Recently, I was watching one of the popular morning shows that featured a segment promoting the adoption of shelter dogs. They had three of the local shelter's dogs on set and they were adorable. My friend's comment "I love dogs!" expresses how most of us feel about our dogs. Dogs certainly have a gift for bringing a smile to your face.
Dogs have always been an important part of man's life. In our culture today the dog's primary role has changed from a work or service animal to that of companion and family member. In fact, our dogs have become an integral member of the family. Along with this role change, people have developed some unrealistic expectations for their pets. Sometimes we fail to recognize that a dog has natural instincts and will act in ways that we do not anticipate. At times we may try to interpret their behaviors based on human characteristics. This practice is unfortunate and leaves us confused and offended when our dog behaves negatively or according to his natural genetic predisposition.
Each year the media informs the public about some of the more negative events connected to dogs. For example in August 2012, a young Georgia college student that loved to rescue dogs was killed by dogs that she had adopted. In May, a North Carolina resident was charged with involuntary manslaughter after his pit bull fatally mauled his neighbor. Stories like these cause us to pause and wonder if owning a dog is worth the risks. We must recognize at this point that dogs will behave like dogs but responsible owners can take steps to prevent incidents like these from happening in the first place.
As you consider dog ownership, recognize the risks associated with owning a dog. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year and that one in five of those bites will require medical attention. Researching the behavior of the dog breed that you desire to adopt is a responsible first step. Although we cannot judge a particular dog by its breed, information is available to help the potential owner make an informed decision. Bankrate.com has published a list of "high risk" dogs based on insurance claims. This list which contains some basic information on each breed identifies the "high risk" breeds as Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Pit Bull, Presa Canario, Rottweiler, Siberian Husky, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and Wolf Hybrid (sometimes called Wolfdog). The American Kennel Club's website offers some valuable information in helping determine if a particular dog breed is a good match for your family or situation. The AKC adamantly defends the dog's breed and stresses the individual dog's behavior or deeds when making decisions regarding a specific scenario.
All the information that you need to be a responsible dog owner is available at your fingertips if you have internet service. Tips on socializing and caring for your dog, instruction on how to keep your children safe around dogs, dog bite laws and information about typical dog behaviors are just a few of the topics you should research. Some helpful websites include http://www.cdc.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and http://www.dogbitelaw.com. You can also contact local veterinarians or animal specialists who can help you find local resources.
As you review the abundance of information available, you will encounter the reality that some insurance companies may deny or cancel your homeowners or renters coverage once you bring that cute puppy home. So as a responsible dog owner, call your insurance agent right away and inquire about your coverage. Typically, your homeowner's or renter's liability coverage will include dog-related incidents. Homeowners' limits usually range from $100,000 up to $300.000. If you have opted to adopt a large dog, you should investigate increasing your coverage to the higher limits and maybe look into obtaining additional coverage by purchasing an umbrella liability policy which can provide an additional $1 million to $10 million in coverage. Keep in mind, owning a dog is an underwriting factor for your insurance company and failing to inform them about your dog, especially if he is considered a "high risk" breed or has a bite history, can result in claims being denied. If that happens, you can become personally responsible for any damages or injuries that your dog causes.
In conclusion, as you and your puppy get acquainted remember to expose him to a variety of people and other animals, invest in obedience training in order to build a trusting relationship and take him for regular veterinary checkups. Your veterinarian can help counsel you on behavioral issues as they arise and help you understand your dog's genetic predisposition. As you mutually grow to love one another, your pet will surely become a source of delight for you and your family. Enjoy your puppy!