Seven days, that’s right…seven whole days it’s taken for us to collect together all of the do’s and don’ts of dog ownership. From speaking to colleagues and contacts, to using our own experiences and formal knowledge, we wrote down every single piece of advice we could. On the seventh day, we realised that, actually, we could, if we really wanted to, go on forever. You see, the experience of dog ownership is not only brilliant, but is also unique and as personal a experience is as life itself. Because every single dog that blesses our mortal lives is as individual as we mere humans are and so, everyone has their own interpretation of what dog ownership is about and consequently, have their own set of rules of what it entails and the responsibility that comes from that. So we made a decision. Rather than give you a list of rules and regulations, we’ve instead decided to give you an overview of how to make your experience of being a doggy parent one of the most phenomenal adventures you will ever have.
- Do your research and get the dog that is going to suit your lifestyle.
This is the most important first step you will ever take when you’ve made that decision to enter the world of doggy parenting. You don’t have to be the world’s biggest expert on dog breeds per se, but you do need to consider your own lifestyle and what kind of life any dog that you become responsible for will have. It’s not just about what kind of dog is going to suit you, its also about how you are going to suit your new best friend too. Questions such as ‘how many hours will I be around during the day?’, ‘am I able to afford things such as vet care/insurance/training/day care/boarding/grooming etc?’, ‘am I prepared to meet this dogs needs regardless of the weather or what kind of mood I’m in?’, ‘am I prepared to live the next 10- 15 years picking dog hair off of my food/clothes/furniture/tongue?’, are all good and realistic questions to ask yourself. And keep in mind that whilst researching breeds is a good starting point, breed type is not the be all and end all. It is all too easy to buy a dog nowadays with just a few clicks of a keyboard but dogs, just like us, are living, breathing, thinking, feeling beings. They are more than just a pretty object, they are quite literally life itself, so approach them as such. Whether it be rescue or a puppy you choose, you are the one responsible for making the right choices now so don’t be afraid to ask questions, view the dog in their current environment, interrogate the breeder or rescue centre and walk away if things just don’t feel right for you. Don’t be fooled by high prices and fancy papers. Anybody involved with rehoming or even more specifically, selling, dogs will not be motivated by money, but by passion and love for the breed and dogs in particular. They will be able to tell you about every single dog in their care, their likes, their dislikes, their experiences so far (if known), their genetic history and why it’s important (again, if known) and a whole host of other specifics. So if you ain’t feeling the lovin’ then make like Gloria Gaynor and go on now go, walk out the door, don’t turn around now….
2. Don’t buy in to the latest fad.
When the Walt Disney film 101 Dalmatians was released in 1996 and again the sequel 102 Dalmatians in 2000, the sale of Dalmatian puppies sky rocketed. Inexperienced breeders and movie theatres alike cashed in on the new found popularity of the white dog with black spots as much as enthusiastic people cashed in on the chance to have a piece of the latest ‘in-thing’. But sadly, for most of the dogs who were bred and bought as a consequence of this, life was not the pretty picture that Hollywood had promised it would be and soon after, rescue centres across continents were inundated with Dalmatians. More sadly, many of these dogs were put to sleep as a result of genetic abnormalities from inadequate breeding programmes, severe behavioural problems and a lack of space and funds available to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of the fallen craze. And this isn’t an isolated case. Latest examples include ‘teacup’ and miniature breeds, trendy cross breeds and breeds deemed to be expensive such as the French Bulldog and breeds from overseas with exotic and foreign names. In line with this, many dogs are now being imported like cars and fruit as more and more people buy into the trend of rescuing dogs from overseas and whilst this isn’t a ‘bad’ thing to do per se, it makes the whole process of choosing and vetting more difficult so inevitably these dogs end up in the same situations as they came from, but just in a different country. So as fun as it may sound to have a havapoomilanionestiff that is well travelled, the dog is still a dog and still deserves to be treated with the same due care and responsibility as any other life-changing commitment. Think about it.
3. Do take ownership of your commitment to the dog.
We live in a world where our status is no longer defined by what job we do, but by the things we have. We are no longer judged by the values with which we live by, but by the total value of our collective belongings. Academics studying the field of psychology would suggest that what is going on is known as objectification, which means to downgrade someone to the status of something. Now consider what we are about to say, for a second as being just one example. Every time we take a selfie, we are objectifying ourselves. For that split second, we are no longer people with personalities, but objects to be looked at. We define our value within society by the things we own, not by who we are and what we can contribute to our community. And whilst ever we view ourselves and others as objects, our throwaway attitude will continue. Society in general finds it easier to replace something that’s old or broken with something new and workable than we do to step up and fix things. Because fixing things is hard work and takes more effort. Of course, this is just a generalisation and there are many processes at work in our little complex human minds than just our habit of objectifying things, sure, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that its not a problem. And no, we aren’t saying its not ok to take selfies of you or your dog, the point we are trying to make is don’t take on a dog because it suits your status for now, do it because you’re willing to be committed to the relationship in it’s entirety and appreciate your dog for who, not what, they are. For better and for worse. In sickness and in health. Til only death do you part.
