The ‘Pooch Conundrum’
Date: 27 Apr 2021
Jess looks at the benefits her dogs bring and shares her advice for anyone thinking of joining the pooch parade.
A year of on and off lockdowns and social restrictions has seen a dramatic increase in people purchasing puppies and dogs. With more time at home, endless days of furlough, and what has felt like a lifetime without loved ones, it’s no wonder that man’s best friend has taken the spotlight.
However, this has given rise to what we’re calling ‘the pooch conundrum’, with the BBC recently reporting dog rehoming shelters being at capacity. As the world returns to some sense of normality, and with the allure of a summer of lowered-restrictions, it seems that many families have had second thoughts on their furry family members.
As long-term a dog owner, I’ve been finding this difficult to process. Both of my pups were rescues, and the decision to rescue my first dog, Mr Willis, came after years of careful consideration. I waited until I was in a dog-friendly rental, with a job that allowed me to go home at lunchtimes. I also considered the financial implication that life with a dog required, and made sure I had enough spare cash each month to accommodate his food, toys and vet bills.
He’s a rascal, a typical terrier, and he was put up for rehoming due to his high energy levels and mischievous ways – which I knew was actually quite typical of the breed. Six years on and he’s just about calmed down, but it’s exactly what I expected and exactly what I wanted from a companion.
My second dog, Honey, was rehomed to me due to her nervous nature. She was a typical submissive dog and she began her days with me hiding, shaking and doing very typical nervous dog behaviours – some of which really aren’t glamorous! It took time and patience, and a lot of behavioural copying from Willis for her to become the confident little pup she is today – though that’s not to say she doesn’t still have issues with submissive behaviours from time to time.
It was definitely a learning curve for me, and I certainly made mistakes along the way! Some real highlights include taking Mr Willis to the vets with a full bladder, or the time he jumped out of my moving car on a roundabout, and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve needed to fish Honey out of a river because she loves to swim so much – she’d find water in a desert! They certainly know how to test your patience, but nothing can replicate their unconditional love, friendship and quirky personality traits that can’t help but make you smile.
To those who didn’t get a dog during the pandemic-rush, but may still be thinking of getting a dog, I have a few words of advice*.
- Research your breed as there are a stereotypes of certain breeds that run true. For example, terriers are typically high energy, basset hounds can be incredibly stubborn, any sort of sight hound might struggle with recall.
- If you don’t like walking, don’t get a dog! That’s in rain, wind and shine, depending on te breed, they need anything from 20 minutes to a few hours a day, every day for the rest of their lives.
- If you’re getting a dog for your children, bear in mind that no matter what they say in the run up to its arrival, you will be the one with the responsibilities and, while you might get them to do some walks, the lion’s (or doggie’s) share of walkies will end up on your to-do list.
- You’ll need to embrace their less-than-ideal traits… such as being prepared for ‘accidents’ in your home, and for midnight toilet trips. Also, you can pretty much guarantee an expensive trip to the vet just before pay day - and never underestimate the lengths your dog might go to to steal food.
- Acknowledge that not everyone might like your dog. Friends or family members might have allergies, or others might not trust your dog and be fearful of them. Not everyone will welcome your new pooch into their home, and if you have friends and family with a dog already, remember that it isn’t a guarantee they’ll get along either.
- And finally, but perhaps most importantly, an upgrade from the age old phrase ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’, the new take must be, ‘a dog is for a lifetime, not just for lockdown’. If your ‘normal pre-Covid’ life wouldn’t have accommodated a puppy, take a moment to see if getting a dog now is the right decision. They’re a huge commitment – a wonderful one if you ask me – but not a decision to be made lightly.
*This advice is my own, and any formal advice can be found with registered animal charities or governing bodies such as those below.
For more information on adding a dog to your family, the below links may prove helpful.