So you want a puppy or a dog?
Many people dream of owning a dog and enjoying the companionship and loyalty that only a canine can bring.
Inviting a new edition into your family can bring such pleasure and joy to your life, plus offer you some genuine health benefits, such as improved fitness and lifestyle. There is nothing quite like the unconditional love of a dog. However with more and more dogs, including pedigree breeds and so called ‘designer dogs’, turning up in rescue centre’s all over the country, it is vital to consider all aspects of dog ownership and have an honest and thorough look at your family and lifestyle to ensure it is the right breed for you. It is a massive decision for you, your family and perhaps most importantly the dog!
Before we look at all the wonderful things about owning a dog, let’s look at the cold hard facts. If you have managed to read this far it is a great start, because dog ownership is a serious business and a massive decision. A dog’s lifespan can vary greatly, some achieving just single figures whilst others can live until they are 18 and well beyond in some cases! With this is mind it is important to consider the associated costs of dog ownership.
I have based these costs on the average costs that we actually encountered in the first year with the Wagnificent Cockapoo’s, bred and owned in the South of England. There will of course be a variation fluctuation in these costs, for example if you live in a major city such as London or Manchester or perhaps in more rural areas. Also, the feeding costs will greatly differ if you are thinking about introducing a Great Dane into your home!
Please take these costs as a very rough guide to encourage you to explore the local services you may choose to use in the future and ensure you are financially prepared for your new family member.
Annual Cost of Owning a Dog
|Item||Cost||Annual First Year Cost|
|Preventative Medications||£45 per six months||£90|
|Insurance||£12 per month||£120|
|Food||£25 per month||£300|
|Essentials: Bed, Lead, Collar, Crate, Tag, Bowls,
Blanket, Brushes, Microchip
|Extra’s: Toys, Treats, Coats||£10||£120|
|Dog Walker / Pet Sitter||£25 per week||£1,300|
|Kennels||£100 per week||£200|
|Puppy Training||£50 per six week course||£150|
*Costs correct as of 2016
There are a number of considerations around vaccinating your puppy and we strongly recommend you read around the subject and speak with your local vet and build a good relationship with them at the earliest opportunity. Puppies usually start their course of vaccinations at around 8 weeks. The core vaccinations tend to cover: Canine Distemper, Parvovirus, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis and often Kennel Cough is encouraged too. It is imperative that you follow your veterinarian’s instructions and not allow your puppy out and about until these vaccinations have had time to offer full protection. As much as you want to show your new bundle of joy the big wide world, they are not adequately covered until the vaccinations fully take effect.
We would urge you to read very carefully about further vaccinations after the initial puppy shots. There is a great deal of evidence building that we are in fact harming our dogs greatly by a worldwide epidemic of over vaccinating. The implications of over vaccinating are horrendous and as much as we are not suggesting this article replace the knowledge of a qualified vet, we would urge you to investigate the facts for yourself and if at all possible look into titre testing for absolute peace of mind, before continually vaccinating.
In addition to core vaccines, you will need to also research preventative medications too. Preventative medications include flea treatment, wormer, plus protection against ticks, heartworm, lungworm, to name a few. There are a number of broad spectrum all in one, ‘spot on’ type products, however speak to your local vet who will be fully aware of the local issues and be best able to advise you on things such as Leptospirosis. When I asked our local vet how many cases of ‘Lepto’ they had seen in our local area, the answer was none! So I politely asked, why are we vaccinating against it?
When it comes to flea and tick treatment we would suggest you very thoroughly research first. There is a growing trend towards internal treatments, administered with a meaty looking chew. Personally speaking here at Wagnificent we would never, ever give our dogs a ton of chemicals internally to treat an external issue. Search the major brands who offer this type of product online and you will find thousands of horrific cases, where dogs have died shortly after eating them and we would not be prepared to take ANY risk with our dogs. Please if you do nothing else – do your own research on any brand you intend to use on your pet. If fleas and ticks are an issue in your area, then a topical application or more natural, holistic approach might be preferable such as products sold through Mr Slobberchops online store, who offer worldwide shipping.
