Our blog’s 6th anniversary (“blogiversary”) is coming up in one week, which naturally got me thinking about the principle of responsible pet ownership. CANIDAE chose that phrase as the name for this blog because it’s a perfect fit for the company philosophy. Responsible pet ownership is not only a fundamental value of the company founders, but every employee as well.
As such, I like to discuss it here once in awhile to serve as a gentle reminder of what the term means, what it entails and how we can all be the best, most responsible pet owners possible. We are, after all, the ones in charge of every aspect of our pet’s wellbeing. Their health and happiness is in our hands. This is always at the forefront of my mind; I want to make good decisions, because my cats’ lives depend on it…and on me.
Many people – myself included – think of their animal companions as family. We want the best for them, just as we do for the important humans in our lives. The difference is that the humans can do many things for themselves that will make a positive impact on their quality of life. Our four legged friends can only rely on us, which is why being a responsible pet owner is so important.
In a perfect world, that would mean no one would ever be allowed to adopt a pet unless they agreed to take care of it for life, not “until.” You know…until the baby comes, until they have to move, until the pet becomes too old or inconvenient. Sadly, our imperfect world is filled with people who abandon their animal companions for one reason or another.
We all strive to be responsible pet owners and “do the right thing” where our beloved furry friends are concerned. We are human, though, which means that despite having the best intentions, sometimes we slip up. Read on for some common blunders pet owners make, and how to avoid them.
Adopting on a Whim
Judging by the number of people I know who’ve made this mistake (myself included) I’d say that “impulse adoption” is fairly common. It’s also understandable. That adorable little puppy face in the window can be so hard to resist. That kitten being given away on the street calls to our most basic need to “save” this tiny helpless being. However, getting a pet before doing your research or making the necessary preparations can have disastrous results, with the pet being the one who bears the brunt of our hasty decision. Adopting a pet is a long-term commitment, and you need to be absolutely certain you’re picking one that is appropriate for your family, your living situation and your lifestyle.
Not Enough Exercise
Yes, it can be darn inconvenient to walk the dog in frigid winter weather, or make time to play with your cat every day. But exercise is a vital part of a healthy lifestyle for our pets, just as it is for us. Couch potato pets run the risk of becoming overweight, which can cause numerous health issues including arthritis, diabetes, joint issues, liver problems, difficulty breathing and a decreased quality of life. Insufficient physical activity can also contribute to bad behavior. How much exercise is enough depends on your pet’s age, breed, size and health status. A basic rule of thumb is 30 minutes a day for dogs, and 15 minutes for cats. Consider that the bare bones minimum; your pet may need more exercise than that.
Adding a dog or cat to your family is a great way to teach your children how to be responsible for another living creature and learn to appreciate the work and dedication involved in caring for that pet. By including them in the care of the pet, children not only learn how to nurture it but they learn that loving another creature is much more than just playing with it on occasion. A pet depends on its people to provide food, shelter and full care.
When you adopt a dog or cat, kids may not always do the care work consistently, even with guidance or prodding, so be prepared and willing to do it, too. The ultimate responsibility is yours, but having a pet can be a good way to help a child learn how to care for and empathize with another living being and be responsible for something important. They will learn that their care matters to the pet.
Don’t get a pet just to teach your child responsibility. You should get a dog or cat because you want to love it, enjoy its company, care for it, and be a companion and family for each other. The responsibility lesson is just an added bonus.
Feeding a pet is something concrete that all children can understand. They know what it feels like to get hungry and they understand that food is the way hunger goes away. They will understand the pet needing food. Teaching them to be responsible for feeding the family pet is one of the easier lessons in pet care for them to learn.
When a dog or cat really loves its CANIDAE pet food, and gobbles it up the moment the child fills the bowl, the child will see that what they did is important. Learning responsibility and really understanding that helping the pet matters – to the pet as well as the family – will reinforce your child’s desire to want to be involved.
Children sometimes view a pet as a plaything. They may tire of it the same way they do a toy, but learning the importance of caring for a living being teaches your child the value of that animal as a real creature, not a toy. The commitment is for the life of the pet. Even a very small child can empathize and learn to understand the importance of good pet care.
Actually helping and spending time with the pet helps them understand that responsibility includes taking time each day to pay attention and give love to their dog or cat. Children need that time and attention from their parents. Your child can learn that their pet needs the same thing and they can be a source of fulfilling that need.
Helping to bathe or brush a furry pet can help to reinforce a child’s own personal care skills. If the doggy or kitty needs to have these things done, and they help do it, that helps them understand that it is a need many living creatures have, including themselves.
Although any medical pet home treatment, (wound, injury or illness), needs to be supervised by an adult, having your child with you while that treatment is taking place helps the child understand that pet care also involves attending to the kitty or doggy when it is ill or injured. It also teaches empathy. Most kids understand what feeling sick or getting an injury feels like. Sometimes responsibility involves a not-so-pleasant situation, and kids need to learn that as well.
Like children, pets require around-the-clock care at one level or another. A child can learn that having a pet means caring for it even when it is inconvenient or conflicting with something else they want to do. That lesson helps them learn that prioritizing needs and wants is an important part of responsibility. Don’t be hesitant to include them in something as simple as having to let the dog out in the middle of the night in the backyard for a potty break, or have them help change the kitty litter.
