We all have dogs for different reasons such as: companionship, assistance dogs, they help us with our work etc. It is not for anyone to tell us that we should not have a dog because of its environmental paw print, as Poole Council (in Dorset) recently suggested. This certainly kicked up a storm up and down the United Kingdom last week. Some people have dogs rather than children, some have both. It matters not why someone has a dog. What does matter is that we can all do something about dogs and the environment and in many ways dogs already help us to have a lower environmental impact. Here are some ideas that can help even more.
Buy pre used
Some of the essentials such as: harnesses, leads, collars, cages, dog guards for the car, stair gates, dog coats etc can be re-used. Rather than purchase new, hunt around sites that sell used goods. A quick look at your local online marketplace will show you a vast selection of excellent quality and low-priced essentials. As puppies grow out of cages and harnesses, collars etc, it makes sense to either purchase used, or sell on after your pup has outgrown them. Not only is this better for the environment but better for your purse.
Feeding your dog
Dogs and the environment are the latest casualty in local council's desire to be seen to be green. It has been suggested that dogs are consuming a vast amount of food that is human grade and, in a world where food is likely to become scarcer due to increased population size and reduced land surface for food production combined with reduced water supply, this is very important. Try to research your brand of dog food as there are foods that are produced from sustainable sea food sources or from sources that humans won’t eat – such as the insect-based diets. Also, much of the raw food is from parts humans don't eat such as: chicken carcass, duck necks, chicken feet, hooves, tripe (ok, I know some people eat this, but really????) etc. It’s always good to discuss your dog’s nutritional needs with your vet so do check before making radical changes such as feeding your dog a vegan diet. Dogs are not herbivores, they are omnivores and they may not thrive on a vegan diet. Your vet will be able to advise you. Dogs also produce greenhouse gases from their delightful farts! Whilst I am sure that humans and children produce equal amounts, if not more, they can help offset some of these gases by eating safe leftovers that might have ended up in landfill. Landill produces methane too. Always make sure you check what is safe for your dog to eat.
Chemical antiparasitic treatments
It has been suggested that chemicals used to prevent parasites can enter the environment and cause pollution but there is a trade-off between potential hazards of zoonotics and impact on human health versus the risk of environmental pollution. It is worth regularly testing your dog’s faeces for parasites and treating chemically as required. This ensures treatment when necessary and is likely to reduce the use of chemicals that can then pollute the environment. Always discuss with your vet as each animal is an individual, some may be more at risk of parasitic infestations than others.
All dogs need toys but plastic not only doesn’t tend to last very long but has catastrophic impacts on our environment and food chain. Always look for natural materials such as rubber, wood, stag antlers etc. There is now quite a selection of eco toys for dogs you can choose from.
Clickers tend to be made from plastic or other non-degradable materials, but did you know, you don’t need a clicker? A clicker is a device that emits a click. When the dog is given a tasty treat after the click, they associate the click with a food reward. This click can then be used to communicate to your dog exactly why they are about to get a treat. But you don’t need a clicker to do this, you can use a marker word or sound followed by a treat instead as it works the same way as a clicker does.
Always purchase biodegradable poop bags and dispose of it in a poop bin. Be aware that dog poop is very damaging to delicate heathland ecology. Many heaths are protected due to plant diversity, but dog poop increases nitrogen and this damages some important plant diversity. No diversity = no legal protection. These important sites could be built on if there is nothing to protect, which would lead to further environmental damage.
Rather than drive to the supermarket for your top up shops, take the family for a walk with your dog to your local shops, support your local businesses and reduce your carbon footprint. Someone should stay with your canine pal whilst someone goes into the shop because, if you leave your pup outside, she may get taken. Shopping this way can have the added benefit of reducing your spending as you will think carefully about purchasing essentials only as you will have to carry them home.
We should not ignore the many ways dogs already actively help us to reduce our own carbon footprints. They encourage us to walk rather than drive. They can help us to keep warm by cuddling up with us. They can eat our dog safe left overs reducing landfill emissions and food waste. So those criticising dog owners for their dog's contribution to environmental damage should consider the many ways in which they offset our carbon footprints.