TOP TIP: Some of these preventative products are often considerably more expensive to purchase directly from your vet. Once you have received local veterinary advice and your dog has regularly used a particular product, without issue, you may want to consider purchasing your medications online. To do this you will need a prescription from your vet. We have found that buying online and paying the vet for the prescription charge, still worked out cheaper than simply buying from the vet. This can save you a great deal of money over the years.
There are a number of schools of thought around whether to neuter your pet or not and also when is the best time to do so, if you choose to. It is a big decision for both you and of course your pet and may well depend on your dog’s individual behaviour and your personal situation. It is a well debated subject and well worth doing your own research. It is well worth checking out some of the You Tube video’s posted by leading veterinarian, Dr Karen Becker. As a minimum, many people believe in waiting until your pet reaches maturity which is around 18 months, or after a bitch has had their first season.
For us, insurance was vital. We did not want to be hit by huge, unaffordable vet bills, should anything happen to our beloved furballs, but finding the right insurance was a real mine field! Some people, frustrated by the very unclear marketplace decide to save a nominal amount each month in a savings account instead, which is a great idea, providing you have no issues or expensive outlays in the first couple of years, whilst your savings pot grows. If you do decide to go the insurance route, take your time and research thoroughly before your pup arrives and make sure you have a policy in place from the day you collect him. Insurance comparison sites are a great place to start your search.
Before committing to a policy for your pup here are a few things you may want to consider:
- What sort of excess are you prepared to pay, before an insurer will pay out the remainder?
- What sort of financial annual cover are you realistically going to need?
- How good is the company at actually paying out? Does your vet have experience of them?
- Which type of policy do you want? Lifetime? Time Limited? Per Condition?
- Check all the clauses in the small print, particularly cover on cruciate knee and hip issues.
You may have a healthy bundle of fur in your hands right now, but what about the future?
If you have a dog that develops diabetes for example and needs medication for life, will you continue to get your full annual allocation of cover each year for that same condition? Many of the cheaper policies, look great initially but once you drill down, those policies may not be ideal. Call any prospective insurer and ask them exactly what is covered year on year and ensure that your annual allocation is replenished every year.
TOP TIP: Some insurers use the standard Kennel Club classification for dog breeds. If you have a cross breed dog that is not listed, then they often select ‘Cross Breed’ which often means insurance can be a little cheaper.
FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD
Food is a topic we cover a great deal on this site, as it is so important. Food and pet nutrition is a hotly debated subject. In its most simplistic terms try to feed your dog the best quality food, you can afford. The old adage ‘You are what you eat’ has never been truer.
With so many fancy packaged products available with multi million pound marketing budgets to push them out to the consumer; it can be hard to know where to start. We would suggest you read our articles on the best dry dog food options and the best wet food options, for a detailed look at what your pets need and what is readily available on the market.
Your puppy will come to you on a certain brand of food. It is advisable to not change it until the pup has had time to adjust to his new surroundings and settle in. Use this time to do your homework. Actually read the back of the packet and check the ingredients! Yep! Read it! Ingredients are listed in order of highest quantity first. Dogs need meat! If the first three listed are not meat or do not add up to at least 40 – 80% of the total, then perhaps look at another product. There are some very good 80% Meat / 20% Veg dry foods on the market (see below), and some excellent cold pressed foods which retain more nutrients than extruded kibble. If you do not feel you can feed a raw (BARF) diet then check out our article on best dry food for dogs.
An example of the composition of a high quality extruded dry dog food. How does yours compare?
Check out this video from Rodney Habib about how to read your dog food label.
The Costly Extras
Rarely do dog owners stop at a humble collar, lead and bowl. Dogs love toys! They teethe on them, tug them, chase them, learn from them, often destroy them and generally love to play. Do allow extra time and funds to get a good selection of toys for your puppy. Avoid any toy with batteries in and regularly check your pets toys for any rips or tears.
Check out the Wagnificent Top 10 Dog Toys
Training is as vital as exercise is for your four legged friend. Your dog will be keen to exercise both his body and his brain. With your time, patience and guidance you should have a well adjusted, well behaved and lovable family dog.
If you have a bouncy and excitable puppy on your hands then a combination of short walks and training should encourage him to settle better. Mental stimulation for young puppies can be more exhausting than physical exertion.
