If you are thinking about getting a dog, but question whether you have the time and energy to make the commitment, you could be right. All too often, we meet clients who struggle to fit their dog into their busy schedule. Unfortunately, many are not successful, and we are called to assist with anything from housetraining, to fear issues, destructive behavior, to aggression. The majority of our clients don't realize that behavioral issues are generally, and almost always, a result of what the client is or isn’t doing. A dogs behavior problems are a family issue.

Are You Ready For An Animal Companion?

There are several things to consider when raising a healthy and happy dog. One of the most important considerations is that a dog will need your time. Your dog is not a fish! Unlike fish, a dog needs a large degree of physical attention, an active social life, affection, good healthy food, serious exercise (regardless of size), training, and mental stimulation. Without all of these components, you are setting yourself and your dog up for a challenging, unhappy, stressful, and sometimes disastrous relationship.

Daily Exercise

All dogs, regardless of breed or size, require daily outdoor exercise. In the last several years we have encountered many clients whom have acquired dogs, usually toy breeds, with the distinct belief that they are raising a "house dog". Because of their diminutive size, people are under the false impression that if they get a small dog, (think Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier or Chihuahua); they can raise it exclusively in their apartment. Nothing could be further from the truth. That is like saying short people don't need exercise! All dogs need to go outdoors, smell new things, meet other dogs, and run til their hearts content. Dogs were not ever intended to live exclusively indoors. It is a grave disservice to your dog to do this, and a great way to contribute to your dog developing all sorts of behavioral issues like timidity with strangers, excessive barking, excessive jumping-up, chewing, fear of other dogs, fear of loud noises, depression, aggression, and the list goes on.

Pet stores are huge culprits when it comes to this misguided advice. Way too frequently, when we inquire where the client acquired their "house dog", the answer is usually "from a pet store". (A reputable breeder would never promote an indoor lifestyle for any of their dogs, regardless of breed). However, a pet store will most certainly tell a customer what it wants to hear when the customer is looking for a low-maintenance breed that does not require a lot of walking. There is no such thing. This is just a way for them to make an over-priced sale. All breeds need exercise as it promotes healthy hearts, good circulation, aids in metabolism and digestion, and mental stimulation.

Seven Days A Week

While fish are content to swim exclusively of their guardians, a dog is quite the opposite. A dog requires companionship. A dog requires physical contact and affection. A dog requires direction, attention and stimulation. We stress these points because it is shocking how many people believe that it is okay to leave their dog home alone for 12 hour stretches, 5 days a week while they work, without so much as a walk around the block! Again, this is setting your dog up for a miserable existence, boredom, and most likely depression. Because dogs are likely to sleep 12-18 hours a day does not mean that while you are at work, they can be ignored for long stretches of time. Just because your dog can sleep all day doesn't mean he should. If you are too busy get a support team of friends, a dog walker, or daycare, but get something or don't get a dog. We refer to this syndrome as the "weekend light switch" whereby the owner ignores their dog Monday thru Friday and when the weekend comes, the dog gets turned on for some modicum of attention, maybe a trip to the park, etc. However, once the weekend of company and attention is over, the dog gets turned back off to go back to their 5 day stretch of loneliness and no stimulation. This is not okay. Regularity is key to a happy and healthy dog and a routine that involves activity only on weekends is not sufficient.

If you see yourself in any of the above descriptions, we ask you to re-consider whether you are really taking into consideration the well-being of your dog, or if you are conveniently telling yourself that your dog's needs are as small as the life you are actually giving them. But the good news is that you can change it today. Put that leash on and go for a walk, or a run, but go!

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