Dogs are excellent companions for all except young children. Walking a dog is an ideal way to keep fit and people often stop to enjoy a short conversation with someone with a dog. Dogs have been bred for 10,000 years to be a helper, guardian and “man’s best friend”. They come in a variety of sizes and there is a dog to suit everyone’s requirements. However, dogs have many needs. They can live for up to 15 years, they have daily needs for attention and are a considerable expense.
No puppy should be taken from its mother before 8 weeks of age. Puppies need to be handled caringly in their early weeks of life if they are to be comfortable with humans. If you buy from a breeder, always ask to see the conditions the mother has been kept in, as a healthy and happy mother will teach her offspring many things during those early weeks of life, including preliminary toilet training. If the mother is in poor condition, she will be depressed and will fail to attend to her offspring. A prospective purchaser should avoid buying a dog from a pet shop or a puppy mill. A great deal of selective breeding cause hidden genetic defects. Mongrels and cross-breeds are the healthiest and happiest of dogs.
The new pet will need regular injections against distemper, canine hepatitis, leptospirosis and canine parvovirus. Medical expenses involve regular inoculations, neutering, health checks and many people consider insurance against high vet fees which can be costly. Neutering is optional but advisable as it calms the animal and prevents unwanted attention from other dogs. There is a fashion to breed dogs, using a large male and a smaller female. However, smaller females can often find the pregnancy uncomfortable and sometimes, cannot give birth to large puppies. Because this is a horrendous death for mother and pups, reputable homing centres, such as the RSPCA, Blue Cross and Dogs' Trust, all compulsory neuter dogs to save mothers and pups this awful fate in the hands of irresponsible breeders.
In all public places, every dog will, by law, need to be leashed with a collar with an identity tag. A fine of up to £5,000 can be incurred otherwise. Dogs can chase cats or other dogs and many an accident has occurred due to dogs not being leashed in a public place. Many dogs are microchipped with a small permanent ID device inserted into their neck. If your dog is lost or stolen, this internal device will provide security for your pet.
If your dog acts in a threatening way to anyone, by growling, snarling, chasing or jumping up, it could be considered that your dog is not under your control and you could be fined. Dogs are not suitable to guard property. If a burglar wants to enter your property, a dog will not stop them. Many a dog has been poisoned by those who wish to enter your property. Dogs are pets, not unpaid soldiers.
Dogs need training as most trained dogs can recognise two dozen commands and they enjoy pleasing and take pride in being well behaved for their owner. Dogs that bark constantly are a nuisance and legal action can be taken. There have been incidents reported of poisoned meat thrown over a fence to a barking dog. Dogs can easily be trained not to bark, a spray of water, gently holding the dog's muzzle and saying the words 'no barking' usually has the desired reaction.
It is illegal to allow a dog to foul the streets as dog faeces is rife with germs and can contain toxocara which can cause human blindness. Fouling in a public place can incur a £50 fixed penalty notice or up to £1,000 fine. Many children’s play areas are dog free zones and also can incur high fines for those who ignore prohibition signs.
Never give your dog sugary treats, such as sweet biscuits because it causes teeth and gum problems. As animals cannot tell us when they are in pain, a tooth cavity can cause major behavioural changes. Chocolate is poisonous to dogs. No dog should be left alone for more than 4 hours because they are pack animals and love human company and are unhappy alone for long periods and need regular care, such as exercise, water, nutritious food, company, grooming and regular medical care, such as de-worming and de-flea-ing. There are many rescue centres around the UK that care for unwanted animals of all kinds. Most reputable rescue centres carry out health and behaviour checks, microchip, neuter, provide a collar and lead and one week’s supply of food. They also carry out home checks to see that fires are guarded, gardens are fenced and that the animal will make a suitable pet for the owner and their extended family. Article by Wendy Stokes who is a rehomer for homeless and abandoned dogs. Wendy Stokes is a rehomer with RSPCA