Pet Ownership and Responsibility
Whether you are a seasoned pet owner or are new to the trials and tribulations of owning a pet, responsibility should be first and foremost on your list.
Being a responsible pet owner is important, not only for the health and well-being of your pet, but also for your family and friends and other people you may come in contact with.
When you first get your pup, you have no doubt made a decision as to the breed, sex, size and exercise requirements of your new family member. If your pet is a rescue, he or she in all likelihood has already been spayed or neutered. If you have purchased a dog from a breeder or other source, you need to make a decision as to whether your pet will be spayed or neutered. Also if your pup is a purebred, you may have signed a contract and you should read it thoroughly and abide by the terms. There are often conditions specifying when and if you can sterilize your pup. Read the contract carefully and understand what is expected.
If your pet will never be bred, it is best to have the sterilization done when your vet feels the time is right. Male dogs are very prone to testicular cancer and this is preventable when your pup is neutered. You also need to consider the fact that intact males or females in heat are not permitted in off-leash dog parks. Alternatively, if you are travelling and have to leave your pup behind, you may also be turned down to have him stay in a boarding facility, unless he is kept crated in an area by himself. Not having your dog neutered can also result in your pup “marking” and getting aggressive towards other dogs.
Being a responsible pet owner also means that you, or someone you hire, will walk your dog on a regular basis. Daily exercise is very important to your pet’s health and well-being and will also help to socialize your pet with other people and pets. If you have a high-energy pup, this is even more important. Lack of exercise can result in your pup getting frustrated, thus leading to destructive behaviour in your home.
With all pups as well as high-energy ones, if you cannot provide them with enough walks to release their energy, you may need to take time on a daily basis to play with your little friend. You could play fetch, hide and seek or other games which will not only keep your pup physically active, but will also stimulate their minds. Spending time to play with your pup will also help your new friend bond with you and develop good social skills.
As a responsible pet owner, you should always be sure to pick up after your pet. Ideally the rule of thumb is to have a poop bag, an extra just in case, and one to share if you meet someone who may need one. Also, as a courtesy, it is best to keep your pup on a grassy area on the boulevard and not on your neighbour’s lawn and, if possible, don’t allow you pup to defecate on the sidewalk.
If you have never owned a dog before, it is best to start off on the right foot with a good quality dog food. Puppies require a specialized “puppy formula” to aid in the growth and development of their bones and muscles. Adult dogs need food formulated for their age and activity levels. A good quality food will promote good health, a shiny coat, a happy pup and a long life.
In addition, if you are a first time dog owner or have not had one for many years, it would be wise to take your pup for obedience training. A well-mannered pet is a lot more fun than one that is constantly misbehaving. Also, if you have adopted a rescue dog, it is important that your pup is assessed for behaviour issues. If there are any aggression or other undesirable issues, you need to get professional help to curb the unwanted behaviour. If your dog seems overly aggressive, either due to fear or not having proper training, you should invest in a muzzle so no one gets bitten. If you find your dog is aggressive and not well socialized with other dogs, you should avoid off-leash dog parks until your pup is better behaved.
All pets need to be kept up-to-date with all necessary vaccinations and should have regular check-ups with your vet. Regular check-ups, including yearly blood work, will also show changes that may have occurred in your pup’s health. These check-ups can often detect unseen illness and hopefully catch any issues before they get out of hand.
In looking at the health of your pup, don’t forget that regular teeth brushing is also important. This will help to minimize the buildup of tarter on their teeth and will keep their gums healthy. For certain dog breeds that have a tendency for poor teeth or those that eat soft foods, this is even more important. Dental work for your pup is costly and also entails putting your pup to sleep to work on their teeth.
Regular brushing and combing of your dog’s coat is also important to keep your furry friend looking good and ensures that the fur doesn’t become matted. Brushing also gives you an opportunity to check for fleas and ticks. If you have a breed that requires grooming, it’s a good idea to get your pup started early so he gets used to going to a groomer. It will be far less stressful on him in the long run. It is also important not to leave too long an interval between grooming appointments as this will result in the hair growing too long and getting matted which makes the grooming harder on your pup.
Owning a pet also requires you to have your pup licensed. You will receive a tag to attach to their collar and, if lost, you will have a better chance of having him returned to you. Having your pup micro chipped, while not mandatory, is also a good idea if your pup is lost or stolen. In addition, you would be wise to have an identification tag, or personalized collar, made with your pup’s name and your phone number on it so he can be safely brought back home.
If you travel a lot with your four legged friend, be sure that he gets used to riding in a car. Some dogs can get “car sick”, so it’s best to start slow with short trips to see how he does. It’s also wise not to feed your pup before you set out on a road trip. Keeping your dog safe in your vehicle is also important. Just as you and any other passengers in the vehicle wear a seat belt, your pup should also be securely strapped in a seat belt or, alternatively, kept in a secured crate while travelling.
Owning a pet means being responsible but, when you do things right, it’s also very rewarding and enjoyable. Enjoy your pup, have fun and stay safe.