What your dog needs

Consideration of the Human-animal bond indicates the many ways that having a dog can bring benefits to you and your family. It is, though, a two-way process, and it is important your dog benefits too! Being a responsible owner means you must provide for your dogs needs. In the UK this “duty of care” is a legal requirement under the provisions of the Animal Welfare Act (2006).

So what sort of things do you have to provide?

1. Love and Companionship
Your dog is part of the family so deserves a share of love and companionship – and this should not only be when it suits you! If you're out all day, or keep irregular hours, this may sometimes prove to be difficult. Should you have more than one dog?

2. A good diet
Providing a good balanced diet is essential for health. Follow the link to find out more.

3. Exercise
Depending on its size, a dog will need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day. That means every day irrespective of the weather! How would a dog fit into your daily routine?  It is not fair to leave a dog cooped up inside on its own all day – indeed this may lead to behaviour problems resulting from anxiety and stress. The amount of exercise that can be given is important if you are elderly, especially if you have limited mobility.

4. Protection from disease
There are a number of serious life-threatening infectious diseases of dogs. Fortunately, your dog can easily be protected from these by regular routine vaccination. There are also a range of internal parasites and skin parasites that can not only make your dog unwell; they can also affect other members of your family. Regular treatments with effective medications can control these. If you are considering a holiday with your dog in the Mediterranean region check out the disease risks of holiday travel section to find out what additional precautions you may need to take. In some pedigree breeds there are recognised genetic diseases that can be passed on from the parents to the offspring. Screening programmes are available for some of these, so choosing the right dog in the first place may help to avoid these problems.

5. Protection from injury
If one leads a full active life, exposure to injuries will inevitably happen. However, ensuring your house and garden are secure to avoid escape, and keeping your dog under strict control when walking along roadsides will help.

6. Avoiding obesity
We are all well aware of the effect obesity can have on health in humans. The same goes for dogs. This should be prevented by a good balanced diet and exercise. It is worth stressing the point that you should monitor your dog’s weight or size on a regular basis to prevent obesity.
Many veterinary practices have “weight watchers” style clinics run by qualified veterinary nurses to help address the problem if it is allowed to occur.

7. Avoiding stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety will result in poor welfare for your dog. It can cause a range of behaviour problems which could adversely affect you and your neighbours. 80% of the incidents of dog bites in children occur within the home by a dog familiar to the child (ie the family pet!). In 86% of cases, the interaction that triggered the bite was initiated by the child, and the dog reacted out of feelings of fear or anxiety. So recognising this and avoiding potential risk situations is very important. It is important you spend time educating your dog to behave in an appropriate way. It is essential that all family members are involved and are consistent and that the correct methods are used.

8. Ensuring appropriate treatment in the event of injury and disease
All the activities mentioned above will reduce the risk of disease and injury in your dog but sadly not eliminate it entirely. So problems will occur, and the first step in resolving this is recognising when your dog is sick in the first place. The signs and symptoms of disease section may give you some information that will help. You will then need to seek professional help from a veterinarian, so you can work together to resolve the problem. Ideally, you should have already built up a relationship with your veterinarian before this illness or injury has occurred.
Some chronic diseases may require medication and treatment for long periods of time which may impact on your daily routine as well as your pocket. Remember dogs get old too, and will also get less mobile and require help and assistance. This may be physically difficult if the dog is large or overweight. Think about taking out pet insurance to cover the cost of unexpected illness or accidents.

9. Security if lost
The unexpected can always happen – your dog may escape. It is best to anticipate this and ensure your dog is permanently identified with a microchip. This is a legal requirement in most European countries, but not in the UK at this time. Ensuring the rapid return of your lost dog not only has benefits for you and your dog, but reduces the nuisance within the community.

10. Provisions for care during holidays
As your dog is a member of your family, you may chose to take him with you on holiday and plan the holiday specifically so you can do this. Check out the travelling by car section for tips. If you wish to travel to and from the UK you will need a pet passport. If you are considering a holiday in the Mediterranean region check out the disease risks of holiday travel section to find out what additional precautions you may need to take.

If you cannot take your dog on holiday, you may need to use a boarding kennel. These have variable standards and prices, and you would be advised to visit them to make sure you are happy prior to booking. Good kennels often get booked well in advance, so do not leave things to the last minute.

Cost implications

All of these things are essential, but all come at a cost. The RSPCA estimate that the annual cost to ensure good health and welfare of a dog is approximately £650.00. It is important that you calculate your finances can accommodate this expense before you acquire a dog.

Choosing a dog

So before deciding which type of dog to acquire, you need to consider factors relating to your own lifestyle and situation as well as characteristics associated with particular types of dog. There are over 200 different breeds of pedigree dogs, each with their own characteristics. There are lots of variables about the dog and your individual lifestyle that need to be considered. Follow the link to the choosing a dog section to find out more. The trick is to match you and your characteristics with the right dog. In that way everybody will be happy and your family will enjoy and benefit from having a new member.

You and your veterinarian

A key person in ensuring the health and welfare of your dog is your veterinarian. They can advise on a whole range of positive health care issues and so ideally, you should have already built up a relationship with your veterinarian before this illness or injury has occurred. Finding the right veterinary practice that suits you is essential. Not all practices are the same nor do they offer the same services. So follow the links to find out more and help you choose.

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