Stuff You Should KnowStuff You Should Know

The millennial’s guide on everything you need to know before getting a dog

Should you? Should you, really? We’ve put all your questions to a vet…
The millennial’s guide on everything you need to know before getting a dog A dog is not just for sunny days at Victoria Park
April 2, 2017   |    Rebecca Gillam and Dr Philipp Schledorn

While decisions about mortgages and moses baskets were the norm a generation back once you hit late twenties, due to the financial sitch and social climate for millennials in London, now it’s all about dogs.

It’s no-brainer. You can’t look after a baby if you yourself are having to live with or off your parents, and it’s not going to be the top of your list once you can keep yourself afloat. Even if, as is often the case, your biological clock is yearning after something to look after.

As many people see it, offspring maths is as follows: cats are practice dogs and dogs are practice babies. The only question is whether you skip felines and go straight for something that will do more than lie around in the sun and scratch the arm of your Gumtree sofa.

But, as tempting as puppies seem, they’re certainly not something to rush into. We all know the old adage ‘a dog is not just for Christmas’, but it’s something that’s ignored once you’ve Googled ‘cockapoo puppies London’ a few times.

We asked vet Dr Philipp Schledorn every single question first time dog-owners might have — from neutering to nutrition to help you decide whether you should get a dog… 

How long is it ok to leave dogs in the house alone?

Although adult dogs can be left alone for around 4 – 6 hours, it is not recommended to leave them for long periods of time. Puppies should certainly not be left for long, particularly in an environment you want to look after! In these early days you want to socialise with your puppy and settle him in to his new family so spending time with him, to ease them into the transition and reassure him he is not alone, is important.

Is it ok to get a dog if you work full-time?

It can be quite difficult to look after it properly around full time work unless you work close to home and can pop in throughout the day.

If you have family or friends that can help or if you can for a dog sitter/walker then it is possible to work full time and keep a happy dog too!

How long should you take off work after you get the puppy?

In the first two weeks it is best to spend as much time as you can with your new pet, so it is recommended to take some days off.

Are their gender characteristics that people should think about before choosing a dog? If so, which are the main ones?

Generally a dog’s personality is a product of its environment rather than gender. Some dogs are more gentle or aggressive than others because of their training and upbringing, so the decision of whether to get a male or a female puppy is about other factors but it can affect the training process. Female dogs reach maturity earlier which can help their learning.

Are any breeds particularly well suited to being in the city? Are any breeds particularly well suited to living in a flat?

If you live in a flat, you should take into consideration a dog’s energy and noise levels. A small dog, who won’t feel restricted by a smaller space, is a good idea — and one whose characteristics suit the environment. Some good options are Chihuahuas, dachshunds, French bulldogs, Pomeranian, pugs, Shih Tzus and terriers.

Do you need a garden?

Owners would ideally have a garden for dogs to explore, but it’s not a necessity. Outdoor spaces can work, but it’s more inconvenient.

What are the estimated vet bills per year?

Bills are impossible to predict. Hopefully you will have a puppy that doesn’t require any surgery or have any accidents, but you have to factor in the possibility of big payouts. It is essential to keep booster shots and annual check-ups up-to-date, as well as treatment to protect against ticks, fleas and lung worm, mange etc at least once a month. Depending on the surgery you go to and where you are located, you should be able to get a consultation with a vet for under £50. If other needs are addressed in the consultation, such as if blood tests, x-rays or surgery, then this will of course rise.

How much does dog food cost per week?

The type of nutrition you decide to feed your dog means cost of food varies hugely. Pet nutrition is just like human’s — a heathy diet is worth investing in and it will reap the rewards. If you think you may find yourself in a position where you have to feed your pet poor quality food that will not nourish them, then it is not advisable that you own a dog.

Currently the clean eating trend seems to be extending to the whole household including our pets. Recent reports have demonstrated the huge surge in demand for natural pet nutrition and predict this will continue to grow. The Global Pet Food Market report* stated this growth is driven by the increasing demand for grain free products along with the increasing demand of natural pet food products.

One of the main appeals of natural pet foods is they are free from additives, chemicals and artificial flavourings. BARF and high protein diets are often selected as pet owners like this control and can see exactly what is in their dog’s dinner. High protein leaves less room for an upset digestion and intolerances to cereals and grains.

Ultimately, if you want to feed your pet quality nutrition it will cost more than lower quality ingredients. As the quantity of dog food required is based on the size of your dog, the cost of feeding them for a week varies.

Should you get dogs insured? 

Pet insurance is strongly advised as you don’t know what health problems or accidents your puppy could find themselves in and, without cover, the costs can mount up and be difficult to manage if you are not prepared. There are a range of policies available and the cost depends on the level of cover you are looking for, but start from affordable monthly prices. Services such as Money Supermarket can give you an idea of the landscape and what’s out there for your budget.

What’s the average lifespan for a dog?

This depends on the breed and is not a hard and some live longer and sadly some less. Smaller breeds tend to have a longer life expectancy.

Are there hidden costs in owning a dog that people may not think about?

It’s wise to think about whether you could afford surgery or treatment unexpectedly. Dogs are just like people and will encounter health problems within their lifetime.

You need to budget for a dog sitter for all holidays that you can’t or don’t want to take him/her to in the foreseeable future.

Depending on behaviour, you may also need to cover some puppy damage to your interiors! There can be surprise expenses and this is part and parcel of the responsibility and something to keep in mind when taking on a puppy.

How many times a day do you need to walk a dog?

It is recommended to go approximately every two hours. It is important to observe the puppy and take him out after every meal, nap and playtime.

