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Tue, Dec. 10

Powers: Responsible dog ownership
All About Pets

Stella, a very loving golden retriever, is one of the lucky ones, sharing an incredible bond with her person, Patricia Schwarz. (Courtesy)

Stella, a very loving golden retriever, is one of the lucky ones, sharing an incredible bond with her person, Patricia Schwarz. (Courtesy)

Owning a dog, or any pet, is a huge responsibility, one that must be taken very seriously. According to the American Kennel Club, “Owning a dog is a long-term emotional and financial commitment.” Lots of decisions must be made before acquiring a pet including your lifestyle and living arrangements. If making this commitment does not sound right for you, consider a soft, cuddly stuffed dog. They come in all sizes and colors and can be very lovable.

If you decide that you are ready for this commitment, take some time to examine your expectations. Be honest and realistic. Are you active? Do you walk and get out and about? Do you live in an apartment or other place with restricted outdoor space or do you have a large fenced yard and great areas to walk? The breed you choose must fit your lifestyle. Make a list of the traits you are seeking in a dog. Be sure to consider size, energy level, grooming needs, trainability and temperament.

What is your family situation? Are there little children running around? Do you like to travel — in an RV where you could take the dog along or do you like cruises where the dog would have to be left behind? Are you willing and do you have the time and patience to train a dog? A puppy particularly takes lots of both.

Once you have made the decision that your home and family are ready for a dog, do some looking around. There are way too many rescue dogs that are desperately hoping for a loving family. But there again, the breed is important. Small dogs are great for small spaces and for people who are not out hiking in the woods but enjoy a little walk around the block and lots of lap time. Big dogs, depending on the breed, can go totally crazy cooped up in a house all day with not enough exercise.

Would this guy be alone all day? Would that be fair for him? Dogs are pack animals and need companionship. If your dog would have to be alone much of the time, might it be better to have two dogs? But certainly do not take on two pups at the same time. The pups would bond with each other and it is really important that any new dog bond with the people of the house. If the kids are out of school and at home all summer, that might be a good time to take in a pup.

A new pup in the house, regardless of age, needs time to adjust. Be patient. Think of the changes he has to make — new space, new people, new routine, new everything. Patience is key.

The No. 1 reason that dogs are turned into a rescue organization is due to behavioral issues. And normally the reason for that is because the humans were not able or willing to spend the time to teach basic behaviors and develop the bond. It is best with a new dog of any age to attend a training class. Check around first to make sure you are comfortable with the methods used. Positive training is essential. And then, a little daily homework will be necessary, which is a great help in the bonding process.

Also, grooming is a great way to bond, particularly with a puppy. Place him gently on a sturdy table with a non-slippery surface. Let him get accustomed to you touching him all over, including his feet, ears and checking out his teeth. Begin very gently with lots of hugs.

Responsible pet ownership is vitally important to the dog, the family and the community. This is only a brief introduction. Take the time to study the breeds. Find a good dog training book. And carefully consider your real reasons for wanting a new pet in your home. Maybe you will decide that a soft, cuddly stuffed dog might be just what you need.

Christy Powers is a freelance writer whose passion is studying and writing about pet health, nutrition and training. She can be reached at

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