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Being Responsible to your Dog

By: Gary Wynn Kelly

Many people wish to be responsible dog owners. Here are some tips gathered from some very responsible owners who want to help anyone interested in becoming a better, more responsible owner. Please add your contributions to our growing list of tips for maintaining a healthy and happy dog.

  • When taking your dog in the car, remember to plan your schedule so your dog is always with you. Avoid leaving that favorite friend in the car for even a few minutes. It can take as little as 4 minutes for your dog to die in a car left in the sun. Leave your dog at home, or skip stops where you cannot take the dog in with you, until another day.

  • Northern dogs must be confined or restricted at all times to be safe. Some dogs are lucky, and avoid being hit by a car when running loose, but it is much like playing Russian roulette–eventually, the dog will lose if it is loose. The worst news is that it might not die, but either suffer terribly, or be maimed.

  • Our CCNDR contract specifies that any dog adopted from CCNDR must ride inside of a truck, or under a protective cover. Dogs that ride in open backs of pickup trucks are in danger no matter how secure the harness or tie downs. Flying rocks, or even insects, can blind a dog or injure it severely.

  • Chocolate is poison to dogs. Especially during holiday visits, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, Easter, and even birthday celebrations, be sure that chocolate is out of the reach of your dog. Put it inside of cupboards, or in places secure from your dog’s curious nose, which can smell even well wrapped treats quite easily, as it is more than 100 times as powerful as the best human’s. 40% of a dog’s brain is dedicated to translating those good smells, and acting on them. Chocolate is a terrible poison to dogs as it accumulates in your dog’s system, eventually damaging major organs and contributing to an early, and perhaps miserable, death of your dog.

  • CCNDR recommends that children under 5 always be supervised by a responsible person when with a dog. This is for the dog’s protection more than that of the child. Children can quickly blind a dog; injure its hearing, or making the dog ill, by feeding it items that are dangerous to your dog.

  • Open car windows maim dogs. There are too many ads that show happy dogs putting their heads out of car windows to enjoy the scenery and the breeze. This is a discourtesy to the public, as dogs have been killed by other passing vehicles, leaped from car windows to their death, or been struck by flying debris and severely injured. The same rules that apply for your children keeping hands and heads in cars apply to your dog. Spare yourself a terrible memory of having your favorite friend beheaded in your car.

  • Dogs live approximately 10 to 15 years in most northern breeds. It is much like having a child growing from infancy to adolescence. Just as your child will not become fully responsible in 15 years, your dog will not either, though some parents swear the dog has more sense. Remember to respect your dog’s differences–the great need for exercise every day, a safe place to stay, regular veterinary exams, continued training and stimulation, a healthy diet, fresh water, attention to the environment, so it is safe in hot or stormy weather.

  • Remember the emotional needs of your dog. The dog requires love and attention every day, just as any other partner does. Joint activities that are fun and interesting are good for the mental health of your pack. As you add to your dog’s education and training, you will have more and more things you can do with that special friend.

  • Grooming is an excellent activity to do with your dog when you are tired, and not up for mental acrobatics. It can be one of the most soothing daily activities you do together. This is an excellent time to check your friend over for sores, tumors, parasites, unusual skin problems, weight gain, sensitivity to pressure or touch in areas where this is not normal. You can promote your dog’s health by being the first to find a potential problem. It also will save you much guilt and emotional pain later, when you know that you have done all that was possible to lessen your dog’s illness or death. People who work hard to take good care of their friends, often find that they are promoting healthier habits in their own lives.