Getting a Dog? Here's How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Posted on April 02 2019

Whether you are getting a puppy from a respectable breeder or a rescue from the local shelter, there are some basic elements to being a responsible pet parent. Your life will be easier as well that of your new pet.

Consider the breed carefully

Are you an active family? Do you like to be outdoors a lot? Do you like to hike or run? Or do you prefer to ride the sofa? Do you have a fenced in yard or are you an apartment dweller? Do you mind dog hair everywhere or is there someone in your home with mild allergies? There are a lot of considerations when choosing a breed of dog that would be great fit for your family.

For example, a large dog might not be any match for a small apartment but would find plenty of room if you have a large fenced in yard where it could play. A very small dog—like a chihuahua, for example—might not be a good fit for families with very young children. And, if you want to go running with your dog, you’ll need a breed that can keep up with you and your exercise level. Something like an Australian shepherd dog, for example, might be the right breed for you.

Before you bring a new family member into your home, take time to consider your lifestyle, your family and your work commitments. How much time can you spend at home with your new dog? Dogs are a 10-20 year commitment and depending on the breed and your habits, you'll want to make sure you get it right!

Crate training for a happy dog

If properly trained, a crate is a safe place that your dog can retreat to for sleep and relaxation when life around the house gets to be a bit too much. It's an easy place to get potty training under control quickly as most animals won't have an accident where they sleep. 

Crate training ensures that if you have to be out of the house for a while every day, your puppy or dog is safe and comfortable. Just make sure it’s large enough to allow them to move around and sleep comfortably. It also makes traveling with your dog possible as they can be placed in the crate when traveling or leaving your house.

Check your home for hazards

Particularly if you are bringing home a puppy, you'll want to take a look at your home from their low and curious point of view. Just as a parent of a toddler might get down on their level to view surroundings, you'll want to do the same in the areas where they will likely spend most of their time. You might be surprised to notice items like wires, that you thought were carefully put away, are actually easily accessible (read: chewable). Things like decor items and knick-knacks that usually are never bothered could be knocked down and broken and that items on the floor (like plants that are could now be poisonous) that you never thought about before might need to be moved to a higher place.

Ideally, a puppy would have a safe space that is blocked off from less friendly areas of the house. In the early days, a puppy pen, set up on flooring that is EASILY washed (puppies have accidents!) made a lot of sense. As they grow older and have more control over their bladders, you can give them more freedom to roam, but as you do, re-visit the space with them in mind, to make sure it’s safe.

At any given point, safety gates are a highly desired option for keeping your new pet from venturing into off-limits spaces in your home or even up or down the stairs. It's important to prevent accidental falls that could be detrimental to their still-developing hips and knees, leading to problems down the road. Moreover, other benefits to using a quality dog gate including protecting carpets and hardwoods keeping them free and clear of accidents that can discolor and leave unwanted stains. 

Spay/neuter your pet

Most breeders require that you agree to this prior to purchasing a pet and many shelters will, too. It makes sense to spay or neuter your pet and it’s the responsible thing to do. Particularly with females, dealing with the heat cycles can be very difficult and ultimately, you don’t want an ‘oops’ situation!

Microchip them for peace of mind

Collars can fall off and fences can be broken, so microchipping your dog ensures that if they ever got lost, anyone who brings them to a shelter or vet will be able to check the chip and reunite you with your pup.

TIP: Remember to change the address associated with the chip if you move! Dogs can get lost easily during a move and you want to make sure they can find their way back to you no matter where you are.

Feeding the right foods

Yes, those puppy eyes watching you eat every bite of your dinner are hard to resist, but it’s important to do just that! Table scraps and other foods not intended for dogs are bad for their overall health, including their dental health.

A diet of kibble and appropriate treats that are high in protein and contain natural ingredients may be a little more expensive than the store brand dog food, but it’s worth it. Your dog will be happier, healthier and live a long life on the right diet. Ask your breeder or veterinarian for their opinions on this one!

Socialization is key

If you don’t want your dog to be timid or afraid, it’s important to socialize them. Once they’ve had all their necessary vaccines, puppy school (or training school for a rehomed dog) are great ways to socialize them with other dogs in a controlled setting.

It’s not just other dogs that your pup needs to meet! They should get used to different people, sounds and smells, depending on where you live and your lifestyle. And if you want to make traveling with them a dream, get them used to riding in the car. Make sure you use a crate or some sort of harness restraint to ensure that in the event of an accident they’re safe too.

Pet insurance could save their life and your bank account

Diagnosing an illness or repairing an injury can be very expensive so the solution, particularly with puppies, is pet insurance. It’s health insurance for your pet and, depending on the policy, can provide excellent coverage for those unexpected expenses. A dog can tear a foot pad, eat something it shouldn’t have, or encounter any number of other health-related issues, so having the insurance will give you the peace of mind you need to ensure that you can take care of them, no matter what happens!

Having a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences that anyone can have. It can also be difficult if you’re not prepared and don’t ‘parent’ your dog responsibly. They want to be good boys and girls for you, so help them get there and keep them safe.
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