While many people are dog lovers, not everyone is in the enviable position of being able to own their own dog. Some of the most responsible and caring dog lovers are in fact those that don’t own a dog at all, specifically because they understand that their situation at the present time is not suitable for dog ownership. Being able to recognise when this is the case, be it due to financial reasons, housing issues, your family situation or your health is important, and it is of course wise to put off dog ownership until some point in the future when you can make an informed decision to take on a dog.
However, even if you do not own a dog or have any close friends who have dogs that you can spend time with, don’t despair! There are plenty of opportunities out there for the dog lover to spend some time with and get some experience with dogs. Whether you want to learn more about dog training and care, spend time around a specific breed of dog to work out if you would be able to cope with them, or simply enjoy the company of dogs, you have lots of options open to you!
Read on to get some ideas on how to get experience with dogs or spend time with dogs if you do not own one yourself.
The first and most obvious way to get experience and spend time around dogs, and one that more or less anyone can do, is by volunteering at a rehoming shelter or dog sanctuary. These types of organisations are always on the lookout for more helpers, and there are always plenty of dogs that need time spent with them, walking and socialising them and generally helping to keep them entertained.
Volunteering at a shelter can be emotionally challenging, however, especially if you know that however needy one of the dogs is or how strongly you bond with it, you will never be able to take it home.
Most areas have either a designated dog park or a public park or other area that is commonly used by dog walkers, and this is potentially the simplest way to hang out with dogs on a casual basis as and when it suits you. Going for a walk around the park or taking a book to sit and read is often all it takes, and most dog owners will be happy to let you pet their dogs and maybe strike up a conversation at the same time. A pocket full of dog treats may make you popular with the canine contingent, but don’t forget to ask permission from the owners before offering someone else’s dog a treat!
If you are investigating particular dog breeds with a view to ownership and want to gain more experience with a specific breed or type of dog, breed-specific organisations and clubs are the way to go. Some breeds of dog, such as the Husky or the Collie are high maintenance, active dogs that need an experienced handler, and may not be suitable for the first time dog owner unless they have spent plenty of time getting to know the breed.
Breed-specific organisations are only too aware of this, and will actively encourage anyone who is conscientious in pursuing ownership of the breed to spend more time around the dogs. Often, they will be able to put you in touch with dog owners local to you who may be willing to let you spend some time with their own dogs for the experience.
People often think of large, formal events such as Crufts when they speak of dog shows, but there are many smaller, less formal dog shows held across the UK too! From small village fair dog shows to formal qualifying events for championship shows, there is something for everyone, and plenty to keep the enthusiastic spectator engaged too! You can usually just turn up on the day for dog shows, and rarely need to buy tickets in advance, if tickets are sold at all.
If you have friends of neighbours with dogs, do they need a bit of help? Particularly if you have elderly neighbours or neighbours that work long hours, they may welcome a little extra assistance with their canine care. Ask around, and you may soon find that both you and your dog-owning neighbours are onto a win-win situation!
If you live in a particularly busy area, you may find that there are companies around offering formal, paid dog walking services. Not only walking dogs but getting paid for it too may seem too good to be true, but dog walking services are often on the lookout for more help! You will need to be a reasonably confident and competent dog handler to get a paid role as a dog walker, and always ensure that you are covered with the appropriate insurance required to walk someone’s dogs for financial reward.