In a day and age when 4,000,000 animals are euthanized annually in US shelters, and at a time when no one wants to own up to their own shortcomings but would rather blame everyone else, I have to ask:
What makes a responsible dog owner?
I asked this question on my Facebook page a few days ago, and I got a variety of interesting answers. I’ve taken those responses into consideration, and along with my own thoughts, I’ve compiled the following list of things a person can do to be a responsible dog owner.
What Makes A Responsible Dog Owner?
1) Make a commitment. Dogs have a 10 to 15 year life span. Do not get a dog if you cannot commit yourself to taking care of it for life.
2) Evaluate your own lifestyle. Before you get a dog, decide what kind of dog your lifestyle will allow.
If you’re a couch potato who likes to spend your downtime lounging around watching TV, don’t get a dog that requires a lot of physical activity.
If you’re a neat freak, you probably don’t want a dog that’s going to shed.
If you work 12 hours a day, it’s my personal opinion that you should opt out of owning a dog entirely.
3) Dog-proof your home. Before you bring a dog home, make sure your place is safe and secure. Get rid of toxic plants. Secure electrical cords. Purchase covered trash bins. Look at your home on a microscopic level, just as you’d do if you were child-proofing before bringing home a new baby.
The point is to make your domain as safe as possible for your dog.
4) Find a veterinarian. Again, do this before you even bring your dog home. This should be someone you trust, because over the next several years you’re going to be partnering with this person to care for your dog.
My suggestion is to find a vet within 5 miles or so from home.
5) A proper introduction is an absolute must. If you have other pets or children in the home, don’t commit yourself to a dog until you’re sure that all parties are compatible. It is foolish to bring a dog home, hoping that he’ll get along with the other inhabitants at your residence. Make sure of it by making proper introductions in advance.
6) Begin training your dog immediately. There’s no time to wait, because routines and patterns are forming from the very moment the dog walks into your house. Establishing the rules up front will make enforcing them much easier in the long run. If you can afford it, invest in a professional dog trainer or attend obedience classes with your dog.
If you can’t afford it, commit yourself to working daily with your dog to teach him the behaviors you want him to have. You have to teach him – he can’t read your mind.
7) Begin socializing your dog immediately. This is so important. Get your dog used to different people, places, things, and animals through proper socialization. Take him with you with the situation permits.
Getting him out of the house and into new situations will make him a better dog and you a happier dog owner.
8) Establish a schedule for your dog. Simple things like a bedtime routine and set meal times are good for your dog. In fact, she craves routine.
A dog is happier and better adjusted when there is consistency in the home, and she knows what to expect.
9) Begin house training immediately. Even if you adopt an older dog that is already “potty-trained”, establishing a routine and a schedule is important. My dogs go out to potty first thing in the morning, immediately following meals, upon being released from their crates when I return home, and right before bedtime. It’s second nature to them by now, and it helps us avoid any accidents.
10) Choose a quality food for your dog. If you can’t afford to properly feed your dog, then in my opinion, you can’t afford to have a dog.
Don’t settle for cut-rate generic dog food. Don’t buy into the “any food will do” mindset. Some pet foods aren’t worth the paper bag they’re packaged in, and there’s evidence to support the belief that some commercial pet foods may even be harmful to your dog.
Read labels. Stay up-to-date on current events and pet food recalls.
Commit to feeding your dog well to promote health and long life.
11) Make sure your dog sees the vet at least once per year for routine care. Keep your dog up-to-date on vaccinations and flea/tick/heartworm preventative. Contact your vet immediately if your dog shows signs of illness or injury.
12) Spay or neuter your dog as soon as your veterinarian deems it appropriate. This is not only the healthy choice for your pet, but it’s also the responsible choice. When 4,000,000 animals will be euthanized in our shelter system this year, it’s just not responsible to allow your dog to produce even a single litter.
13) Exercise your dog daily. Even small dogs need to get out of the house for some fresh air and sunshine. Ideally, you should walk your dog twice a day for at least 15 minutes each time, more often for larger, more active dogs. They need to expend some of that energy.
The old saying is so true: “A tired dog is a good dog.”
14) Provide proper hygiene care for your dog with regular bathing and grooming. Don’t forget the nails and teeth.
15) Make sure your pet is microchipped and always wears a collar with an ID tag. The ID tag must contain your current accurate contact information.
16) Make a disaster plan. Know what you will do with your pet in the event of a disaster. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you can worry about this if a disaster happens. In the event of a real emergency, there may not be time to try to figure things out. Make a plan in advance.
17) Make a will. No one likes to think about their own death, but if you don’t make plans for your dog, who will? To ensure that your dog won’t end up dumped at a shelter, put together a plan for her care after you’re gone.
18) Respect local laws. A responsible owner knows and obeys the dog ownership laws in his area. Make sure you’re aware of the laws before you make the decision to get a dog.
19) Respect your neighbors. You must keep your dog properly restrained at all times, even on your own property. Don’t allow your dog to roam free in the neighborhood, and if he does his business in a neighbor’s yard, clean it up.
Just because you love your dog doesn’t mean the rest of the neighborhood will.
20)Love your dog. Realize that although you’ve got a job and friends and many other interests that occupy your time, your dog has only you.
Spend as much time with her as possible, playing, taking walks, going for car rides, just cuddling. Dogs are social animals, and they need to know they are loved.
21) Set your dog up for success. If you fail to provide proper training, socialization, medical care, and diet, you’re setting your dog up for failure. The kind of pet your dog becomes is in your hands. Set a good example and do the right thing. Be responsible.
What other things can you think of that make a responsible dog owner?
I’d love for you to share them with me in comments below, or stop by our Facebook page and join the conversation!