Dog lovers will talk your ear off about the joys of canine love, and there are lots of scientific studies that support the idea that living with a dog has benefits. However, if you’re getting a dog because of all the benefits you’ve heard about, read this to help you make an informed decision.
1. Dogs are sunshine furry pals
Having an uncritical loving companion is one of the most commonly cited values for dog ownership. Study after study has shown that a dog becomes the four-legged friend who understands you and loves you no matter what.
With a well-adjusted social pet, this is absolutely true. You might even have people dropping by to see the pooch – and you on the side! However, dogs have personality, moods, likes and dislikes, just like you. A dog will love you but you may not have much in common.
So if you want a BFF who loves hugs and wild games, consider that you may end up with an aloof couch potato.
2. Dogs help you get fit
The idea is that your dog’s need for exercise will motivate you into going along and walking yourself into that slim waist line. Sadly, that’s not a sure deal.
At first, you may be motivated to exercise more but studies show learning new behaviour is a complex system that depends on a strong cycle of practice and positive reinforcement. This is a common issue in buying gym memberships; when the rewards of exercise don’t kick in quickly enough, you’re not feeling encouraged enough to keep going.
If you are not an exercise person, just getting a dog is often not enough motivation.
Consider that you may go back to your regular habits after a few months and have the guilt of a whining, stressed pet who lacks exercise.
3. Dogs ease stress
There are benefits to simply petting a happy dog, including lower blood pressure. However, these rosy picture-perfect moments are built on the everyday issues of pet ownership that you will need to cope with.
These include: Fur over every bit of your furniture and clothes, doggy drool on you, a few breakages due to happy tails and accidents, and poop-scooping every day.
If the everyday realities are stressful, you’re better off petting the neighbour’s dog and leaving the mess to her.
4. Dogs help you socialise
Studies that show this benefit tends to come from dog-friendly countries with pubs and parks where you can meet and mingle easily. It’s not the same in Malaysia.
If you walk alone, you can drop by any park and coffee shop. With a pet, you’re limited. Also, if you like weekends away, it’s unlikely you’ll find a pet-friendly hotel.
Finally, when you have a pet at home waiting for you, you can’t slope off after office hours and party all night long. You have to take care of the pooch first. As such, a dog may actually curtail your socialising.
5. Dogs are great for the kids
Kids and dogs go together like chocolate and cream. As a parent, you might think it’s a good way to gently lead your little ones into learning to be responsible.
Psychologists note that kids with pets appear to be less stressed and more connected.
Finally, allergy experts have linked pet ownership to a lower risk of developing allergies and asthma.
It’s all good stuff but the flip side is that when kids go to school and tuition, it’s you who has to do the feeding, brushing and walking. Also, dogs live 15 to 20 years, so chances are that when your kids go to college, you and the dog stay at home.
What’s the bottom line?
If you’re certain you can afford to keep a dog, and you have the kind of lifestyle that can include a dog, and you’re not planning any significant life changes in the next few years, then you should explore further.
Having a dog is a joyous adventure but it’s also a responsibility. Perhaps the best way to sum it up is that it’s like living with a four-year-old for a decade or two. Your pet will grow out of chewing your slippers and peeing on the floor but you will always have to look after them.
It’s a lot of work but the joy comes from seeing your pet’s happiness.