14 Things You Can Do to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Show your dog and your community that you care!

By | Posted: September 19, 2014, 3 p.m. PST

September 20 is AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day, a yearly celebration of conscientious dog owners and their canine counterparts. If you’re wondering what it takes to be considered a responsible dog owner, here are a few basic things you can do to show your community that you care about your dog’s health and safety, not just on this special day, but every day. 

Dog owner 

1. Provide quality food and fresh water daily. 

We’ll start with the easy one -- the one that you, as a responsible pet owner, are probably already doing. This seems like a big "no duh,” but dogs cannot live on love and snuggles alone. Your dog needs a nutritious, well-balanced diet every day, and free access to clean water. Also, wash out his food and water bowls regularly, too. This will help reduce the chance of illness from old food residue, and make for a more appetizing mealtime.

2. Socialize your dog. 

To raise a well-rounded, friendly dog, your dog needs the opportunity to get social. Ideally, the greater part of socialization will take place when your dog is a puppy -- this is when he is more open to experiencing new things.

The ABCs of Puppy Socialization>>  

But even adult dogs need daily socialization to sharpen their social skills. Dog parks, neighborhood walks, trips to outdoor dog-friendly events -- the more places you take your dog, the better. Your dog also needs to meet and greet lots of different people, including children, people wearing uniforms, people skating or riding bikes, people in wheelchairs, or any other kind folk you meet on a daily basis.

3. Exercise your dog every day according to his age, breed and energy level. 

High-energy dogs, such as Border Collies, Jack Russell Terriers and retrievers, don’t just like to be active -- they need to be active. Energetic dogs who don’t get enough exercise sometimes release that energy by exhibiting "bad” behaviors, including tearing up furniture, digging to escape the yard and more. Do yourself -- and your high-energy dog -- a favor and go for walks or runs, play in the yard and find ways to burn off energy every day.

On the flip side, some dogs -- including Bulldogs, or senior dogs -- enjoy nothing more than a nice nap on the couch. You know your dog and his personality best, so adjust the amount of exercise accordingly to meet his needs. 

4. Make grooming a priority.

A clean, well-groomed dog shows the world that he belongs to an owner who loves him. Make sure to keep your dog brushed and bathed regularly, and clip or file his mails when they start to get too long. (Note: if you can hear them when he walks, they’re too long!) Dental hygiene is also important, so if you aren’t in the habit of brushing your dog’s teeth, consider starting.

How to Brush Your Dog’s Teeth>>

5. Teach your dog some manners

At the very minimum, your dog should know how to sit, stay, lie down, come and walk nicely while leashed. You can train these cues yourself, or enlist the help of a professional dog trainer. Either way, learning these basic training cues are important for good dog behavior.


6. Keep up with your dog’s vaccinations.

Keeping your dog healthy by way of vaccinations is another important part of being a responsible dog owner. According to the ASPCA, all dogs need these core vaccinations: canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies. Depending on where you live and your dog’s exposure risk, he might also need these non-core vaccines: Bordetella bronchiseptica, Borrelia burgdorferi and Leptospira bacteria. 

Depending on the type of vaccine, your dog’s age and lifestyle, he might need booster shots every year to every three years or longer. Check with your veterinarian for guidelines regarding your specific dog.

7. Spay or neuter your pet.

Spaying and neutering: yes, it helps keep down the pet population. But did you know that spaying and neutering also helps keep your dog healthy? According to the American Humane Society, the long-term benefits of spaying females nearly eliminates the risk of breast cancer, and totally eliminates the risk of uterine infections and uterine cancer. In males, neutering prevents testicular cancer and enlargement of the prostate gland, and greatly reduces the risk of perianal tumors. These reasons alone are enough to get your pet spayed or neutered!

8. Pick up the poop.

No one likes stepping in, smelling or seeing dog poop on the ground. Be a kind and responsible dog owner (and neighbor) and pick up your dog’s doo-doo! Keep a container of plastic bags by the door or your dog’s leash to help you remember to take them with you on walks.

The Scoop on Dog Poop: 6 Dirty Secrets Everyone Should Know>> 

9. Outfit your dog with a collar and ID tags.

Approximately 3.9 million companion dogs enter animal shelters in the United States every year. Don’t let your dog be part of those statistics! Every dog should wear a collar and identification tags with the dog’s name, and a contact phone number and/or address. Even better, consider microchipping your dog as an added measure of protection. In the event that you move, be sure to update your dog’s ID tags with the new address.

9 Things You Need to Know About Microchipping>>

10. Keep your dog on a leash during walks.

There are so many reasons to leash your dog on walks, one of which is that just because your dog is friendly with you and people he knows, that doesn’t mean he’ll be as welcoming to strangers or other animals he encounters while out and about. Leashing your dog during walks will also keep him away from sticking his nose into poisonous or potentially harmful things, as well as keep him from darting away in pursuit of a squirrel or another dog. Plus, as difficult as it is to believe, not everyone enjoys dogs; leashing your dog helps you keep your dog away from people if need be.

11. Ensure that your dog’s living area is safe and secure. 

An unsecured living space can potentially invite your dog to escape or become seriously ill. Check fences for holes or gaps to make sure he can’t squeeze through and escape. Keep all poisonous materials up and out of reach. Pick up small items that your dog might be tempted to eat, such as toys, loose change and craft supplies. 

12. Be prepared for a disaster. 

According to Ready.gov, the likelihood that you and your pet survive an emergency depends on how ready you are now. Some of the things you can do to help ensure that your dog’s basic needs are met during a disaster is to assemble an emergency kit  and decide who will care for your dog if you need to evacuate and can’t take him with you. The time to think about this stuff is now!

Health Matters: Emergency First-Aid Essentials>>

13. Supervise all dog-and-dog or dog-and-child interactions.

All dogs should be supervised when in the company of other dogs or children, no matter how well-behaved everyone in the party might be. A responsible owner understands that it can only take one second for a friendly game to elevate into a misunderstanding and someone getting injured.

Teaching Your Dogs and Kids to Get Along>> 

14. Respect local laws. 

Help your dog set a good example by following any and all laws in your community that apply to dogs. If your neighborhood requires dogs to be leashes when in public, strap on a leash. If your city has laws against nuisance barking, find ways to help your yappy dog simmer down. A law-abiding, well-behaved dog is a good ambassador for all dogs!



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