Life with a dog can be truly amazing. You get a best friend, someone who does not judge you and someone who will always be happy to see you. The moments with a dog are priceless. A dog can make you smile, laugh and take away your loneliness.
However, life with a dog also comes with a huge responsibility. You are committing to taking care of another living being and it is your job to make sure that all their needs, both physically and emotionally are met and fulfilled.
But what does that really mean?
In this blog I will try and take you through the basics of what it means to share your life with a dog.
Just like every human being is different, so is every dog. Your dog is different from mine, and they have different likings, activity levels and personalities.
Despite there being individual differences there are things every dog need and that you must make a priority in your life with a dog.
The Basics In Life With A Dog
It goes without saying that every dog needs daily access to food and water. Water should of course be of constant access, whereas food can vary from 1-5 times a day depending on the dog’s age and physical condition.
A dog also needs a warm and comfy place to sleep. You will get a new family member which should live with you inside the house with the rest of the family. This also means that you should not leave your dog alone for more than 5 hours a day.
So now you are probably thinking…but I work for 8 hours at a time, so does that mean I should not get a dog? No, but it does mean that you should figure out if you are able to get home during your lunch break or maybe you need to hire a dog walker or sitter for the excess hours you will be away from your dog. It also means that you need to really make sure that your dog gets all their physical and mental needs met before you leave him/her alone.
Finally, I would argue that for your dog to have their needs met you need to make a schedule – your dog’s schedule. Dogs loves schedules, it makes them feel safe and that the world is a predictable place they can count on. This also means that if you feed your dog at 7 o’clock in the morning from Monday to Friday you can be sure that come Saturday and Sunday morning your dog will want his/her food at 7 o’clock.
Life with a dog means getting up and getting some physical exercise. All dogs, no matter size or breed need daily physical exercise. This means proper exercise and not just a 5-minute walk around the blog (which really is more of a bathroom break). Exercise can come in many shapes and activities – playtime in the garden, nice long walk or a run in the park.
The notion that we have to take our dogs out walking 3 times a day is somewhat outdated, however there is some truth to it. At the end of the day your dog needs to go to the bathroom several times a day and he/she needs their daily exercise. By providing regular daily walks and runs you give your dog that exercise and those bathroom breaks. Imagine if you had to hold it for 8-12 hours!
Which leads me to my next point. Just like you have to go to the bathroom in the morning, so does your dog! This means that sharing your life with a dog you rarely get those mornings where you can walk around in your jammies until noon. In fact the first thing many dog owners do in the morning is to take their dog out – sometimes even before they have had their morning coffee or breakfast.
Not only is physical exercise important, so is mental stimuli. Just like us, dogs need to be mentally stimulated daily. Mental stimulation is beneficial in so many ways. It will strongly reduce the likelihood of your dog developing future problem behaviours, it will keep your dog’s mind strong and it will increase the bond you have with your dog (Read more about the benefits of mental stimulation here).
Mental stimulation or enrichment comes in many forms – it can be done through a variety of dog toys, on walks, through training etc. This means that you have to make time in your daily life to not only fit in the basic needs your dog has along with the physical needs, you also have to find time for mentally stimulating your dog.
You can give them a Kong each day but after a week your dog will not get much mental stimulation out of it. However, if you vary between different stimulating experiences – a Kong one day and nose work in the garden the next day, your dog will get those basic needs for sniffing and exploring met. It will stimulate their brain in the hunt or effort to get that yummy treat. Afterwards, all they want to do is to take a nap by your feet while you get that last bit of work done or enjoy your favourite sit-com.
Being totally pragmatic, you should probably estimate that around 3-5 hours of your day, if not more, will go to your dog. As mentioned in the beginning the joys and happiness you get back in your life with a dog far out ways these responsibilities, and that is why dog people keep coming back for more.
I hope this has helped you in your decision making about whether to get a dog. If you need more help then book a consultation with me today.