Responsible Dog Ownership Starts Early

 It was big news that SAGA Humane Society will be working with the San Pedro Town Council to encourage responsible dog ownership and fine irresponsible owners.  It is with this in mind that SAGA is producing a series of articles about dog ownership and how to do it successfully and responsibly so that you can stay on the right side of the law, be a good member of the community and have a long and happy relationship with your dog.

As responsible dog ownership starts the minute you get a dog, this article will look at the way to find a healthy dog with a good temperament and how to choose the right dog for your family.  As a healthy dog can live up to 14 years or older, it is important to understand that dog ownership is a long and very rewarding commitment.  Puppies are cute, playful and they make wonderful companions for children.  But all puppies grow up to be adult dogs and so it is important that you get the right puppy or dog for your household – so that once the cute puppy phase wears off, you have the dog you really wanted and dreamed of.

Before even looking at puppies or dogs, you need to think about exactly the sort of dog that will suit your lifestyle.  Here are some important issues you should consider:

What size dog do you want?   Big dogs mean big dog food bills, big poops to clean up and often more exercise and training.  They can do a lot more damage to a garden or yard and may require additional fencing to contain them.  Small dogs often have special grooming or dietary requirements and often need to be kept more protected.

What sort of coat would you like your dog to have?  All dogs should be groomed daily, whatever their coat type, but dogs with very long coats may need regular professional grooming.  The longer the coat, the more time grooming is required.  How much time do you want to set aside each day for grooming?

What breed or type of dog do you want?  All dogs need training.   Smart dogs from working breed backgrounds such a German Shepherds and Rottweilers require a great deal of time and training as they grow up.  Terriers, including pit bulls, need a lot of additional socialization with other animals as well as training.  A rescued dog may need a lot of time and confidence building if it was abused or neglected.  You should really think about how much time you can commit to your new pet.  An untrained pet can become a problem in the home and a lack of training or socialization are common reasons for people giving up their pets to SAGA Humane Society.  If you don’t have the time, dog ownership may not be for you.

Can I afford a dog?  The costs involved in raising a dog can vary, but it will never be cheap if you are being responsible and doing it right.  All responsible dog owners will need to be able to afford: suitable nutritional food, vaccinations, neutering or spaying, veterinary care in case of illness, boarding or care costs when going away, in some cases professional grooming but certainly appropriate grooming tools, collar, leash, shelter, toys/chews, monthly heartworm pills, intestinal worm prevention and tick and flea prevention.  If these costs seem like too much, dog ownership may not be for you.

How do I find the right dog?  The first place to look for the right dog is the local humane society. In San Pedro, this would be SAGA.  Make sure you take your whole family so that the staff can meet them.  Explain to the SAGA team the sort of dog you would like and they will help you to make the right choice and give you good advice and support.  Of course all SAGA dogs will be neutered or spayed and vaccinated as well as health checked.  If you cannot find the dog you want at the humane society, you may wish to consider getting one privately, from a breeder.

So, how do I make sure to get the right dog from a breeder?  First, make sure that you are buying from the breeder, not a dealer or pet shop.  To do this, insist on seeing the mother dog with her puppies.  That way you can also make sure that she has a good temperament.  If she is aggressive, it’s likely her puppies will be too.  Second, make sure that the breeder is doing it on a small scale because they care about the dogs. The last thing you want is a commercially bred puppy that has been produced as if in a factory.  Puppies bought from those environments often have terrible health and behaviour problems.  Check that the environment that the puppies live in is clean and that the puppies look healthy with no weepy eyes or distended bellies.  A good breeder will have started socializing the puppies, started vaccination and worming and will have had the puppies health checked.  Finally, if the breeder seems responsible, pick the puppy you want carefully.  Many are tempted to choose the nervous and shy puppy, but in a household with boisterous children, this can be a disaster.  Others choose the puppy that seems the friendliest, but again, sometimes those puppies can require a lot of extra training or they can become overwhelming and demanding.  Please remember that all good breeders will offer to take back your puppy at any age should things go wrong.  If they don’t offer that guarantee, they aren’t responsible breeders.

Getting a puppy or a dog is a big commitment.  Make sure you put in the time and energy to find the right one for your family so that you and your dog can be responsible members of the San Pedro community.  Please remember that most of the dogs that are handed in to SAGA, end up homeless because their owners did not think about what it takes to be a responsible owner.  So, make sure that when you get a puppy or dog, you can provide it with a forever home.

If you want advice on choosing the right dog or puppy for you, talk to the SAGA team and they will be happy to share their expertise and experience.  Call them on 226 3266.

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