There has been huge increase in dog adoptions in the last 12 months – Covid has left many of us needing companionship like never before.
Figures vary depending on location. Here in the UK, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home’s recent Covid-related report suggests an increase of around 32% from previous years.
Yes, covid-19 has meant some dogs have found their furever homes, perhaps sooner than they would have done otherwise – a lovely positive in what has most definitely been a tough year.
But sadly, it’s also resulted in many dogs being returned a few short weeks or months later.
I’m sure there are a ton of reasons, but I think one of the biggest is that some people don’t really think about what it means to be a dog owner before they pick up a little cutie from the local rescue centre (or breeder).
It’s the rose-tinted glasses effect. All cuddles and nice walks, and of course the big one, company (love, affection).
And whilst all these benefits do come, those initial days and weeks are somewhat different.
Which led me to this article – laying down a few home truths in the hope that people considering adopting a dog would read them first, just to make sure they’re…
- welcoming a dog into their home for the right reasons, and
- have a better idea of what’s involved so they choose the right doggy for them and their lifestyle
So, here goes… six of the key responsibilities we all should know before embarking on welcoming a furry friend into the family.
1 Fits with your lifestyle
- What kind of home do you live in?
- Who else lives there?
- Is there a garden/outdoor space?
- Are you at home most of the time? If not, is someone else, or can someone else be available?
- Are you active? Will/can your dog go with you?
- Do you travel? If so, would your dog go with you? If not, who will take care of him/her?
These are all questions you should ask before deciding on adopting a dog, because the breed and size of the dog should be determined by them.
2 Your financial situation can cover the cost of a dog
A dog definitely comes with financial responsibilities…
- Identification – ideally with a microchip, but collar with tags as a minimum
- Vet visits
- Flex, tick and worming treatments
- Pet carriers
- Dog proofing the home and car
And of course, the basics of good food and water every day.
Can you meet these needs financially? If not, please do not get a dog.
3 You can meet all health and nutrition needs
Money aside, like any living being, you must be able to take care of it by providing basic needs.
A balanced diet is essential, and something that should be researched and discussed with professionals to be sure your dog gets all the essential vitamins and nutrients needed to live a long healthy life.
Grooming is another basic need.
Be prepared to brush and wash your dog – both body and teeth. Teeth are something that should be brushed daily, as you do your own. A weekly bath is a good idea, particularly for long-haired dogs. And brushing/combing you can do as much as you like, since this is a lovely bonding experience also.
If you’re not prepared to do all this yourself, you’ll need to find a good groomers to head to regularly instead.
Flea, tick and worming treatment is another necessity, with annual treatment required, or more often depending on where you live.
And of course, there’s the regular vet check-ups. An annual dental check is advised since gum disease is one of the most common ailments in dogs and can start from as young as 3 years old (so introduce toothbrushing as early as possible to minimise the risk).
4 You’re able to provide daily physical and mental exercise
Okay, so you must already know that a dog needs daily exercise? A proper walk at least once a day.
But daily stimulation is more than just a walk.
Playtime is important to stimulate them physically and mentally. So you should include canine enrichment activities and one-to-one playing with your dog (rather than leaving him to entertain himself with a toy).
Remember, a dog literally sits and waits for you to give him attention. That’s all they want. So please make sure you have the time available in your life to offer that to your dog.
If you don’t now, wait until you do before bringing a dog into your home.
5 You take the time to train
Proper training is massively important, not only for you and your neighbourhood – to avoid destructive behaviour and aggression – but also for your dog.
Training sets boundaries. Forms routine. Helps with socialisation – both with other dogs and people. And provides mental stimulation.
There are training schools and one-on-one trainers and behaviourists all over, so there’s bound to be one near to you too.
With some patience, you can opt to train your pooch yourself, particularly the basic commands so you have more control over him when out and about – sit, stay, come, and leave.
But remember, training a dog will take time, so don’t expect overnight success and be prepared to stick with it.
6 Respect the rules
Lastly, getting a dog means having to take responsibility in your local area and among your community.
Picking up poop is a must – so carry poo bags at all times.
Adhere to zones where dogs must be on leads. Even if you have a super obedient dog, pop him on a lead if you’re meant to. It’s there for a reason, and it’s common courtesy to do as asked for others in the vicinity.
Also remember some people are afraid of dogs. So you hollering ‘it’s okay, he’s super friendly’ won’t help a person who’s terrified of your dog bounding toward them.
This is why learning the basic commands is a must before you let your dog off the lead in an area where people (and other animals) are going to be around.
So you see, owning a dog comes with a fair amount of responsibilities.
And since a dog could be in your life for upwards of 12 years, please be sure you can handle it – financially and personally – before making the commitment.