It’s inevitable. Just about every young child is going to ask this question at some point. You walk by the pet store in the mall, and suddenly, your little boy’s world revolves entirely around getting a puppy at some point in his very near future. But, what does that mean for you and your family? Besides, of course, sleepless nights, long walks, additional chores he probably won’t want to do and another mouth to feed? You’ve probably heard the statistic that a dog’s footprint is greater than that of an SUVs? Can you do it the green way? What about vet bills? What does organic dog food cost anyway? Plastic land-fill toys?
The good news is that today it’s incredibly simple to raise yourself an eco-friendly puppy. I wrote a post on How to Make Homemade Dog Treats earlier (also painless and simple), but this is for those of you looking into going green all together with a pet.
First things First – Buying the Puppy
Please: Never, purchase your puppy from a pet store in a mall. At the most basic level (without attacking), reasonably you can imagine that breeders who care about their pets are also breeders who are going to meet and interview potential owners for their puppies. They are not going to ship them off to a mall and place a puppy into the hands of a stranger who may very well not have the puppy’s best interest at heart. Not only that, puppy mills are notorious for overcrowding, reproducing with little to no break in between batches of puppies, diseases and, perhaps most of all, inbreeding. These puppies are also usually heavily dosed on antibiotics, healthy or not, to avoid infection and often develop resistance to antibiotics, meaning later in life you could lose a puppy that you would not have otherwise. Plus, as you can imagine, these puppies have never seen grass, carpet, or anything other than the floor of a cage. Housebreaking will be a nightmare.
I’m as much of a “rescuer” as anyone (which is why I simply cannot go into mall pet stores any longer), but, by thinking we’re “saving” one puppy from a pet store, we’re really just promoting and supporting a failing system. To put it bluntly: It’s like beef from Walmart vs. beef from your local farmer. If you won’t buy an apple that isn’t grown local, it doesn’t make sense to buy your new family member from a distant locale either.
(Editor’s note: And don’t forget rescue shelters… I’ve had two “shelter mutts,” and couldn’t have asked for better companions. It’s generally a less expensive option than purchasing, also).
Eco-Friendly Dog Food
Okay, moving ahead with the idea that you’ve purchased a puppy from a reputable breeder, you can really get into raising a green puppy. When it comes to food, your options are almost limitless, and the food you invest in is your best opportunity to make your pup super eco-friendly. The wealth of organic, all-natural dog foods available are overwhelming, to say the least. You’ve also got the option of making your dog’s food, which makes “eco-friendly puppy” more affordable. Many dogs thrive off of a homemade selection of brown rice, vegetables and protein. In fact, this is about as sustainable as you can get, especially by choosing locally raised meats and vegetables. Others choose to raise their dogs on an entirely raw diet. Check with your vet, mentioning that you’re seeking an organic, sustainable method of feeding your puppy.
Treats are just as easy to come by and make. Depending upon your budget and preference (and your puppy’s tastes) you can opt to go all homemade or find them online. Check out Humane Choice, Newmans, Natural Balance, Ecotrition and Karma, just to name a few.
House training your new friend
Housetraining can be tough… no doubt about it. Purchasing your puppy from a reputable breeder is going to make a world of difference, though. Often these puppies will already have a general idea of what’s up and you’ll find your task greatly lessened. Whether you opt for crate training or not, I’ve had the best luck with housetraining pads. But, there’s no need to stock up on the paper throw-in-the-trash-variety. You can purchase washable re-usable pads that will save you greatly over the long run. If you prefer, you can also recycle and re-use old newspapers; the washable pads are much cleaner and more sanitary overall.
Eco-Friendly Dog Toys
There are a thousand and one options for eco-friendly dog toys* made entirely with sustainable products. You can also recycle plenty of household items. (Socks are traditionally a favorite.) But, I actually suggest in investing in some good quality green toys from the beginning. The problem with using household items is that they become fair game (holes or not) for your puppy forever after. You really can’t allow your dog to play with an old sock and then be disappointed when your all organic silk socks have holes in them too. Toys don’t look like anything else in your house and can save you cost over the long run.
Cutting the Chemicals
The good news is that having a pet in the house can actually encourage you to be more green overall. You’re going to have to make a concentrated effort to cut down on chemical use, inside and out. This means you’ll need to look at what you’re currently putting on your lawn, as well as in the house with cleaning products like carpet cleaners, air sanitizers and dusters. Opt for less commercial cleaners and choose eco-friendly products and homemade solutions with vinegar. It’s a great cleaner and safe for dogs.
Having a puppy in the house not only makes everyone a little bit happier (trust me, the sleepless nights are worth it!), it’s a great way to get your kids outside more and engaged in more activity. Take walks, go play ball in the park, plan hikes with the puppy. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to get kids away from the TV and out in the great outdoors if there’s a puppy to accompany them.
Another big part of what it means to live an eco-friendly, green lifestyle is involved in giving back. Take advantage of having a pet and help your community. Take your dog (when well-trained) to local assisted living homes or to the local library for “Read to a Dog Day.” You can also give back simply with the products you choose to invest in. Chances are that somebody in your area makes completely natural and local homemade treats. Support them and make an investment in those families like you do with other products in your life.
Eco-friendly puppies (just like regular puppies), are lots of work. But they’re also infinitely rewarding. And, really, who can resist the pleading face of a 5 year old in need of a best friend?
Photo source: iStock Photo
*Link to page in sustainablog’s Green Choices product comparison engine.