What is the number one responsibility when you have a dog? This can be answered with specifics but also with general notions such as setting them up for success. That was the mantra we heard when we adopted our dog from the San Francisco SPCA.
We posed this question to our Facebook community and their big concern was safety which I couldn't agree more with! When you choose to have a dog you're taking on the role of guardian. This means you guarding them, as much as they may be guarding you.
Keeping a dog safe includes have secure harnesses and leashes that don't break. It means being watchful and insuring your dog can't bolt out into a busy street or charge through an unsecured screen door. Good training as well as safe barriers protects everyone from tragedy.
Safety means watching out for chicken bones on walks, keeping toxic foods away from inquiring snouts, and making sure they get regular vet check ups.
Setting a Dog up for Success
Keeping your dog safe is tops, because that includes their health and wellbeing for as long as you are their guardian. But we'd add to that the notion that it's your responsibility to set them up for success.
This means being committed to doing your best to understand them as they are, to set aside your views of who they should be, shaping their environment to bring out the best in them.
For example, when you have a dog who doesn't like to play fetch, like we did, but you think they should so you keep insisting on trying to get them to play fetch with you. Stop. Instead, observe other ways that your dog likes to play with you, and what activities makes them excited.
By watching our dog, we saw that she went nuts for running and playing chase. We switched from throwing balls to going to the park more, and chasing each other around the house.
We're a nation of dog lovers, but having a dog comes with responsibilities that go beyond picking up their poop and making sure they get a healthy meal. When you see the value of setting a dog up for success, it will enhance your relationship with your dog a thousand-fold.
By choosing this path with our dog, we created a bond that went many layers beyond anything we expected. Our days together took on a colorful hue and we had so many meaningful moments that now, three years since her passing, I can still remember most.
So, what do you think is the most important responsibility when you have a dog?