Humans have enjoyed the companionship of dogs for more than 27,000 years. According to a 2009 study by the AVMA there are more than 72 million dogs in the US owned by 39% of Americans. However, owning a dog is different than being a responsible dog owner. A responsible dog owner provides the care and attention a dog requires through an understanding and appreciation of their needs as well as the needs of their dogs .
No one wants to surrender a dog or give it away because they cannot care for it. Yet, more than 15% of dogs enter shelters because their family cannot care for them. Some of the underlying reasons why dogs are surrender to shelters include moving, cost of dog maintenance, no time to care for a dog, the landlord does not allow dogs or the dog becomes sick. When considering own a dog, a practical understanding of a dog’s needs and along with the owner’s realistic needs and expectations can allow potential owners to better evaluate their ability to care for a dog. Here are some things to consider:
What is your lifestyle like? Are you a runner, couch potato, football fanatic, busy mom or working professional? A dog’s needs and drive for attention will vary according to individuals and between breeds. An evaluation of your lifestyle to see how a dog can best fit into your life is essential.
How much time do you have for your pet? Some dogs are fine with minimal attention. Yet most dogs do require a significant amount attention- not only during feeding time, but also time for playing, petting and grooming. Depending on your lifestyle a dog can easily integrate into your daily routine or become an extra task.
What type of home do you live in? Do you have fenced yard? Do you live in an apartment or condo? Do you live in an urban or rural environment? Although these factors may appear trivial they greatly contribute to your pet’s health and wellbeing. A properly fenced yard will allow your dog the ability to play unsupervised. Pets living in rural areas are exposed to diseases they may not encounter in urban environments. Apartments and condos often have rules and regulations regarding pets. Violation of these regulations can lead to the landlord revoking your pet privileges.
Do you have children and if so how old are they? Not all dogs are compatible with children. Some simply do not do well with children. However, a dog companion can enrich a child’s life.
Do you have other pets? Other pets in the house such as cats may not be compatible with certain dogs. The dog’s ancestor is a predator and many dogs harbor prey instincts. However, every dog is unique and reacts to other pets in the same house differently.
What is your motivation for wanting to own a dog? Protection, sporting, companionship and entertainment are just a few of the reasons why people own dogs. Becoming a dog owner out of impulse or sympathy may fail to realistically evaluate your ability to properly care for a dog. Similarly, wanting a dog to raise puppies or purchasing a dog to celebrate a holiday does not realistically consider the dog’s long-term needs.
The decision to own a dog is the first step towards becoming a responsible dog owner. Carefully evaluating your environment, foreseeable future and possible complications builds the foundation for a long-lasting and enjoyable future between you and your dog.