Don’t limit the help requests to older children. Even young children can begin to learn responsibility with simple tasks that they can manage or help you with. Praising their positive involvement will encourage your child to want to be more involved with the care of the pet.
Being a responsible pet owner means being a model for your children to follow to learn how to be responsible for your pet. Kids learn by example and will follow your lead. With guidance, a child can learn to be responsible for the care of a loved family dog or cat. Learning that their involvement matters in the care of your dog or cat will teach your child that responsibility is important and that they can contribute and make a difference.
Life gets busy and can sometimes be overwhelming. There is so much going on in our world, in our neighborhoods and in our households that it’s easy to get caught up in things. Let’s face it – sometimes it takes all of our focus just to get from one task to the next. Even so, your dog is counting on you to be a responsible pet owner.
It’s important to remember that your dog does not understand all of your time restrictions and commitments. He doesn’t understand that you need to work, grocery shop, exercise, socialize, attend classes, cook meals, fold laundry, clean the house, etc. He just knows that he loves you. He also knows, on some level, that he needs mental and physical stimulation as well as quality play time in order to be a happy, well-adjusted pooch. He needs to socialize with you and bond with you. It’s easy to forget this in our chaotic lives but the fact is, our pets need some of our time.
This article is getting back to basics; it’s a friendly reminder of what sharing your life with a dog should look like.
Most dogs only live 10 to 15 years, and it will go by fast. So no matter how hectic things get, carve out a bit of quality time for your dog every day. Ideally, the time of day would be similar from one day to the next, so your dog could joyfully anticipate this special time. That’s ideal but not necessary. What is necessary is that you have one-on-one time, just the two of you, and that your dog gets your undivided attention during that time.
Another consideration under the heading of “time” is this: try not to leave your dog alone for extended periods of time. These days, many dogs are at home alone during their person’s entire work day. Often they’re lonely and bored. This is a tough issue to solve, but try to make some arrangements so your dog does not languish the day away just waiting for your arrival.
Just like people, dogs need to mix things up sometimes; they like to visit new places and have new experiences. Even if they seem shy and frightened, ease your pup into new situations so he will learn to be more trusting and confident.
Additionally, dogs like to learn new tricks, especially if it means spending more time with you. Your dog will do anything to make you happy, so learning new things and then getting praise and perhaps a tasty CANIDAE grain free treat is your dog’s idea of heaven.
Dogs do not understand our words unless they are taught. They try to do what we want them to, but it’s up to us to learn how to communicate with them. I once lived with a female German shepherd who was (and probably still is) the smartest dog I’ve ever shared my life with. I used to say I didn’t need to train her because she would do anything I asked her to, if she understood my wishes. This dog was amazing and she taught me that it’s all about communication. Be patient with your dog, and learn to communicate with him/her.
Likewise, don’t get mad when your dog does something wrong. If you catch him in the act, communicate your wishes and then move on. Otherwise, take a deep breath, clean it up, and let it go.
Make sure your dog always has plenty of clean, fresh water and feed him a nutritious diet of premium dog food like CANIDAE. It’s up to you to keep his toenails clipped, his teeth healthy, his ears clean and his fur brushed (see, I told you this article was back to basics). Don’t leave a dog outside in scorching heat or frigid cold. Pay attention to his behavior and seek veterinary care if he begins to act unusual.
When you bring a new dog into your life, you make a lifetime commitment. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of how basic, yet important, our responsibilities are.
Every summer, I “cat sit” for a friend who enjoys dashing off for weekend getaways. Each time she asks me to watch her kitties, she ends by saying, “I know they would be alright, but I feel better knowing someone is checking in on them.” Cats may be solitary creatures, but that doesn’t mean they don’t miss you when you’re gone. Having someone watch your cats when you go away can give you peace of mind – in more ways than one.
As a lifelong cat owner, I’ve learned to never assume a cat can’t find a way to get herself into a situation she sometimes can’t get out of on her own. I had a cat pull the hose off my dryer, climb through it to the vent on the side of the house, and get stuck. I found her hanging upside down when I got home from work. She was fine, but it scared the daylights out of me.
One of my neutered male cats backed up to an electrical socket and sprayed into it which gave him a shock and produced a steady plume of smoke from the socket. I was assured by the firemen who inspected the socket that everything was alright. However, I was right in calling them because my cat could have started a fire. We can’t control or foresee issues that might arise, and leaving your cat home alone for more than a day could turn out to be a bad decision.
Every now and then my mother, a true non-pet person if ever there was one, says something along the lines of “Your cats sure are spoiled.” I smile and say “thank you.” I know she doesn’t mean that as a compliment, but to me it definitely is. If I am spoiling my cats, it means I am doing everything I can to make sure they are happy and healthy, and feel loved and appreciated.
Unlike spoiled children who run the risk of becoming brats who feel and act entitled, spoiled pets are just contented creatures who have a wonderful life. Are they thankful for it? I’m sure there are those like my mother who believe animals don’t have the capacity to feel thankful, or happy or sad either, for that matter. But we know better, don’t we?
Who among us can say that we haven’t seen looks of sheer joy on the faces of our pets? The greatest thing about making a pet happy is that it’s actually quite easy. They don’t ask for much other than to be well fed and well loved – now, how hard is that?
The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.