In our "Ask It Early" series, "Early Show resident veterinarian Dr. Debbye Turner Bell answered viewers' pet questions.
Question from Cliff: "I have a 5-year old daughter who really wants a dog. I'd eventually like to get her one when she is older. Besides assessing a child's age and maturity level, are there other factors to take into consideration before owning the first pet/dog? Is there a dog that you can recommend for first time pet/dog owners?"
Bell's Answer: Before getting a pet, go to the library or bookstore and get a book on breeds and pets. Educate yourself! Veterinarians are also great sources of information about specific species and breeds. Talk to friends that own the pet in which you think you are interested. The more you know, the better it will go!
The questions you need to ask yourself:
WHY DO I WANT A PET?:
Is this pet for companionship? (You'll want to chose a naturally affectionate pet.)
Is this pet for protection? (You'll want to choose an alert, assertive dog breed.)
Am I bending to pressure from my kids, neighbors, trends? (Remember when you get a pet for your kids, chances are YOU will be the one taking care of it. Make sure you are willing to step in when the kids lose interest or get too busy. And getting a pet because it's popular or trendy is just plain a bad decision.)
Knowing WHY you want a pet will help with deciding which pet is right for you.
WHAT KIND OF LIVING SITUATION CAN I PROVIDE?:
Do I live in an apartment? (Cat, small dog, fish or bird is best.)
Do I have a yard? (Big dogs need space to run.)
Do I have the time or patience to raise a puppy? (Socialization, house training and obedience training are a lot of work!)
ARE THERE YOUNGER CHILDREN OR OLDER FOLKS IN THE HOME?:
Toy breeds may not be the best choice for a family with infants and toddlers. They generally have not yet learned to be gentle with handling animals. A miniature poodle, yorkie, or other small dog could easily suffer a broken bone in the hands of an over exuberant child.
Large, rambunctious dogs may not be the best choice for the elderly. A big dog could easily knock over an older, or weakened, person causing undue harm.
ARE YOU IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL?:
Dogs can live up to 20 years. So can cats. Some birds, can live up to 70 years! Are you ready for that kind of commitment? Remember, pets are like raising kids, except the pet never goes to college and leaves home!
WHICH PET IS BEST FOR WHICH SITUATION?:
These breeds (Miniature Poodles, Yorkshire Terriers, Pekinese) are great for single person households. They are great for old folks and apartment dwellers. They sometimes don't do well with a lot of people, noise and activity. They love individual attention. They are not always the best choice for families with small children. Toddlers can cause great harm to their fragile frames. Life expectancy can range from 10 to 20 years.
Medium and large sporting, hunting and working breeds (Labs, Goldens, Border Collies, Dalmations, German Shepherds) need lots of physical activity. They need time and space to run and exercise. These breeds are great for the active person who has time to run and play with their pet. The owner also needs either a yard (with a fence!) or access to a park. Unless a person is dedicated to walking the dog at least twice a day, these are not the best breeds for people who live in small apartments. Life expectancy can range from 7-15 years.
These dogs (Great Dane, Great Pyrenese, St. Bernard) need lots of room! They are very big. They eat a lot so count on a big grocery bill. If you have a small apartment, don't get one of these dogs. Be prepared for the fact that these dogs salivate a lot!! Giant breeds don't live as long as smaller dogs. Life expectancy can range from 5 - 10 years.
Question from Beatrice:How do I teach our puppy Sandy to stop peeing on the kitchen floor? Despite multiple attempts to teach him, he doesn't understand it is wrong. We are using crate training too.
Bell's Answer: I suggest this information from HumaneSociety.org.
Denise's Question: "I have a miniature dachshund and for the past few days she won't climb stairs. She drags her back legs when she tries to climb stairs. I can't afford to take her to the vet right now because I am an unemployed mother of three. Do you know anything that I can do to help my dog that doesn't cost a lot of money?"
Bell's Answer: We actually received a few questions about how to handle veterinary care in these tough economic times. The good news is, there are some resources available for people struggling to pay for their pet's healthcare.
The Humane Society has a list of national organizations on their website that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. Also, you might want to think about trying to negotiate a payment plan with your vet. If you're a client in good standing, he/she may be happy to work out a weekly or monthly payment plan so that you don't have to pay the entire cost of veterinary care up front. Also, offer to perform a service for your vet like cleaning kennels, answering phones or other work in lieu of actual cash. If you want don't mind paying a consultation fee, you might consider getting a second opinion. Another vet may have other, less expensive ways to treat your pet. Also, use a vet in a less expensive area. Vets in smaller towns tend to charge lower fees. And you can check out local veterinary schools. Many run low-cost clinics for limited income clients. And if you visit a local shelter, you might find the rates for vet care are lower.