I remember the day I met each one of my dogs. For Rampage, it was a visit to the shelter. Rico, I received a call from a rescue. Lola, I attended a pet adoption event. Remembering my special day with them brings tears to my eyes. Knowing I was going to give them the spoiled life they deserved filled me with happiness. That being said, it is important to remember that adopting or purchasing a dog is exciting, but there’s more to owning a dog than buying toys and treats.
September is Responsible Dog Ownership Month and today, I want to outline some of the steps you will need to take to celebrate your dog, make it a part of the family and to help give them the quality of life they deserve.
Owning a dog is incredibly rewarding, but also takes time, money, and patience. You should be prepared to make at least a 15-year commitment (and sometimes even more) to your new pet. This includes being able to spend quality time with them, provide them a safe environment in which to live, proper nutrition, and medical care. If you have a specific breed in mind, go to the AKC website and research their temperament, exercise needs, common ailments, etc…
Health and Wellness
Regular trips to the veterinarian are incredibly important. Your pets should be evaluated on a regular basis for their health, teeth, and nutritional needs. Updated vaccinations are required for many facilities such as doggie day care and grooming, as well as towns that require your pet to be registered. Also supplements and medications will keep easily preventable issues, like heartworm, from occurring.
Nutrition is another important part of your dog’s life. A balanced diet will help keep them healthy into their senior years. This includes treats! As the years progress, you may have to change their diet to fit new health issues or needs.
Finally, grooming is imperative to keeping them looking great and feeling good. Dogs can get skin issues just like humans can. Matting of the coat can be painful, cause sores and limit their movement. Regular bathing, brushing and grooming (if needed) is essential to responsible pet ownership.
If you’ve researched your breed, you will know how much exercise they are going to need to stay healthy and stimulated. However, even dogs that don’t require a lot of exercise will need regular walks to go to the bathroom. That includes days when it is raining or below zero. If you choose a high-energy dog, you will need to have longer walks in both the morning and evening.
Sometimes people will use pets to “motivate” themselves to exercise or get out more. Remember, your dog will need the exercise whether you feel like it or not, or if your goals change. Again, this is a commitment that isn’t about your needs. For example, the German Shepherd is an amazing and intelligent breed of dog. However, they require A LOT of exercise and training. Not providing them this, can cause behavioral problems that can cause destruction to your home and socialization issues with humans and pets. So, if you’re a couch potato, like me, maybe the German Shepherd isn’t the best option for you.
Obviously, you’re going to want your dog to be potty trained. It makes life easier (and cleaner) for all. But many breeds require specialized behavior training. Dogs that are powerful need to know basic commands to protect you and others. Recall – when dogs are off leash, and you need them to come to you immediately – is something ALL breeds of dogs need to learn.
There are also different types of training, like agility that can be a fun outlet for you and your dog. Working breeds can be trained for specific tasks like search and rescue. What is most important overall is that your dog trusts and listens to you for their own safety.
All dogs deserve a safe place to call their home. Even if they spend a lot of time outside, they need to have access to shelter and fresh water. Always.
They will need a safe place to play outdoors and a fenced in yard is optimal. This not only keeps the dogs in, but other animals out. Going for a walk? Make sure their harness/collar and leash is always in good working condition.
Even with care, dogs can escape, so make sure they are microchipped and registered to make finding them easier. The less amount of time they spend on their own or in a shelter, the better for their health and well-being.
Dogs need to know how to behave around other dogs and people. Routinely exposing them to other people and pets will help them relax and be happy when you have company or are going to be out in public with them. Not sure if they’re ready to be socialized? You can take them to be evaluated and learn where to start from your vet or local doggy daycare.
Knowing your dog’s limits is important too. Some dogs simply do not want to be around other animals. Some don’t like crowds. Leave them at home and skip the dog park if that is the case.
Finally, most dog’s only mission is to please you, their person. They want to spend time WITH YOU. Make time to play with them. Snuggle with them on the couch while you are watching a movie. Make them part of the family.
Working on these things will help you build a lasting bond with your dog and give them the long and healthy life they deserve.