As a dog-loving fanatic since I was a little boy, I can remember only a few times in my life when I did not have at least one dog to chum around with, train and run and play with. And I’m not alone. It’s estimated that 60.2 million American households own dogs.
Most of my dogs have been Labrador retrievers, but I also had several golden retrievers, a basset hound and various mixed breed dogs. I’ve enjoyed hours of teaching them stupid pet tricks, being on all fours playing and simply enjoying them lying at my feet while I work.
I could spend this entire blog talking about the wonderful traits of each one: their intelligence, amazing stories and adorable moments. But what I really wanted to do was outline the benefits and responsibilities of having a dog companion based on my personal experiences.
These are just four areas where you can find value in dog ownership. There are many more.
- Therapy – An associate once asked me for information on animal therapy, which made me start thinking about this as a value proposition of pet ownership. I know many organizations provide animal therapy to those with physical and mental challenges, health issues or other needs, and these are all amazing resources. But my dog provides me therapy every day when I walk into my home. He greets me at the door with a simple toy in his mouth, tail wagging and body language indicating I’m the most important and exciting thing that has happened to him since, well, the last most important and exciting thing. He’s always excited to see me whether I’ve been gone 1 minute or 8 hours. Therapy? Yes.
- Security – He is always on call announcing everything from the doorbell to the daily entry into the mailbox by the letter carrier. He howls when I don’t answer my cell phone and barks to warn another dog being walked past our house to keep on moving. Our dog has such a ferocious growl and bark when the front doorbell rings that any sane person would fear attempting entry. I once thought of training this trait out, but my wife said, “Why? Then we’d need an alarm system.” Good point, and value No. 2.
- Fitness – An exercised dog is a happy, good dog, and a healthy human is a productive spouse, parent and employee. Several times a day my dog glares at me from across the room. Some days, it is an inner sense I have. So I swivel my office chair around, and he’s sitting there patiently with perked ears and a wagging tail, letting me know it’s time to get up and take him somewhere. Most often this is a walk to replace worn smells, but a run, hike or even a car ride can pacify this need. He is a really active dog who enjoys a long day on a trail, especially if there is snow. Fitness is definitely a benefit of dog ownership.
- Education – Training my dog has taught me many things, including patience, consistency, humility and the importance of verbal and nonverbal communication. We can all use these extremely valuable traits in many areas of our lives. If the training goes badly, it is my job to figure out the solution. The problem-solving skills are critical to so many other parts of my life.
In addition to enjoying the value of owning a dog, keep in mind that dog ownership carries with it responsibility. Consider these factors of being a responsible dog owner:
- Observe the leash laws in your area. More than simply obeying the law, it is much safer for your dog. Remember that some people are just scared of dogs. Unless you are in a designated off-leash park, be safe and courteous and keep your dog on leash.
- Clean up your dog’s waste. With the large number of dogs being walked daily around the U.S., nothing is less respectful than to leave your dog’s poop on the ground. Dog poop is not fertilizer, as the food they eat doesn’t provide any nourishment to the soil.
- Contact your insurance agent to discuss owning a dog. Some insurance policies restrict owning certain dog breeds based on aggressive traits.
- Consider adopting a rescue animal. The ASPCA estimates there are 3.3 million dogs in shelters nationwide. Adopting a rescued dog will be rewarding for both of you. Our dog is a healthy, well-mannered gentleman who was rescued from a kill shelter and came already housebroken.Owning a dog does come with many responsibilities. Busy families or traveling professionals should consider the time and cost of ownership, but the true gifts are the intangible values you receive from the relationship.
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