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Responsible Dog Ownership: What it IS plus how to do it.

Profile picture of the author - Anna Lengacherby Anna Lengacher


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To the person with a new puppy: How to be a responsible dog owner. 
To the breeder: How to be a responsible dog owner.
Responsible Dog Ownership FAQ


Responsible dog ownership.

It’s a buzz term that sounds all good and right, yet today it is proving unclear what the expression actually means.   

While many dog owners consider themselves to be responsible dog owners, a new report from the University of Liverpool suggests that there’s actually a dose of unclarity about defining responsible dog ownership.

Dr. Carri Westgarth, a dog behavior expert at the University of Liverpool, explains, “Policy and campaigning messages related to dog ownership and welfare tend to focus on the concept of being a responsible owner. However, while ‘responsible dog ownership’ has considerable appeal as a concept, how it is perceived and interpreted has not been studied in-depth.”

 

So today we’re taking a deep dive into what responsible dog ownership really is, and how it applies to both expert dog breeders and responsible puppy owners.

Whether you are a breeder who is raising an entire family of happy little puppies, or you just purchased your very own puppy, we’re glad you are here.

There are key elements of dog ownership you don’t want to miss.

 

We recently had the honor of giving away an annual scholarship to our first place essay winner, Courtney Schopke, a student at MGH Institute of Health Professions.

In her essay, she stated, “Responsible dog ownership is a shared responsibility between the breeder and the new owner.”

Truth be told, she is spot on.

Responsible dog ownership begins the day a puppy enters the world and continues all throughout life.

 

Let’s Get Started!

There’s no checking a simple box, proving responsible for a day, and then moving on.

If you own a dog, then you are responsible for that dog either until death separates, or you responsibly transfer ownership to another qualified dog owner.

 

So let’s get started.

Eliminating all haze, let’s look with clarity at what it really means to be a responsible dog owner.

Whether you are a first-time puppy owner, a veteran dog parent, or an expert dog breeder, welcome! 

 

To the Person with a New Puppy: How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Caution against buying on impulse.

Trust us, we get it.  Meet a little pupper and they have a way of wiggling themselves straight to your heart.  They are a bundle of cuteness and super hard to resist.

However, owning a dog is no simple walk in the park.  Instead, it comes with demanding chores, sacrifice, and responsibility.

It is crucial that you understand what you are actually saying yes to before bringing home a new little puppy.

 

Before Your Purchase 

Before you say yes to adding a charming little puppy in your home, there are several things you’ll want to consider.

 

1. Consider Your Current Lifestyle

Be realistic here.  Don’t plan based on what you wished life would look like.  Instead, be honest with yourself.

What does the current lifestyle of both you and your family look like right now?

Realistically, do you actually have time and space to add another responsibility to your daily life?

 

In addition, what is your current activity level?

What hobbies are you enjoying?

What personalities are already present in your home?

Consider if your current schedule will allow you to go on regular walks with your dog.  Do your hobbies allow space for a little puppy to join you?  Are there personalities in your home that a little puppy may clash with?

As you look at your current lifestyle and answer these basic questions, you become empowered to make a better decision in finding the perfect puppy for you and your family.

 

2. Finances.

Believe it or not, dogs young and old alike require both your time and money.

Schopke explains, “This includes making sure the owner understands the commitment of owning a dog, that their home is dog-friendly, and that they are equipped with tags, a collar and leash, bed, a few toys, and [a] veterinarian.

“The owner should be prepared for the financial commitment of keeping the dog healthy and safe with…good hygiene, diet, proper exercise, and vaccinations, and be prepared for the financial requirement for therapeutic care or an emergency.”

As you can see, owning a dog entails far more than the initial price-tag.  Rather, as a dog owner, you should expect to encounter ongoing expenses as you provide your puppy with a safe and happy home.

Because of the uncertainty of health, you may wish to either intentionally set money aside in the case of a medical emergency.  Or you may benefit from getting pet insurance so you are covered should calamity strike.

(If you don’t yet have dog insurance, we recommend Trupanion.)

Screenshot of Trupanion Pet Insurance Website

3. Local Laws

Learn if there are any local laws or ordinances where you live that pertain to owning a dog.

Laws could include leash requirements, licensing, vaccinations, and noise control.

In addition, you may encounter a limited number of dogs that a person can have.

 

4. Ask Questions.

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions, especially when communicating with the breeder of a puppy that you are interested in.

Talk to the breeder directly and ask about his/her breeding practices.

If possible, visit the home where your puppies are first raised.

If you find a breeder that you really like but they don’t have puppies currently available, ask to be placed on a waiting list for a puppy from their next litter.

In addition, because expert breeders are committed to finding a good match for their puppies, expect them to also ask you questions in return.

 

5. Dog-proof Your Home.

Before you bring a little puppy home, look around to ensure your home is actually safe for a new little puppy.

Elevate electrical chords and place plants at a place where your puppy won’t be getting into them.

Alternatively, you might block off whole areas of space that are off-limits for furry little pals.

Take a moment to get down on your puppy’s level, and look around for anything that could prove hazardous for him or her.

