As a prospective pet owner, you need to understand that a pet of any kind, whether it’s a fish, a cat, or a dog, must be treated properly. A pet isn’t a toy or a fashion accessory. Your furry friend is a living creature with his own personality, quirks, and emotions, just like you!
Owning a pet is undoubtedly rewarding, but it’s a massive responsibility, too.
Read this guide to learn how to practice responsible dog ownership.
Understand The Commitment
Pet care is a lifelong commitment that first-time owners often don’t appreciate.
Dogs can live for up to 20 years, depending on the breed. As a prospective owner, can you commit to devoting that much of your life to the care dogs need, through good times and bad?
As well as your time and energy, you’ll also need to make a financial and emotional commitment to your furry friend. Can you do that?
Learn About Your Dog’s Special Requirements
Think about what kind of dog you want to welcome into your home.
There are literally hundreds of dog breeds to choose from, ranging in size from the tiny Chihuahua to the massive Cane Corso. Every breed has a slightly different personality and different requirements when it comes to exercise and grooming.
Responsible breeders try to pair dogs with suitable families, but as a responsible dog owner, you must do plenty of research before you make a commitment to a particular breed or cross-breed.
If you decide to buy a puppy from an ethical breeder, you must understand that you’ll have to potty train, crate train, and obedience train him, all of which takes time and commitment. The same often applies to rescue dogs from shelters. Are you prepared to take on that amount of work?
Make Your Home Dog-Friendly
Before you welcome your new canine companion into your home, you need to make sure that your place is safe for your dog.
Make your dog feel comfortable and welcome by providing beds, toys, and cozy blankets.
Double-check that toxic plants are not within reach of your curious dog, and lock away any human foods that could be harmful to him, including raisins, chocolate, and anything containing Xylitol. Xylitol is an artificial sweetener that’s highly poisonous to dogs.
Don’t forget to check around your backyard, too, for anything that could present a danger to your dog. That includes making sure that your fencing is secure and doesn’t have any holes in it that your new dog could escape through.
Dogs often enjoy chowing down on unsavory stuff that they get hold of while out on walks and even in your yard. That includes animal feces, dead creatures, vermin, and leftover food. Yuck!
Often, those items that are so attractive to your dog contain worms or eggs that find their way into your dog’s body, making him sick. So, you must deworm your dog regularly to keep him safe.
Ask your vet for more advice on a suitable worming program for your dog.
Vaccination Against Disease
Along similar lines, you must take steps to protect your dog from common canine diseases that could affect your pet.
An unvaccinated dog is vulnerable to some very serious and sometimes fatal diseases, many of which have no cure. So, you must have your dog vaccinated every year so that he’s fully protected and safe.
Again, talk to your vet to find out what shots your dog needs and when he is due his boosters.
Provide Your Dog With High-Quality Medical Care
No matter how well you care for your dog, he will almost certainly need therapeutic health care and veterinary care at some point in his life.
As a responsible dog owner, you are taking on a commitment to providing your pet with the lifelong care he deserves. Know the signs of illness in your dog, and be prepared to seek veterinary advice or emergency care right away if you think something is wrong.
Socialize and Train Your Dog
An unsocialized dog that runs wild is a nuisance and potentially dangerous, too.
If you take on a puppy, you need to expose him to the everyday sights and sounds of home and family activities so that he grows up to be a confident and happy family pet. Puppies have a sensitive period of up to around 16 weeks of age, during which they should experience key aspects of daily life.
Unsocialized dogs can be frightened or aggressive around other animals and strangers. Before you take your new dog to a public area where he will come into contact with other dogs and people, it’s your responsibility to ensure the pup is friendly, obedient, and trustworthy around strangers and their pets.
Provide Your Dog With Plenty Of Exercise
Lack of exercise can result in behavioral problems in dogs, such as destructive behavior, excessive barking, and aggression. Dogs of all ages and breeds need plenty of mental stimulation and physical exercise to keep them settled and happy.
Your dog’s energy levels will vary depending on his age, breed, and temperament. Some dog breeds need more exercise than others, so you need to find out how much daily exercise your dog will require and provide that. Generally, dogs need at least 30 minutes of exercise each day to keep them happy.
Groom Your Dog Regularly
All dogs need regular brushing and grooming, depending on their coat type.
The time you need to devote to brushing your dog varies by breed. Generally, longer-coated breeds and those with thick double coats need more brushing than short-coated breeds. If you don’t spend time grooming your dog, the hair will become matted, potentially leading to skin problems.
Brushing your dog is also a wonderful way of developing and strengthening the bond between you.
Microchip Your Dog
All dogs entering the US from abroad must be microchipped by law.
Dog collars bearing ID tags can become tangled in the undergrowth and lost, so microchipping can be the best way of tracing the owner of a lost dog.
Microchipping is a painless procedure that can give you peace of mind if your dog does go missing. Double-check that the chipping company you choose has the largest database possible.
Insure Your Dog
Although insurance premiums might seem like a waste of money when a dog is young and healthy, they can be a godsend if your pet has an accident or requires long-term medical care.
A good dog insurance policy also covers third-party liability in the event that your dog is involved in a road accident or a fight with another dog.
Neuter Or Spay Your Dog
There are thousands of unwanted puppies born every year in the US alone. Many of those pups finish up in shelters, and some are euthanized because there’s no chance of them ever finding a forever home.
Although it might seem like a nice idea to allow your female dog to have puppies, you could end up with a bunch of pups that you can’t find homes for. Rescues are already overcrowded; do the responsible thing and have your dog spayed or neutered.
Remember to include your dog and other pets in your disaster planning, including assembling a pet-centric evacuation kit.
You should also have a list of responsible people who are prepared and able to take care of your pet if you’re unable to and provide them with the care instructions they need to look after your pet properly.
Plan For Vacation Care
It’s not always possible for your dog to accompany you on vacation. So, make arrangements for your furry friend’s vacation care well in advance. That care could take the form of a family member or friend who can look after your dog for you, a reputable boarding facility, or a live-in pet sitter.
End Of Life Care
Perhaps the biggest responsibility that you take on when adopting any pet is making the decision to say goodbye at the end of your beloved companion’s life.
Although your vet will give you professional advice on appropriate palliative care and will tell you when he thinks it’s time for your dog to make that final journey over the rainbow bridge, the decision is ultimately yours.
Many dog owners try to keep their furry friend going even though his quality of life is deteriorating. Heartbreaking though it is, you must be prepared to do the right thing for your dog and understand when it’s time for your vet to end your pet’s life humanely.
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There are many facets to being a responsible pet owner. You are responsible for socializing and training your dog, ensuring that he has plenty of exercise and a good diet, and researching options for care when you go away. Ultimately, you must be ready to provide your dog with routine and emergency care when necessary and make the final decision to end your pet’s life when the time is right.
What do you think is the most important aspect of being a responsible dog owner? Tell us in the comments box below!