Dogs can be wonderful companions: they provide aid to those without sight, provide children with an opportunity to be responsible for another creature, and even protect our homes. But as any dog owner will acknowledge, our canine companions also present certain challenges. For example, their natural propensity to dig and chew can result in damage to our homes and yards, and possible injury to themselves. Owners often find that they need to make lifestyle changes to safeguard their property while providing their dogs with care and affection.
There are a number of things to consider before getting a dog. Every animal requires unique care and you owe it to yourself, your neighbours and your pet to find out about those requirements. The first step is to research the needs of a particular breed. If a friend or neighbour owns the type of dog you'd like to have, ask them questions and spend time with the animal. You'll quickly discover whether the general behaviour of the breed suits your personality and lifestyle. Also consider the size, intelligence and exercise requirements of the breed of your choice. Ask yourself a few questions:
- Are you planning to get a dog that needs a lot of attention and exercise? Will you have time?
- How much room do you have for an animal - will it need a backyard?
- If you have children, is it a breed that's gentle with kids?
- Will it bark constantly when you're not home and disturb your neighbours?
- Are you prepared for an intelligent dog? Research has shown that intelligent breeds such as German Shepherds and Border Collies are more likely to become bored and frustrated if not engaged in challenging activities. Such dogs may act out how they feel on your home, e.g., tearing your sofa to shreds when you're at work.
- How big will that puppy get? A cute Saint Bernard pup, for example, will grow to a whopping 130 pounds and cost at least $600 per year to feed!
Once you have considered these points, talk to a veterinarian about the genetic or behavioural characteristics of the breed that you're considering. You may also wish to ask about the cost of vaccinations and other common veterinary expenses.
Another important consideration is who will be responsible for the dog? Even if your children promise to take care of the dog, chances are you'll do more than your share of dog walking, paper-training and bathing. You may want to wait until your children are at least nine or ten years old before adding a canine member to the family. Older children are more capable of helping out with the care of the animal.
If you decide to get a dog, you may want to make the animal shelter your first stop, where animals in need of a home live in less than ideal circumstances. You may find that a dog that didn't suit someone else's lifestyle may be the perfect companion for you.
Spend as much time as possible with a dog before making an adoption, keeping in mind that animals living in shelters are often highly stressed due to their surroundings. Also speak to the animal shelter staff; they may be able to provide some insight into the nature of a particular dog.
Once you have a dog, there are a number of ways to protect your property while ensuring your pet stays healthy and happy. Don't use bone meal fertilizer on the lawn; dogs like the odour and dig for the non-existent buried bones. Remember that it may not be possible to curtail all digging - it is a natural part of a dog's behaviour. Also, scoop up after your dog to protect your lawn from the burns caused by the nitrogen in dog feces.
Dogs need to be active. When they are kept indoors or in confined areas, they get bored and often damage property. To avoid this, take your dog to an outside area, such as an off-leash park, where it can run. The advantage of such locations is that dogs have the freedom to explore, run, and play.
Boredom can be an underlying cause of damage. One way to alleviate boredom is through interaction with other animals: introduce a new cat or puppy, or consider using a daycare service in which your pet spends the workday with other dogs.
If you leave your dog outside be sure to have an enclosed fence high enough to contain the animal. When dogs escape from backyards they are at risk of being struck by vehicles, encountering aggressive dogs or becoming lost. Installing a proper fence will protect your dog as well as any passers-by.
While it's easy to imagine the damage a dog can do to a home, the damage caused to our pets by household chemicals and flea medications may not be. Yard and garden pesticides can be toxic to your pet. Some signs of ingestion include vomiting, tremors and even depression (any of these conditions should receive veterinary attention). Consult your local nursery for alternatives that would be effective for your type of infestation and plants or speak to a veterinarian. A good, general-purpose pesticide is composed of cayenne pepper, crushed garlic, a few drops of dish detergent and water - the pests and your pet are sure to keep their distance!
Over-the-counter flea dips and shampoos can be hazardous to dogs, especially puppies. Such flea control treatments may contain pyrethrins, pyrethroids pyrethrin, allethrin, resmethrin and/or permethrin all of which are neurological poisons. If your dog has fleas, speak to a veterinarian about a safe form of control.
Pets are wonderful companions; they are entertaining, loyal and protective. If you take some time to research the breed you want, considering your lifestyle and home environment, you might just find the perfect match - not to mention a new best friend!