Over the past six months, the Frederick County Division of Animal Control and Pet Adoption Center has implemented teleworking for positions that don’t provide direct animal care or respond to calls for service. Like many other private organizations and County entities, we are using technology that allows us to be just as responsive and productive without in-person interaction. Those of us who have spent part of our week working from home have gotten to revisit the relationship we have with our personal pets and their needs. A volunteer once shared her thoughts regarding the amount of space a dog needs. “They only need two feet — yours.”

Reflecting on that statement brings to mind several of the dogs at the shelter currently available through virtual adoption. Champ was surrendered by his owners and described as playful and energetic. Our staff describes him as having “lots of energy” and being “very vocal.” He is a solid 51 pounds that would do best with a family that can commit to basic manners training and provide him an appropriate outlet for all that energy. He is a Boxer-mix, a breed type that screams “exercise me, please!”

It’s not unusual for dog owners to equate the size of a dog with an assumption of how much space is required to keep the dog happy. However, housing accommodations and requirements often come down to owner preference, not canine need. A well-exercised, well-mannered large dog can be quite content in a smaller living space. Owners just need to understand that a canine companion cannot implement his/her own exercise program and manners training. Also, not all dogs inherently understand their human counterpart’s level of tolerance of certain canine behaviors.

We ask adopters to be realistic when taking on the responsibility of a new pet. Know that they don’t come with an instruction manual and that not all pets are alike. Even within the same species, each animal is a unique, sentient being with individual qualities. Evaluate honestly what time, effort, and resources you can commit to a pet. While dogs need space to run, exercise, play and explore, they also need companionship, consistency, and commitment. Many times, dogs will have access to a yard, a choice of floors within a home, or a basketful of toys. However, they will often choose to rest at the feet of their caretakers.

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