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Owning a dog is a rewarding experience filled with love, loyalty, and companionship. However, it also comes with its fair share of challenges and responsibilities – for those getting a puppy, this can even lead to the ‘puppy blues‘. Before diving into the world of dog ownership, it’s essential to be well-informed and prepared.
1. The Realities vs. Expectations of Dog Ownership
A study published in PLOS One highlighted that while dog ownership is popular worldwide, many human-dog relationships form successful attachment bonds. However, millions of dogs are surrendered to animal rescue organisations annually, possibly due to mismatches between owner expectations and the realities of dog ownership (Powell et al., 2018). Before getting a dog, it’s crucial to understand the physical, mental, and psychosocial health consequences associated with dog ownership.
2. The Benefits and Challenges of Dog Ownership
Research has shown that human-animal interactions can positively impact the health and well-being of individuals, especially older adults (Nataša Obradović et al., 2021). Dogs offer companionship, reduce feelings of loneliness, and can even provide physical health benefits through activities like walking. However, the perceived costs to owners may include the time it takes to invest in regular, consistent training, management of the dog/the environment and balancing this with work and or family commitments, plus handling health issues and maintaining the dog’s health (e.g., with regular visits to the vets for treatments such as vaccinations/worming, plus dealing with any injuries, illness etc); such time commitments may sometimes overshadow these benefits.
3. The Importance of Regular Activity
A study from Frontiers in Public Health observed that 30% of dog owners in the USA had not walked their dogs in the past week (Coleman et al., 2008). Another study from Japan found that 44% of dog owners did not report walking their dogs (Kooshari et al., 2022). Providing regular exercise can become challenging for caregivers when life changes occur such as the arrival of a new baby or a breakdown in a romantic relationship (Grice, 2023). Therefore, regular mental and physical activity appropiate for the dog’s age, breed, conformation, health status and character etc, is essential for a dog’s physiological and psychological well-being, so it’s crucial for owners to prioritise this.
4. Understanding the Financial Commitment
Owning a dog is not just an emotional and time commitment but also a financial one. From regular vet check-ups, vaccinations, food, grooming, training sessions, unexpected health or behavioural issues, and for dog walker/daycare or boarding services, the costs can add up. It’s essential to be financially prepared for both the expected and unexpected expenses of dog ownership.
5. Resources for Dog Owners
For those considering getting a dog or new dog owners, several resources can provide guidance and support:
- Training classes: Positive reinforcement based training helps in establishing a strong bond with your dog and addressing behavioural issues. It is a great way for caregivers to meet like-minded people and increase their social circle – which can led on to group walks, participation in fun dog-related activities together such as scent work, agility, rally, hoopers and more. Check out the Animal Behaviour & Training Council for a list of registered practitioners to support your dog from puppyhood to canine senior citizen. For online support for new puppy owners, check out my Puppy Package which is a one-stop shop for all your puppy needs from settling in, troubleshooting problems to training key life skills and more.
- Veterinarian consultations: Ensure you are with a veterinary practice and have regular check-ups to ensure your dog’s health and well-being. If you are struggling to meet the costs of dog care, then do check out the PDSA and Blue Cross that provide food bank services, veterinary treatment, and advice on training and behaviour, so you can be supported.
- Online communities: Seek out appropiate online hubs where dog owners can share experiences, ask questions, and offer advice. Good resources include but not limited to the Behaviour Collective, Canine Enrichment, Beyond the Bowl, Bindi’s Bucket List, Danielle Beck’s Control the Meerkat, and Grisha Stewart’s Academy.
While owning a dog is a joyous experience, it’s essential to be well-prepared and fully informed. By understanding the challenges and responsibilities associated with dog ownership, you can ensure a happy and healthy life for your furry friend.
- Coleman K, J, Rosenberg D, Conway T, L, Sallis, J, F, Saelens, B, E, Frank, L, D, Cain, K. Physical activity, weight status, and neighborhood characteristics of dog walkers. Preventive Medicine. 2008. 47(3):309-312. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2008.05.007.
- Grice, H. 2023. Understanding the dog–owner relationship pre- and post-partum: How can veterinary staff help when Family Dynamics Change?. 17 July 2023. Veterinary Practice. Available at: https://www.veterinary-practice.com/article/understanding-the-dog-owner-relationship-pre-and-post-partum.
- Koohsari M, J, Yasunaga A, McCormack G R, Nakaya T, Nagai Y, Oka K. The Design Challenges for Dog Ownership and Dog Walking in Dense Urban Areas: The Case of Japan. Frontiers in Public Health. 2022; 10:2296-2565. doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2022.904122.
- Obradović N, Lagueux É, Latulippe K, Provencher V. Understanding the Benefits, Challenges, and the Role of Pet Ownership in the Daily Lives of Community-Dwelling Older Adults: A Case Study. Animals (Basel). 2021 Sep 7;11(9):2628. doi: 10.3390/ani11092628. PMID: 34573595; PMCID: PMC8468022.
- Powell L, Chia D, McGreevy P, Podberscek AL, Edwards KM, Neilly B, et al. (2018) Expectations for dog ownership: Perceived physical, mental and psychosocial health consequences among prospective adopters. PLoS ONE 13(7): e0200276. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0200276.