Having A Dog of Your Own and Caring For Another Are Two Extremely Different Things
Few things change faster than caring for an animal versus keeping one as a pet.
Dog lovers. Dog lovers everywhere.
In countries where dogs are stray and free roaming on the streets, you’ll always spot a couple of good samaritans feeding them regularly or providing them shelter from the elements. Some of them develop long term connections with these animals and permanently adopt them as their very own pets. However, some of these good samaritans do not realize the major shift in responsibility that takes place once you bring a dog home from the streets.
When you bring a pet home, a whole new set of responsibilities come into the picture, some of which you couldn’t have possibly even known about before.
You are now in charge of a living being with its own set of needs and wants. You cannot just bid goodbye to it once it is fed and then go about your own life like you used to with the street dogs.
You’ve got to make sensible, rational, and wise decisions about it from now onwards. No more fooling around. This is your very own pet we’re talking about. A little slip-up here and there could send you scurrying to the vets, which will only become an additional burden to you in your already hectic life, and exacerbate healthcare costs in the long term.
You’ll have to be extremely discerning from now onwards. You’ll have to ask your vet about the specialized diet for your dog in case it happens to be an exotic or non-local breed, make sure its medical needs are taken care of, ensure it’s getting enough exercise and socialization, ensure there’s always someone to take of it when you’re not around, and not to mention loads of love and care.
Here are some aspects that drastically change once you start owning a dog:
You may be an animal lover who leaves water bowls out for the dogs and birds every summer. You might even feed the strays on your street every fortnight. Dry puppy or adult dog food, rice, and milk might have formed the bulk of your feed when you fed the strays. Those that require only minimal time and effort to prepare. Since street dogs aren’t our own, we seldom put much thought into what to feed them, or how often. We’re concerned about their welfare and do it out of pure sympathy. Sometimes, we don’t even make an effort, and just feed them the day's leftovers. Sure, on occassion some of us might completely go out of our way and even cook a rice & chicken meal for the dogs on their street. I’ve seen that happen.
But most animal lovers just don’t want the streeties to starve, and that’s where their sympathy for them ends. Even when I used to feed the street dogs in front of my house, I just made do with dry Pedigree or even glucose biscuits at times.
Most animal lovers know that this is woefully insufficient in the long term, and that dogs cannot survive solely on dry food. Since most street dogs just survive day to day on scraps from good samaritans, charitable organizations, animal welfare groups, or just plain garbage, they suffer a host of ailments like parvovirus, canine distemper, skin infections, urinary problems, diarrhoea, vomiting, and other disorders. They also have shorter lifespans due to this nutritionally deficient diet, and a lot of the daily agony and suffering they have to go through living the harsh life on the streets.
A lot of thought has to go into what kind of diet to feed your own pet dog, its feeding times, whether to feed it a special diet or a general one, along with a host of other considerations. You’ll have to devote a certain amount of time and energy learning about its dietary requirements and how to keep it in the best of health.
This is your own dog now. You just cannot leave it to its own devices, or put its health in the hands of fate. You’re responsible for anything that happens to it from this point onwards.
Ever seen a dog owner yanking a piece of detritus or road litter from his dog's mouth which it has mistakenly swallowed thinking it to be food?
Now you know why.
If a street dog swallows a foreign object unintentionally and falls sick, the onus of care isn’t on you. You were just feeding it, remember?
But if your own dog does it, you could be staring at pretty hefty bills from the vet’s office, not to mention the mental agony of painfully watching your pet suffer right in front of your eyes.
No matter how big or small of a medical procedure is required to restore your dogs life back to perfect health, you’ll have to be able to shell out cash for the treatment. Will you be able to afford it?
Abandonment of pets when they suffer from illnesses that require expensive treatments is an epidemic in itself for this very reason. Many people adopt an animal because of ‘spur of the moment’ love and affection they may have felt for it. But somehow, their hearts start to shrink when it comes to long term care and support.
Dogs require plenty of daily exercise to keep their health in check. You must ensure that there’s at least one family member in the house available to take the dog on his/her daily walks in case you’re busy with your own assignments. Daily walks are required not just for exercise, but for socialization. Your dogs will get to meet other dogs and humans at the park, and this facilitates for great bonding and friendship. Dogs love making friends as much as (some) humans do. Ask any dog owner who regularly takes his pooch to the park how difficult it is to get it to go back home, and you’ll know. Of course, some dogs have different personalities. But most dogs just love going to the park every single day.
Dogs love running around and playing in the grass. They love chasing other dogs around and love playing chase with humans too. They are curious by nature and love to sniff for things on the ground, dig in the soil, or vegetation around wherever they’ve been taken for walks. All of this helps in the all-round development of the dogs senses, helping to make it a much more friendly and sociable companion to have around. Pets whose exercise needs are neglected exhibit anti-social tendencies and are not as friendly and jovial as those who are engaged and played with every day.
Health and Hygiene
You not only have to devote time to daily walks and leisure activities for your pooch, but also have to clean up after them whenever they urinate or defecate. With an increasing number of people owning dogs, my city corporation mandated that owners clean up after their pets, no matter where they are.
