Make A Commitment
In this ever changing world of hi-tech evolution, I’m afraid we’ve walked away from our values and our culture has become a throw away society. It has become too easy for us to neglect long term goals, stay loyal to our employers, walk away from our families, our marriages, our children, and yes, our PETS!
Animals are not disposable!
They are lifetime commitments and before you see that cute little puppy in the window and whip out your credit card, think about all the positives and negatives that come with the responsibility of pet ownership. Not just today, but 7-15 years from now! Yes, 7-15 years from now, because that is the type of commitment you need to try to make to the best of your ability. If you still want the puppy, it will be there tomorrow…and if it is not, there are thousands of dogs being bred every day —–which is entirely another topic. There are an equal number of dogs at local animal shelters and rescue groups just waiting for a SECOND CHANCE, because their first owners might not have thought through what I just asked you to do.
I would love to give you some statistics, but as my statistics teacher once told me, they are only as good as the control group. Unfortunately, because of the over pet population and the lack of resources needed to get accurate information it is difficult to come up with real figures, but here is an idea for you.
80% of the dogs brought into a shelter are brought in because of training issues – which manifests itself from people making misinformed decisions on the breed, size, family situations, or timing of getting a dog.
56% of dogs and 71% of cats that enter animal shelters are euthanized. (www.americanhumane.org)
9.6 million animals are euthanized annually in the United States (www.americanhumane.org)
There are still Gas Shelters operating in the United States, in Ohio, West Virginia, Mississippi, and other Southern States.
25% of dogs and 24% of cats that enter animal shelters are adopted. (www.americanhumane.org)
Only 15% of dogs and 2% of cats that enter animal shelters are reunited with their owners. ——Please have your pet wear ID tags, and microchip and or tattoo your pet.
For every human baby born in the US, thirteen puppies and kittens are born (www.mspca.org)
Only 12-15% of American Pet Owners remember to include their pets in their wills, and up to 66% of Americans die without a valid will in place (Wall Street Journal – Guide to Planning Your Financial Future)
Responsibility on the Breeders Part Too!
Responsible animal ownership needs to be reevaluated in our society. For every purebred dog in the shelter, there is a breeder who bred that dog. There needs to be responsibility on the breeder’s part to take the dog back.
I am in favor of breeding animals; however, I would only recommend reputable breeders. It is the non-reputable breeders and the puppy mills that help attribute to our over population.
If you decide to go to a breeder, ask questions, get referrals. If they are leery of giving you a referral, walk away. Make sure they care about the dogs they breed. Make sure they will take the dog back if you have circumstances that will no longer allow you to keep your dog. This will help to alleviate overpopulation in the overcrowded shelters.
Buying or Adopting
Adoption could be a great choice for individuals who wish to “rescue” a dog/ save a dog from certain death; or for someone who doesn’t care about genetics, lineage, and working ability (especially in the working, herding, sporting breed dogs). It is not meant for someone who is looking to save money because you don’t have to pay $500 – $2,000 or more for a dog. You still must consider the financial responsibility of a dog, it might initially be healthy but what about later on? The cost of annual medical checkups and vaccinations, spaying and neutering, licenses, training classes, grooming, special treats, toys, food, shelter, kenneling while on vacation and other financial responsibilities.
Wonderful dogs come from shelters, but keep in mind they are usually at the shelter for a reason. Either they got too big, they didn’t fit into the family, or they were never trained properly. They probably developed poor habits. Perhaps they became mouthy, they began jumping and once they got too big they knocked people down, they were never housetrained, they stole food from the table, they chewed things in the house, they became aggressive with family members because they were never taught pack order, they were never obedience trained, or a variety of other issues. Ask questions at the shelter; get as much information as you can. Spend as much time with the dog as possible. If you are unsure, go back and visit with the dog again. Take the dog away from it’s surroundings. Keep in mind the dog is in a stressful situation and its full personality will not show under these conditions. So many times I have seen a dog come from a shelter and change 100% in two weeks after being in a home environment. If you have trained in obedience, then you should know what to look for, and if you have not, consult with a trainer in your area. (Make sure the trainer is reputable as well, as you do not need any type of formal training to be a dog trainer – see my dog training page). Many of these issues are trainable issues, but you need to be aware of the dog you are adopting.
Rescue Groups are another source of adopting a dog. They usually have already temperament tested the dog and the dog has been living in a foster home where it has received some re-introduction into home life. All reputable rescue groups will require you to complete an application, and will conduct a home visit to make sure you have the adequate housing for the dog. The adoption fee and other requirements will vary with each rescue group. Some require fenced yards, others will not adopt to homes with small children, etc…so check with them. Most have web sites and if you go to www.petfinder.com you should be able to find one in your area. If looking for a breed rescue group, you can do a Google search, or go to the www.akc.org web site. For German Shepherd Rescue, email me and I will be happy to give you a list of the ones that I have worked with that have been very cooperative. Just like with all things, I have found some rescue groups to be uncooperative, so please don’t be discouraged, if you are not happy with one, contact another. Rescue is a two way street, the rescue wants to place the dog in an approved home where the dog will be best suited, but you are also a consumer looking for a lifetime commitment for your animal as well.
As for buying a dog, this might be a better option for some individuals, again depending on their situation. I have some friends who train in competition obedience, do therapy work, search and rescue, etc, and they need a dog with certain temperaments and drive, and they prefer to research lineage, breeding stock, history, genetics, and working ability. Therefore, they opt for a breeder. I have also utilized this venue due to my personal interests and circumstances.
However, I cannot stress enough that there are many many breeders out there and there is no formal license required for breeding. Research the breeder, review the contract, make sure certain genetics for the breed are guaranteed, get references, visit with the kennel if you can, make sure the parents are OFA certified (hips and elbow certification, www.ofa.com, and above all make sure that they love their dogs and are willing to take the dog back if the situation arises. They chose to breed the dog, they chose to bring it into the world, they are responsible for making sure the puppy goes to a good home, and they should continue the responsibility.
Breed for you?
I believe a lot of the mistakes people make is that they do not research the breed of dog before they decide on that dog. You don’t want a Jack Russell if you are in your 80’s and living in a small home. They are cute, but typically they need exercise, they are smart, fast, and always on the go.
With that said, my breed, the German Shepherd Dog, is a working dog and I believe he should be worked. Dogs in general need stimulation. Lack of stimulation will leave the dog to mischief, and German Shepherds are smart, intelligent, working animals, who love to please their owners, and enjoy working so a short walk around the block in not enough stimulation for these types of animals.
Please research your breed of dog and visit local dog shows. Obedience trials held by the AKC are a great way to see dogs work in obedience. There are all breeds working at all levels and you can get a list from the AKC by going to their web site. http://www.akc.org/events/search/.
You can also see working dogs work at local Schutzhund Club Trials which is an exciting all day event where dogs compete in the sport of Obedience, Protection, and Tracking. For a list of these events, go to: http://www.germanshepherddog.com and click on ‘Events.’
Other venues are to talk to breeders, ask your veterinarian, your groomer (as they handle all breeds) and your dog trainer.
Ultimately, when you accept this animal as your pet, please remember you agree to take care of him. This means you make a commitment to him. In return, he will give you unconditional love. I guarantee that …..and that my friend….. is absolutely priceless. PLEASE do not let him go, he does not deserve it.