4. Don’t think of your dog as some kind of robot!
Following on from the whole objectification subject, stop thinking your dogs are robots. Or better still….don’t even start! It doesn’t matter whether you like the idea or not that your dog has a mind of their own, its the truth. As humans, its our responsibility to teach our canine companions what behaviours will help them adapt to living amongst humans, but that doesn’t mean that they should perform outstandingly every single time. Guess what, we don’t even expect that of our actual things and we definitely don’t expect that of ourselves every time. Ill health and stress are two factors that may affect our daily ‘performance’ and it’s no different for your dog. So yes, when your dog leap frogs into the garden pond, its ok, just cover it up or keep the dog away from it in future. If your dog chews your Jimmy Choo, its going to be a sad time but its ok, just learn from it and move on. And if your dog does a huge dump on your cream carpet, ITS OK. Just clean it up and get over it. You see, the beauty of it all, the magical adventure that is dog ownership isn’t just about humans teaching dogs, its about dogs teaching us humans too and believe you me, if you learn nothing else from owning a dog, you’ll certain learn some common sense. well….mostly, sometimes.
5. Do be the crazy dog parent.
The whole point of owning a dog is to have fun, gain experience and be a part of something more than just your own self. So why is it that dog owners just don’t seem to know how to have fun these days? huh!
Whether its about having a point to prove or being judged as the best or life just beating us all down, somewhere down the line we’ve forgotten how much fun it can be to skip instead of walk and sing instead of shout. And for dogs sake, what is all this #dogshaming business about? Since when did fun translate into making your dog feel guilty just so strangers you’ve never met will think you’re awesome? And by the way, that’s not guilt that some of those dogs are feeling, its fear which is no fun at all. And yet, when a qualified professional tells you to jump into a ball pit with your dog because they will find that fun, all of a sudden we become shy? Whaaaat is going on?
You know, its ok to sing in public if it means your dog will come back. Its ok to dance along the footpath if it makes your dog happy. Its ok to make a complete ass of yourself when others are looking if it means your dog is having a good time. Its ok to be that crazy dog parent from time to time. Its ok to run like someone left the gate open and its definitely ok to loosen up and live a little. Because the only opinion that matters is that of your dogs. People will always judge you no matter what you do, but its the bond you have with your dog that you’ll be going home with. And that is all that really matters.
6. Don’t judge others.
It’s hard sometimes being a dog owner. The whole remembering to feed, water and play with them malarkey. Every single day too! Pfffft. But, you know what’s even harder? Being a dog owner of a dog that society has labelled a problem dog. Trust us on this, nobody signs up to be responsible for a dog that has issues unless of course you’re a dog trainer or just not right in the head. Hell, that’s how most of us came to be dog trainers….a mixture of mild insanity and a love for our insane problem dogs. So take it from us when we say it is not always how you treat a dog that determines how they will behave. It is also dependent of other factors outside of the owners control such as genetics and history as examples. And don’t judge others based on the breed of their dog. You have no idea whether that dog came to live with that person as a result of family death for example or for any other reason. And quite frankly in those cases, its nobody else’s business unless of course, the dogs welfare or safety (and safety of others) is something of a concern. So stop being the judge and jury of the dog world when you see someone doing their damn best with their dog. Stop believing that just because your dog gets on with others that so should the dog that’s on a lead. Stop believing your child has the right to manhandle any dog they pass or that you have the right to own the entire field because your dog is reactive to others and therefore no other person can enter the local park. Just stop doing all of this. And start being mindful of each other. It’s really not hard to be kind and courteous. So if a dog needs space, give it to them, if you pass a dog then its ok to leave them be, if you come across a dog that wants to play and you’re cool with that then let them play. If you see someone has made a mistake, talk to them about it instead of criticising them first. Pick up your dogs poop. Keep your dog away from wildlife, say hello to fellow dog walkers, smile, be friendly and put the human back into humanity. We are in this experience together after all so let’s all just start acting like it and give the next generation something to think about.
7. Do train your dog.
Training isn’t just about teaching your dog how to sit and stay, nor is it about cute parlour tricks or winning awards. Its about getting to know one other on another level. Its about bonding and friendship and trust. We have this awful habit of expecting dogs to understand the society we live in, that we as humans just made up because it helps us to not kill each other. We expect dogs to speak English and understand our logic even when we don’t understand ourselves sometimes. So training is about education, but its for both you and your dog. Training is also lifelong. You may take a six week course, but that doesn’t mean your dog will ever stop learning. Neither will you. So don’t think of training as a luxury because its really not. Its something everyone should consider as necessary as the very air we breathe.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
All being said and done, sometimes no matter how hard we try things can and do go wrong. People are great at beating their selves up and there really is no need. In their quest to pretend they ‘got this’ they try to look for complex answers in private and that might mean they turn to books or magazines or youtube videos or god forbid, internet forums and that’s when bad goes to worse. If you are struggling with your dog, there is no shame in hiring a qualified professional for help. Granted you’ll have some work to do yourself but that is the case no matter what so don’t be afraid to seek the support of someone who is trained to deal with problems like the ones you may have. And no, we aren’t here to judge you, we are here to help, so be honest and upfront with us. Your problem is not one we haven’t seen a thousand times before. Your dog is not the worlds worst dog. Yes, we will support and encourage you and we will even hold your hand if we have to. No we don’t think you’re a bad person at all. No you don’t need to make excuses for your dog, because there is no reason to do that.
And yes puh-leeeese, we would LOVE a cup of coffee.