The Secret to A Happy, Healthy, and Well-Mannered Dog.February 24, 2018
How to Recognize and Remedy a Mildly Anxious DogApril 10, 2018
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:
- Your cute little puppy is now a 100lb dog and not so cute.
- You chose not to train him, so he’s now in trouble and chewing things he shouldn’t.
- She’s young and playful, and you don’t have time for a walk every day.
- You seem to have developed an allergy and believe it’s the dog your allergic to.
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.
- A dog can live for ten or more years. Owning a dog is a long-term commitment. This pup will rely on you, his owner, for all of his needs for his entire life.
- A dog requires your time and attention. During the first six months, there’s house training which is time-consuming in and of itself. Obedience training is a must to ensure your puppy is well-behaved. Continued training is just as important as puppy training. It is through contact, training, and playing that a bond is created between owners and their dogs.
- When a puppy or a mature dog comes into your life, you can be guaranteed your daily routine will change, as will your lifestyle to some degree. When making plans for vacations, your pup needs to be considered. How long will you be away, what is the best place and person to care for him while you’re gone? Spontaneous outings will be a thing of the past unless you’ve taken the time to bond with and train your dog so he might be able to come along.
- He’ll require daily attention, daily feeding, brushing, bathing, nail trimming, care for his teeth and gums, walks, exercise, playtime.All of this takes time, and you must decide how it gets done before you bring a puppy into your home.
- Do a little research on the breed you’re considering. Find out how long the breed may live. Understand what you can expect in his senior years. Is this breed likely to go blind? Is this breed likely to need medications for common breed-related issues? Every cute little puppy is going to grow older and requires a much different type of care from you. A senior dog’s needs are essential to understand before you buy, rescue, or adopt!
- Owning a dog has a cost. They’ll be things you purchase once and those you’ll need to purchase again and again. There’s food, bowls, training classes, a crate, toys, a dog bed. They’ll be routine visits to the Vet, vaccinations, dental care, medical emergency care, and of course preventive care; heartworm, and flea & tick medication. Larger expenses might include fencing and the cost of boarding or daycare if you’re away most of the day.And there may be unexpected expenses as well.
Ask yourself and your family members a few questions and remember to take the emotion out of the process:
- Do all the members of your family want a dog?
- Who will be the primary person responsible?
- Do you have room for a dog?
- If you live in an apartment, are dogs allowed?
- Do you, or a family member have allergies?
- Are you gone for most of the day? Can you afford daycare?
- Do you have children? If not, are you planning to have children?
- Can you afford a dog?
- Do you have the necessary time to care for and love a dog?
- Do you really like dogs?
- Can you visualize yourself or your family with a dog?
- What changes will take place for you and are you okay with those changes?
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.