Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Photo by Anusha Barwa
With all the companionship and love that our dogs give so freely, it's hard to imagine that some owners just don't take responsibility for their dogs. But it's true. Millions of dogs—healthy dogs—are euthanized every year. Whether through owner neglect or owner ignorance, millions of healthy dogs will endure the same fate this year. So what's a responsible dog owner to do? The best thing you can do, as a dog owner, is to ensure that your dog doesn't become a statistic, and you do that through responsible pet ownership.
Welcoming a new dog into your house means taking on additional long-term responsibility. Many new dog owners find something cute or romantic about bringing that puppy in the window home until they realize that there's a modicum of work involved in caring for that cute, adorable little face, and a price to pay for those wet, slobbering kisses. You wouldn't expect to return a baby. Its' no less wrong to return a dog when the novelty wears off, and it ought to be criminal to leave a dog somewhere on its own. In many ways, dogs are as vulnerable as newborn infants are, but dogs are dependent upon their owners for their entire lives.
Listed below you'll find basic steps to responsible dog ownership, and many of them are just common-sense rules of the road.
1. Selecting Your Dog – Turn to a local animal shelter or rescue operation to select a puppy or dog. Remember that older dogs need loving owners too. Refuse to purchase a puppy or dog that started life in a puppy mill.
2. Test Your Dog – Contact a veterinarian and ask him to run the usual series of tests on your new companion.
3. Spay or Neuter Your Dog – Responsible pet owners always spay and neuter their dogs and cats. There are far more dogs waiting for adoption than there are owners to adopt them.
4. Provide Medical Care – Aside from the annual physical examination and vaccinations, protect your dog from heartworm, ticks and fleas. Talk with your vet about the many options available today. Contact your vet at the first sign that something is wrong with your dog.
5. Provide Adequate Food and Water – Provide food suited to your dog's age, size and condition.
6. Walk Your Dog – Your dog will let you know when it needs to be walked.
7. Provide Exercise and Recreation – Provide ample space, dog toys and opportunity for your pet to exercise. If you haven't thrown a Frisbee in twenty years, you'll be surprised at how much fun it is to try to outsmart your dog—unlikely!
8. Protect Your Dog from Abuse – Animal cruelty is serious business, and in some states, it's a felony. Even the FBI acknowledged that animal cruelty is a known marker (future indicator) of violence against humans. If anyone in your house intentionally mistreats your dog, seek help immediately. You could thwart the next school shooting.
9. Discourage Aggressive Behavior – You'll know the difference between hearty play and aggressive behavior. Contact your vet at the first sign of aggressive behavior to discuss your options.
10. Coping with Serious Illness and Geriatric Dogs –Geriatric dogs are prone to many of the same illnesses that plague geriatric humans. You'll want to do everything in your power to keep your dog comfortable at the end, but at some point, it may become necessary to end the suffering. If you've been a responsible dog owner throughout the dog's life, you'll want to end that life just as responsibly as you cared for it.