In the USA, it’s National Responsible Pet Ownership month (it’s also Pet Dental Health Month). How can we explain what it means to be a responsible dog owner/guardian/parent? There are 4 key areas to consider.
Choose the right dog at the right time
Making the decision to add a dog to your family is an important life choice. If the dog needs tons of exercise like a Siberian Husky, and you live in a small apartment and work long hours, then probably not the best choice. If you are about to start a new job, or are in a new relationship, as examples, then probably not the best timing because you can’t focus your time on integrating your dog into your household. In New Zealand, there seems to be a lot of people who decide to move overseas; if this is a possibility for you then maybe bringing a dog into your life isn’t the right choice unless you are prepared to take the dog with you (which is an expensive exercise requiring a lot of planning and preparation).
A dog is a lifetime commitment. Ask yourself – do you have what it takes for the next 10-15 years?
Invest in wellbeing – prevention is better than cure
Be prepared to spend money on things like regular vet checks and vaccinations. Flea control is another cost that is often overlooked until there’s a problem and by then, the fleas are established in your carpets and causing problems. Choose a high quality diet (“you are what you eat”) and feed only healthy treats. Keep your dog fit and trim.
Also important is investing is your dog’s mental health. Avoid behavior problems by working on training, having enriching activities and toys available in rotation, and regular exercise. Dogs need sleep, too. So think carefully about the need for commercial daycare. For most dogs, these facilities tend to overstimulate dogs and can create other behavioral problems if the dogs is left in these situations every day of the week.
As a professional canine massage therapist, I highly recommend massage as a technique for wellbeing and not just rehabilitation after injuries because it helps relax the dog and keeps their bodies moving efficiently. It can also identify suspect lumps/bumps early so they can be checked by the vet. Spend the money for a regular professional massage or take a class to learn basic massage which you can do yourself.
Compliance – obey the law
Licensing costs and leash laws are commonplace. Cleaning up your dog’s poos is expected. We can all do our part by complying with local regulations.
In New Zealand, microchipping is mandatory. It’s also advisable to have an identification tag on your dog’s collar with your phone number. In 2011, when we experienced our large earthquake in Christchurch, many dogs went missing. Those that had microchips registered on the national database and/or had identification tags found their way back to their families much faster. Some never made it home.
Kathleen Crisley, Fear-Free certified professional and specialist in dog massage, rehabilitation and nutrition/food therapy, The Balanced Dog, Christchurch, New Zealand