As modern day Americans, we are accustomed to convenience. From the television remote to the smartphone, pizza delivery to drive-through everything, we are used to having the world made easier for us. This picture from a Seresto collar ad made me consider how the desire for convenience drives the way we care for our dogs.

Clearly, having a product that will prevent fleas and ticks for eight months is convenient. And a collar requires no work beyond putting it on, unlike monthly products or repellents used on an as needed basis. The only “work” involved is remembering to replace it after its eight month lifespan is up.

This product is not the only way we have been led to choose convenient solutions for our dogs’ lives. Think of kibble dog food — what could be easier than 2 scoops twice a day? Or the retractable leash — one leash that goes from 3 feet to 30 feet at the touch of a button? Or vaccine clinics in pet stores and farm stores? No time off from work to go to the vet, save money, and get your other shopping done at the same time.

I totally get the value of convenience in our busy lives. I love shopping on Amazon, because my purchases show up on my doorstep, in two days or less, thanks to my prime membership. I love the convenience of my Netflix and Hulu subscriptions for the movies and TV shows I can watch on my own schedule. I love having some of my bills automatically charged to my credit card, so I am never late on a payment. But when it comes to my dogs, convenience takes a back seat to safety and value.

You’ve likely read about the Seresto collar, as well as the newer oral products, and their connections to seizures and other adverse reactions.

Then there’s food. While it is more work to make a fresh food diet for my dogs, that’s the only way I know exactly what is going into their bowls. Think of the recent cases of vitamin D toxicity from Science Diet foods, both OTC and “vet only prescription” products. Over 13.5 million cans of food were recalled, with an unknown number of dog illnesses and deaths. For a complete history of pet food recalls since the largest in history from 2007, click here. After you skim through this, you will understand why I am reluctant to take a chance with a product whose ingredients I cannot identify, or a manufacturer who is not transparent and trustworthy.

Then there’s those convenient vaccine clinics. Cheap, easy, you’re in and out. Minimal or no physical exam, no time to ask questions or discuss more than what “shot package” you want. I see records (or what is really a receipt, not a record) from these outfits often. Vaccines that the dog’s lifestyle makes unnecessary, multiple vaccines given at the same time with no regard for dog’s age, size, health conditions, or sensitivity. Did you know smaller dogs are more likely to experience reactions when multiple vaccines are given at the same time? See this study.

Finally, there is the bane of every dog trainer’s and veterinary hospital staff member’s, existence, the retractable leash. Nothing allows a person to become unaware and not in control of their dog’s action like a retractable leash. They are responsible for more human injuries, unplanned dog to dog interactions, and unruly behavior than any tool I have encountered in a lifetime of working with dogs.

The dog that circles you can cause lacerations like these.

The ad at the beginning of this piece referenced the luxury of convenience. And I think that point is well made — convenience is a luxury. Yet we have come to view it as a something we are owed, almost a right. And we don’t even pause to consider what it might be costing us. In some cases, it could be our best friend’s health and well being. It could simply be the annoyance of a dog that has learned to pull on a retractable leash. It could be that we spend a larger amount of money.

I take a lot of heat when I propose not prioritizing convenience when it comes to dog care. I make my choices based on the value to the dog’s health and best length and quality of life. Frankly, I don’t care if the the plan I recommend requires the owner to do more work, or spend more time. Even spend more money — and if that is not possible I will hunt down ways to make it affordable. Our dogs add so much to our lives, aren’t they deserving of some extra effort on our part, to make their lives better?

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