In my city, we once used to have a lot of greenery and wild spaces for our pets to run around, and spotting pet poop all over the roads or in the parks was never such a big concern. Fast-forward to today from more than a decade ago and our population has skyrocketed. And so have the number of dog owners, and pet dogs.
A huge number of green spaces have been lost due to urbanisation and concretization of the city over the years, due to which a once miniscule issue has become a huge matter of concern. Whenever I go for my early morning runs, or evening walks, I am forced to watch out for dog poop, particularly in parks and open areas. Not only has the number of pet dogs remarkably increased, but the number of open and green spaces have drastically decreased. This puts dogs and humans using the street on a collision course. Most dog owners just don’t bother with cleaning up after their pet.
This isn’t much of a problem in gated communities and municipality maanged areas of the city due to the presence of residents and owners associations, but is a huge issue in open and unregulated areas of the city.
Pet dogs need to be trained on how to act and behave around the house. This isn’t your street dog anymore who can eat, sleep, and defecate wherever it feels like. There is decorum to be followed inside a house. Obedience is the price a house dog pays to be guaranteed food, love,shelter, and care for the rest of its life.
Pooches need to be trained on how to act and behave in certain situations as well as generally around the house. You need your dog to be obedient and comply with your orders every step of the way. This includes obeying commands to stay away from humans who are afraid of them, not engage in hostile confrontations with other dogs, and staying away from food found randomly on the ground.
They also need to learn to sit, stand, stay, fetch, eat, and stay quiet when told to.
A well trained pet makes for a happy experience for both the pet and the owner. A disobedient or badly trained dog is a threat not only to other dogs and the public, but also to the owner, and causes great discomfort in the relationship between the pet and the owner. Badly behaved pets can trash a house, destroy your precious belongings, and ruin a perfectly good evening between you and your guests. A bad pet owner is one who makes absolutely no investments in pet training or makes no effort to discipline their dog. Then when the pooch acts out and behaves indifferently, the owner lashes out at the pet and starts behaving violently with it, which feeds into a vicious cycle of disobey-and-get-hurt over and over again.
We hear about badly behaved pets mauling other pets or humans to death on an almost daily basis nowadays, don’t we?
Since you have a dog dependent on you for survival, you cannot just put on a pair of clothes, leave some food out, lock your door, and go gallivanting off to wherever it is you go without thinking twice. This dog is your family member now. And family members need to be cared for. You also need to physically protect it from bigger dogs outside who might be out to bully your dog. Remember this isn’t a streetie who’s forced to fend for itself. The onus of protecting the dog from harm and danger now fall upon you. If a street dog you were feeding gets injured in a fight with other dogs from the streets, it is left to its own devices. But this is your own dog now. You cannot allow it to get into fights and get injured.
Similarly, you cannot leave the house for weeks or months together without first making sure that all your pet’s needs are taken care of in the interim.
Whether you’ve booked a dog boarding service for your pet, dropping him/her off at the pet sitters, or getting a full time pet sitter to live at your place while you’re away, you’ve got to ensure that all your pet's needs are fully met in your absence.
Even within this, there are a lot of variables to deal with:
- Is your dog sociable, friendly, and loves being in the company of other dogs? Then a dog hostel would be your best bet.
- Or is it an introvert and hates socializing too long a time? In which case a pet sitters house would be ideal.
- How long can it live in your absence?
- What is its temperament? Does it like to be cuddled and played with a lot? Or does it enjoy its own personal space? In which case you’ll have to carefully instruct the pet sitter on how to behave around your dog.
- Will it get along with another breed that’s being lodged at the very same house?
- Will it start whimpering and feeling morose just a few days after your departure?
- Does it shed a lot and frequently need to be groomed?
All these requirements must be communicated to the pet sitter well in advance before committing to anything, and also to avoid any untoward incidents or unpleasant conversations down the road.
There’s nothing you can do once you’re already out of town, and an issue crops up. So choose your pet sitter wisely.
So why this article?
A lot of people are under the impression that taking care of street dogs (or pet sitting their friends dogs occasionally) and having one of their own are one and the same thing. They get friendly with the stray dogs near their house, start feeding them for a couple of months, develop some feelings and attachment towards them and then grow into dog lovers. Then they happily assume that they are ready to have a pet of their own.
It is only once the pet arrives home and starts living with them full time, does the realization of what they just committed to fully dawns upon them. They realize that the dog needs socialization and taking care of. They need daily walks and specialized food. They need to be taken for regular check ups to the vet. They need regular baths. They have to be taken outside daily to urinate and defecate. All of these things start becoming a huge burden to the “dog lover” and they are forced to abandon their pet which they once so lovingly brought home. This is exactly why we have an epidemic of abandoned pet dogs on our hands.
This is why it is extremely imperative that people realize the full extent of needs and amount of caretaking required by a dog before getting one and not just go by their emotions and feelings while adopting or buying one for the house.