One of the things that always amazes me is when someone gets a dog as an impulse buy. There has been no consideration of what the actual needs of the dog are going to be and if you can fulfill them. This is one of the reasons (not the only) that our animal shelters are swamped. Now don't get me wrong I tend to be a little impulsive myself at times. And it does not mean if you impulsively get a dog you are to fail.
Some other issues I run into constantly are: someone does not understand (they thought they did) how much time, money, etc, goes into a dog; a household is divided on whether or not the dog was wanted to start with; and no consideration is made based on your current home. So here is a basic check list of things to ask yourself if you think you want to get a dog.
1. How much extra money do I have in my budget for a dog's needs?
(Shortlist: food, water, dishes, kennel and/or bed, toys, training, poo bags, treats, vaccines, unexpected vet visits, boarding costs)
2. How much time can I give the dog each day?
(the answer to this question might help you sort out if you want a puppy, an adult dog, or a cat) Be specific with the time frame, for example friday I can dedicate 2 pm-2:30 and then 5pm to 6pm. It is important you do this so rather than saying Oh I could spend 12 hours week giving it my complete attention you actually look at when you can give it your complete attention. I would say if you cannot give it one on one attention for at least an hour a day 80 percent of the time don't do it.
3. How much am I home?
(If you are not going to be home a lot you need to add in the thought of taking the dog to a dog day care during the day or if the dog can go with you where you are at. Dog's should not be left on their own for extended periods of time. That is how you get destruct-o dog.)
4. IF you live with other people what do they think of you getting a dog?
I have known families that got a dog but Dad didn't want it. Guess what, Dad did everything he could to get rid of it. (add mom in to that instead of dad and I have seen it too.) Roommates need to be very careful with this because their other roommate(s) might be allergic or scared of dogs. I love dogs but sometimes you need to put the people around first.
5. Where are you currently living?
consider your neighborhood, HOA, Are you in home, apartment, condo? Do you own or do you rent? IF YOU RENT you NEED to clear it with your landlord before you even start looking for a dog. (there will be a post on that topic later)
6. What breed(s) are you considering?
Even if you plan on adopting you need to figure that out. Do your research on the breeds make sure you find ones that work with your situation. (there will be a post on this topic later as well) Make a list of breeds that will not work and DO NOT get a dog with one of those breeds in it.
7. Are there any policies in place in your neighborhood, HOA, Insurance, City, County, State, Complex, etc that would dictate whether you could have a dog or what kind of dog you can have?
Always double check this before you starting to look for a dog. You will be surprised how many of these policies there are. Some areas are no dog, some have breed or weight restrictions, and some have very set rules for the process of getting a dog. Be aware
8. Are you willing to commit to the dog for the remainder of its life?
This means you do not get rid of the dog for any reason including health problems or because you want to move. If you want to move you need to find a place you can go with your dog. You have no business looking at places that would require you to get rid of your dog.
9. REMEMBER THE DOG IS NOT A PIECE OF FURNITURE OR A COMMODITY. Dogs have the same emotional maturity of a three to six year old child. If you would not do something to a young child you should not be doing it to a dog (there are obviously some exceptions to this but it is a good general rule
Now these questions do not include everything you may need to consider before getting a dog, but they are an excellent starting point. RESEARCH you answers thoroughly.
I love dogs. I love having dogs. But what breaks my heart is when dogs are brought into circumstances where they cannot be taken care of or is neglected. It kills me when someone complains how big an inconvenience their dog is. They obviously did not think it through before they got one. Many of the people I work with have thought it through and are wonderful with their dogs. But I have found they do not view their dogs as burdens and they are happy and so their dog can be happy.
In Utah we are very fortunate to have a plethora of good hiking trails at our disposal. However, it is important to know which ones allow dogs, and of those which allow your dog to go off leash.
It is very important that you follow policies on where your dog is allowed and if it is supposed to be on leash or if it can be off leash. The top two reasons why are:
1. The more dog owners comply the more cities, counties and other governing bodies are going to become more dog friendly. I have helped with creating recreational policy and with getting research for making decisions on things like this. Dog's are more likely to be banned or have more limitations put on them if their owners are not following policy already in place. Where as I have also found that areas are more likely to open up to dogs if there are minimal complaints about them in areas they are allowed to access.
2. For your dog's safety and the safety of others using the area. There are several trails that allow dogs that are leash only. Many times these trails also double for equine (horses) and cyclists. "But my dog is perfect around those two groups do I really have to keep on leash?" YES. Because your dog might be fine, but the person watching with their dog may not be. If you allow yourself an exception it creates rationale for others to do so and their dog may not be able to handle it. Also to be frank, it is a jerk move to other people using the area who are not expecting an off leash dog.
Having your dog greet people and other dog's on trail
I will break this section into two parts, on leash and off leash. For an on leash greet for another human with your dog, keep your dog by your side. Do not let it move in front of you. If a dog is placed between you and the other person the dog is going to feel it needs to protect you. You are setting your dog up to bite someone that way. Keep your dog to the side. In fact you should be a little in front of it. You need to first acknowledge the person vocally and I recommend saying something like this to your dog, "Look fluffy its a friend." Dogs do not speak English or any other human language but they do pick up on tone and few key vocab words. If you sound excited, in a good way, to see someone that will help relax your dog. DO NOT assume everyone wants to meet your dog. I recommend having your dog on your side, the opposite side the other person is, unless the other person specifically asks if they can meet/pet your dog. Feel free to say no. If you are having a hard time with fluffy respecting boundaries with strangers say no. Don't set your dog up to make itself or the other person uncomfortable. If you say yes have the other person approach slowly and if at all possible sideways (it comes across less aggressive to dogs and cuts down on any potential issues with the dog). They should approach about 2 feet from you and the dog and you should walk your dog the rest of the way. If your dog seems hesitant to meet them do not force it. Instruct them to let your dog sniff them before they go to pet and then ask them to avoid your dog's face. A lot of people do not realize that dog's are very picky about who touches their face. Owners knock yourselves out. Strangers do not do it. Let your dog get pet for about 5-10 seconds max and then move on. Believe it or not it can be stressful for a dog to be pet by someone it does not know for an extended period of time. Also sometimes people just want to do a quick pet and move on. Do not trap either those to into an extended pet session that one or both want to escape.
