Awwww. Oooh! Most people like animals (unless you’re a terrible person), especially the cute furry ones who trot at our side. A lot of us grew up with a dog or other pet of some kind and now in our grown-up years debate getting a pet of our very own. Before you jump into such a big decision, consider all the facts. As an ex-professional dog walker/dog sitter, I’ve seen it all. The kisses, the messes, the fights, and the dingleberries. It’s a big decision with a lot to consider.

We’ve been making dogs a little less wild for about 15,000 years, so the instinctual desire for an animal companion is no coincidence. Nowadays most pet owners want them for the love they give back, which is a beautiful trait of the furry & four-legged. Also, it sure can help to break the ice with that cute guy at the park when your Jack Russell is sniffing the butt of his chocolate lab. 

Remember this: Different breeds have different needs, and it’s important to get the right one that fits your lifestyle (and current wallet situation). Some dogs need less exercise than others, more affection, more playtime with other dogs, more mental stimulation, the factors go on. If you have your heart set on a golden retriever because they have that ideal “family dog” appeal (blame it on Full House) but work 60 hours a week plus, you may be more suited to a chihuahua (blame Paris Hilton). UNLESS you can afford a dog walker to regularly take them out during the day. But please, for the love of Dog, don’t hand over a hyperactive untrained untamed thing for a 30 minute walk. It still wont be enough to tire them out. 

Okay, still game? Consider some of these important factors before buying a studded collar and picking out names: 

Cost: Buying a brand new purebred dog is no small expense. Shots when they’re a puppy are a substantial cost, as well as check ups and emergency vet bills if they eat something poisonous at the park, injure themselves playing with a pack of other dogs or cut their paw on a broken bottle on the sidewalk.

Bulldog puppies are around $1000 or more, same for Golden Retrievers. Adult dogs tend to be less expensive. The average cost of owning a dog (not including vet bills) is about $1,000 per year, even more for grooming and hiring a dog walker.

Adopting: Consider a more sustainable and ethical option such as adoption or fostering a pet. Browse options from The Toronto Humane Society, Toronto Animal Services4 Legged Love, or check Craigslist, Kijiji or your local bulletin boards. Contact one of Toronto’s animal welfare communities like Paws 4 The Cause and see if they know of any pets up for adoption. There is a surplus of uncared-for pets so consider adoption, pls.  

Puppies! (Specifically Boo.): Aww, that once-in-a-lifetime puppy phase. Cherish it will it’s there, cuz before you know it little Lola or Lilo will be barreling down the stairs knocking shit over and taking up 85% of your bed. When they’re puppies, all dogs require tons of extra TLC, and if you’re away at work all day you’ll need a sitter or friend to give them regular potty breaks and snuggles. In fact, an adult dog never surpasses the intelligence of a 3 year old human, so consider if you’re ready to own a shedding, drooling toddler for the next 10-20 years. 

Responsibility: Touching more on the needs of different breeds, if you’re a typical busy working urbanite, consider staying away from any of the “Working” breeds like Retrievers (Goldens, Labs), Hunting or Herding dogs (Shepherds, Hounds, Terriers, Spaniels, Collies, Beagles) or powerful, high energy breeds used for police work or racing (Great Danes, Akitas, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, Boxers). These dogs have been bred over time to serve us by performing specific duties and a few decades of urban living won’t take it out of their blood. Yes, Cocker Spaniels and German Shepherds can make amazing pets and loyal, wonderful companions, but they need a lot of exercise, training and care to not be a menace to your shoe rack. Possibly not the best choice for a first time dog owner or busy individual. 

Companion or smaller breeds can be lower maintenance for an urbanite, like to oh-so-cute Bulldogs, Pugs, Frenchies, Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Papillons, miniature breeds and more. If you’re interested in a breed, do a bit of research to find out why they were first domesticated/bred by humans way back when. Buying a “Working” breed because you like the look of them, and then keeping them in a crate all day in your condo, is kinda mean. Sowwy. 

Training: Get on board about consistent boundaries with your new dog right away. Establish rules and a routine and stick to them. Treat your dog like a dog, not a baby. It doesn’t want to be treated like a baby. It wants to be treated like it’s part of an animal pack, and as the Alpha Pack Leader (which is and has to be you), you instill the rules & boundaries and display calm leadership. Your dog shouldn’t be telling you what to do or controlling your life. Exercise and rules around the house are important for a well behaved dog. A tired dog is always better behaved than an energetic dog. Watch Cesar Milan, read books on dog psychology and dog behaviour, or if doing it alone is too overwhelming and you can afford it, put them in training or obedience classes with a good reputation. 

Trial and Error: Testing out taking care of a dog can be a great way to see if you have what it takes. If your pooch-owning friend is going out of town for the weekend, offer to dog-sit. Volunteer at a shelter. Go to the park and observe, and ask other dog owners your questions. Offer to take a friend’s dog for a walk. 

And as Bob Barker always says: “Help control the pet population. Have your pets spayed or neutered.”

Now lets all look at photos of Boo.

~ Becca Lemire