So you’ve made the decision to get a dog. You’ve researched which breed makes sense for your family, lifestyle and budget and today is the big day when THE dog becomes YOUR dog. Congratulations for wanting a dog in your life and for properly doing your homework up front! As they say, “In a perfect world every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog”.
You wrestled with the choice of “rescue” versus “breeder” and chose rescue. Most reputable rescue organizations work very hard to piece together the history of the rescue dog and the reason(s) why the dog has ended up where it finds itself. Because a large percentage of rescues are mixed breeds, you have chosen one that best fits your checklist and you feel happy with what you’ve been told. Although you are a first time dog owner, you have spoken with friends as to what to prepare for, so, with a contented smile on your face, the dog arrives home.
Responsibility #1: don’t assume that your dog will automatically “fit in”. It has lived in other places but does not understand what you are expecting of it in its new home. From the first step it takes into your home, you have to:
•Assume a leadership role by showing compassion to this animal that is likely nervous, excited but feeling lost in this new environment. It will need help and only you can give it.
•From the get go establish the boundaries and rules both inside your home and in the outside world so the dog will understand what it can and cannot do.
Responsibility #2: Maslow’s pyramid of needs applies to dogs as well as humans. Your dog is completely dependent on you for food, drink and shelter so know what and how much to feed your dog and always have fresh water available. Some breeds of dog are comfortable staying outside year round but the majority are not. Take it on yourself to ensure your dog is protected from the elements and has a comfortable place to sleep.
Responsibility #3: some dogs are calm, some not so much. As your dog settles into your “pack” at home you’ll soon discover which camp he/she falls into. Work with your dog to avoid it becoming a nuisance in the neighbourhood. Be aware of excessive barking. I’m not suggesting that dogs should not bark at all as this is a natural way for them to communicate but be cognisant of the fact that people don’t want to listen to your dog barking incessantly.
Responsibility #4: dogs need exercise: how much will depend on the breed, age and level of physical fitness. As well as enjoying the opportunity to run and play with their friends, dogs will often take advantage of the great outdoors to defecate: pick up after your dog! Since the snow has melted at the off-leash park in Chestermere, I am appalled at how much poop can be found there. This is both unsightly and unsanitary. No-one enjoys the act of cleaning up but, for the greater good, please take that extra minute to leave the landscape clean.
Responsibility #5: it’s just a fact of life that, like us humans, dogs sometimes get sick. As the caregiver, you are responsible for looking after the health of your dog. Don’t procrastinate! Take action and discuss with your veterinary practice the best options for your dog.
Responsibility #6: pay your dog licence.
Having a dog is a positive, life-changing experience, but don’t “cut corners”. You owe it to your dog to act responsibly.