Canines on campus

Those furry pets aren’t always a student’s best friend

This yorkshire terrier needs to visit the groomer about every eight weeks, which could pose a challenge for many students.
This yorkshire terrier needs to visit the groomer about every eight weeks, which could pose a challenge for many students.
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Paris Hilton may have popularized dogs with her chihuahua, but is living in a designer bag really a good life for a dog? Students’ unpredictable lifestyles aren’t always conducive to dog ownership either. If you want a pet to cuddle with after that late-night lecture, it’s important to ensure your lifestyle is equipped to provide a healthy home to your new best friend.

Julia Mitchell, pet owner, ArtSci ’08 and AMS vice-president (university affairs) said she didn’t fully understand the reality of having a dog until she got one.

“[Caring for] a dog takes a significant amount of time, but I think it’s worth it,” she said.

Mitchell was at Queen’s when she decided to get her very first dog, a beagle crossed with a border collie, whom she named Charlie Brown.

Mitchell said she wanted a dog all throughout her childhood, but her parents wouldn’t let her get one. When she came to university, she finally had her chance to be a pet owner.

“I went to the Humane Society a couple of times to see if there was a dog there for me … and the last time I went I was lucky to find a litter of puppies,” she said.

Mitchell said she jumped on the rare opportunity to get a puppy from the Humane Society because it was probably about $600 cheaper than getting her dog from a breeder.

Mitchell said she loves having a dog, but she usually advises other people not to get one because she remembers what a challenge it was for her.

While you’re still in the early stages of training your dog, for example, Mitchell said, you should be prepared for some sleepless nights.

“Make sure you have the time,” she said, “especially during the first year. It’s pretty much a full-time job.”

And that first year isn’t always a smooth one.

“I’ve been through a few pairs of shoes in this past year,” Mitchell said, referring to Charlie Brown’s chewing habits.

But there’s a lot of good that comes from getting a puppy as well, she said.

“You do develop a relationship with your dog and when they get older, they develop a personality of their own,” Mitchell said.

She said that her dog responds to her in different ways; he’s a great companion to have—and one that doesn’t talk.

Mitchell said there are social benefits to being a dog-owner as well.

“It gets you out walking to the park and meeting other people who have dogs,” she said.

“It gets me outside. It leads me to a more active life.”

There are a number of things that students should think about before they make the decision to bring a dog into their lives.

Ashley Douglas, veterinary assistant at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic, sees a lot of students with animals, but said not every student’s life is cut out for raising a dog.

The first surprise tends to be the cost incurred.

“I would say [students] are shocked at how much it costs and how much work it takes to own a puppy,” Douglas said.

She estimated the average dog-owner will have to pay approximately $700 for veterinary bills in the first year alone. This includes the first three sets of vaccines, spaying or neutering the puppy and paying for heartworm and flea medication. In addition to these costs, would-be owners should also anticipate paying for food, toys, leashes and grooming.

“Different types of breeds need to be groomed regularly,” Douglas said, adding that this costs about $40 to $60 per grooming session.

Douglas stressed the importance of finding the right breed for your lifestyle by looking at how much additional cost will arise from each particular breed.

“If you get a dog with a long silky coat or a fluffy coat … they need to be groomed. You want to look into that to make sure you have the dedication to do that,” she said.

Douglas said certain breeds that are predisposed to particular illnesses can also incur extra costs.

But it’s not only the cost you might have difficulty affording—it’s also the time, she said.

“You have to teach them no barking, no jumping, no begging. You have to house train them and teach leash obedience,” Douglas said.

She suggested puppy training courses are a good option for those who can make it out to the weekly classes. “They teach you how to train your dog,” Douglas said. “At that point, your dog is socialized with other dogs and that prevents aggression to other dogs.”

There are a number of other services available in Kingston to help take some of the responsibility off of pet owners.

Alex LeBlanc, owner of Birds and Paws, said his business offers a doggie wash service, which ranges from $15 to $35 depending on the size of the dog, and a fully supervised doggy daycare for $22 a day or $15 per half day to help pet owners with busy schedules. Birds and Paws also offers students a 10 per cent discount on their services.

“People might be surprised by the amount of time commitment that should be given to the animal,” LeBlanc said. “That’s something new to a first-time pet owner in general, not just to students.

“You need to have time to spend with them, socialize them, walk with them and play with them.”

Le Blanc said the doggy daycare takes the pressure off people so they can pick up their pet at the end of the day once it has spent all its energy.

“[It’s good] if you don’t have a lot of time in your life but want to own a pet,” LeBlanc said.

He said this also offers an opportunity for socializing your dog so it learns how to interact with other dogs.

“Dogs might have a tendency to misread what other dogs are telling them,” Le Blanc said. “If they see more dogs, they have a tendency to be able to distinguish what dogs’ reactions are.” But Kingston is missing one great canine resource: an off-leash dog park.

“There’s quite a few unofficial dog parks,” LeBlanc said, but so far there are no parks designated for dogs to go off-leash.

LeBlanc said one of the most important things about owning a dog is unconditional love.

“Dogs are described as companion animals. I think that’s the number one thing.”

If you are looking into getting a dog, check out the Kingston Humane Society, located at 1 Binnington Crt. in Kingston.

How dog-friendly is your life?

Things to consider before getting a dog:

1. Do you hate physical activity and/or the outdoors?

2. Do you sometimes forget to feed yourself at dinner time?

3. Do your friends rarely, if ever, call you playful?

4. Do you have less than two metres squared of yard space?

5. Do you forget to groom yourself regularly?

6. Do you lose your temper when others disobey you?

7. Do you have housemates who are allergic to, or afraid of, animals?

8. Do you sometimes tell your profs “My dog ate my lab report,” but would be mad if it actually happened?

9. Do you have trouble waking up early in the morning?

10. Do you frequently find your bank balance reading “insufficient funds”?

If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, you should reconsider whether you can handle the responsibility of having a dog.

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