Get on the floor and interact with your dog regularly. This also gives you the chance to get your dog used to handling. Check their feet, between the pads and take a look in their ears too. Getting them used to this type of handling, as a puppy, will stand you and your vet in good stead in later life.
With good training, you will be able to take your pup with you to more places and really involve him in your lives. Without training, home life becomes so much more difficult. We started training before our pup could even go out. We attended a few sessions of a ‘puppy party’ class which is where other vaccinated but not yet able to ‘go out’ pups meet up to learn socialisation skills.
We then went to a weekly puppy training introduction class for six weeks, before continuing into a weekly fun obedience class, where the real training started. Find a good, fun, local trainer, who promotes kind, reward based training and actually enjoy their job! Do not be afraid to change trainer, if you or your dog are not enjoying the sessions!
Ensure your trainer is fully qualified with a professional body such as the APDT and continues to keep up to date with new developments in the field of pet training. Also make sure that they are fully insured.
Dedicate yourself to investing just an hour per week and reap the massive rewards on offer. A good dog trainer will enable you to learn to ‘speak dog’ and encourage positive, reward based training and never use force, of any kind.
Investing in a few training courses in the first year, will enable you to reap years of benefits. Persevere, be consistent and try to make sure you share all your new found information with the whole family to speed up your dogs learning. Consistency from all family members is the key!
When you collect your pup, many breeders will ensure they leave with a ‘scent blanket’. This is usually a small blanket that will smell of mum and his litter mates to help him feel comfortable and ease him into his new family.
Depending on how you are going to toilet train your dog, you may have just a bed or a bed inside his crate. Crates or cages are massively helpful in the first year of rearing a dog. Crates are the dogs ‘safe place’ and are not a punishment, it also gives you peace of mind, whilst your puppy goes through his exploring and teething stage and might just save you a small fortune in slippers!
Our first dog, was a Cockapoo who was partially crate trained by the breeder, so he instantly loved his new bed in his crate. He was familiar with it and felt safe inside his little crate and often took himself off to his crate to snooze during the first few months. Our second puppy was not introduced to a crate at all. He used it for the first five months, but then we removed it and he happily slept in a bed in the kitchen. It really depends on the dog and also on your household environment as to what will work best for you.
Your dog may find a crate with a blanket draped over it quite inviting if you have a busy household with noisy children. Remember that puppies need A LOT of sleep and as cute as they are, they need to rest.
As from 6th April 2016 all UK dogs need to microchipped and logged on an approved database, by the time they reach 8 weeks of age. Failure to do so, can result in a fine of up to £500. Regardless of any fine, losing your dog whilst out on a walk can be one of the most distressing things. Collars and tags can often be lost. The microchipping law, will hopefully enable a vet or dog warden to scan your pet and have you reunited in no time.
TOP TIP: Remember to keep all your microchip details up to date. Update the database when you change phone number or move house! Keep a safe record of the number on your dog’s medical card.
Dog Collars and Tags
It is important to get your dog used to a collar and lead as soon as possible. It is a good idea to start training with lead walking indoors, before your puppy can even go out. The Control of Dogs Order 1992 also states that all dogs should wear a tag with the name and address of the owner on it. Dog tags can be bought in local pet stores or online. There are also a number of online suppliers who sell embroidered personalised collars, if you prefer not to have a tag hanging round their necks. Harnesses are recommended as it takes the strain off your dogs neck, if . Here at Wagnificent we are big fans of the super comfortable Xtra Dog Fleece Harness. Here is Dexter the Cockapoo modelling his fetching blue and grey number after a visit to the groomers.
Food and Water Bowls
You will also need several dog bowls, one for water, which should be readily available to the dog at any time and a food bowl. Heavy ceramic bowls seem to be best, as they reduce the chance of your dog up ending it and making a mess and can go in the dishwasher easily enough. If your puppy is a real food monster and gulps his food (which can be dangerous), you may want to invest in an anti gulp bowl, which can slow your puppy down.
All dogs will require some sort of grooming. Depending on the breed that could just be a monthly bath and brush at home. However, for some breeds, the coat maintenance is more intensive, with DAILY brushing required.
