Beware the Puppy Impulse Buy

Do not buy a dog on a whim. Particularly not a puppy kind of dog. I know the RSPCA and other animal welfare organisations say this all the time but I’d just like to reiterate it here.

In fact, if someone made a t-shirt that said “Don’t Buy A Puppy, You Idiot” I would totally buy that t-shirt and wear it every time I went to Westfield or anywhere else that prays on innocent people who think they’re going out to buy school shoes or a blender and come home with some kind of ‘Ooodle’ that cost $1000.

Technically, I am not one of those people but I did once buy a puppy-on-a-whim and the end result was the same: disaster.

Many years ago I wanted another baby. So I bought a Labrador puppy. See the logic gap between those two sentences? No, neither did I. Which is how I came to wake up on Saturday morning obsessed with the idea of buying a puppy and like some demented child, hit the phone hard until I finally tracked down an 8 week old yellow lab in a pet store across the other side of the city.

Faster than you can say “get some therapy, it’s cheaper”, I’d spent more than a grand on Indy the puppy and all the doggy accoutrements that, apparently, she required.

Clearly, I’d forgotten the part where I had a toddler at home and that’s where hell began. The IDEA of having two children – I mean a child and a puppy –  was, in my head, a fantastic one. In practice, the simultaneous attempt at toilet training was a fast track to bonkers.

It only took me a couple of weeks to realise I had screwed up in a major way. You see, I still wanted another baby. And now I had stained carpet and a small child who was often smeared in dog poo. This was not ideal. And have I mentioned that the cute novelty of a puppy gets tired really fast?

Speaking of fast, I’m not terribly proud of the speed at which I decided Indy would be happier living with another family. Almost as fast as I realised I would be happier too.

Having mercifully found said family (active outdoorsy types who came complete with dog-loving 8 year old boy), I fretted about the emotional effect it would have on my two year old to lose his beloved puppy. The day Indy left us, he waved bye bye and never mentioned her again. Meanwhile, I did a happy dance around my house without having to watch where I put my feet.

A few weeks ago a friend bumped into the woman who adopted Indy and learnt that Indy, who is now eleven years old, had just won Slimmer Of The Year in the Labrador category after losing 10kgs. Before that, she resembled a beer keg.


It turns out I’m not the only person to have spectacularly bad judgement when it comes to combining kids and puppies. A couple of years ago when friends bought a puppy for their 7-year-old daughter, I tried to intervene. “You’re on crack,” I shouted tactfully. “But Ava wants a puppy!’ said the Dad. ‘She loves dogs!” “Every child wants a puppy!” I argued. “But the child doesn’t have to deal with the puppy! You do!” Sure enough, a year later the puppy had been found a new home and I was spray painting “I TOLD YOU SO” on their front fence.

Last weekend I was sitting with a couple of other mothers at a child’s birthday party. The topic of conversation: ‘How Impulsively Buying A Puppy Was The Dumbest Thing I Ever Did’. It’s a trap made vastly more common by the proliferation of puppy stores in shopping malls. One woman had called her husband from Westfield where she’d fallen in love with a chocolate Labrador. “Do whatever you think is right,” he said. So she bought him. “THAT’S what you thought was right?” he exclaimed when he got home. Six months later, Buddy had a new home.

Another woman was still deep in puppy regret. Her purebred had chewed up numerous bits of furniture, all her shoes and half the children’s toys. “The kids begged us for a puppy but when we went on holidays for two weeks, they didn’t even mention his name” she said before admitting she’d been Googling the life expectancy of that particular breed. When she discovered it was 15 years, she’d burst into tears.

Funnily enough, I have never met anyone who adopted a dog from the pound and regretted it. A few years after the Indy disaster, we went to a dogs’ home and adopted a small 18-month-old mutt who adds huge value to our lives and has done from the moment we brought him home.

Everyone seems to agree that pound dogs remain forever grateful to you for rescuing them. Adopting a homeless adult dog is one hundred shades of wonderful and I can’t recommend it enough. Now I just need a t-shirt that says that.

Have you ever had Pet Regret? Ever saved an animal from death row? What do you think about puppy shops?

If you’re even thinking of getting a pet, please start by looking around the RSPCA website or searching online for your local animal shelter which probably have their own site- there are thousands of dogs and cats you can see online and I guarantee you’ll fall in love while contemplating saving a life.