To be a dog owner means that a pet parent is accountable for a dog’s well-being, and in return, dog owners receive a lifetime of love and devotion. Responsible Dog Ownership Month, which takes place in September, serves to inform new pet parents of the commitment that dog ownership requires, and to remind experienced pet parents to continue to meet the needs of their four-legged companions.
There are many steps to being a responsible dog owner, from the time a pet parent decides to bring a dog home, to the hard decision to allow the dog to pass peacefully surrounded by its’ loved ones. Making the decision to bring a dog into a family is a big commitment, and one that all family members should discuss so they can be sure the decision is right for their family, and if so, pick a breed that matches their lifestyle. Once a breed has been chosen, a family or pet parent can then move forward and start either calling or checking humane societies, rescue groups or reputable breeders’ websites to see if they have any dogs that the family is interested in.
Before bringing a dog to their new home, responsible pet parents should make sure that everything a dog would need to feel comfortable is there, including a bed, toys, good quality food, a kennel if needed, and water and food dishes. A collar and I.D. tags should be put on a new pet as soon as they come home, and the pet should also have a leash for when they go on a walk. Depending on the breed, the family may also need to ensure their yard is enclosed with a fence of the correct height to keep their pet safe.
Next, a pet parent can pick a trusted vet to give the pet all their vaccinations, advise them of the breed’s health risks, how to feed the dog a healthy diet in order to keep it from becoming obese, and implant a microchip as an added measure of protection. The vet can also advise the family about how to prevent diseases such as heartworm and Lyme disease, keep up to date with vaccinations, and protect from poisons. These are all important aspects of responsible dog ownership.
As a dog and its new family form a bond, pet parents can then understand, how to bathe them, clean their teeth and find a trustworthy groomer. A responsible dog parent will also take the dog to obedience classes to teach them basic commands and to socialize them with other dogs. The obedience trainer may also help them learn about kenneling their dog, if that is appropriate for the dog and the family.
Last but not least, finding a responsible dog sitter or boarding kennel ensures that a dog will be properly taken care of while a pet parent is away, as well as making an emergency plan to make sure that a dog is not left behind should an emergency arise. The family should check with a professional organization such as NAPPS (National Association of Professional Pet Sitters) to help them find a good pet boarder or sitter. They should make sure the boarder or sitter has been bonded and insured, and also check their references.
Although being a responsible dog owner comes with a lot of important details, having a dog in a home means that a pet parent will always have a friend and will always have something to laugh about. A dog will help to keep a pet parent active, whether it’s just a walk around the block, a trip to the beach, or the dog park. In addition, there are numerous studies that have shown that having a pet in a household is wonderful for a person’s mental and physical health. Unfortunately, there are plenty of examples in the media featuring irresponsible and cruel dog owners, so remember that being a responsible dog owner does not only reflect on you, but will give other responsible dog owners a good name as well.