A have had dogs all my life, my first German Shepherd, Rebel came to me when I was 3. I love watching them learn and then showcase what they have learned and I also love helping them when they need it.
If you have your expectations set at the correct level, then adding a dog to your family is a joy, when you foolishly have expectations that all will be great and you haven’t planned how to make it
that way, you’re likely going to be disappointed or frustrated at some point, and you’re also going to be jumping on a big learning curve.
Owning a dog in my view is a privilege, you will be taking responsibility for that dogs life, all that it experiences and achieves, its health and well being, its happiness and sadness, its lessons, successes and failures – the dog of course has no responsibility to anyone but himself so you will be held responsible for whatever it does.
So why do it?
Dogs can bring so much joy to your life it is indescribable the level of happiness they can bring, but of course like anything of great value, you have to work for it and at it.
You can get up in the middle of the night and go to your dog and tell him your craziest idea, you will find your dog ready and willing to hear your idea with as much enthusiasm as he has, no matter what hour it is.
Your dog won’t judge you on what you have or haven’t achieved, what you have or haven’t got, what you did yesterday or what you forgot to do.
The BASIC responsibilities are.
- You will need to complete all the necessary paperwork to register your dog in your name.
- You will need to ensure that the microchip details reflect your contact details and keep them up to date, this is so if you get lost the dog will be able to reunite with you.
- You will need to provide shelter and security for your chosen dog, and that will vary quite a lot, some dogs are fine to sleep outside with just a kennel, some lesser coated, older or unwell pets may not be ok outside at all.
- You will need to decide on a feeding regime and be available to provide food for your dog and of course a constant supply of fresh water.
- You will need to exercise your dog and of course make sure that your dog is healthy.
- Your dog will need mental stimulation, it isn’t a plant, it needs to be happy.
This is the very minimum, but there is so much more that you can give your dog which in turn will give you access to so much more benefits that your dog can provide you, like training for example.
When you want to provide more for your dog, the options these days are unlimited really, how far you go in these regards will of course depend on your views.
I think that over and above the basics, the following are on my minimum list for pet owners.
Most people will have seen a dog that is trained to complete in some sport, well you don’t have to go that way, but teaching your dog “Life Skills” allows you to communicate with your dog in a known language. You can teach your dog that it is ok to get in the car, or to get out, to sit at traffic lights and to greet people calmly.
You can teach your dog to come when called so you can let your dog free run, and you can set rules and boundaries that outline the desired behaviour you expect from your dog at all times.
These aren’t so much formal training exercises but they do outline what you expect and what your dog should expect for doing them.
A dog that can understand even the basics of what you want is so much easier to live with than one that has no idea at all. It is also so much more enjoyable to take this dog out and be pleased and proud of what your dog can do. Enjoy the praise of how well behaved your dog is can see you puff out your chest with pride, whereas receiving neighbour or council complaints about your dog can be distressing, frustrating and frightening.
Planning for tomorrow or an emergency
You will also need to consider where your dog will go when you go on holidays or get sick, where your local vet is and is this vet right for you, they are different.
Depending on your finances, Dog Health Cover might be a smart decision where you can make sure your pets health will be taken care of, without having to have the disposable funds on hand. Read this story to see Nik’s story of an unexpected situation.
When you take responsibility for a life, this means the dogs whole life, not just today or for the foreseeable future.
People used to feed our dogs table scraps and leftovers when I was a kid, the world moved looking for convenience since then and ready made diets in a bag appeared on the scene, not always to the benefit to our dogs.
I feed a raw diet with supplements added to my dogs meals and have done for the last twenty years, I find it the very best way to feed my dogs and keep them healthy as long as I can. (Look at this article)
As a practicing behaviorist, one of the most common reasons people have problems with their dogs is lack of stimulation, which leads to drive overload and the dog attempts to resolve this problem by trying options to relieve this tension. Rarely do people enjoy these options and try to stop the dog from running them, but without the root cause assessed and relieved, they often fail.
Some breeds have higher needs than others, choosing the right breed / dog for your lifestyle is crucial.
If this sounds like a lot of work and you are rethinking getting a dog, it is a big responsibility with a huge pay off. If you have never owned a dog before ask people who do have them if they would be without their dogs, you will get an resounding NO.
The benefits always outweigh the basic responsibilities, but when the dog has some severe behaviour problems, sometimes they don’t.
You need to be aware that getting a dog with no plan on training and hoping for the best will likely not turn out great, I breed Belgian Malinois and have bred German Shepherds and Rottweilers too, never would a person with no plan been sold a dog.
Puppy or Adult Dog
If you like training dogs or would like to train a dog, getting a blank canvas (puppy) is a great idea. The puppy will come to you ready to write your ideals into, but if you are not into training dogs or think of it as “the sooner this part is over the better”, then perhaps you would be better with an adult dog.
If you think of moving into a house that needs renovating a nightmare, will you enjoy the daily training of a puppy?
Adopting a dog is a very good thing to do, again you should choose the breed that suits you and think clearly about the dog you’re going to get, then get some help on finding that dog.
Regardless of what you get, adopt the understanding that the dog will need to be trained to live with you.
Inside or Outside Dog?
When I grew up most dogs lived outside, that was an era in which a large percentage of dogs lived outside as it was normal. What about now?
People will have their own ideas of what they want but I personally like to have my dogs to able to come inside. There are some people reading this thinking “of course” and others thinking that “dogs are dirty and need to be outside”.
First I would like to say that people who come to my house don’t leave with free dog hair, the house doesn’t look like a kennel and nor do we want it to. There are some people that when non dog owners walk into their house, they are horrified at the mess the dogs make.
This is a choice the owner makes, not a facet of having a dog in the house.
My dogs go to their crates when they come inside, this is trained to be their automatic response when they come inside. They also have weather appropriate beds in our house which help keep them cool in summer, warm in winter.
The dogs are not allowed to jump all over the furniture and they don’t.
Are dogs dirty? They are if you never wash them yes, a bit like people really.
Dogs lose hair – so do people, but if you didn’t know, people also lose skin cells at a phenomenal rate, about a million per day and bugs and mites feed off these cells that get trapped in your soft furniture. Is your head itchy now? mine is.
I grew up in a house with no air conditioning and most cars my dad had had no air conditioning either, but we just about all have some form of AC now. Things have changed, can dogs survive outside? Sure they can, but so can you.
Crate train your dog, keep your dog clean, bring them inside sometimes, it gives you more access to them and their lives are so much better for it. They aren’t with us for very long.
When you have a dog that is well behaved, it is really a huge benefit to your life, studies show that people with dogs have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, less stress etc than their counterparts that don’t have dogs. Dogs are such an adaptable animal that they will adapt and re adapt as your life goes through the stages.
When they leave you though it will hurt like hell.
Watching your dog grow old at around 7 times the rate we do has some benefits, such as they don’t need nurturing as long as a human baby and can adapt to an adult life much faster, but when you look down and see your bouncy puppy has turned into a senior and your mind wanders to losing him or her, it is tough. Read the Story of Mac.
Sometimes I see people who have dogs, they keep them outside, they never buy them toys and the feed them as cheaply as possible without any real regard to the dogs health or nutrition. They never buy them toys and rarely do anything with the dog.
I think these people as missing out.
If someone had a child that was destined to only live 8 – 12 years, they would spoil that child and rightly so.
Dogs only ever live this long, spoiling them is spoiling ourselves.