Exercise - All dogs need exercise on a daily basis. Before getting your favourite breed check its exercise requirements - if you don't fancy, or don't have the time, do not buy a high energy breed that needs 2 hours of walking per day. A dog which does not get sufficient exercise may well become destructive in the home. Children can benefit from walks with the dog - watching the seasons change and spotting wildlife can be an education in itself. But very few children, until they are well into their teens, should walk a dog without an adult present.
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Owning a Dog - Responsibilities and Commitment
Having a dog is more a way of life than just simply having a pet. A dog is a member of the family, and will demand to be treated as such. The whole family must buy into the idea of having a dog around - a dog cannot be ignored or shut away, it must be exercised, trained, fed, played with and cared for.
A dog will change your life - in many ways for the better, but also will be a tie. Dogs cannot be left alone for long periods of time, and so will be a tie. Days out and holidays cannot be spontaneous unless you are going to take your four legged companion with you. And even then you'll be looking for dog friendly places to go.
A child's life will be enriched by having a dog as a pet, but there are laws concerning owning a dog which an adult will need to ensure are complied with. Looking after a dog's nutritional requirements, veterinary treatments, insurance etc. will need an adult to take responsibility.
Your Dog and the Law
Poo Picking - When you are out walking your dog you must pick up the poo! It's not pleasant to have dog muck on your shoe, but more importantly dogs get worms. ! Dogs get worms. In the majority of cases worms cause no damage to people, however roundworm larvae can migrate through the body until they reach the eye or the brain, and once there they can cause permanent damage. Children are most at risk of becoming infected with dog worms as they run round in the garden or parks. If dog faeces are not picked up children can fall over in the mess, or pick up a ball that's rolled in the muck. If you don't pick up dog poo you can be subject to an 'On the spot' fine of between £50 to £80
Neighbours - Some dogs bark - and some bark quite a lot. It is your responsibility to make sure your dog does not cause a noise nuisance for other people. If it does your local council can take action against you. Some dogs get separation anxiety and may bark when left alone - as the owner you will need to try to deal with this through training, perhaps by employing a dog walker or sending your dog to daycare. Owning a dog is sometimes not as simple as it first appears.
Out and About - When walking your dog you must make sure you have it on a lead near roads and in places where a sign dictates. You must ensure that your dog is not a nuisance to anyone else, whether that's another dog owner or a person or child. Some dogs don't like other dogs, some dogs don't like children running up to pet them. If your dog is likely to snap then it should be muzzled in public. Dogs should not be trained to be aggressive. Although the Dangerous Dogs Act mentions a number of breeds that can be prone to be aggressive, any breed of dog can have an anti-social personality, be it a labrador, poodle or chihuahua. Proper training and early socialisation are essential to help your dog be the people and dog friendly pet that you hope for. It is against the law to allow a dog to be dangerously out of control in a public place or in, for example, a neighbour's garden. The law will be changed to include attacks that take place on your own premises.
Identification - In public all dogs must were a collar which (usually by means of a tag) carries the name, address and phone number of the owner. By March 2016 all dogs will need to be microchipped to enable identification if they are lost, stolen or cause a nuisance.
What you Dog will need from You
Access to Outdoors - Ideally dogs need to have access to a garden. If you do not have a garden you will find it an additional chore to take the dog outside regularly for its toilet. Gardens will need to be cleared of mess regularly to prevent health hazards to children or neighbours.
Food - The cost of feeding a dog will depend on the size of the dog and the type of food you choose to feed. It is difficult to give an estimate, and the prices can range considerably. The nutritional benefits of commercial dog foods vary greatly. With research you can find good quality foods which can work out cheaper than brands available at the local supermarket. Dogs can be fed a complete dried food diet, wet (tinned or trays), or even just raw meat!
Vet Bills and Insurance -From the time you bring your new dog home you will start incurring vet bills. You will need to have your puppy vaccinated before he can go anywhere where another dog has been. He will also need to be wormed and probably treated for fleas. This will start a regular programme which must be followed for the rest of his life.
Although it is hoped that your pet will not fall ill, dogs seem to be similar to humans. Some only go to the vets for their annual vaccinations and check ups, others seem to be there every other weeks. Large breeds in particular are prone to arthritus and hip problems, some breeds have typical breathing difficulties. Vets bills can be very expensive, and the best way to keep both your pocket and your pet healthy is to take out pet insurance. Shop around for the best deals - there is a wide variety of costs for different breeds between insurance companies.
Grooming - some short haired dogs simply need a quick brush over a couple of times a week. Other breeds may need daily grooming sessions of 15 minutes a day, and some need regular visits to a dog groomer to keep their coats in check. Grooming requirements should be taken into account when choosing the best breed for your lifestyle.
Training - Whatever type of dog you have it is unlikely to behave like the perfect image you have in your mind. Some dogs don't come when they are called, some dogs don't get on with others which makes letting them off the lead in open spaces difficult. Young dogs and puppies may be destructive in the house or the garden (even well trained dogs find it hard to distinguish between your prize flower beds and the lawn). If you get a puppy or an older dog that needs reminding what he's supposed to do. you'll need to consider going to puppy training classes. These can be great fun, and an investment for your future enjoyment of your pet. But it will be an hour or so out of your week, and unless your child is mature enough to understand instructions and be able to train your dog, something you as a parent might need to do.
Are you prepared to put up with bad behaviour, and either attempt to deal with it by training, or live with it? If you like your life to be predictable and well ordered then a dog probably isn't for you.
If, on the other hand, a lolling tongue, big eyes sparkling in a head cocked to one side obviously saying 'sorry I didn't understand the letter I just ate was a cheque!' then you probably will be very happy giving space to a canine!