Is this the 4-H project for me? – Dogs

There are several factors to consider when choosing dogs as a 4-H animal science project.

It is estimated that 44 percent of the American population owns a dog, which makes a 4-H dog project an awesome project for youth. A 4-H dog project can be valuable for youth and their families who are looking for the right companion for their home or those who have a dog that are interested in learning more about general care and training techniques.

Housing

Often times, dogs are kept in their owners’ homes and are part of the family, but just like humans, dogs need their own space. Dogs should have access to an appropriately sized crate that allows them to retreat and relax. Some dogs are kept in outside kennels where they have access to shelter from the elements and wind, and have free access to water at all times.

Dogs also need to be able to have space to exercise, whether that be a yard or areas where they can be walked or jogged daily. Fences are effective at making sure your dog stays home and reduces the risk of accidents.

Budget

The cost for feeding a dog can span across a large price range due to various breed sizes and requirements. Small dogs eat less food and large dogs eat more. This is a consideration to make when choosing a breed. There are also a wide variety of food options for dogs. Wet or canned dog food is generally more expensive than dry foods. All of these choices should be discussed with your veterinarian so that the dog is getting the appropriate nutrition.

Dogs also require yearly vaccinations, wellness exams from a licensed veterinarian and registration licenses from your county. The exams, vaccinations and registration licenses will cost around $100 per year depending on your location. 

Time

Dogs require a tremendous amount of time. They rely on humans to meet all of their needs: going to the bathroom, eating, exercise and training. There are also many opportunities for youth and families to obtain certificates such as the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen certificate, which certifies that the dog has attained the gold standard for behavior. The amount of time youth and families spend with their canine companion is a reflection of the dog’s behavior.

The Michigan 4-H dog project allows youth to connect with knowledgeable volunteers who can teach youth about various dog breeds and their uses, various training level techniques from beginning obedience to advanced skills and games like agility, and also teaches youth valuable life skills such as record keeping and leadership. Of all of the project areas, the dog project is one of the most versatile and relevant to youth and families.

To learn more about the 4-H companion animal program, check out the various companion animal resources.

There are many factors to consider when choosing an animal science project. This series of Michigan State University Extension articles is geared to help families determine if a certain project area is a good fit for you and your family. For more information on other 4-H animal science projects, see the articles below or visit the Michigan 4-H Animal Science webpage.

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