Should You Get a Dog?
Unless you are a cat guy, being a dog owner can be one of the most satisfying experiences a person can have. They provide unrivaled companionship, entertainment and someone to talk to who won’t go off and tell everyone your embarrassing sh*t.
It wasn’t until last year that I finally got my first dog as an adult: Cash (above), the Man in Black – a solid black American Labrador retriever I picked up from a shelter on Long Island.
Cash is a handful, at best – and a real son-of-a-bitch on his bad days. He takes an endless amount of work – like having a half-brained 2-year old with giant fangs who relies on you to survive, forever. But he’s my best friend, and I wouldn’t give him up for anything.
So if you’re thinking about getting a dog, here are a few things I’ve learned and think you should consider before you take the plunge.
Be Prepared for the Long Haul
Your dog is not a goldfish. He (or she) is going to live a long time. So don’t take the decision to get a dog lightly. Be prepared to take care of and deal with having a dog for at least eight years. And many dogs live much longer. That means, every day, your dog will need fed, played with, walked and watered for probably longer than you’ve been doing the same for yourself. So be willing to go all the way. Remember, you have friends and family – he only has you.
Money & Time: Have What It Takes
Dog food – and toys – cost money. Not much, but if you’re already strapped for cash, it’s certainly not going to save you money to get a dog. Depending on breed and voraciousness, it can cost between $30 and $100 per month just to keep him alive. And that doesn’t include vet costs. So figure out your finances before adopting.
If you work all day, having a dog is difficult. It can be done, but you have to make sure your dog has enough room to move, and enough things to keep him occupied (that’s where the toys come in). If you don’t, expect to have a mess on your hands, constantly. And once you’re home, be ready to give much of your time to your dog. He will sleep a lot, but he has to get exercise to do that.
Don’t Buy, Adopt
There are a lot of politics to go along with this decision, but I’m not concerned with those here. I will say that dogs adopted from the brink of death appreciate it more. In that cage, he’s scared as hell. And he knows you saved him when you take him home. That means a lot in a dog-owner relationship.
Also, beware of pure-bred dogs. Not only do they often cost more, but rampant inbreeding can make them freakin’ crazy. I don’t know if Cash is pure-bred, but he looks it – and he’s definitely a little nuts. So take that into consideration before picking one out.
Pick The Dog You Connect With
While it’s nearly impossible to go to a shelter and not come home with a dog, make sure you pick one that fits your lifestyle. Definitely do some research before you go. But here are the basics: Don’t get a great dane if you live in a studio apartment. Don’t get a chihuahua if you want to teach your dog to jump stuff (other than shoe boxes). Don’t get a hyper dog if you’re lazy – or a lazy dog if you’re active. But do get a dog you like. Get one that makes you happy, even if he is a punk-ass sometimes.
Be The Boss
Once you get a dog: No matter how much fun you have with him; no matter how much your dog seems like a person; no matter how funny it is to dress him in clothes and put pictures of him on the Internet (cough, cough), never forget that you have a creature living in your house. It’s not a person, and you can’t treat it with the same respect you give a human being.
So basically, don’t take sh*t from your dog. If you want him to lie down or stop begging, he needs to do that. Don’t get angry, but be firm. Show him what to do when you tell him to “Git!” And make him do that until he does it on his own, when you say.
You can do this for pretty much anything, from simple commands to amazing tricks. It takes a lot of patience, but your dog depends on you to teach him the commands that could save his life. Come, stay, stop, sit, lay – those basics can stop him from running into a street or pouncing on a kid. Either could be his ass – and maybe yours. So don’t be a pu**y about it, and take control of your new pack. Everyone will be better off in the end.