This is a guide to some of your responsibilities as a dog owner. If you own a dog or are thinking of getting a dog then you should be aware of the responsibilities involved. This doesn’t just mean feeding and walking your dog. There are lots of things you need to consider. Getting a dog is a huge commitment, you are solely responsible for your dog.
Here are some of the most important things you need to know.
Dogs need a decent amount of exercise. Obviously the exact amount they need depends on their breed and age. However, most dogs need two quality walks a day. Getting regular walks is key to your dogs health and happiness. They should also get the chance to run around freely in a an enclosed garden if possible. There are ways to exercise your dog other than just walking them such as agility, flyball and playing with people and other dogs.
Dogs need a certain amount of mental stimulation to keep their minds active. Understimulated dogs will become bored and often destructive. Dogs that don’t get enough mental stimulation often develop behavioural problems. You can give them the mental stimulation they need through taking them out and about, training, dog classes, playing with toys and other dogs and dog sports.
You are responsible for feeding your dog and providing them with all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. Complete dry and wet dog foods should provide them with the right mix of food. Your dog should have regular meals and enough food to keep them at a healthy weight.
Your dog should always have access to fresh water. Get them a water bowl and make sure it is always topped up with water. Your dog should know where it is and be able to access it easily.
Picking Up After Your Dog
If your dog goes to the toilet in public you have to pick up after them, it’s the law. If you don’t you could be issued a fixed fine and if it goes to court you could pay up to £1000. There isn’t an excuse when it comes to picking up after your dog. Not having a poo bag or not seeing your dog go to the toilet will not get you out of trouble. Dog faeces is a big problem in the UK, be a responsible owner and pick up after your dog.
You are also required by law to ensure your dog always has an identification tag. The tag should have your name and address on and ideally a telephone number. If you lose your dog and someone finds them then they will be able to contact you directly.
You should train your dog properly from a puppy. Take them to training classes and put the time in to work on their obedience and overall training. It’s important that you have control over your dog in public places, otherwise you could run into problems. Don’t let your dog off the lead if they are not trained properly. You need to be confident that they will come back to you on command and obey your instructions.
The Animal Welfare Act
All pet owners should abide by the animal welfare act. Within this it states that animals should have 5 freedoms:
- To live in a suitable environment
- To have access to a suitable diet
- To have the chance to behave normally and exhibit normal behaviour patterns
- To be protect from pain, suffering, injury and disease
- To be housed with, or apart from other animals
Suitable Living Environment
As mentioned in the five freedoms, dogs should have a comfortable living environment. This includes a nice cosy bed that is in a dry, draft free location. Dogs should be kept in a sheltered area that is clean, safe and warm enough.
You need to keep an eye on your dog and recognise when they might need veterinary treatment. For example if your dog refuses to eat, has a fit, is continuously vomiting or severely injured then you should take them to the vets. Don’t let your dog suffer unnecessarily. Give them regular health checks by feeling their body for lumps and bumps and keeping an eye out for any injuries.
Socialising Your Dog
You should try and socialise your dog from a very young age. Get them used to being around other dogs and people. Let them play and interact with other dogs from a young pup and ensure they get to meet lots of different people. It’s also good to get your dog used to see lots of other animals too so that they become desensitised to them.
Don’t get a puppy if you are planning on going on holiday within the first few months of getting them. If you have a dog you have to make plans to ensure they are cared for properly while you are away. Find a reliable dog sitter, day care centre or friend so that you know your dog is in good hands.
Dogs need a certain amount of company. They should not be left on their own any more than three or four hours, although the length of time depends on their age and requirements. If you work full time and aren’t going to be around most of the time then don’t get a dog, it’s just not fair. Make sure that someone is around most of the time to keep your dog company.
Your new puppy will need to get their vaccinations before they can be taken out and about. Keep up to date with your dog’s vaccinations to protect them from illness and disease. Check with your vet what vaccinations they should be getting and when.
Dog owners have a responsibility to make sure that their dog is groomed properly. Some dog breeds require daily grooming and regular trimming to keep them comfortable. Do not allow your dogs hair to matt and tangle because this can cause them a lot of discomfort and they will have to have their hair shaved off if the matting is severe. Before you get a dog check to see how much grooming they will need by speaking to a breed expert or breeder.
Livestock & The Country Code
When you are out on walks you need to abide by the country code. Do not let your dog off the lead near livestock. Farmers are legally allowed to shoot your dog if it is seen to be ‘worrying’ their livestock. It’s just not worth the risk. If you are planning on going on country walks then it’s worth reading the country code. Here is some information about dogs and the country code http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/enjoying/countrysidecode/keepdogs.aspx
Leaving Dogs In Cars
If you absolutely must leave your dog in your car for a very short period of time you should always give them plenty of ventilation. Although if you can it’s probably best to avoid doing it at all. If it is too warm then simply leaving windows open isn’t enough and you should not leave your dog in the car. Many dogs die every year from heatstroke because owners leave them in the car for too long. For more information about dogs and hot weather see http://www.rspca.org.uk/allaboutanimals/pets/dogs/health/dogsinhotcars