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Owning a dog is harder than having kids

PUBLISHED: 16:41 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 10:50 16 January 2020

Dogs love to chew, get everywhere and find mischief with everything says Rachel Moore, so don't take owning one lightly

Dogs love to chew, get everywhere and find mischief with everything says Rachel Moore, so don't take owning one lightly

Ngô NguyÅn Vinh Quang ( Quang Ngo )

'If a dog can't be your priority, don't even think about owning one', says Rachel Moore

Dog lovers who treat their pets like children come in for a lot of ridicule.

Canine child substitutes, people mock. "They are dogs, not babies," they laugh about people who cherish their pets.

But, to decide to bring a dog into a home is as big a decision as deciding to have a child.

I've done both, and to do both well - which I'm in no way claiming to have achieved - takes commitment, time, patience and willingness to shape your life around another living creature.

Being a first-time dog 'parent' demands a serious lifestyle change. It's not a decision to take lightly or on a whim.

It's not like buying a new sofa, or new TV - though some people put far more research and planning into the colour, seating, style and features than buying a dog, that could be their responsibility for the best part of two decades.

You commit to bringing up a child for at least 18 years. Your dog could live that long.

You can nip away for a weekend when a child is 15 or 16. You can't leave a dog to fend for itself. Dog sitters and kennels are expensive. Dog day care can rack up as much expense as child care, and there are no government vouchers.

It's the third week of January and too many of those cutesy puppies that were so adorable and entertaining over Christmas have ripped up enough furniture, chewed too may skirting boards, shredded clothes and cushions and had 'accidents' on the carpet to be ready to be 'rehomed.'

I'd argue that coping with a new puppy - or older rescue dog - is harder than a new baby. Housetraining is the least of the problems - they chew, get into everywhere, find mischief with everything and cry at night.

Lack of sleep, a house turned upside down, tiny teeth ruining shoes, the need to train, socialise and keep stimulated can feel like a full-time job.

Dogs are a tie, need hard work to address challenging behaviours.

They need company. They are pack animals. We all feel guilty for leaving our animals alone for stretches of time. It isn't fair on them.

But not being fair on dogs is becoming an epidemic.

Dogs are abandoned daily. Dogs trusts and rehoming centres are bursting. Puppy farms, incredibly, still manage to sell puppies.

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Owners want designer breeds, fashionable mixes of breeds with new names. Mutts and mongrels don't cut the Instagram mustard - #dogsofInstagram - or fit with the polished filtered image of a fluffed up Cavapoo.

The government commissioned research how to promote responsible dog ownership. In some cities, towns and villages in the Netherlands, dog owners are charged substantial annual taxes - around £100 for a single pet and more for multiple dog owners.

A licensing scheme would create money to help improve dog welfare and tackle the issues around dog ownership, including anti-social behaviour.

We're at crisis point with irresponsible dog ownership and something needs to be done.

I often look at my lovely golden retriever, now 12-and-a-half and far more challenging than either of my sons, and wonder how we've got this far together.

He joined the family as an eight-week-old crazy ball of cream fur in 2007. After years of crazing for a dog by Son Number Two, he was promised one when he was seven.

After much research, he chose a golden retriever. We bought wisely from a farm whose bitch was to have one litter, all boys.

The puppy my boys chose was the naughty brother, mischievous, noisy, barky who wound his brothers clambering over them, soppy and a dog who loved people far more than other dogs. We all fell for him the moment he hurtled towards us, big pink tongue flopping.

The boys fell for this personality, that has remained largely the same as that day in September 2007.

Like my parenting, I've made so many mistakes as a dog owner. I've been too soft, too nervous, too anxious, which only served to make his rumbustiousness worse.

When he arrived, we lived in a village in a house big enough for a large dog, with a large garden and miles of Broadland walks. I was self-employed and worked at home so our days were punctuated by long river walks.

No one has a crystal ball when they have children or buy a dog. Divorce happened and downsizing followed. I had to return to full time work, which now had to be planned around not just two teenage boys but also our boisterous challenging dog.

The boys grew up and went away. Leo found himself an 'only child' in a quiet house, my lone companion.

Through Leo, I have come to adore all dogs and am now as doggy as you get.

But, as much as I love them, I wouldn't bring another into my home until I retire and have enough time to devote the attention a dog deserves.

I'm plagued by nearly as much guilt about where I've fallen short as a dog owner than as a parent.

If a dog can't be your priority, don't even think about it.

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