We love our dogs, and our dogs love us. Those two facts cannot be denied. You adore your dog, but are you a responsible pet parent? September is Responsible Dog Ownership Month, and it’s a great time to ask yourself: “Am I fulfilling my obligations to my dog?”
Here are a few thoughts to consider from a behavioral perspective:
- Does your dog drag you when you go for a walk?
- Does she beg for treats from your dinner table?
- Does he jump on guests or on furniture?
- Does he bark incessantly when you’re not home (or out in public)?
When a dog exhibits bad, dangerous, or annoying behaviors, whose responsibility is it? For the most part, the person at the end of the leash, because when you share your life with a dog, you are taking on a living being who looks to you for his food, shelter, love and more. And along with the privilege of owning a dog, comes the responsibility to train your pup to be a good canine citizen.
What is responsible dog ownership?
Being a responsible pet owner involves more than assuring your dog is healthy and regularly sees a veterinarian. It means you teach him basic commands: sit, stay, heel, etc. Being a good canine citizen could mean your dog doesn’t jump on guests, takes treats from you leaving your fingertips intact, doesn’t bark incessantly, and many other behaviors pet owners deem unacceptable.
When you’ve decided to expand your family by adopting a puppy or a senior dog, you are also saying, “I am going to work to make sure this puppy is the happiest, healthiest and best-trained he can be.” This might mean taking him to doggy training classes, investing in dog training books or videos or working one-on-one with a dog trainer. Many dogs find themselves being surrendered to a shelter because of “behavior” issues, which if the owner had worked with her, might have been curbed.
Here are a few things you can do to be a responsible dog owner:
- Pick up the poo! The person at the end of the leash is responsible for carrying waste disposal bags and cleaning up after Fido. If you can avoid it, don’t let your dog do his business on the neighbor’s beautifully manicured lawn.
- Keep your dog leashed in public. Unless you’re in an area where off-leash activities are allowed, please keep him leashed. Your dog is adorable, but to strangers he may be a scary, furry projectile running toward them. Some cities and states have leash laws, so there may be fines for not keeping Fido leashed.
- Make certain your dog doesn’t bark the entire time you’re away from home. Your neighbors will not appreciate it. Incessant barking could mean your dog is suffering separation anxiety, and this might warrant a call to a dog trainer to address.
Here are some specific tasks to embrace as a responsible dog owner:
1. Teach your dog basic commands. This may include sit, stay, come, and heel.
2. Introduce him to other dogs and other humans. Socialization is key to a well-adjusted dog.
3. Crate train him for safety when you’re away from home.
4. Give your dog a job. Whether it’s figuring out a puzzle treat toy, playing fetch or another physical and mental activity, dogs love being productive.
5. Reward your dog for a job well done. Determine whether your dog is praise- or treat-motivated and reward him. Your dog will understand the tone of your voice and will just appreciate when you lavish him with praise.
6. Play with your dog. Dogs are fun-loving and enjoy rousing play time with you.
7. Make time for adventure—whether its long walks on the beach, or in the woods, or around the neighborhood.
8. Pet her. Dogs love belly and ear rubs or a shoulder massage. It’s been shown our blood pressure drops when we pet a dog so it’s a win-win.
9. Take a road trip. Hit the open road, go to a park or a dog friendly restaurant, and enjoy the day!
10. Do what you can to keep your dog’s tail wagging–it’s a sure sign of love and happiness!
A mentally and physically stimulated dog will be a happy dog and a wonderful family member. What is the best part of sharing your life with a dog?
Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words Matter, My Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.
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