Responsible Dog OwnershipPosted almost 5 years ago by Holly
But what is really “responsible” ownership? That's kind of what Shasta Dogs is all about, so I guess I'd better give it some thought. AKC has a little list of actions they think constitute responsible dog ownership.
Disclaimer: Although I thought every point was worthy, I didn't sign the pledge. There were several points I don't adhere to all the time.
Good heavens, you cry! And this is supposed to be a website devoted to "active and responsible dog ownership"?!
If you're still reading this heretical blog, let's move beyond the short-list legalism of how to act like a responsible dog owner. Lots of people never let their dog off-leash, take it to the vet now and then, and properly dispose of its waste yet the dog remains dangerous, stressed, and/or obnoxious. How about if responsible ownership is acknowledging that we have the power to change or control practically all of Fido's behavior to prevent danger and discomfort to our pet as well as to our fellow man?
It may not always be convenient or cheap to do so, and we may not all be exceptional trainers able to “fix” a dog's issues, but I hope every dog owner at least knows how to use a leash to keep a dog away from situations where it may be unwelcome or endangered. I have a dog that doesn't particularly like interacting with strangers (and will indicate it), so I would never tie her out alone where someone could walk up to pet her, or force her to endure a toddler's hug. But I actively set up safe training scenarios to reduce her future fear of strangers, letting her enjoy a brief game of ball with a guest (no petting) and then directing her happily into a crate.
Sure, we all get lazy
and cut corners with training and socializing; we are overtaken by situations and find ourselves lacking the right equipment. When it catches up with us, hindsight is 20-20 and there's no room for "act of Dog" excuses like
“Well, she's a rescue” or “He just gets excited and can't help
himself” or "I can afford a dog but not a fence". Letting one's dog harm or take advantage of someone and
pretending there was nothing one could have done is the
definition of irresponsibility. If my dog pees on your rug, it's because I failed to heed the "perfect storm" warning signals (full bladder, cushy rug, pacing). "Sorry, that was my fault, I'll fix it," is the song of the responsible (but still mortal) dog owner. I find I say it to my dog more than to other humans.
Part of being a responsible owner is taking time to learn about
canine behavior and body language. This means admitting that dogs are
not little people in fur coats, that they have needs, instincts, and desires different from ours. There is nothing unloving about
recognizing that dogs do not understand every word we say, or enjoy
the same things we primates like, or have the same rights and
responsibilities as humans. They are wonderful, intriguing citizens
of a different kingdom. They can do a lot of things that we can't,
and can't do a lot of things that we can. It's selfish to bring dogs
into overwhelming, inappropriate or unsafe situations, pretending they're
something they're not. Fraudulently representing a pet as a service dog in order to bring it to a public place or move into a "no-pets" rental is also not taking responsibility for the type of dog one actually owns.
Health is a tricky subject but at minimum, a responsible dog owner should know what “healthy weight” looks like for their dog, what temperature range the breed and individual is comfortable with, and provide daily exercise in recommended ranges.
Taken together, these resolutions account for
all the little acts attributed to “good” owners. Like being prepared with the resources and tools to deal with their dogs' needs. Like showing up at the right time and place with a well-mannered dog that fits the situation and company.
Like training, vaccinating, and tagging; as well as preventing anxiety, loneliness, and dangerous straying and harassing of other animals.
It doesn't mean everyone's “responsible ownership” will look the same. Neutering at a few months age, for instance, is not going to be the choice of every responsible owner. If they use other, similarly effective methods to prevent unwanted puppies from burdening society, that can hardly be called irresponsible. Celebrating responsible dog ownership isn't about preening our own feathers. Rather it should be about looking outward and appreciating the diversity of ways humans live harmoniously with dogs in our society, and striving to adopt in our own ways the responsible attitude of dog owners whom we respect.