 

6. Commit.

That’s right.  Once you’ve decided to bring a puppy home, go all in and fully commit.

Commit not just for today or this month or this year.

Rather, commit to the entire lifespan of whichever puppy you choose to bring home.

(In the event that you are simply unable to care for your puppy any longer, carefully plan for who your puppy’s next provider will be.  Be sure it is someone who truly cares about your dog and avoid your local shelter.)

 

Commit to providing your little pupper with adequate fresh water, proper shelter, and healthy food.

Commit to providing good health care and proper puppy socialization.

And always, commit to loving your puppy while providing her with a life she will genuinely enjoy.

 

After Your Purchase

Now that you’ve done the difficult work of choosing which puppy is right for you, take time to finalize the following steps.

 

7. Identification.

You’ll want to attach proper identification to your puppy as soon as she is yours.

Attach a tag to your puppy’s color that includes your name, address, and phone number.

More and more dog lovers are also getting their puppies microchipped as a way of permanently identifying a dog.

Lastly, be sure to keep any registrations up-to-date.

 

8. Create a Schedule.

Woman writing dog schedule in notebook with dog looking over the shoulder.

Unfortunately, chores and daily puppy care don’t just happen by themselves.

Instead, it’s important for you to now intentionally build new routines into your life in order to keep your puppy happy and thriving.

So go ahead and write out a detailed schedule listing when you will feed and exercise your new dog.  Include times to groom your dog, along with regular clean up sessions.

Not only will this allow you to make sure the basics are getting done, but it’ll also provide you with opportunities to bond deeper with your little fur pal.

Once your schedule is complete, post it where the whole family can see it and then stick to it.

In time, caring for your dog will feel like a normal rhythm in your otherwise full life.

 

9. Set Clear House Rules

This one is key for achieving a happy little puppy.

Your puppy has no understanding of things that are okay one day but not the next.

The result?  It’s painfully important to be consistent with your house rules right from day one.

What’s no one day should stay no the next day, and the day after that too.

 

10. Train Your Puppy

This is a great opportunity for you to connect with your little puppy.

To best train your puppy, you could enroll your puppy in a class, hire a one-on-one trainer, or choose to train your puppy at home.

Whichever you choose, always be patient, kind, and consistent with your puppy.

Use treats as a fun way of motivating and rewarding your little puppy, and praise your puppy often.

 

11. Socialize your Puppy

This one’s a fun one.  Socialize your puppy to new faces, smells, and experiences.

This could be as simple as inviting a friend over.

Or you could go on frequent walks together as you enjoy new sights, peculiar smells, and unusual sounds.

You might also socialize your puppy by visiting dog parks together and spending time around other animals.

Whatever the case, the earlier you begin socializing your little pup, the better.

Puppies are most receptive between three and twelve weeks of age, so go ahead and capitalize on this by going on a few extra adventures together during this window of time.

 

12. Eat Healthy.

What goes into a little puppy’s body makes a huge difference in their overall health and behavior.

If you only ate chips and hot-dogs all day every day, eventually you may not feel the greatest.

The same is true for your little puppy.

 

Be sure your puppy has frequent access to fresh, clean water.

Chihuahua dog outdoors in grass drinking water from a bowl.

Provide a diet that is rich in vitamins, and use only high-quality dog food.

We discuss why the brand of dog food actually makes a difference here.

We also couldn’t speak higher of the premium dog food created by Life’s Abundance.

To purchase a mix specific to your puppy, click here.

 

13. Bath and Groom Your Dog.

We talk more about this over here.

How often you groom and bath your little pal will depend both on the breed of your puppy as well as your surrounding environment.

However, no matter which breed you choose, you’ll want to take time to bath and groom your dog on a regular basis.

If you are feeling ambitious, you could try this at home.  Or there are also skilled professionals who are more than happy to help you.

 

14. Clean-Up as You Go

No matter how well a puppy or dog is housetrained, mistakes can happen.

So whether you’re taking a stroll on the beach or fine-dining on a rooftop somewhere, it’s up to you how you will respond should your doggy have an accident.

Be courteous to the folks around you and always be prepared to clean up after your pupper.

Whether that’s scooping poop or wiping up a puddle, consider it your responsibility to clean up after your pal should a mess ever occur.

 

14. Have FUN!

That’s right.  Here’s your permission to go have a boatload of fun.

Go on walks together, praise your puppy often, and throw in an occasional favorite puppy treat.

Play games together, go on adventures, grab a few toys, and HAVE FUN!

 

To the Breeder: How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Healthy puppies don’t just happen.  You are the one privileged to be with a puppy during his/her very first days.

It’s up to you set the stage for a happy and healthy little puppy.

 

1. Prepare the Puppy.

Schopke explains, “From birth until adoption, the breeder is responsible for the health and safety of each pup.  This could be weeks to years, so it is vital the breeder is appropriately prepared for each litter.

“The breeder sets the stage for the beginning of the dog’s life, including health, socialization, and safety.”

