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RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERSHIP

Things you need to know

Deciding to adopt a dog can be one of the best decisions of your life, giving you years of companionship, entertainment and even support but this is not a decision that should be made on impulse. We advise people do their research and consider what type of pet would suit your lifestyle, family and home environment. 

It can seem hard not to rush in when faced with adorable doggies but it is best in the long-run to make the right match for yours and the dog’s sake.

Bringing a dog into your home is a lifetime commitment and can involve a substantial investment in both time and money which should also be considered. Luckily, it’s an investment which pays off in the love and value it adds to your life.

If you are considering adoption, please read our tips here and if you feel you are ready to welcome a dog into your home, fill in an adoption questionnaire.

Tyke_collie
Tyke our blind Collie Boy

Dog Care Basics

Dogs require food, water, shelter, exercise, grooming and microchipping (which is a legal requirement in Ireland) to name just a few needs.

However, these are basic care needs. Responsible pet ownership goes beyond catering for the animals’ basic physical needs and ensures their safety, health and mental wellbeing. Below are a few points to consider before deciding to adopt a dog or if you are wondering about your current dogs’ care needs.

A Dogs Health Needs

There are a number of health considerations to be aware of, if you own or care for a dog. 

If you own a dog, you should register them with a vet. In the event of your pet becoming ill or injured unexpectedly, this will mean you are better prepared and less stressed. Additionally, dogs require routine vaccinations and health checks to protect them from disease and identify potential health concerns early. You should also consider taking out pet insurance to cover your dog in the event that he/she needs veterinary treatment.

Vaccinating your dog will help prevent avoidable diseases, such as, distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, parainfluenza and leptospirosis in your pet. Some of these diseases can be fatal, especially parvovirus in puppies which unfortunately, is still relatively common in Ireland. In general, dogs require a primary course of 2 injections 2-4 weeks apart and yearly vaccination boosters after this. 

For dogs who are frequently in contact with other dogs, e.g. at doggy daycares or while staying at boarding kennels, vaccination against kennel cough is recommended and generally required by the business owner. Ensuring that your dog receives his/her annual boosters will also give your vet a chance to assess your dogs’ overall health.

For more information on vaccinations, please contact your vet. 

Almost all dogs become infected with parasites such as, worms, fleas or ticks at some point in their life. Treatment and prevention of these parasites is an important part of safeguarding your pets health. Some are also zoonotic, meaning they can infect humans, so there is also a human health concern. Although most dogs recover well after treatment, worm infestation in puppies can cause serious illness if left unchecked.

Treatments can be in the form of liquid or a tablet which are ingested or by applying a ‘spot-on’ to the skin on the back of your dogs neck. Frequency and type of treatment recommended will depend on your pets age and lifestyle. Your vet will advise you on an appropriate parasite control regime.

Neutering not only prevents unwanted litters but reduces the risk of certain health issues, such as, mammary tumours in females dogs. Neutering is a surgical procedure which involves removal of the reproductive organ in male or female animals.

While neutering can reduce some undesirable behaviours, such as urine marking or humping, it is not a ‘quick fix’ for behavioural issues. Please contact a qualified positive reinforcement trainer or your vet if you have behavioural or medical concerns.

There are so many food options available for your dog, it can get confusing very quickly. In general, dog foods can be divided into the following categories:

  • complete dry foods (sometimes referred to as kibble)
  • wet or tinned food
  • raw food
  • home produced or fresh diets


You should choose the option, or mix of options, that best suits your dog and lifestyle while taking your dogs’ life stage and breed into account. For example, a 6 month old Jack Russell will have different requirements to a 6 month old German Pointer or a 12 year old border collie. 

There are also variations in the quality of food within each category. Quality can be reflected in price but looking at the list of ingredients will give you lots of information. As a general rule, you should make sure that processed food contains high quality meat and avoid preservatives and additives. If you make the decision to feed raw or home-cooked food, you will need to ensure that your dog is getting the right amount of each nutrient group. And for all food types you should ensure your dog is eating enough and maintaining a healthy weight. Dogs should be feed at least twice a day and how you feed is also important. Feeding your dog from a bowl can be a missed opportunity for enrichment, as described below.

You can seek advice on nutritional requirements from your vet, especially if your dog has an underlying condition which could benefit from a veterinary prescription diet.

Legal Requirements

Dog fouling can pose a risk to human health and that of other animals. If a dog fouls a public place, it is the duty of the person in charge of the dog to clean up and dispose of faeces properly. Failure to do so can result in an on-the-spot fine of €150 under the Litter Pollution Act 1997-2003.

