Your Responsibilities

The basics of dog ownership.

These are the basic responsibilities of a dog owner. Don't feel bad if you didn't know them. It takes education before you realize what a dog really needs...

  • Spay/neuter your pet unless you own a champion-quality purebred that you plan to responsibly breed (see Breeders).

  • Take your dog to a basic good manners training class which uses only positive reinforcement techniques (like clicker training)

  • Take the dog to a vet. on a regular basis for an annual physical exam., vaccinations, city licensing, and other care as needed.

  • Keep your dog leashed, in the house, or confined in a fenced yard, for his safety.

  • Brush his teeth daily (see Teeth).

  • Exercise him every day and play with him (walk, tug-of-war, chase, fetch)

  • Groom him regularly; that includes a bath once a month and toenail trimming (see Grooming)

  • Commit to keeping the dog in the house with his pack (family - see Outside Dogs)

  • "When you adopt, do it with the intention of a lifetime commitment... dog lovers who choose to adopt an adult or senior over a puppy.. are angels of mercy" (Reznick, Allan. "Dogs Are Never Disposable." Dog Fancy, Feb. 2004, 4).

  • Give heartworm medicine every month, and test for heartworms every year.

  • "Keep a leash by the door so that during an emergency you can grab it on your way out" (Morn, September. "Fire Safety Drill." Dog Fancy, Feb 2004, 17).

  • "To prevent your dog from getting lost during a fire [or any other emergency], make sure she wears a collar with her tags at all times" (Morn, September. "Fire Safety Drill." Dog Fancy, Feb 2004, 17).

  • Educate yourself about dogs, their care and safety issues and training. There is a lot to learn.

  • Pat yourself on the back for reading this list. You are on the way to becoming a responsible dog owner.

"Ten ways to safeguard his well-being:

1. Find the right veterinarian.

2. Feed for optimal health -- "Sudden changes in diet can cause vomiting or diarrhea, so start by feeding the same food your puppy ate at his breeder's or the shelter. Make any changes gradually by mixing new and old foods together...

3. Puppy/dog proof the house and yard. "..inspect your home and yard for potential hazards. In the yard, install a fence, and remove or place out of reach such items as toxic plants and bulbs, rodent and bug baits, fertilizer, and compost. Indoors, use baby gates, cupboard latches, and a crate to keep your dog out of dangerous areas. Post phone numbers for your vet., emergency clinic, and poison control clinic, and buy or assemble a doggie first aid kit.

4. Start dental home care. Brush daily; use "safe-to-swallow pet toothpaste" (see Teeth for more information on the importance of this item).

5. Train to save his life... Enroll in a positive training class ASAP. "Behavior problems top the list of reasons people surrender their pets to animal shelters. Forming good habits through proper training provides mental stimulation and assures your puppy will grow into a well-behaved, enjoyable companion. Group training classes provide a fun and safe learning environment for socialization with other dogs and unfamiliar humans. Practicing coming when called, even in the presence of distractions, may someday save your puppy's life...

6. Use car restraints. "Protect your puppy when he's riding in the car by using an airline-approved travel crate or safety harness designed for dogs. Never let your.. dog ride unprotected in the open bed of a pickup truck [or lean out the window of a car].

7. Always ensure ID is on your dog. "Don't forget that all-important collar, leash, and ID tag. Microchip implants..

8. Exercise safely. "Exercise helps develop normal strength and function... but don't go overboard... exercise to the point of fatigue can lead to tendon and ligament injury. Us caution in extreme weather, too (see Activities for Dogs).

9. Provide Daily Fun and Cuddles. "Attend to your [dog's] needs as a social pack animal... Snuggle, brush, massage, or simply hold him... Get silly with him by playing.. it'scientifically proven to improve your health as well...

10. Spay or Neuter. "Spaying or neutering reduces or eliminates the risk of cancer and infection of the reproductive organs. It can also reduce behavior problems such as roaming, marking, and aggression. Most important, it prevents contributing to pet overpopulation. And contrary to popular belief, spaying or neutering will not change your puppy's personality" (Bertram, Susan. "Your Puppy's Health." Dog Fancy, Feb 2004, 38-39).

Country Living

Colby Glass, MLIS