Responsible dog ownership is the first and biggest key to keeping our dogs healthy. Whether its proper socialization or yearly checkups or proper training or any of the other number of things that we as dog owners should be doing, responsible dog ownership is an umbrella of overall actions which lead to the health and well-being of our dogs.
I was actually going to write about something completely different today, but as I scrolled through a popular question site, I found a post with this question: I read that grapes are toxic to dogs. My dog can eat grapes, and it is no big deal. Is this normal? I just had to shake my head. The question clearly stated that the owner knew that grapes are shown to be toxic to dogs and yet their dog is still fed grapes. That’s when I decided to talk about being a responsible dog owner instead.
Responsible Dog Ownership is a Duty
The thing about dogs – about all animals, really – is that they have no concept of what’s best for them. I’ve heard so many people say, “If my dog wants it, his instincts are probably telling him he needs it.” While I understand why we as owners might think that, it just isn’t true. While dogs do have a certain level of instinctive self-preservation built-in, they also have level of “this is so good!” instinct, as well, which stems from their wolf ancestors who had to eat whenever food was available, and the better the food, the better for them.
Dogs are Basically Toddlers
Dogs have an out of place instinct to eat everything, and these things ARE NOT always good for them. In fact, when we care for our dogs, we should view them as toddlers rather than animals. Think about the toddler/dog comparison for a second. Both get into EVERYTHING. Both need to be watched by hawks. Both would not survive without us. Both need discipline. Both need training. The list goes on and on, but the main point is that dogs absolutely do not know what’s best for them. Companies actually had to change their formula for antifreeze because it had a sweet flavor which caused dogs to lap it up when possible. That killed them, of course. It’s a perfect example. Our dogs don’t know what’s good for them. We do.
If You Know Something is Bad, Don’t Do It
This seems like a no brainer, but after years of working at the vet, I can’t tell you how many instances of people who have given their dogs food that is so bad for them. And they did it knowingly! We had a woman with a 120 pound lab. She gave that lab chocolate all the time! She said, “I read that milk chocolate isn’t as bad for dogs as dark chocolate, and my guy loves it so much.”
Key phrase in the statement? Isn’t as bad. It’s only a little bad. That is not responsible dog ownership. That’s playing fast and loose with our pets’ healthy. That same woman finally brought her dog in for what I knew she would at some point – a toxicity incident. She fed her dog one too many chocolates and he got sick. Totally preventable. Totally her fault. But she thought it was cute. It’s not cute.
We Owe Our Dogs Responsible Behavior
I try my best not to get preachy, you guys, but sometimes I just have to bring out the soapbox. Our dogs rely on us 100% for everything. If we don’t feed them, they starve. If we don’t give them water, they die of dehydration. If we don’t provide them regular, preventative medical care, they get sick. If we don’t practice responsible dog ownership, we open up our dogs to sickness, injury, or worse. As owners, it’s our responsibility to give our dogs a healthy safe environment. Our dogs’ well-being starts and ends with us, and it’s important we never forget that.