Before you get a dog: what you need to know

Getting a dog is the beginning of a lifetime bond between you and your new best friend.

It’s a big commitment, so it’s worth taking the time to consider how it will change your life and what your responsibilities will be.

The Animal Welfare Act of 2006 outlines the five duties of care you will have as a pet owner. It’s important you meet these to ensure your dog is happy and healthy and to reduce the chance of them developing any behavioural problems.

1. Your dog needs a suitable environment

This one’s simple. Your dog needs you to provide them with a stable loving home, with a warm bed and to be treated as part of the family.

2. Your dog needs a suitable diet

You should provide your dog with the correct amount of food specifically designed for dogs, and give them constant access to fresh water. A good quality dry food that is free from colourings, additives and preservatives is recommended – this contains all of their nutritional requirements in one food, is easy to use in training and is available in ranges specifically designed for puppies, adults and seniors. You can bulk out your dog’s diet with tinned meat if desired.

It’s important not to over feed your dog as obesity can cause many health problems and shorten their life expectancy. Neutered dogs and those in their senior years will need fewer calories.

3. Your dog needs to be able to exhibit normal behaviour patterns

Play and exercise are very important for dogs. Your dog should have at least one or preferably two good walks a day – ideally with time off the lead and the chance to explore.

Don’t forget to provide your dog with mental stimulation too. This could be training classes or activities, fun games at home or food based activity toys. Be aware of your dogs’ breed traits – different breeds will enjoy different levels of activity and different types of play.

4. Your dog needs to be housed with, or apart from, other animals

Dogs are very social animals and often enjoy spending time playing with other dogs. Your dog will need regular interaction and play with people too. But they will also need time to themselves too –make sure your dog has a safe quiet place they can go to when needed.

5. Your dog needs to be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease

Register your dog with a vet as soon as possible, and make sure you keep up to date with yearly vaccinations to protect against potentially fatal diseases. Use regular veterinary treatments against fleas and worms – this will stop any nasty infestations which, once there, can be difficult to get rid of. It’s important that you seek veterinary assistance when it is required, and are able to make the difficult decision of euthanasia when your dog’s quality of life is diminished.

Veterinary treatment can be expensive, but it’s an essential part of being a responsible pet owner – we strongly advise you get pet insurance to cover this. Choosing pet insurance can be confusing, with many different companies and covers available – do your research, ask for recommendations or seek advice from a professional.

How much will your dog cost you?

Owning any pet can be expensive, especially a dog. Make sure you consider this before you take on the responsibility. Sit down and work what your costs will be and if owning a dog is something you can realistically afford at this point in time. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Pet insurance (the monthly cost plus the excess to pay on claims)
  • Vet costs (Can be in the £1000s if your dog isn’t insured)
  • Leads and collars
  • Identity tag
  • Beds
  • Bowls
  • Toys
  • Cage
  • Initial vaccinations
  • Booster vaccination
  • Microchip
  • Good Quality Dog Food
  • Regular worming and flea treatment
  • Neutering
  • Kennel/dog sitting fees if going away

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