‘A Dog is For Life – Not Just For Christmas’!
When I visited the Dogs Trust on the A64 just outside Whinmoor, 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’. Dogs of all breeds, crosses, large, small, fat, thin dogs, short haired, long haired, scruffy, beautiful dogs. They all need a home and all have a history with humans which has resulted in them being given up. This is one of the most positive destinations for a dog who is ‘thrown away’. To be cared for by the wonderful staff there until someone comes to love them and take them home. They are very lucky – many not so lucky.
If only …
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 – particularly now. Since the pandemic, I’m reading that most rescues are full. People got a dog to keep them company while they were bored. Now they’re allowed out again, the dog is surplus. So very sad.
Everyday I hear, or read about damage being done to dogs – and cats – and it makes me so sad. I can’t imagine why anyone would wish to hurt an animal – just can’t imagine it. I worry that, in many people’s homes, the little addition in the form of a cute puppy will quickly become another Dogs Trust tenant. Once the cuteness wears off, or the behaviour becomes a little challenging, owners lose interest in their latest purchase! So another little four-legged friend ends up at the door 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. People decide where they’re going for their holidays, decide against sorting a destination for their dog. Perhaps it’s too expensive, or just a hassle. So they just ‘dump’ the dogs with the Dogs Trust or some other rescue centre. Often, on their return, they go back and adopt another one! I couldn’t believe my ears! In my view, such people should be banned from keeping dogs. Sadly though, 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 when she was a puppy. We timed it for then so I could organise additional leave from work. Time 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. We 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. All this causing 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.
Henry was just wonderful, and his back story was that his family had a baby and the baby was allergic to him – so he was given up. This is a very common ‘reason’ for giving up on a dog. It was their loss – certainly our gain.
We had Maggie until March 2017, when she was 11.5 years old. We lost Henry in October 2021, when he was almost 19 years old.
Puppies – and indeed a new dog entering your home – need ‘house’ training. This isn’t just about 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 you want him to do, he or she will mess up! Just as children do if they’re not given the boundaries, guidance and nurturing. They need teaching what behaviour is allowed, and what isn’t. If you don’t take the time to teach them, it will be your fault when they mess up.
We send our children to school from the age of 4 til at least 18 and yet we just expect dogs to somehow ‘know’ what they’re supposed to do. Dogs need love, training, love, patience, love, guidance and love.
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 one to make all the decisions and you are there to provide! It will assume ‘Decision maker’ status if there is no-one currently holding that position! There needs to be a decision maker if the little dog is to feel safe and secure. The owner – you – are the decision maker, 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!
If you are thinking of getting a dog, please approach one of the rescue places. You’ll be surprised what you find. The dogs aren’t all waifs and strays, or all vicious! People have many reasons to give up on their dog: financial, family circumstances, boredom! Rescue centres do various tests and behaviour programmes etc to ensure that the dog can be safely and securely homed. At the Dogs’ Trust, each dog has a profile with a brief history of the dog’s background. This isn’t always available in the case of a ‘dumped dog’. There is also a recommendation regarding the kind of home the dog would be suited to. The Rescue Centre’s staff are there to provide you with the dog that would match your lifestyle and needs.
So Which Dog?
You’ve got to do your research. What breed of dog would suit your lifestyle. It’s really not about how cute they are!! For instance, if you work full-time and like lazy weekends, please don’t get a Border Collie, or a dog that needs lots of exercise.
One further point to consider would be pedigree/health. Interestingly, our pedigree girl, Maggie had so many medical problems and conditions. Henry, on the other hand, had very few problems with his health. That maybe something else to consider as vet bills can be staggering. I recommend you insure your dog, or put money aside monthly for vet bills. Many dogs are given up due to expensive, unaffordable medical treatment. Also, insurance ensures you’re covered if your dog causes an accident. You’d be covered for public liability.
When we got Maggie there were a number of little ‘accidents’ as we developed a routine about how regularly to let her outside so she could ‘do toilet’. We were clear that any little toileting accidents were our fault as we can’t have been paying enough attention. We needed to be able to recognise the signs that she needed to go outside. It was really quite easy when we knew what to look for. For the initial few weeks, my husband and I took turns to let her out at 4.00 am to toilet. Her little bladder wasn’t big enough to last the night. 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 to be left in a room where they’ve had to toilet is very disturbing and upsetting for them and totally unnatural.
How long to leave alone?
The RSPCA recommends dogs shouldn’t be left alone for more than 4 hours. Where professional pet carers are concerned – such as myself – we have to follow Local Authority regulations. The Local Authority stipulates a maximum alone time of 3 hours. Obviously puppies would benefit from more regular visits.
Please think before getting a dog
Getting a dog is a massive undertaking. You are taking responsibility of a little life. They need
- Exercise (5 mins per month of age as a puppy: ie 3 months old, only needs 15 minutes on-lead walking in a full day), Older dogs need to be walked EVERY DAY! Even if it’s raining, or if you don’t feel like it – they need a walk, preferably two ever day! Duration of the walk is dependent upon breed, age, health etc
- Undisturbed sleep (adult dogs between 12-14 hours per day, elderly dogs considerably longer, puppies 18-20 hours),
- Feeding – you need to factor the cost of food in with your budget – what will you feed? Kibble, Raw, Wet?
- They need to be a member of our family – not just an accessory
- 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?
- 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 be back within 3-4 hours? Will you need someone to look after your dog while you’re out? What support or services are around?
- Think about what happens when you go away on holiday or out for the day. Can you arrange for dog boarding?
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. Make a decision on the basis of what you can realistically cope with and manage. Not what dog is the cutest and you’ve always wanted one. It’s about finding a dog that will match your lifestyle choice. Careful consideration will result in the perfect dog for you and your family!!!