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15 Signs You’re a Responsible Dog Owner

There’s an unspeakable bond between dog and owner—one in which you’d do anything to ensure your pet feels as healthy and happy as possible. That said, at times your pet parent responsibilities can feel like a long and exhausting to-do list. Sticking to the regimen, however, will culminate in a pet that lives a long and satisfying life. 

Whether you’re a new dog parent or have had many under your proverbial wing, it’s important to do each of the following for your pup. If you are, it’s a sign that you’re a responsible dog owner. 

1. Annual Physical Exam

Each year, your dog should have an annual physical exam complete with corresponding laboratory blood work, other diagnostic tests or procedures, and vaccinations as per your primary care veterinarian's recommendations.  This cannot be stressed and overemphasized enough. 

Pro Tip: There are plenty of genetic DNA tests on the market to add to further information about your pet's overall health and risks. Tech advances are coming to vet med fast and furious, so there may be telehealth options your PC vet may offer. 

2. Spay or Neuter 

In the majority of cases, spaying or neutering your pet is of utmost importance for their health and overall long-term quality of life. Your veterinarian can offer guidance about when it’s appropriate to spay or neuter, as this varies from pet to pet. 

3. Dental Cleanings 

All responsible dog parents must do this, even if it “seems” unnecessary. Adhere to regular at-home dental cleaning and preventative care in conjunction with an in-clinic dental cleaning per your veterinarian’s recommendation. This can help with disease and decay, both of which are completely preventable. There is abundant literature supporting the benefits of a consistent dental care program, and the impact it can make towards good health and longevity in dogs. 

4. Balanced, High-Quality Diet 

Feed your pup a complete diet using high-quality foods that meet feeding standards. Many commercial pet foods have a lot of “filler” materials, and dogs require different foods according to their life stage. For instance, puppies need a higher-calorie diet. If you’re not sure what food is best for your dog, discuss it with your veterinarian. 

Pro Tip: Some diets can also support certain types of conditions such as allergies, heart, or kidney disease. 

5. Routine Grooming  

Keeping your dog bathed and well-groomed is extremely important whether done at home or by a professional. Only a few dog breeds don’t shed their coats, so it's very important they have regular bathing, brushing, and fur trimming/grooming practices. It’s also of high importance—and often overlooked—to have their ears and eye area cleaned, as well as proper expression of anal glands if needed.

6. Trimmed Claws 

Along with routine grooming, ensure your dog’s claws are kept at a proper length. Claws that are too long can cause discomfort to your dog while they’re walking or running, and in extreme cases of unchecked growth, they can even grow into and through their toe pads. 

Pro Tip: If you feel uncomfortable clipping your dog’s claws, you can have your groomer or vet do this. The "quick" of the claw is particularly important to avoid.


7. Flea and Tick Prevention 

Stick to an anti-flea, tick, heartworm, and parasite program that ensures your pup is resistant to these infections and infestations. If you’re not sure where to start, your veterinarian can offer guidance. Some areas also require additional prevention medications. 

8. Leashed or Fenced

Unless your dog is highly trained and knows to stick by your side, they should ideally remain leashed or fenced. This responsible dog owner practice prevents them from running into traffic, getting into fights with other dogs, and ensures you always know where they are. 

9. Lots of Playtime and Exercise 

Give your dog plenty of playtime and exercise! The same benefits we get from these activities also apply to them, including a healthier heart and body, better sleep, less anxiety, and mental stimulation. The amount and level of exertion should be monitored and access to immediate, freshwater post-exercise is a must! 

10. Training and Socialization

Dog training and socialization go hand-in-hand, and the benefits of socialization cannot be overemphasized! It helps ensure your pup has appropriate responses and behaviors toward you, other people, and even other animals. The benefits of these activities are also of high importance for their mental development and overall health

11. Collar and Microchip 

In the off-chance that your dog does escape or run away from you, having a collar with identifying information—along with an up-to-date microchip—can help ensure a safe return home. If your dog doesn’t have a microchip yet, this procedure is very simple. It’s as simple as a needle prick and is considered the most reliable way to ID a wandering pup. Just make sure that the microchip information is up-to-date.

12. Keep Toxic Substances Out of Reach 

Keep toxic chemicals, plants, foods, and insects out of your dog's reach. Not sure if a food, plant, or substance is toxic? askPurrch

If you believe your dog has ingested or has been exposed to a toxic substance or chemical, please contact pet poison control immediately (888-426-4435) and/or go to a pet emergency hospital. 

13. Prepare Well for Travel 

Traveling with your dog can be enjoyable, but it requires a lot of foresight to ensure regulations are being met and your dog is safe and healthy. 

There are many regulations and laws that must be followed for safety and security reasons. Please be aware of these well in advance if you plan to travel within the continental USA and abroad. Make sure the carrier, container, or baggage used for travel are of appropriate size and comfort and that they follow all required regulations

14. Scoop the Poop

This one’s more about being courteous to those around you. Always be prepared to scoop your dog’s poop—even in the most unexpected and embarrassing of places such as the middle of a busy crossing or walkway, inside a store, or on a hike. Many dog leashes have a compartment where you can store bags. 

15. Have an Emergency Plan 

Have a plan of action for what to do in case of both emergency and non-emergency illness. Is your vet’s office open for after-hours non-emergency issues, or do you need to have another option lined up? 

A dog’s loyalty, unfailing love, and immense sense of devotion and companionship is one of the greatest blessings we have as a pet parent. Show up for your pup every day of their lives to return the love in kind.

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  • Dog ownership
  • Responsible Dog Owner