How old does a puppy need to be before you can take them for walks? 

This depends on the puppy. Observe them the first time in a close area, like a garden or something similar, then train them on short walks.

Is it ok to take dogs on public transport? 

Different dogs react differently to transport and travel. If a puppy has not experienced it before, it can be unsettling. If your dog is not great around lots of new people then the tube is probably not a happy environment for them! It’s advisable to travel in pair if driving, so one person can tend to the puppy if he needs some reassurance.

Do you advise getting a dog in a rented flat (assuming it’s ok-ed by the landlord) or is it stressful for them to move around?  

Usually landlords have rules on dogs and cats in rented accommodation, so be sure to ask them first. Moving isn’t particularly stressful for the dog, as the environment is less important than the family/owners.

Would you advise people to borrow a friend or family member’s dog before getting their own?

It’s easy to rose tint the idea of getting a dog, but it’s a big responsibility. If possible, babysit a family or friend’s dog for a while to get an idea of what the responsibility is like in reality. It’s not for everyone — if you want to live life freely without worrying about leaving a pet at home or getting up early to take it out, it may not be for you.

If possible, should people looking to get a dog go to animal shelters first?

There are thousands of dogs looking for good homes in Britain so it’s certainly worth considering rescuing a dog if you are in a position to do so. You do, however, need to keep in mind the life a rescue pet has had and the effect it will have on their wellbeing and behaviour. It’s a good thing to do, but you have to be prepared to make that commitment.

How much are the injections they need before going outside, if they’re not done before you pick it up?

The cost of puppy injections will vary depending on the area you are in, but the approximate cost of the first injection series will be between £60 -£100.

It is recommended that your puppy is vaccinated for Leptosprirosis, Canine Rabies, Canine Parvovirus, Canine Distemper, Canine Hepatitis, Canine Parainfluenca, Canine Infectious Tracheobronchitis and kennel cough

Should you get them neutered? 

Neutering is a definite consideration if you are not planning on breeding your dog. Female dogs can be neutered from around six months old and male dogs can be neutered from six to seven months old, but it varies depending on their breed so you should discuss this with your vet. It has its benefits: female dogs are protected against womb infections and ovarian tumours as well as unwanted pregnancies, and it eliminates the risk of testicular cancer and can reduce aggressive behaviour in males.

How do you know it’s a proper breeder?

A legal breeder will be registered with their local authority and will be certified, which means they will have been inspected to ensure a healthy standard and care for puppies. There are many puppy farms that are illegal in Britain, so don’t be shy to ask to see they are certified.

If you meet a breeder who refuses to show you a license, do not buy a puppy from them.

There are many obvious signs of wellbeing that should also give you peace of mind. As well as the above, the puppies and their mother should be content together and with the breeder, and they should be happy to show them in their living space, which should be in good condition.

A responsible breeder should also be quite interested in you, in terms of the home and living environment you will be giving one of their puppies.

Remember: if you are ever unsure it is not worth the risk.

What should you look out for when choosing a puppy?

The tell-tale signs for poor nutrition include:

Eyes: Check if there are any signs of a yellowish tinge to the eyes, the lids being inflamed or any discharge or behaviour that indicates irritation, such as constant eye rubbing.

Ears: Healthy ears should be pink and clean and any of the following could indicate neglect and or infection: Wax or crust, mites, any evidence of discharge and irritation, like scratching, redness or areas that look sore and bad smells.

Skin and Coat: A shiny healthy coat is a sign of a healthy dog. If a dog’s coat starts to lose its shine and appear dull, it could be a sign that they aren’t receiving sufficient levels of nutrition in their food. Beware of a puppy that has itchy or irritated skin, any sign of a rashes or patchiness and ticks or fleas.

Gum disease : It’s another result of a poor diet and is noticeable if a dog has bad breath, a loss of appetite or inflamed gums. Usually gum disease is caused by the formation of tooth tartar, which is a result of the gathering of waste matter in a dog’s saliva. A dog that is provided with a balanced, nutritional diet will be able to prevent it accumulating and turning into tartar.

Weight: Make sure you can feel your dog’s ribs and the curve to their lower body is visible. A dog should experience no difficulty when getting up so if they look like they’re struggling to do so, it could be caused by carrying excess weight. On the other hand, if the ribs are too visible, it could be a sign the puppy has not been eating enough.

What do you actually need to sort before collecting a puppy?

All you really need to do is consider their sleeping area and buy is a bed. Though a harness and leash is the best type of lead, you can wait until they’ve grown a bit as a it can be hazardous if they have wiggle room.

Make sure you find out what the puppy has been eating to date as it’s best to continue this on for a few days. Do think about what diet you want to feed them, based on what best fits their needs, after this transition period.

There are a variety of diets on the market. Beware dry foods contain a lot of starch, which can affect their digestion. With wet food, look out for brands with high meat content (preferably 80%)

When you first get them, introduce him/her to their bed, where they will be eating and their food bowl. You should set limits and boundaries from the beginning so the puppy understands what they can and can’t do.

What is the first thing you should do when you get the puppy home?

Introduce them to their bed, where they will be eating and their food bowl. Set limits and boundaries down early as to where the puppy isn’t allowed to go so that he understands right from the beginning.

What do you think of the trend for crate training at the moment?

Crate training can be of benefit as it gets the puppy used to having its own safe place. It can also just be a basket, though if the puppy gets used to a crate, it can be helpful for car drives and staying alone.

And remember: Before you actually go for it, try Borrow My Doggy or actually look after a friend or family member’s pup for a week or so.

Read more: Why you should be kind to wildlife

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