by Meg McIntire
Working at an animal rights organization means I typically field a lot of questions about wildlife, pets, and veganism from my friends and family. But this recent text from a friend of mine really stuck with me and prompted me to question how people define being a responsible pet owner.
“A friend of mine keeps her German shepherd locked in a cage from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. while she works, with no bathroom breaks, and I don’t think any access to food,’’ my friend wrote. “How do I talk to her about this?”
I’m glad she asked, because no one should keep a dog in a crate for 12 hours a day. It’s an example of pet owners who haven’t come to terms with the fact that they actually don’t have time and are not making proper care plans for their pets.
In a perfect world, the first question you’d ask yourself before adopting a canine friend is whether you really have enough time to care for a dog. You’d also ask yourself, can I afford options like dog-walkers or doggy daycare if I work full-time? Will I have the energy to walk a dog and play with them after I come home from a tough day at work? If the answer is no to any of these questions, you should reconsider adopting a dog and hold off until your lifestyle allows you to free up some time to devote to this new family member.
The reality is that owning a dog is a major commitment and a responsibility that will last on average 10-to-15 years (or more, hopefully). Dogs are also very social animals who thrive when they spend time with their family and/or other dogs. At the very least, you should plan on at least three walks a day, each lasting about 15 to 20 minutes, and time to engage in play or training with your dog. While you’re away during the day, your dog should have access to food and water as well as safe toys to play with unsupervised and should not be in a crate with no bathroom or play breaks for an entire day.
Here are a few other things to consider if you’re wondering if you can fit a dog into your life:
Depending on the breed, your dog could require more time and exercise during the day. Border collies and Australian shepherds are two examples of dog breeds with high daily physical activity needs. Active dog breeds can require two hours of intense exercise every day. Other breeds, however, require significantly less. Bulldogs are one breed with pretty minimal fitness requirements. They generally do well with brief daily walks, but they still need to be played with and given lots of attention.
Along with breed, your dog’s stage of life determines how much time you need to spend with him or her. If your dog is still a puppy, they’ll need more of your time because of training and socialization needs. Puppies have seemingly endless amounts of energy and need a lot of assistance in everything from learning basic commands to housetraining. Elderly dogs, on the other hand, may not require as much exercise, but if your dog is elderly, your canine friend might need more of your time due to health problems, frequent veterinary checkups and cognitive difficulties.
Planning your schedule
Dogs thrive when they’re given a schedule, so when you’re planning your day, make sure to fit time in for all of your pet’s various needs. Pencil in ample time for outdoor walks and playing as well as cuddling and grooming sessions. Try to keep meals and walks at the same time every day to give your dog a sense of security.
If your schedule means you’ll be away from your dog for the majority of the day, consider looking into a dog-walking services. My dog-owning friends recommend Rover.com. It’s very easy to use — just book a dog-walker using your phone. You can choose the length and time of the walk and then get updates about when the dogwalker arrived and how your dog did. It’s affordable (price varies based on location, but on average costs around $15) very user-friendly and a great option to consider if you’re unable to walk your dog during the day.
If you have gone through this list and have considered all these items, then you are most likely ready to share your life with a canine companion. If not, take time to examine these tips and make sure you are truly ready to adopt. It’s important to be as prepared as possible so you can enjoy every day with your new best friend!