Okay next scenerio Dog meeting dog on leash. In general don't do it. But if you really want to the dogs should meet each other butt to nose and then butt to nose. Dog's are more nervous on leash than off. (which is why sometimes you find your dog listens better off leash) If two dogs meet and they are on leash they both are aware they cannot get away from the other quickly and they also have limited use of their body language. Dogs communicate to each other almost exclusively through body language. This meeting should be very short and quick. Do NOT let them play. If they get tangled in the leashes it can cause a dog to panic and a fight to ensue. Do NOT set your dog up for that situation.
Alright now for the fun stuff. Your dog greeting people and other dogs off leash. Now before I launch please be aware your dog should always be within eye sight and usually no more than 20 feet away from you. Your dog should come to you on command. If you have issues with your dog doing those two things you need to work with it to get it to do those two things before you are frequenting trails off leash. If you need help with that get a hold of me.
Alright your dog meet person off leash. This is one of the reasons its important to follow policy of areas on whether or not your dog can be off leash. If you are in an off leash area then anyone else using that trail is expecting to run into dogs. (If you are doing this in a non off leash area you are being a jerk to the other people using the are and to your dog.) Alright, ideally you see a person approaching again say something happy acknowledging the person and use a word like friend. (it is important to do that because if ever you are nervous about someone and you don't want your dog to instantly feel okay with them you don't use it. Your dog will notice and it will be more on alert.) I recommend teaching your dog a command called "polite" I use it with Stinker (my dog) ALL the time. Polite basically lets the person walk by your dog without your dog approaching them. It is important because although the person should be expecting to see a dog off leash they still may not want to meet your dog. Please also let the person know that your dog is friendly (if your dog is not friendly it has no business being off leash). What friendly means is your dog is not going to attack them or try to bite them unprovoked (aka unless they try to do something really stupid). If your dog approaches them you need to get to it ASAP (don't act panicked) and make sure you keep it moving along. If they want to pet it make sure your dog goes up to them first. I am going to through a quick plug in here YOU SHOULD NEVER PET A DOG UNLESS 1. It has approached you and seems interested in you petting it 2. you have asked the owner 3. the dog knows you are going to pet it. I had one idiot trail runner shoot his hand out to pet stinker last second. I thought he was going to hit her, apparently so did she because she instantly jumped away and growled. He nearly peed himself and I didn't feel bad for a moment. Granted I chastised Stinker for growling, but secretly I did not blame her. Slow movements please with all dogs. Alright again though only let the petting happen for about 5-10 seconds max and express for them to avoid your dog's face.
Dog meeting another dog on the trail of leash. Keep a sharp eye out. Not everyone's dog should be off leash. let the meet and greet be very short, and keep yourself and your dog moving through it. Somethings to watch for 1. if the dog has a muzzle on please keep your dog moving fast and if at all possible keep your dog from greeting the other dog. 2. if the other dog is on leash do not, if at all possible, let your dog greet it keep your dog moving. The on leash dog may not necessarily be aggressive, but it will feel very nervous by being approached by an off leash dog. Please remember people are hiking with their dogs to get exercise and with a time limit. Keep all interactions between the dogs short to be polite to the other person.
MOST dog owners are good about picking up their dog's crap and putting it in a bag. If your not start doing it. It is gross for other people to run into AND it can cause issues as it decays with watersheds and the ecosystem CLEAN IT UP. However, as these to pictures above depict its not just a matter of putting it in a bag. One common breech in etiquette that a lot of owners do make is they leave the bag on the side of the trail with the thought they will grab it on their way back. This is impolite for two reasons 1. the poo is still there and it is an eye sore. Carry the bag with you on your hike. I have known people to have a designated poo backpack or grocery sack the bring so that its not to big of a nuisance to carry, but either way your dog poops it you carry it the rest of the way other people do not need to see you poo filled bag lining the trail. 2. the other big reason is people forget to grab them on their way back. You just completed a long hike I promise one of the last things you are thinking about is picking that bag you dropped off an hour ago. I will state as well that if you see them I do not recommend picking them up for others in case their dog is sick and you somehow get some on you or your dog and also because then it encourages people to be lazy and think some magic poo elf will clean up after them. Don't do it. And most importantly DON"T LEAVE YOUR BAG ON THE SIDE OF THE TRAIL! (bet you don't know how I feel about, huh?)
Other odds and ends
A few other points to keep in mind.
1. Strive to keep your dog on the trail as much as possible. This keeps your dog and/or you from getting lost in the woods. It also cuts down on issues about dogs causing issues with watersheds (that is as far as I have seen one of the biggest arguments being used with forest service lands about keeping dogs out or on leash).
2. Do not be shy in giving directions to people on how to interact with your dog.
3. Do not try to discipline someone else's dog. Worry only about your dog.
4. Do not get upset if someone without a dog is being a bit of jerk. As long as you are following policy they can be a jerk, but it doesn't matter. They are not worth your time. You are in the right. Do not engage with them.
5. Have fun! Enjoy the beauty in nature!