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Saturday 18 August 2018

Paws for thought before buying a dog...they're the price of a new car

Irish terrier
Irish terrier
Sinead Ryan

Sinead Ryan

I usually hate seeing graffiti in our lovely city, so I was surprised when it seemed to be put up by one of my favourite organisations.

"It's fake graffiti," the Dogs Trust said of the giant paw prints appearing on paving stones in Dublin. That's a relief, but it makes their #PawsForThought campaign stand out.

"A dog is for life, not just for Christmas" was coined by its founder Clarissa Baldwin 40-odd years ago. "We still use it today," says Ciara Byrne, the charity's communications manager, "and it's just as relevant."

Last year, 12,549 dogs entered city pounds and 1,522 were destroyed.

At Christmas there was a 58pc spike in abandoned or "surrendered" dogs, bought with the best of intentions, perhaps to give a surprise to children on Christmas morning (though it's well known that Santa Claus never brings pets), only for them to discover that they were taking on a great deal more than they'd thought.

EXPENSIVE

This week, I'm looking at what's actually involved in owning a dog (a cat too, though they're at least more self-sufficient and a little quieter). It's expensive, time-consuming and a whole lot of hard work.

Yes, a dog brings great joy to a family, but only one that's prepared for it and has considered everything that's needed to make it a family member.

"It costs around €10,000 to own a dog over its lifetime," says Ciara. "Christmas is the worst time to get one - it's noisy, there's a lot of commotion and puppies hate all that."

The main reasons dogs are abandoned or returned in the early months of the year are threefold: people realise very quickly they don't have enough time to look after it, it has grown too big or it isn't behaving well and it's too expensive.

Adopting or fostering a dog can be a great half-way step to seeing if making yours a permanent home is the right idea.

Researching the right breed is vital too. Small 'toy' dogs such as Shih tzu or Pomeranians are very sweet, but any pure breed will cost you more in upkeep, vet bills and other things than a rescue mongrel.

"Breed is vital," says Ciara. "If you're someone who likes to watch television curled up on the sofa then a big, energetic dog isn't for you, but a breed like a greyhound is just a big couch potato too, which many people don't realise. Your vet can give good advice on what breeds work for your lifestyle."

Here are some tips on how to find the dog that's right for you and what responsibilities you have towards it. Local authorities are clamping down on things like licences and barking and employ dog wardens to check. The table shows the typical costs of dog ownership in the first year and for life.

It's the equivalent of buying a new car, and you wouldn't do that on a whim on Christmas Eve.

What to consider

* Research the breed. What size will it grow to if it's a puppy now?

* What dogs best match your lifestyle? Are you fit and able for long walks with a big dog that needs them, or is a small terrier-type a better choice?

* Do you travel, or are you at work all day? Who will mind the dog? Will it be lonely? How will it get in and out of the house?

* When buying from a breeder, get your vet's recommendation first. Sadly, there are still many illegal puppy farms out there, and many are taken away from their mothers before they're ready.

* Watch the puppy/dog interacting with other dogs and people. Is it happy and well-adjusted? If it's cowering or growling, it may have too many behavioural problems.

* Who will your vet be? What will it cost for annual vaccinations, medication and check-ups?

Responsibilities

* Dog owners are required by law to have a dog licence and get their pet microchipped and registered with a state database such as Fido.ie. Many people go to the expense of chipping but don't enter details on the database. If the dog's lost, there's no back-up data to return it to its owner.

* Chipping should be done before the dog is sold, but otherwise costs €20 to €50, depending on breed. The certificate is €4.50 to €15.

* A dog licence costs €20 a year from An Post (a lifetime licence is €140). You must be able to produce this on demand to a dog warden.

* Dogs should be neutered or spayed, according to the DSPCA.

* Dogs must be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus and kennel cough. Failure to do so means you won't get insurance or be able to use a kennelling service.

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