I’m passionate about dogs, dog owners, and dog training. It is this passion that drives me every day toward my goal to create rewarding relationships between owners and their dogs.
It is also this passion that requires regular writing to educate, create awareness, and generate thoughtfulness around owning a dog. In this post, I want to talk about the responsibilities we have as dog owners, the length of time we’re committed to our best friend, and what’s required of us as dog parents.
The topic has been written about time and time again but in a safe and guarded way, simply suggesting that you really consider what it takes to be a dog owner. If you don’t have the time, space, or depth of feeling to own a dog you should consider NOT buying or rescuing one.
I want to take the thought process of buying or rescuing a dog a little deeper and say that if you do buy, rescue, or adopt a dog, that dog is your responsibility from the moment you have it until its very last breath. And that dog is counting on you to be there to hold him when he takes that last breath.
Owning a dog cannot, under any circumstance, be taken lightly. A rescue dog or a puppy from a breeder is a living, breathing creature that cannot take care of itself. They will never be able to feed or bathe themselves; they are just like children that need to be taught the proper way to behave in various situations. They will never be able to take themselves for a walk around the block for a bit of exercise. They will be dependent on you for their entire life.
If you’ve experienced dogs in your life, you know that they are capable of having some basic emotions like joy, fear, anger, disgust, and, yes, love. You’ve seen the level of emotion that can be expressed by dogs if you’ve ever come home from work to see his dog tail wildly wagging! He’s genuinely happy to see you. He will sit at the door, wait for you, and greet you with licks, love, and excitement whether you’ve been gone three minutes or three hours.
Dogs respond to the tone of your voice, and they know when you’re angry. Dogs are highly intelligent, deep-feeling beings. Happiness, excitement, and affection are all emotions that dogs can show. But dogs can process fear, sadness, and anger as well. As humans, we can relate to these emotions, but we also have the ability to reason, which is something that dogs do not have.
Leaving a dog at a shelter can leave them with anger, sadness, and fear because they don’t understand where their owners went. Dogs will quickly get used to their owners, and when they don’t see them anymore, they will show signs of fear and sadness. Understand that dogs feel these emotions, but they can’t reason.
You may convince yourself that you had an excellent reason to get rid of a dog, but unfortunately, dogs don’t know why you are no longer there.
Once you decide to own a dog, there is almost no situation that warrants you taking your dog and dropping him at a shelter.
Most often, families who dump their dogs use these reasons for doing so:
If you choose to adopt a dog, accept that your new pet is a member of the family and should be treated that way. Dogs should be protected and guarded against harm with the same loyalty that they present to you. Dogs love their owners without question, and they deserve the same respect, as human beings.
Now, there certainly are circumstances that could be argued in favor of taking your dog to the shelter but only after you have exhausted every single avenue possible to either get you and your dog training, find him a new loving home, or someone to come in and assess the situation with you. Taking a dog to a shelter is not an option, it is an absolute last resort.
By not doing the work to find a solution to a problem that is your responsibility and using the local shelter as your dumping ground is placing the responsibility for your dog to someone else. And quite frankly, that person may actually have to put your dog down if no one rescues him and that’s just wrong. “Well, that’s their job if they work at a shelter,” you say! That may be their job, but that dog is your responsibility!
The decision to own a dog must come after the emotion is taken out of the process so that you’re able to make a thoughtful and deliberate choice.
Another highly alarming trend is puppies being given as gifts for holidays. Choosing a puppy for your family, once you’ve thoroughly considered it and decided, is not the problem. Surprising someone with a pet might seem like a thoughtful gift, but dogs can be a true 15-year commitment, which may not work for that person if they simply aren’t ready to care for an animal. Remember that dogs are not a brief distraction, they are not a short-lived form of entertainment, and they are not an impulse purchase.
If you think you might like to be a dog owner, seriously consider the following; the list below, while not exhaustive, is what’s actually involved in raising a well-behaved, well cared for, and happy dog.
Ask yourself and your family members a few questions and remember to take the emotion out of the process:
Careful consideration must be made before rescuing or buying a dog. Please take the time beforehand to be sure you can handle the responsibility of owning a dog, that you really want a dog, that you can make room for a dog in your life and you can afford a dog. Most importantly, would you thoroughly enjoy owning a dog?
If you cannot, honestly, thoughtfully and responsibly say yes to every question above, owning a dog is NOT for you, and that’s okay! If you make a quick decision, let your emotions guide you into buying a cute little puppy, both you and your new friend are going to suffer the consequences. I have seen it happen too many times. Owning a dog is not a decision to be made lightly.
If you have a dog and are having difficulty, please call Training Tails for a private consultation.