The month of September plays host to hundreds of dog activities across the U.S. commemorating the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Responsible Dog Ownership Days. The AKC provides support, public relations help, and activity ideas for communities that want to participate in Responsible Dog Ownership Days, and offer to feature your group and the dog activities on their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Flicker feature pages. Information on activities, how you can post, and hosting support can be found at the AKC Website at: www.akc.org.
What types of dog activities are featured at the AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Days? There is a great deal of diversity and creativity for activities among event hosting communities. Some communities have All-Breed, Group, and Specialty Breed Dog Shows, while others feature Canine Obedience and Skills demonstrations. Most have informational tables and crafts featuring dog art, portraits, clothing, food, jewelry, toys, groomers, family matching with breeds, and shelter adoptions. In some communities dogs are offered discounts on identification microchipping with part of the proceeds going to a non-profit cause, such as canine shelters or breast cancer research. Another community event offers Canine Good Citizen and Therapy Dog evaluations for a minimal fee. The ideas for hosting Responsible Dog Ownership Days events are open to the seemingly limitless creativity of the sponsoring community.
What makes for responsible ownership of a dog? Dogs have been one of the earliest animals to have been adopted by humans for co-existing. Dogs can be workers, therapeutic agents, medical and handicapped support staff, protectors, but most of all, friends and members of the family. Dogs are also very dependent on their owners for fulfillment of most of their existence needs, and dogs can be part of the owner’s life for decades. Since owning a dog is a large commitment and responsibility, there are a few important areas that a person would need practice to be a responsible dog owner.
• Healthy Diet- Dogs need a diet that is very different from humans and they should not be fed human food. A puppy has a great deal of nutritional needs and digestion support that necessitates a specialized diet. As dogs grow and develop, they need a change in their diet, and possibly even a weight control formula food. Feeding a dog is expensive and this expense needs to be considered when thinking of owning a dog.
• Dog Training- Dogs need to be appropriately socialized with humans and other animals. In addition, they need to be trained to heed, understand, and obey the rules of their owner and the society in which they live. Training a dog takes a consistent, appropriate, genuine, and patient approach using known methods for dog obedience. Potential dog owners need to ask themselves if they have the time, patience, and ability to train their dog.
• Veterinarian Care- All dogs will need regular veterinarian check-ups, immunizations, monthly heartworm and other medications, neutering or breeding support, and sometimes costly surgeries. There are pet insurance companies and pet care discount programs available, but those considering dog ownership should understand that their pet will need monthly health supplies and services.
• Regular Exercise- All dogs need daily exercise several times a day, and some breeds need more than others. In addition some specialty breeds, such as herding dogs, need to be exercised according to their innate working abilities. A responsible dog owner must have the time and ability to exercise their dog throughout the day, and access to appropriate exercise settings, such as dog parks, woods, fenced in yard, or parks.
• Cleaning Up After Your Dog- All dogs will at sometime leave their waste somewhere in a public area. Since no one wants to endure smelling, viewing, or stepping in dog waste, a dog owner must be willing and able to pick up the dog’s waste, put it into a baggy, clean the area of the dog’s waste, and properly dispose of the bag. Most communities have laws that provide the dog waste guidelines. These help to provide sanitary recreational areas for all.
• Keep Your Dog Legal- All dogs are required to have an annual dog license in the town of residency. This is to ensure healthy dog communities by asking owners to provide proof of immunizations and rabies tags. The license should be kept on the dog’s collar at all times. Residential communities may also have annual or one time fees for dog owners. Potential dog owners need to learn and consider the price of a dog license and all residential fees before getting a dog.
• Love and Attention- Canines are extremely attached to their owners and family, much more than other pets such as cats and birds. Indeed, many dogs are affected by an owner’s emotions and stress. Dogs need daily affirmation, positive rewards, attention, time, and affection. An individual or family owning a dog must have the time, ability, and desire to give their dog a great deal of attention and affection. If you or the family is too busy to provide this routine love and attention, then a pet other than a dog should be considered.
• Protection- Many dogs will be fiercely protective of their owners and family, and serve as a good “early warning system” if something goes wrong in the house. There are thousands of stories of times when a dog alerted the family to a house fire, or awakened an owner before an earthquake. However, dogs also need to be protected by their owners from harm, pet theft, and adverse conditions. All dogs need to wear an ID tag on their collars with the owner’s contact phone, and it is highly recommended to have a dog microchipped for easy identification in case of loss or theft. Dogs should never be left alone in a car, tied in the back of a truck, tied to a fence, outside a store or restaurant, or alone for long periods of time.