Having a dog is a wonderful experience, but comes with a number of responsibilities. Owners should first make themselves aware of what their responsibilities to a pet or working dog are, then consider whether or not they can meet them. If this is the case, then it may be appropriate for them to get a dog. If you are getting a dog, then it is easiest to simply ask yourself what it is that you need to provide for them rather than overcomplicating the process.
The best guidelines for any kind of animal welfare are the “Five Freedoms”. These are universally recognised and viewed as the gold standard of what a human’s responsibility to their animals are. The RSPCA expresses this slightly differently as the “Five Needs”, but its core remains the same. These five needs are:
- Food and water (fresh, clean water at all times and food that is the right kind for them)
- Bed and shelter (a good environment: a home with a nice safe place to rest, and some pets may need a place to climb, sun themselves, or hide)
- Health (to be protected from pain and harm, by seeing the vet when they are feeling unwell, or to get their regular injections to keep them healthy)
- Natural behaviour (to be able to do things that are natural for them, such as playing, walking, or sunning themselves. They may need the right kind of toys for them to chew on or scratch too)
- Company (the right kind of company for the type of pet that they are; some pets get very lonely when left alone for too long)
Following this framework is highly recommended, and it is hard to go far wrong by doing so.
Specifically to dogs, owners should be prepared to offer quality food, exercise, companionship, mental stimulation, and professional veterinary care. More simply, ensure that their regular feed is high-protein and minimally processed (raw is ideal). Supplement if appropriate. Take them on regular walks and encourage them to participate in high-energy activities such as playing catch, agility, and working with a flirt pole if appropriate. Vets should be engaged with on a regular basis both to prevent and treat illnesses and other health conditions. Spend time together and ensure that your dog has enough companionship, either with human family members or other dogs.
For more information on how to meet your dog’s needs, it is best to discuss this with your vet and a trusted trainer. Vets and trainers work on different areas, but both are professionals who should be consulted about their respective fields of expertise. They have much to offer, and engaging with them will certainly help you be a better dog owner.