‘A Dog is For Life – Not Just For Christmas’!
My husband and I recently visited the Dogs Trust on the A64 just outside Whinmoor, and I have to say I spent much of my visit in tears! There are some truly wonderful dogs in there, just crying out to be loved and be given a ‘Forever Home’. There are dogs of all breeds, crosses, pedigree – large, small, fat, thin dogs – short haired, long haired, scruffy, beautiful dogs, and they all need a home and all have a history with humans which has resulted in them being at the Dogs Trust. This is one of the most positive destinations for a dog who can’t be cared for anymore – to be cared for by the wonderful staff there until someone comes to love them and take them home.
I would have loved to have picked them all up and taken them all home with me! It’s just tragic how many dogs are left there.
Everyday I hear, or read about damage being done to dogs and it makes me so sad. I can’t imagine why anyone would wish to hurt a dog – just can’t imagine it, but I worry that, in many people’s homes, there may be a little addition in the form of a puppy which ultimately leads to another little four-legged friend ending up on the doors of the Dogs Trust, or an even worse fate.
I recently heard that the beginning of the summer holidays is one of the busiest times for Dog Rescue Homes – as people decide where they’re going for their holidays, but can’t afford, or can’t be bothered, to arrange appropriate boarding for their dogs while they’re away. So they just ‘dump’ the dogs with the Dogs Trust or some other rescue centre. In my view, such people should be banned from keeping dogs – but dogs are ‘easy come’ and therefore in some instances are ‘easy go again’. It’s very sad that there is little to protect our four legged friends.
We got Maggie just before Christmas four years ago when she was a puppy – just so that I could organise additional leave from work around Christmas time in order to care for her and get her into a routine before going back to work a month later. A year later, we got Henry from a Rescue Centre, also in December so that I could time my leave to instill routine. Henry wasn’t a puppy as he was four years old, but he had been at a Rescue Centre for a few weeks longer than was usual, so we anticipated he may need more careful attention and reassurance. He was also very poorly as he’d recently been neutered, but had developed an infection which needed medical attention which caused further trauma to Henry, so it was a real programme of love, care, comfort and reassurance to try to instill a feeling of safety and security within him.
Puppies – and indeed a new dog entering your home – need ‘house’ training – not just a toilet routine – they need training to learn what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour in your home. If the dog doesn’t know what he or she is allowed to do – with your guidance – he or she will mess up! Just as children do if they’re not given the boundaries, guidance and nurturing to learn what is right and wrong and the right way of doing things.
Somebody recently said to me ‘well we send our children to school from the age of 4 til at least 16 and yet we just expect dogs to somehow ‘know’ what they’re supposed to do’. How true is that?! Dogs need love, training, love, patience, love, guidance and love.
I would urge anyone who is thinking about getting a dog, to approach one of the rescue places. I know it can seem a little concerning that you don’t know what problems a dog will bring with it, but the Rescue places do various tests and behaviour programmes etc to ensure that the dog can be safely and securely homed. I know at the Dogs Trust, if you look at the Dog’s profile there is a little history there of the dog’s background, where they know the history, and there is also a recommendation regarding the kind of home the dog would be suited to. Where a dog has been badly mistreated by a child for example, the dog may be very uncomfortable around children, or, where the dog has been abused, similar owner profile may be inappropriate for example. The Rescue Centre’s staff are there to provide you with the dog that would match your lifestyle and needs. After we got Henry, we said we would never ever get a puppy from private breeders ever again! Henry is just wonderful, and apparently his history was that his family had a baby and the baby was allergic to him – so he was given up.
One further point to possibly consider would be pedigree/health – it’s interesting that Maggie who is pedigree and from ‘Show stock’ has so many medical problems and conditions, whereas Henry – our gorgeous Rescue Dog – has had very few problems with his health. That maybe something else to consider as vet bills can be staggering – so always, always, always insure your dog – would be my personal advice. Many dogs end up at the Dogs Trust as their owner’s simply cannot afford any medical treatment required. It’s such a shame!
A new puppy entering your home will assume that it can go to the toilet anywhere, it can chew anything, it can sleep anywhere, and if you let him or her – that he or she is the boss and you are there to provide! It will assume ‘Pack Leader’ status if there is no-one currently holding that position! There needs to be a leader if the little dog is to feel safe and secure. The owner – you – are the pack leader, so you need to ensure that you retain that status. All other members of the family are to be higher in the pack ranking than your four-legged friend, or you will have trouble!
When we got Maggie there were a number of little ‘accidents’ as we developed a routine about how regularly to put her outside so she could ‘do toilet’. We were clear that if she had a little accident, that was our fault – that we just weren’t paying enough attention. We needed to be able to recognise the signs that she needed to go outside – it was really quite easy. I remember that initial few weeks, my husband and I getting out of bed to let her out at 4.00 am in the morning! Not much fun, but she soon grew out of needing that.
People don’t realise that dogs would never ever mess where they ‘live’ – they don’t naturally stay where they’ve just ‘toileted’, so for a dog to be left in a room where it’s just messed will be very disturbing and upsetting for the dog and totally unnatural.
We arranged for a dog walker to come in during the day when I returned to work – to let her out, or take her for a walk as dogs should not be left for longer than four hours – as stated by the RSPCA – but puppies would benefit from more regular visits. Initially as well she needed feeding in the middle of the day, so my husband modified a cat feeder which we tried for a while – that was quite something, needing modifications and more defenses each day! We did this until we got the go-ahead from our vets that she could move to feeding just twice a day – which was surprisingly quickly. We still had someone call in during the day to ensure she was ok, but often my husband was around so she wasn’t alone for long, or often.
And then there’s exercise! It’s amazing the number of dogs I come across who have apparently developed various behavioural problems, but when asked about the amount of exercise they get, the owner will say ‘oh well I take them out when I can – about once or twice a week’! How can that be?!! Dogs need daily exercise – the amount depends on size and breed etc, but our two dogs go out for at least two walks a day of between 45 minutes and one hour during the week – Maggie struggles with walking longer than one hour due to her athritis. At weekends, or in the holidays when we’re more active around the house, they may get one long walk, or we may go out for the day and they get to run on the beach for a longer time. Exercise is of the utmost importance – every day – not just when the owner can be bothered – and that includes when it’s cold and raining!!
So if you are getting a dog – please consider the following:
* Do you have time, patience, room for a dog;
* What type of dog would you like – based not on how the dog looks, but research its ‘type’ – its breed profile: temperament, needs, amount of required daily exercise – you need a dog who will fit into your routine.
* Do you have time and patience to provide your dog with the amount of exercise they will need? – if you can’t personally do this, you could get a dog walker to do this for you.
* Visit the Dogs Trust and take a dog for a walk – get to know the staff, consider all the different breeds/crosses. Make a decision over time based on what you can realistically cope with, in your family situation – not just a spontaneous decision which you may later regret.
* Research the cost of the things they will need: bed, food, bowls, lead, collar, as well as the long-term issues such as insurance, vet bills – can you really afford a dog?
* Think about what happens when you’re out – will you need a dog walker or someone to pop in to let the dog out for toilet?
* Think about what happens when you go away on holiday or out for the day – can you arrange for dog boarding, or visiting?
Please, please, please – if you’re thinking of getting a dog, please think about all the implications and all that’s involved. Research it, visit rescue centres, talk to people – ultimately a decision made on the basis of what you can realistically cope with and manage will result in the perfect dog for you and your family!!!