Being a responsible dog owner isn’t just something that you owe to your dog, it’s something that you owe to the general public. This doesn't only mean grooming and feeding your dog, and many other responsibilities should be factored in. So if you wish to be a better, more responsible dog owner for your pooch whom other owners would admire, here are 25 best ways you can do that.
What is a Responsible Dog Owner?
As someone who rescued, fostered and adopted many dogs over several decades, my goal was always to be as good of an owner to my pets as my pets wanted to be for me. So when I talk about being a responsible dog owner, it's about fulfilling your obligation as your dog’s human caregiver to properly care for them and be accountable for their actions.
There are many ways you can do this as a dog parent. For example, teaching your dog what types of behavior are acceptable, keeping your dog current on vaccinations, or keeping your pup muzzled if you know that there is a risk that they may bite someone.
Being a responsible dog owner also means understanding that your dog is a reflection of other dogs and dog lovers. This means that it’s not always about directly providing for your dog but representing the dog-loving community of pet owners in a positive light.
ALSO READ: New Puppy Checklist – 15 Things You Must Do
25 Ways You Can Be a Responsible Dog Owner
1. Keep Your Dog Up to Date on Vaccinations and Health Checks
Vaccinations and health checks are important to your dog’s health. And while some dog vaccines may not be essential, core vaccinations keep your dog (and other animals and humans) protected against preventable diseases and regular health checks make sure that any health concerns are caught as soon as they begin.
2. Provide for Your Dog’s Most Basic Needs
The best food you can afford and researched thoroughly to be appropriate for your canine, clean fresh water, shelter, medical care – these are all the basic needs for any living creature and as your dog’s guardian it’s your job to make sure that these things are available at all time, and that you understand at least the basics of it all.
3. Meet Your Dog’s Emotional Needs
Your dog is a sentient creature and thrives on emotional connections in the same way that we do as humans. It's a job of a responsible dog owner to ensure that the animal has that emotional nourishment and companionship in order to be happy. This means not only physical exercises and playtime but also proper mental stimulation for dog's brain health.
4. Microchip Your Dog
A microchip is a permanent means of identifying your dog and it’s your job to make sure that your dog has a microchip and that the data on that chip is registered and up to date. That way if your dog does escape or gets lost, runs away and goes missing, or worse – gets stolen, they can be returned to you as soon as possible.
5. Commit to a Full Training Program Before Bringing a Dog Home
Before you bring your dog home you need to know what type of training you will be providing and commit to that training fully. Proper dog training doesn’t just make your dog pleasant to be around, but it’s also a means of communication that helps your dog to understand what is expected from them, and a good way for the two of you to bond.
6. Groom Your Dog Regularly
Grooming isn’t just for long-haired breeds. Grooming includes things other than clipping your dog’s coat; it’s also cutting your dog’s nails regularly, cleaning their ears, having their anal glands expressed when needed, brushing their teeth and keeping their eyes clean. All of these things are imperative to your dog’s health and overall well-being.
7. Spay or Neuter Your Dog
One of the key aspects of being a responsible dog owner is fixing your pooch. Spaying and neutering your dog ensures that you don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem but it also reduces the chance that your dog will develop cancer of the reproductive system among other health benefits.
8. Always Clean Up After Your Dog
Nothing makes dog owners look worse than people who don’t pick up after their dog. No matter where you are, if your dog goes to the bathroom or has an accident, try to be a responsible dog owner – it’s your job to clean up after your pooch.
9. Socialize Your Dog Well and Often
Socialization is important to molding a well-behaved dog but just like mental stimulation it’s also important to your dog’s well-being. Expose your dog to as much as possible, as often as possible, as early as possible so that they become desensitized to new stimulus. Most importantly, expose your dog to other dogs, animals, children, strangers, and vehicles in a safe and controlled environment.
10. Invest in Pet Insurance or Set Up a Savings Account
Your dog’s regular veterinary expenses and any emergency veterinary expenses must be provided for. To make sure that this happens you should either invest in a pet insurance plan and maintain that insurance throughout your pet’s life OR set up a pet savings account and make regular deposits to that account so that you can provide this care.
