Every dog owner tries hard to give their pet the best possible care and lifestyle, but naturally, everyone has a different idea about what this means! How any two people care for and manage their dogs might be very different, but this doesn’t mean that one is right and the other is wrong-there are any number of ways to be a responsible dog owner, and in some cases, different types of dogs will require different methods of management and care.
However, there are a set of universal behaviours that all responsible dog owners display when it comes to taking care of their dogs, managing their behaviour, providing for their needs and managing their impact on the wider canine community-and in this article, we will outline what they are.
Are you a responsible dog owner?
How, when and where you get your dog in the first place is the first step in being a responsible dog owner-and the responsible dog owner does a great deal of research and considers everything carefully before proceeding.
This means ensuring that your work life, home life, living situation and future plans are all well suited to dog ownership before you adopt or buy, and that you work hard to narrow down the type of dog that would suit you and learn about their core traits.
When it comes to actually getting the dog, adopting or rehoming a dog is a really responsible choice that has a positive impact on both the dog that you get, and the wider canine community. If you buy a dog or puppy from a breeder, ensuring that you choose a responsible breeder who plans their litters carefully and breeds for health and positive traits rather than for cash or to achieve an exaggerated appearance is key.
Also, when buying a pedigree dog, always choose a breeder that has their dogs tested for the recommended breed-specific conformation and hereditary health problems that have been identified in the breed.
Responsible dog owners always take good care of their dog’s health, both in terms of preventative health care and ensuring that they are seen by a vet if they become ill or injured.
All dogs should receive a comprehensive veterinary check-up at least once a year, and have vaccinations and boosters, as well as the appropriate flea and worming treatments and dental care as needed too!
Taking care of your dog’s health also means feeding them a good quality diet, keeping them fit and monitoring their health and weight, and getting them examined promptly if something seems to be amiss.
All dogs need to be trained to be good canine citizens, and unruly or poorly controlled dogs are not bad dogs-the blame there lies firmly on the shoulders of their owners.
Responsible dog owners ensure that their dogs can follow essential and basic commands and know the rules for their home and wider interactions with the world-such as not jumping up at people, or pushing out through the front door when it is open.
Your dog should always be kept on the lead where this is mandated or appropriate, and if your dog has any problems or weaker areas of training, it is your responsibility to work on these and manage them in the meantime too.
For instance, if you know that your dog will chase smaller animals, you must keep them on a lead and/or muzzled when outside of permitted enclosed spaces, as well as working on their recall skills to improve their responsiveness.
Avoiding muzzling or putting your dog on a lead if doing so will pose a risk, threat or inconvenience to other dogs, owners of animals, or allowing your dog to display bad behaviours such as jumping up at strangers are all marks of irresponsible owners!
For many of us, our dogs are integral parts of the family, and loved just as much as children! This is absolutely fine-providing that you still recognise the fact that your dog is a dog and not a baby, and treat and manage them appropriately.
This means many things-including training, proper management and rules. It also means ensuring that your dog gets plenty of chances to play and socialise with other dogs, gets enough exercise and stimulation to meet all of their needs, and isn’t left alone for too long at a time.
Dogs need to be able to display natural behaviours too, such as chewing, playing and knowing the limitations of their homes and boundaries-and they also need to be fed a diet designed for a dog, and not human food!
Finally, there are several pieces of dog-specific legislation that all dog owners should know and adhere to, both in order to ensure compliance with the law and to keep all dogs, other people, and other animals safe.
The most obvious of these is to ensure that you always pick up after your dog when you are out walking, and dispose of their poop responsibly. Also, microchipping is now mandatory for all dogs in the UK, and so if your dog is not microchipped, this is something that you must take care of as a matter of urgency.
All dogs out in public in the UK must also wear a collar with a tag displaying their owner’s name, address and postcode, and must also be kept under control and comply with additional regulations such as being on the lead in designated places.
Dog owners are responsible for their dog’s behaviour, and any problems or damage that they cause-which means keeping them from wandering off, chasing other animals, harming others or otherwise leading to problems, accidents or damage.
Investing in pet insurance that includes third party liability coverage for your dog is a great idea-but it is no substitute for proper management and control, which is still down to you!