day - which is about the cutest thing in the world when a 1 yr old waddles over and tries to bear-hug a 75 pound dog.

I'm leaving my aunt's tomorrow after living with her family for a month--they have a beagle and a great dane. They've had several dogs over the years.

Two can definitely be better than on. They're less needy because they have each other. But I don't think I'd start with two right away.

Keep in mind that many purebreds have NOT been bred for stout health. Their gene pools are weak, and they can be susceptible to far greater health problems than a mutt. If you go purebred, PLEASE find a reputable breeder. Many will even go so far as to take the dog back if you can't make it work because they love those dogs so much.

Pet-sitting sounds like a great way to test drive your family with animals.

Along the lines of getting a second dog, does anyone have an opinion on adding a second cat to a household? I have a 3-year-old cat that is very social, and sometimes I think that he would enjoy having another cat to play with.

Al: The rule goes double for cats- once they learn to get along. Sometimes (not always) it takes a while for adult cats to accept another cat into the household, but once they do, they really do keep each other occupied a great deal. Check your local rescue or, and talk to the group about your cat and your needs. They can make recommendations and follow up to make sure everything is successful.

Good luck!

There really isn't any magic associated with a mutt's genes. It's rare that a recessive genetic disorder shows up in mixed breed dogs, but it's a roll of the dice with dominant genetic disorders. This is why researching breeds pays off - a good breeder has genetic information on all their dogs and they DO breed for health. There is no reputable breeder in the country that will breed a dog with a genetic flaw. But, just like kids, things happen that we can't predict, and your dog(s) may wind up with health issues no matter where you get them from.

I think fostering dogs is a fantastic idea, but be aware that you may get dogs with behavioural problems you're not equipped to deal with. One of the most heart-breaking experiences I ever had was fostering an abused dog. He was extremely cuddly and would fall asleep in my lap, but wake up suddenly, turn, and bite, *hard*. Be sure you communicate very clearly to the rescue organization what you're able to handle. One of the best places to look to foster dogs is the rescue organization for various breeds - google the breeds you're interested in, pull up their parent club page (usually titled "'Breed' Club of America or similar) and it will link to the rescue organization(s) for your area.

By the way, if you want any help narrowing down breeds and types, feel free to contact me. It can be difficult to navigate through all the information at times (for instance, you usually do not want a dog that's "intelligent" for your first dog - that almost always means high-maintenance and difficult to train).

I'd also add researching various breeds (even if you get a mutt) to find what might be the best fit for your family and lifestyle. I think another reason alot of dogs end up getting dumped is because they don't mesh well with their family, too many pick a dog based solely on looks or cuteness and not thinking about temperment, exercise needs or grooming requirements. Some dogs must go to the groomers every month, another expense, while others are more wash and wear. My two are short haired and never need brushing or grooming and are easy to wash in the tub or sink. I don't have a big yard or a safe place to exercise them, my two are small and don't need a lot of space. Some dogs need tons of exercise and don't mesh well with a family of couch potatoes or are not meant for city living. Do your homework on what to expect from various breeds, a mutt being a combo of the breeds in their lineage, and you'll set yourself up for success. With purebred dogs you also need to research the health problems inherent in the breed and look for a breeder who tests their breeding dogs for these issues, a good breeder will put health at the top of their priorities. Also some breeds are simply prone to more health problems, like bulldogs, don't get a bulldog and expect perfect health! Lastly, if expense is a concern you should know that alot of pet related expenses are based on the pet's weight, smaller dog equals smaller bills. Medicines, flea treatments, surgeries, grooming and boarding costs are generally tiered by weight.

Oh and last, what is with all the people saying don't expect your kids to help as promised and be prepared to take over. Are you not their parents, make them help and don't let them shirk their responsibilities. I had a dog from age 7 and if I didn't feed him, I didn't get dinner, it was that simple. Geez, no wonder today's kids have no sense of personal responsibility. Yes be prepared to nag and remind them, don't take over and teach them a bad lesson.

We have just 2 rabbits. They were bought after intense "pressure" by my second girl. Then she got her job and only comes back weekends now. Our 4th daughter was supposed to take over the chores of feeding, cleaning etc.

Not as easy as it seems. I am sure your kids will promise you the moon and the sun, but be prepared.


My husband and I analyzed the different costs when we bought our first house and wanted a dog. Part of the reason we bought the breed of dog we did was because we knew we wouldn't have to add the expense of grooming. We bought a beagle and with their shorter hair, they never have to be groomed and really only need to be bathed about twice a year (unless they roll around in mud or something, which ours has done...). Plus, she's so cute and loveable that it's easy to find a friend or family member to take care of her when we are gone! :) But she's worth every penny she costs :)

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