Posted By: Gudi - Vet

Responsible Dog Ownership

This week it's all about responsible dog ownership, but with a bit of a twist! We revisit a classic, cautionary message that may seem like old news but is actually just as important today as it's always been.

As a vet working in a busy practice in such a dog-loving area, many people think that I must spend most of my time cuddling cute puppies. In fact this is a relatively small part of my job. But there is no doubt that we all love those new puppy appointments, when an excited owner brings their new arrival to meet us for their first health check. It's great to share in the buzz of such a happy time.

We also have the pleasure and responsibility of ensuring that the puppy is fit and well, and advising on how to care for them as they grow. Each new puppy is given a thorough health check and gets their vaccinations to help protect them against disease. Alongside the nursing team, we ensure they are microchipped and advise on diet, parasite control, training and socialisation, exercise and neutering. We continue to see each puppy every month as they grow, to weigh them and dose their flea and worm treatment correctly, and continue to provide help and advice for any concerns their owners may have. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing that cute, cuddly puppy grow into a healthy and happy adult dog that brings such a lot of joy to its owner. It is lovely to be able to play a part in that story.

Throughout this process we encourage responsible dog ownership, and it's really great to see that our clients are well and truly on board with this. In fact, at that first exciting puppy appointment I often find that responsible dog ownership started before the owner even had the dog!

Most owners have thought long and hard about their decision to get a puppy. They have considered whether they want a rescue or a pedigree and what sort of puppy would suit their lifestyle. They have done plenty of research and they've been to visit their new puppy and the breeder or rescue centre several times to make sure they are happy with their decision. They have prepared the house and planned collection to make sure they have adequate time to devote to their new arrival. Importantly, they have considered how they will budget for the costs associated with their new pup and who will care for it when they have other commitments. All this preparation and thought paves the way for a positive and responsible attitude to caring for that dog for life.

So unsurprisingly, I find it really worrying nowadays to see so many ads for puppies online, on social media and buy and sell pages. It's not that these platforms are necessarily a problem - responsible breeders and rescue centres can utilise social media and online opportunities to advertise - but they can prompt the all-too-common impulse puppy purchase.

Even though the Dogs Trust's famous 'a dog is for life' slogan has been around for 40 years it seems that the message is being over-powered by the emotional pull of a gorgeous puppy in a photo and the ease of an online purchase, especially around Christmas. In fact, the Dogs Trust report that online searches for 'buy a puppy' increased by 44% in the week leading up to Christmas last year, compared to the average for the rest of the year. Worryingly, the same study also showed that online searches for people wanting to give up a dog rose by 8% this January. It seems that impulse purchases can often lead to a rapid change of heart, especially as Christmas is usually far from ideal a time to take on a new puppy.

This is a trend I am also observing in practice year round. It does seem that more owners are choosing to get a dog with very little preparation, and an online advert on a selling page is seen as a quick and easy solution. In the main, these are still very dedicated, responsible owners who want to do the very best by their new puppy, but the best case scenarios have been an uncertain history, little follow-up by the seller or a pup that has perhaps not had the best start. There are worst stories however, including undisclosed congenital health problems, severe parasite infestations, incorrect microchip details, behavioural problems and untraceable sellers. It's easy to understand how a snap decision can lead to long-term difficulties and potential heartache.

So, as it appears to become more and more easy to find and buy a puppy online, it really does pay to remember that a dog is for life and the decision to get one should always be carefully considered. Dogs play such a valuable part of our lives that we owe it to them to be good owners right from the start, giving the best chance of a happy long-term outcome. There is plenty of great advice available to help prospective owners as they consider getting a puppy and, as vets and nurses, we are very happy to help and advise at this exciting time - especially as we can look forward to another exciting new puppy appointment! And of course, if you have taken on a new puppy in any circumstances we are always here to help. So if you're thinking of getting a puppy, or you’ve just got one, please feel free to speak to your local vet practice for advice - your new best friend will thank you for it! 

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