 

2. Educate the Buyer.

“The breeder also has a great opportunity to educate the new owner on the specifics of the dog breed to maximize the dog’s potential,” Schopke says.

She expounds, “This includes their breed history, habits, triggers, and suitable activities.  For example, an Australian Shepherd was bred for herding, tends to be loyal but can be standoffish with strangers and requires early socialization.  They are energetic and easily trainable and would likely benefit from some type of engagement, such as Frisbee or agility training.

“Every dog breed has different characteristics, like people’s cultures, and their interests and behavior vary greatly.  It is important to make sure the owner and dog breed are compatible based on age, energy level, and personality (as well as with any existing pets) to promote a loving and responsible relationship.”

 

3. Consider How Much Space is Provided.

When talking with a potential customer, learn how much space will be provided for the puppy once he reaches his full adult size.

Then, recommend a breed that will thrive in the allotted space.

For example, Schopke explains, “A French Bulldog would do just fine in a small apartment in the city, but a Goldendoodle would need an open layout, big yard or nearby park to run around and expel energy.  It is critical for a dog to be exercised appropriately to prevent misbehavior due to pent up energy.”

 

4. Maintain an Ongoing Relationship

Schopke advises, “As an expert of the breed, the breeder should remain available to the new owner for any questions that may arise about behaviors, health, or anything else that may be of concern to the new owner.”

Question marks above a Yorkshire Terrier standing with tongue out.

FAQ

Q. What is a responsible pet owner?

A responsible pet owner is one who supplies adequate food, shelter, and medical care for any pet under their care. They should also provide proper training and good socialization.

 

Q. What are the responsibilities of a dog owner?

The responsibilities of a dog owner include providing adequate food, shelter, and medical attention. Plus, they are also expected to train, exercise, socialize, groom, and play with their dog.

 

Q. How do I prepare for my first dog?

Ensure that you will have enough time and finances required for owning a dog. Then, dog-proof your home and commit to loving your dog for his/her entire life.

 

Q. How do dogs teach responsibility?

Caring for a dog increases a child’s empathy towards live animals. Plus, having a dog depend on you for regular food and exercise instills commitment, consistency, and true responsibility.

 

Q. Can you track your pet with a microchip?

Microchips in dogs are not a tracking device. Rather, they are radio-frequency identification implants that provide a permanent ID. Microchips don’t require a power source so they last a lifetime.

 

Q. Why should families have dogs?

Dog ownership is directly connected to increased heart health, decreased loneliness, lower stress, and greater stability. In addition, dogs help to ward off allergies while fostering a positive community.

 

In Closing

Responsible dog ownership doesn’t just happen.

Healthy puppies and happy families are not a mere coincidence.

Rather, responsible dog owners are expected to provide a safe and loving environment.

Clean water, healthy food, adequate medical attention, and safe shelter are but the basics for good and responsible pet ownership.

 

Yes, taking good care of a dog is work.

However, when done in love, you won’t just have a happy puppy on your hands.

Your family will also reap the benefits as you enjoy making memories together.

 

Now it’s your turn.  We’d love to hear from you.

Let us know in the comments below: what’s your favorite thing about owning a puppy or dog?

 

As always, we’re glad you are here.

Thanks for being a part of this dog-loving, joy-seeking community.

Until next time,

VIP Puppies

 

References:

AKC (2018).  75 Ways to be a responsible dog owner.  Retrieved from https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/lifestyle/responsible-dog-owner/.

AVMA (n.d.).  Responsible pet ownership.  Retrieved from https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/responsible-pet-ownership.

Kaye, T. (n.d.).  Can dogs teach kids responsibility?  Retrieved from https://www.petmd.com/dog/care/can-dogs-teach-kids-responsibility.

Cyrenne, S. (n.d.).  How to be a responsible pet owner: the ultimate guide to pet adoption.  Retrieved from https://www.homeoanimal.com/blogs/blog-pet-health/81145348-how-to-be-a-responsible-pet-owner-the-ultimate-guide-to-pet-adoption.

How to socialize an adult dog (2019).  Cesarsway.com.  Retrieved from https://www.cesarsway.com/how-to-socialize-an-adult-dog/.

How to socialize an older dog (n.d.).  Dogtopia.com.  Retrieved from https://www.dogtopia.com/blog/how-to-socialize-an-older-dog/.

Kay, N. (2012).  Top 10 things responsible pet owners do.  Retrieved from http://www.vetstreet.com/our-pet-experts/top-10-things-responsible-pet-owners-do.

Schopke, C. (2019).  Dog Breeders’ Influence on Responsible Pet Ownership.

Separate microchipping facts from fiction (n.d.).  HomeAgain.com.  Retrieved from https://www.homeagain.com/microchipping-facts.html.

Wisch, R. F. (2004).  Overview of local and state dog laws.  Retrieved from https://www.animallaw.info/intro/state-and-local-dog-laws.

 

Profile picture of the author - Anna LengacherAs the Editor in Chief, Anna Lengacher helps dog lovers learn the ropes of finding, raising, and caring for their dogs so they can enjoy many happy memories together.

 

 

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