Your checklist for savvy dog ownership

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Find food that fits your pet’s needs

Find a dog food that fits your pet’s needs

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Consider the source

If you’re looking for a new dog, be sure to source your new puppy only from a responsible breeder. The RSPCA has some good tips for what to look for in a breeder. Always ask the breeder to complete and sign the puppy contract. This will help ensure that they’re done everything to ensure good health. If they won’t sign, walk away. 

Before going to a breeder, always consider getting a dog of any age from a reputable adoption organisation such as the Blue Cross. There are hundreds of loveable dogs of all ages in adoption centres, just waiting for a forever home of their own, so check your options carefully before you choose your next four-legged family member!

Get your dog a degree!

Well-trained and properly socialised pets make happier, 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. 

Always make sure you go to training classes that are reward-based. Punishment-based training is still common but will ruin your friendship with your dog.

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 an 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?

Speak with your vet about whether or not neutering is right for your dog. Consider all sides of the matter carefully and choose what’s right for your individual pet. Animal adoption centres 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.

Keep moving!

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 to form a much stronger bond. Your dog will relish the attention, and you’ll both keep fit, too! 

Dogs need two or three walks every day, no matter what the weather, unless your vet has advised otherwise for a medical reason. Remember that dogs might not necessarily enjoy the same sports as us, like running next to a bike. They love, and need, to have plenty of time to sniff and explore and forage for smells and nature. If you can find woods and parks where you can let them explore and play as they choose, they’ll be very happy.

Feed the right food

Ask your vet about the best food to feed your puppy or dog. You need to 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, and puppies should not be fed adult dog food. 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 their 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 their ideal weight will help them stay active and healthy longer, and will help them better participate in fun family time with you. If your dog has already packed on some extra padding, help them shed it by asking your vet for advice on the best food for safe and effective weight loss.

There are many ways to be a responsible dog owner, and these are just a few examples of savvy, responsible pet parenting.

Reviewed by Dr. Hein Meyer, DVM, PhD, Dipl-ECVIM-CA and Dr. Emma Milne BVSc FRCVS