Your checklist for savvy dog ownership
Consider the source
For those looking for a new dog: be sure to source your new puppy only from responsible breeders such as those recommended by the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeders Scheme or consider a dog of any age from a reputable rescue organisation such as the Blue Cross . There are hundreds of loveable dogs of all ages in shelters just waiting for a forever home of their own – check your options carefully before you choose your next 4-legged family member!
Get your dog a degree!
Well-trained and properly socialised pets make better companions, pure and simple. There is a wide range of organisations offering training and socialisation classes for dogs, so be sure your dog gets an advanced education! Even an old dog can learn new tricks. With the right knowledge under their belt, your dog will be a better-behaved best friend in all kinds of situations. Being able to rely on your dog’s appropriate behaviour will make every interaction more fun for both of you. Contact your local dog club for a full list of obedience classes.
Act in an emergency
Hopefully you’ll never need to put it into practice, but it’s vital to know first aid for dogs in case of accident or sudden illness. Several organisations, such as the Blue Cross, offer a wealth of useful info online to get you started – try a simple search with the keywords “first aid for dogs” or “pet first aid”. You’ll also find dozens of books and apps on canine first aid. It’s essential to get your dog to a vet immediately if an emergency occurs – nothing can take the place of prompt hands-on professional care from a qualified and experienced veterinary surgeon. It’s also important to have a plan in place for your dog’s care in case you are ill or otherwise unable to care for them temporarily. Enlist a trusted friend to act as an emergency carer for your dog.
To neuter or not to neuter?
If you aren’t planning to breed your dog then it’s time to speak with your vet about whether or not neutering is right for your dog. Consider all sides of the issue carefully and choose what’s right for your individual pet. Animal shelters are often bursting at the seams with unwanted pets awaiting loving forever homes, so if you choose not to spay or neuter your dog you’ll need to be extra vigilant about not contributing to the number of unplanned litters already born each year.
Keeping your dog active will not only keep them entertained and exercised – and less likely to act up – it also helps the two of you form a much stronger bond. Your dog will relish the attention, and you’ll both keep fit, too! Feel free to try a variety of games and dog-friendly sports to keep you both entertained – maybe even something out of the ordinary like bikejoring, French Ring Sport, lure coursing, carting, or Treibball. Always play it safe: use safe well-fitting equipment (especially for activities involving speed or pulling extra weight, such as carting or drafting) and consult your vet before starting anything strenuous.
Feed the right food.
Consider your dog’s age, lifestyle, breed and general activity level carefully before choosing their food. Large and small breed puppies have different needs when it comes to growing up and growing old – be sure to support your dog’s individual needs properly throughout their life by giving the precise nutrition they need at each stage.
Watch the waistline.
Helping your dog to avoid getting fat – or even a bit chubby – is one of the best things you can do to support his overall physical and emotional health. Overweight or obese dogs can have a shorter lifespan than their healthy weight pals, and they often have a reduced quality of life as well. Keeping your dog at his ideal weight will help him stay active and healthy longer, and will help him better participate in fun family time with you. If your dog has already packed on some extra padding, help him shed it with a nutritious food aimed at weight reduction.
There are many ways to be a responsible dog owner, and these are just a few examples of savvy, responsible pet parenting.