“Everyone thinks they have the best dog. And none of them are wrong.”
— W.R. Purche
In my opinion, the root of most dog problems is irresponsible dog ownership and irresponsible dog production. Behind almost every dog sitting at the shelter looking for a home is an irresponsible owner and/or producer. Behind just about every unprovoked dog bite is an owner who didn’t train or contain their dog or a producer who did not breed for temperament.
Disclaimer: Yes, some dogs end up in the shelter by accident and there are instances where dog attacks are not the owners’ fault, but those are by far the minority.
That’s not to say that mistakes don’t happen. Even the best dog owner can have a dog get loose or a guest not respect their dog’s space etc. But how they deal with it is where they show the level of responsibility they have for their dog. There’s a huge range of responses from owners for any given situation, from the owner who shrugs their shoulders and says, “Yeah, Buster gets out sometimes” to the person who spends hundreds on a gps tracking collar so they know where their dog is at all times.
The thing is, if you ask Buster’s owner if they love him, generally the result will be an indignant, “Of course I love my dog!” Meanwhile, they’re not quite sure where Buster is, can’t remember if he’s had his shots or not and have no plans to ever neuter him. On the other side of that coin, you have Fifi the “Teacup Pomeranian” whose owner calls herself the dog’s “Mommy”, stuffs her into sundresses, won’t let her play in the grass and laughs when Fifi growls at strangers. If you ask Fifi’s owner if she loves her dog she would probably have about the same response as Buster’s owner.
Obviously these examples are extreme and dog ownership usually rests somewhere between Buster and Fifi, but the point is (yes, I have a point and I’m getting there, I promise!) just about everyone says they love their dog, but what does that mean?
Is there a right way to love your dog?
Yes. Yes there is.
Our dogs’ well being depends one hundred percent on us as owners. They don’t ever grow up and take responsibility for their own actions. Their actions are ALWAYS a result of their owners’ decisions. Let’s be educated about what it means to be a responsible dog owner. Responsible dog owners create a standard for dog ownership and create a market for responsibly bred dogs.
Below is a list of the rock bottom, most basic requirements for responsible dog ownership. responsibility has nothing to do with a dog owner’s socioeconomic situation. I’ve seen people who are barely getting by manage to hit every check box on this list, and I’ve seen people with copious amounts of disposable income fall woefully short. Your dog doesn’t care what kind of car you drive, but they do notice if you take the time to train them.
Be a Responsible Pet Owner:
- Avoid impulsive decisions when selecting a pet.
- Do your research and select a pet that’s suited to your home and lifestyle.
- Keep only the type and number of pets for which you can provide appropriate food, water, shelter, health care and companionship.
- Commit to the relationship for the life of your pet(s).
- Provide appropriate exercise and mental stimulation.
- Properly socialize and train your pet.
- Recognize that pet ownership requires an investment of time and money.
- Make sure your pet receives preventive health care (vaccinations, parasite control, etc.), as well as care for any illnesses or injuries.
- Budget for potential emergencies.
- Clean up after your pet.
- Obey all local ordinances, including licensing, leash requirements and noise control.
- Don’t allow your pet to stray or become feral.
- Make sure your pet is properly identified (i.e., tags and microchips) and keep its registration up-to-date.
- Don’t contribute to our nation’s pet overpopulation problem: limit your pet’s reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding.
- Prepare for an emergency or disaster, including assembling an evacuation kit.
- Make alternate arrangements if you can no longer provide care for your pet.
- Recognize any decline in your pet’s quality of life and make timely decisions in consultation with a veterinarian.