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Dog Ownership

Throughout the centuries dogs have proved invaluable to man in many ways. They have been used as draught animals, warriors, sporting companions, guide dogs, hearing aids, farm workers, guards, policemen and soldiers among other things. But one of the main roles of the dog in today's society is that of companion.
Thousands of people own dogs simply as household pets which provide a welcome when we return home from an outing, a walking friend, or childhood playmate. There are also of course many who derive pleasure from showing dogs and entering them in obedience and agility classes.

 A dog is not judgemental, he will love and remain loyal to you whatever you look like, whatever your mood. He is not hypocritical, talking about you behind your back but being nice to your face. A dog is constant. He accepts you for what you are and never lets you down. He can comfort when you are sad, share your happiness, and wants nothing more than to be with you, joining in with your activities. He seems to be telepathic, always knowing your mood. No one knows you better than your dog does as you tend to confide in him, confessing those things that you cannot tell another human. 

You are never alone when you take a dog into your life. He is an affectionate creature, always willing to please his master, but you must remember that he needs you as much as you need him. A dog is a living creature who must be properly cared for, not just until the novelty of his puppy looks wears off, or until he chews your best training shoes, but for hopefully, at least ten years. He cannot be discarded without reason, or because he didn't quite understand you. He needs attention, physically and mentally every day of his life with you, whether you fell well or feel ill, whether your time is limited or not. Basic training, a little discipline, a lot of understanding, good daily care, some exercise, playtimes and lots of love will turn that little rascal into a well adjusted family member. Your dog trusts you and in return will remain faithful to you.

Do not think lightly of getting a dog, particularly if you are a first time dog owner. Consider the responsibilities, the cost and maintainence, your environment, how much time you are able to spend with him. Can you afford the initial price you would pay for the dog? Vaccinations? Food? Vet treatment from time to time? Securing the garden so he does not stray? Obedience classes if necessary? Is your accomodation suitable? Do all family members want a dog as much as you do? A dog in your life is your responsibility. He must be properly cared for and loved.

Ask yourself these questions before you decide to take a dog into your home:

Is someone at home for most of the day?
No dog, especially a puppy should be left on his own for more than just a few short hours a day. If you work full time and there is no one at all to check on the dog, to let him out several times, then consider getting a cat instead.

Can you afford to keep a dog?
Apart from the initial cost of your dog, which could be several hundred pounds for a pedigree, there is also the cost of his food, kenneling at holiday times, essential vaccinations, other vet expenses from time to time, which can be very costly, although pet insurance schemes are available, and if you qualify, charity organisations such as the PDSA offer free emergency treatment for the pets of needy owners. See the link in the left hand margin for more information. Some breeds need regular professional grooming which should also be taken into consideration when adding up the cost.

Do you have time to exercise a dog?
Happy, healthy dogs need regular exercise. A dog loves to run and should have access to fields or a park where he can chase a ball around, apart from organised walks on the lead. If your garden is large he would romp around all day , but a walk with you is still beneficial. Many toy breeds however do not require long daily walks and are quite happy on short trips or playing around at home. If you cannot, due to health or other reasons exercise your dog, but still feel the need for his companionship, then consider re-homing an older dog which might be content simply spending time with you and not need vigorous jaunts.

Would a dog fit in with your family circumstances?
Most children and dogs get on well together, but considerations have to be made when taking a dog into a home particularly one with young children. Puppies have very sharp claws and teeth and a playful nip could severely hurt a very young child. A boisterous young dog can easily knock a child over, and frighten or cause harm to the child. On the other side, young children do not always realise that a puppies are living creatures and often treat them as if they were cuddly toys. Puppies can be very badly hurt, even having fractured limbs through children picking them up and dropping or even throwing them. Just like human babies, puppies need lots of sleep and children should be discouraged from waking the puppy, or teasing him while he's resting. 
Do all your family members want a dog in your home? It can be disatrous if one partner, particularly if it's the partner who spends most time at home with the dog, does not want a dog. The dog would be resented causing problems within the family. Prospective dog ownership should be fully discussed with the family.

Can you cope with hair, and grooming and dirt?
Long coated breeds of dog need regular daily grooming which can be very time consuming. If you cannot provide this, then choose a short haired breed. As already mentioned some breeds which shed little or no hair need professional clipping or stripping which can be costly. Even if grooming is not essential to your chosen breed, the dog will shed hair on your carpets and furniture. It sticks to your clothing and clogs up your washing machine. Even small short haired dogs can shed surprising amounts of hair which is disagreeable to many people, so warn visitors that their new dark coloured  clothes could be covered in light coloured hairs by the time they leave your home. 
If you or your partner are very houseproud people, can you cope with the inevitable messy times that come with dogs living in your home? Muddy pawmarks on the newly cleaned kitchen tiles, splash marks up the walls after a dog has shaken when coming in from walkies on a rainy day all have to be cleaned. 

Dogs and the Law. (U.K.)
A dog must wear a collar bearing your name and address on a disc.
Microchipping is also becoming popular - ask your vet.
Dogs should never be turned out to exercise alone.
They can become a danger or nuisance to themselves or people.
Dogs should be on a lead at all times when walking alongside roads.
Many traffic accidents are caused by motorists swerving to miss a dog, and of course there is also the danger that your dog could be run over and killed or badly injured.
Keep your dog on a lead in the countryside when there is livestock nearby.
Every year dogs cause terrible damage to sheep and lambs and a farmer has the right to shoot any dog on sight if it is not under proper control.
Clean up after your dog.
It is an offence to allow your dog to foul pavements or areas frequented by people.
Keep your dog under control.
Not only among livestock, but at all times your dog should be under your control. Big dogs in particular can frighten people and other dogs. Never allow your dog to approach anyone or any other dog uninvited.

It is also a good idea to check local bye-laws concerning dogs and dog owner responsibilities.

It's not all fun and frolics and nursing little Foo Foo on your lap while you watch TV in the evening. Dogs can be hard work and a commitment for many years, but if you don't mind that, and are prepared to take the trouble to care for him, then you will find you have an ideal and very special companion. 

So you still want a dog? Then it's time to choose The Right Dog for you.

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