Microchipping gives you the best chance of being reunited with your pet if they go missing. As of April 1st 2016, it is also a legal requirement in Ireland. Dogs should be microchipped by the time they are 12 weeks old or by the time they leave their place of birth.

Microchipping involves placing a cylindrical chip, about the size of a grain of rice, under the skin on the back of a dogs’ neck and should only be done by a qualified individual. Each chip has a unique identifying number which can be scanned using a microchip reader and matched with the owners details on a central database.

In order to comply with legislation you must ensure that:

– your dog is microchipped
– you have a Microchip Certificate
– your up-to-date details are registered to your dog on a government approved database

Under the Control of Dogs Act 1986, amended in 1992, all dog owners are required to have a dog licence. To get your Dog Licence, all you need to do is drop into your local Post Office where you can buy it over the counter or visit licences.ie.

Under the Control of Dogs Act 1998, the following breeds require special additional control measures while in public places:
  • American Pit-bull Terrier
  • English Bull Terrier
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Bull Mastiff
  • Dobermann Pinscher
  • German Shepherd (Alsatian)
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Rottweiler
  • Japanese Akita
  • Japanese Tosa
  • Bandog

    These breeds of dog and their crosses must be: 
    • kept on a lead less than 1 meter long
    • handled by a person aged over 16 years who is able to control them
    • muzzled when in a public place
    • wear a collar with the name and address of their owner at all times.
Zig in the pen
Zig is a friendly cheeky chappie!
Honey loves to snuggle!
Honey loves to snuggle!

Social Needs

Some dogs love being around other dogs, some don’t. 
Some dogs love cats, some don’t. 
Some dogs want to be with people all day long, some don’t.

Dogs are generally social animals but these needs are also specific to the individual dog. Dogs are not suited to a life of solitude left outdoors alone in a confined space or tethered. As well as not fulfilling their social needs, this prevents them from exhibiting normal canine behaviours or maintaining an adequate quality of life.

Most of our MADRA dogs are adopted into homes where they live indoors as part of the family so they will need a warm bed and safe spot within the house to call their own. We sometimes recommend that dogs are rehomed with other dogs as they may find comfort in the company of fellow canines.

In very special circumstances, we may suggest that a dog is more suitable to a mainly outdoors life but this would only be where they struggle to cope in a house environment and they appear to be happy and fulfilled in an outdoor lifestyle. These dogs tend to do well with a companion and still need a warm, safe shelter.

Exercise and Enrichment

Exercise is a vital part of keeping your pooch happy and healthy. This can include activities like going for walks, swimming in the sea or play, if you have the suitable space. The amount and type of exercise will depend on your dog’s age, breed and if there are any health considerations. For instance, simply playing is generally enough exercise for young pups and is also beneficial for their development whereas an adult dog would likely benefit from daily walks (see below for more information). For your outings, it is worth investing in a good quality harness as this is generally more comfortable and secure for your dog. Your vet can advise further on your pet’s specific exercise requirements, especially if there are any underlying health considerations.

While physical activity is important, dogs also need enrichment and mental stimulation. Enrichment is about improving your pets’ quality of life and is just as important as physical activity, if not more so. Take as an example some of our collie friends. They may come back as bouncy as ever after a 10km walk because what they really need is to have their brain engaged. This is where things get exciting… 

There are countless ways to provide enrichment for your dog including the use of toys, such as kongs or lickimats, or jazzing up feeding time by scatter feeding in your garden or using interactive feeders. Doing some simple training with your dog can also keep them mentally engaged. 

Every dog is different so owners should get to know their own dog and what creates enjoyment in their life. For some dogs, going for a walk doubles as a form of enrichment. Walks can be the best thing ever as they stop for their sniffs, which is a natural behaviour in dogs and should be encouraged. For others, walking on lead can result in frustration and undesired behaviours, such as, pulling on lead or lunging and barking at other dogs (See here for Training Advice). So rather than adding to the quality of your dogs’ life and being the pleasant, bonding experience you imagined, a walk can quickly turn into a stressful event. 

You also need to think about where and when to exercise or spend time with your dog, if it is in a public place. For instance, not all dogs like meeting other dogs, especially on lead, so you may need to avoid busy dog walking areas such as, public parks, woods or more locally, our beloved Salthill Prom. Equally, some dogs may struggle with traffic or other things you encounter on walks and you may need to plan your outings around this. 

If your dog is distressed by everyday life or, if you just want to learn about training your dog to walk on lead without pulling, please contact a positive reinforcement dog trainer .

Slipper the happy collie
Slipper the happy collie