With the explosion of popularity in so called ‘Designer Dogs’ – a phrase we are not really fans of here at Wagnificent, there are many ‘non shedding’ dogs being bred. Often breeders claim they are hypo-allergenic and suitable for allergy sufferers. Genetics is not an exact science and this is not always the case, and is often one of the reasons Cockapoo’s, Cavapoo’s and so on, end up being rehomed in their infancy and pop up in rescue centres. No dog is likely to be fully hypo allergenic! They can be low dander due to the Poodle input of course, but if you suffer greatly with allergies, perhaps you should reconsider dog ownership?
Any ‘non moulting’ dog will require frequent trips to the groomer, unless you spend some time getting comfortable with home grooming and are prepared to lay out for the necessary equipment. It is another sizable cost to consider, when selecting a breed suitable for your family and indeed budget. Grooming costs vary across the country of course, but on average dogs need to be groomed at least 2 – 4 times per year and the costs vary from £20 – £35 per session. In addition to this you will still need to brush them thoroughly at least 2 – 4 times per week, so a good set of grooming brushes and combs are vital.
Brush sets should ideally include a standard brush, comb and a slicker such as this set.
We all have the very best intentions when we first make that big decision to get a puppy. However, many of us have very busy lives and soon the walking of the dog can become challenging to fit in. The child who promised faithfully to walk the dog come rain or shine, quickly goes back on that promise!
Regardless of the breed of your dog, he will need exercise. No great surprise, but some dogs need more than most. Have you checked that you can exercise appropriately the breed you intend to get? For example, we have a number of Cockapoo’s, in the office here at Wagnificent Towers. They are super cute dogs and very, very popular, but they are definitely not a lap dog! A 10 – 15 minute amble on the lead down the street is unlikely to suffice the average Cockapoo. When life gets busy, be prepared! Local dog walkers can be a massive help for both you and your dog. In our experience, a well exercised dog, makes for a much less hectic, destructive and a happier home!
There are thousands of dog walking businesses all over the country, so explore your local area and build a relationship early on. If you intend to use a dog walker regularly ensure that your dog builds a relationship with them and their vehicle whilst they are young. Invite them round for a visit, so your dog can get used to them.
The same applies for holiday cover. You can employ a pet sitter to stay in your home and walk your dog, or alternatively look at local kennel options. It is well worth putting some time aside to check the viability and costs of these services as soon as you know you are extending your family! Make sure anyone you use is fully insured and ideally has some training, even if it is just a pet first aid certificate! Better to be safe than sorry.
That covers the basics that you will need to budget for. If we haven’t scared you off yet, then you have one of the most overlooked aspects to consider. . . WHERE to get your new family member from!
There are many superb reputable breeders up and down the country but please, please, please do your homework. There are a huge number of unscrupulous people who breed dogs purely for financial gain and do not always ensure the parentage is sound or consider the health of the puppies a top priority. Sites such as Gumtree, Preloved and Pets4Homes are full of cute puppies all looking for their fur-ever home, but ensure you do lots of homework!
You may have seen some of the documentaries on TV of the huge puppy farming operations. Please do not support them. ALWAYS demand to see the puppy with the ‘mum’. No excuses ever. If the ‘breeder’ says it is not possible, simply walk away. If the breed you are considering have known common health issues, then ensure the parentage of your puppy has been tested and checked. If the breeder is not able to confirm details of the parents health – walk away! You may agree to view puppies at first, perhaps with your family in tow, and it would be very difficult to leave empty handed, but there is nothing worse than supporting this horrendous trade and potentially getting a puppy with a future blighted with health issues. Do your homework before you travel to view a puppy.
The only way to stop these people is to spread the word and simply not support them!
For many dogs, life is not quite so easy! Many dogs, including puppies and pedigree dogs, end up in rescue centres. If you have the time and patience to offer a loving home please consider a rescue dog first. ‘Adopt not shop’ is a common phrase on social media right now, encouraging would be new owners to consider some of the beautiful dogs that could only wish for a new start in life. Who knows, your new family member might just be sat in a kennel right now, waiting for you to pick them!
Now you are armed with the cold, hard financial facts, the time constraints and what to look for …
Welcome to the world of dog ownership and all the joy it brings!