11. Never Leave Your Dog Alone with Any Young Child
Even if your dog is well behaved with children, as a responsible dog owner you cannot ever leave them alone with young children. Little children can fall or grab at your dog and cause them to bite in a knee-jerk reaction. It’s important that a responsible adult is around at all times to prevent this type of situation from happening.
12. Never Leave Your Dog Unattended Outside, Even in Your Yard
You should never leave your dog unattended when outside either, even if you are leaving your pup in your own fenced backyard. Dogs are animals that need companionship and if left alone, they will find a way to seek out that companionship which often means turning into escape artists – digging under fences or jumping over them and escaping.
13. Never Leave Your Dog Unsupervised with a Strange Animal
Whether you bring a new pet home or have a family dog visiting for the holidays it’s important that you never leave your dog alone with a strange animal the pup isn't familiar with. It is simply not safe to leave two animals alone together when they don’t know how to read each other and you don’t know whether or not they are compatible.
14. Commit to Your Dog for a Lifetime
If you are lucky, your dog could live for twenty years, or they may live for just a handful of years, but however long your pet's lifespan is it’s up to you to provide for your dog for their entire lifetime and not give up on them and wind up contributing to the pet overpopulation problem like so many other irresponsible dog owners out there.
15. Housetrain Your Dog
One of the biggest reasons that pet owners do give up their dogs to animal shelters is because they are not house-trained. It’s your job as a responsible dog owner to housetrain your Fido from the get-go so that it gives you both a good start.
16. Feed Your Dog a Healthy Diet
As with people, what your dog eats directly influences their health. As your dog’s guardian it’s your job to not only provide food but also ensure that the diet is healthy and the best quality of dog food that you can afford. Do some research and find the best food for the money that will work for your budget.
17. Keep Your Dog Up to Date on Regular Preventatives
Similar to vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, and heartworm preventatives, are also necessary monthly medications to keep your dog healthy. Even if you just buy one month at a time, make sure that you keep your dog protected all-year round.
18. Learn to Read Your Dog
As a dog parent you can’t just expect your dog to understand you and not put any effort into understanding your dog. Learn to read your dog’s body language and mannerisms so that you can better provide for them.
19. Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
A healthy weight is as important to your dog’s health as it is to your own. Being either overweight or underweight are both dangerous. Allow your dog to get overweight and you overtax their joints, keep them underweight and they suffer malnutrition. A responsible dog owner would familiarize not only with what a healthy diet is but how much exercise is needed, and what's the ideal weight for that dog.
20. Make Sure That Your Dog Has Up to Date ID Tags at all times
Your dog’s ID tags are the first line of defense if your dog escapes your yard or goes missing so make sure that they are always up to date with your current contact information.
21. Don’t Breed Your Dog
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to do your part in controlling the pet overpopulation problem. This doesn’t just mean spaying and neutering; it also means not breeding your dog before you get this done.
22. Obey Local Laws and Signposted Regulations
Laws and regulations exist for a reason and as a responsible dog owner it’s important that you pay attention to and abide by canine related laws and regulations all of the time both to keep your dog safe and to represent the dog-owning community in a positive light.
23. Pet Proof Your Home
Just like children, dogs can get into trouble if they have the opportunity to, especially puppies. It’s your job to make sure that your dog doesn’t have that opportunity by pet-proofing your home. What is pet proofing? It’s the same as kid-proofing but you’re coming at it from a dog’s eyeline rather than a child’s.
24. Make Your Dog Part of the Family
I've mentioned already that dogs are social animals and in order to be content they must be included in the family unit. This means letting your dog sleep indoors with your family, including them in family time together, and bringing the family along when you go for walks. Do not alienate the dog from the rest of the family or vice versa.
25. Being a Responsible Dog Owner Sometimes Means Letting Go
One of the hardest parts of being a dog owner is when the day comes to say goodbye. Most dog parents hope that their dog will pass peacefully in their sleep, but sadly, this isn’t often the case and that means having to make the decision to let go. A responsible dog owner will go into pet parenthood knowing that this may well be the case, but they go in with their eyes open and commit anyway. Make sure that you’re going in with your eyes open and know that one day your pup may have to cross the rainbow bridge.
There is much more to being a responsible dog owner than the twenty-five tips I've managed to cover above, but when it all comes down to it, being a responsible dog owner is less about the do’s and don’ts and more about common sense and true love.