Responsible Dog Ownership Month

September is the AKC’s Responsible Dog Ownership Month. This is a time set aside to focus on what it really means to be a responsible dog owner.

Am I ready to commit?

Thinking about getting a puppy? Asking yourself some simple questions prior to choosing a dog can set you and your furry friend up for a happy, healthy relationship. The first one should be, “Am I ready to commit to the responsibility of owning a dog for his or her entire lifetime?”

Owning a dog is a significant commitment – not only of your time, but also money. This includes everything from daily exercise and mental stimulation to proper nutrition and healthcare.

Avoid impulsive decisions. Do your homework by researching different breed characteristics or consider adopting a puppy or dog from a shelter. Talk to other dog owners about the pros and cons of their dogs. Most people will be more than happy to share their experiences to help you make an informed decision.

How do I choose the right dog?

Identify the type of dog that matches your lifestyle and works with your living space. Size, exercise requirements, grooming needs, temperament and compatibility with children and adults should all figure into your decision. The most common reason dogs are surrendered to shelters is due to a mismatch between the owner’s lifestyle and the dog’s needs.

Do you want a purebred dog or a mixed breed dog? The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds are all members of the same breed and share common traits called the “breed standard”.

A good breeder will allow you to see where the puppies are raised, meet the dam and the sire and interact with the puppies. They will also be willing to take the puppy back for any reason whatsoever and should specify this in the contract.

Mixed breeds offer several advantages over purebreds. You benefit from the combined traits of two or more breeds. You also get a dog likely to have fewer genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs. Mixed breeds, in fact, are often considered the more “natural” dog.

Benefits of a Rescued Dog

Consider adopting a dog or puppy from a rescue group. Reputable organizations carefully evaluate dogs to ensure they are placed in appropriate homes. Consider the following benefits associated with adopting:

  • All dogs deserve a second chance.
  • An adoption counselor can help you select a dog that will match your lifestyle.
  • If you lack the time or patience to housetrain a puppy or correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice.
  • Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a more quiet or reserved dog could be a better match for your lifestyle.
  • Shy dogs can be very sensitive and require gentle handling. Are you able to provide that kind of care?

What are the needs of each life stage?

  • Don’t skimp on food quality. Proper nutrition is vital to a long and active life.
  • You must be able to afford preventative healthcare, including vaccinations and parasite control as well as medical expenses due to illnesses or injuries.
  • Responsible dog owners limit reproduction through spay/neuter, containment or managed breeding.
  • Be prepared to make quality of life decisions in consultation with your veterinarian as your dog ages.
  • Make prior arrangements for your dog’s care in the event you can no longer care for them.

Always be Prepared

  • Clean up after your dog when walking, hiking or hanging out in public. This is not only respectful to others, it helps maintain a healthy environment.
  • Do your homework. Obey all local ordinances, including leash requirements and noise control.
  • Be sure to provide a secure area for exercise. Don’t allow your dog to stray, and make sure they are properly identified in the event they do become lost (i.e. ID tags, microchips, personalized collars).
  • Incorporate your dog into your family emergency plans in the event of a fire or other disaster.

Being a responsible dog owner will ensure the best possible experience for both you and your dog. Enjoy!