Along with many others, we got a dog at the start of lockdown. Not knowing what was to follow and naively thinking we may only work from home for a matter of weeks, we initially fostered him. However, a few months later, after much thought and consideration as to whether he would fit into our life post-pandemic, we decided to adopt him.
In March last year, rescue centres were rehoming dogs faster than ever before. The Sunday before lockdown, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home alone had 1200 applications. Likewise, according to Dogs Trust, during the first month of restrictions, searches for ‘buy a puppy’ were up 120%. This high demand for them resulted in prices being more than doubled – but this didn’t deter those looking for a lockdown companion.
However, there was concern that many of these new dog owners had made an impulse decision – considering only the short-term – while they were at home with nothing to do and not the long-term – when life returns back to normal.
Unfortunately, those concerned were right to be. The Kennel Club state that one in four that became dog owners during the pandemic now admit that their puppy was an impulse buy. While one in five didn’t consider the long-term commitment and responsibility and 15% weren’t ready to get a puppy at all.
As a result, just months later, puppies between six months and one year are being listed for sale with prices in the thousands as many try to claw back the money they spent. Meanwhile many others are being taken to rescue centres. According to The Times, in the last three months, Dog Trust has received more than 1,800 calls. On the 27th and 28th December alone, the charity had 114 calls and had to rehome almost 20 puppies under nine months.
The RSPCA expects this is just the beginning while Dogs Trust predict that 40,000 dogs could be abandoned and has therefore changed its famous slogan to ‘A dog is for life, not just for lockdown.’
Many of those that bought a ‘lockdown puppy’ thought about their own immediate needs and not the long-term needs of the dog. So, with that in mind, here are 8 questions to ask yourself before getting a dog.
1. Do you have the time?
Firstly, dogs can’t be left alone for long periods of time. Can you ensure that yours won’t be left on their own longer than the following?
Puppies: 2 hours
Adult dogs: 4 – 6 hours
Elderly dogs: 2 – 6 hours
Not only can you not be out of the house all day without at least arranging doggy daycare or a dog walker, you also can’t book last minute weekends away or holidays without taking them with you or organising for them to be looked after.
Secondly, you will need to dedicate time to training both puppies and rescue dogs. This can take anywhere from 4 to 6 months, but could be longer for a rescue – and for issues that a youngster wouldn’t have.
2. Do you have the patience?
With that in mind – you can’t give up on a puppy because they aren’t picking up toilet training quickly enough or with a rescue because they have separation anxiety.
So, as well as time, you must have patience. A puppy is learning for the first time and a rescue may need to overcome issues that are the result of years of neglect. You need to understand that it will take a while for them to learn the correct way to behave.
3. Can you commit long-term?
It very much depends on the breed but dogs can live for an average of 13 years. Can you commit to the responsibility that comes with owning a dog for this long?
We don’t always know what is around the corner but you can’t only take your current circumstances into account, you need to consider if they are likely to change.
It’s going to be incredibly heartbreaking – particularly for the dog – if you realise weeks, months or even years in that you can’t commit to them for the duration of their life.
4. Can you afford it?
Dogs cost an average of £21,000 over their lifetime. Once you’ve bought them, you have the ongoing expense of food, you’ll need to get insurance, purchase necessary accessories, pay for dog minders – which is an added expense to your holidays. Then there’s vet bills, which definitely don’t come cheap. So, not only do you need to be sure you can make this long-term commitment, you need to ensure you’ll be able to afford it.
5. Do you want a dog for the right reasons?
This question is more important than ever to ask yourself this year. If you only want a dog because you are bored and need the company, then this pet isn’t the right one for you. Likewise, Dogs Trust’s regular slogan ‘A dog is for life, not just for Christmas’ is designed to encourage people not to buy puppies as a gift that could potentially be discarded with other presents when the festivities are over. A dog should never be an impulse buy made for the wrong reasons – it should be a purchase you think long and hard about. They are not an item that can be pushed to the back of the cupboard when you’re not interested anymore, they will become part of your family.
6. Would a different pet fit your circumstances better?
Is there another animal that would be a better fit for you? If you don’t have the time or patience that comes with dog ownership then perhaps you need to consider one that needs less care and attention. If a puppy isn’t right for your lifestyle but you really want a pet, perhaps a fish, hamster, rabbit or even cat might fit your current circumstances better.
7. What breed is right for you?
If you are sure a dog is right then what about the breed? It’s important to do your research and find the right fit – all breeds are different and you want to find one that is compatible with you, your lifestyle and your circumstances. In terms of everything from the amount of exercise needed to the level of grooming required, some breeds are much more low-maintenance than others.
8. Should you foster first?
Even if you think you are sure, it may be worth fostering from a rescue centre first – particularly if you have never had a dog before. That way you can see if a dog would fit into your life and start to understand the responsibility before making the long-term commitment. So, rather than potentially having to give up that dog, you are providing somewhere for them to stay while they look for their forever home. Like us, you may well fall in love and decide that is you after all.
Remember, a dog is for life – so, make sure you are asking yourself the above questions and thinking very carefully about the answers because realising you can’t commit to that isn’t only unfair on them, it’s heartbreaking.