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— June 24, 2014 —

Five Ways to be a Responsible Dog Owner
by Daniel McElroy Jr.

As a dog owner, I strive to be responsible. I want my dogs to be enjoyable, not only to me, but to everyone who they might encounter. It’s very easy to get a dog we think is cute and feed it without taking all of the steps necessary to ensure your dog is a well balanced and enjoyable member of society. Being a responsible dog owner requires a bit more effort.

So, here are the Top 5 Steps you can take to ensure you are a Responsible Dog Owner:
5. Take your dog for necessary veterinary care.
Hopefully anyone would know to take their dog to the vet if it becomes seriously ill, but dogs need regular check ups and testing, especially as they age. A dog that is at the last 25% of their life expectancy is considered a senior. These older dogs need check ups to make sure everything is working properly and that they are as comfortable as possible.

4. Walk your dog (and pick up after them).
Even if you have a large yard and a tall secure fence, your dog needs to go for walks. Walks are important for enrichment and socialization. The “bigger” your dog’s world is, the better off he will be. As I mentioned in the title for item #4, picking up after your dog on your walks is an important part of being a responsible dog owner. Dogs can carry diseases and dog poop attracts rats, which are a whole issue unto themselves. All of this can expose us humans to diseases that we can catch from our dogs. Germs and parasites like leptospirosis, rabies and some worms can all be transmitted to humans. Cleaning up after our dogs does MUCH more than just keep us from stepping in poop. It can save lives, both human and canine.

3. Help your dog maintain a reasonable weight and feed good quality food.
A too-skinny dog is a neglected dog, but I believe a fat dog is also a neglected dog. A fat dog will suffer joint ailments and health issues that will reduce his quality of life and possible cause an early death. Proper nutrition and exercise are critical to helping your dog maintain a healthy weight. There are way too many products out there that claim to be “balanced and nutritious” while a quick check of the ingredient list would show you that the food is not good quality at all. Please research your dog’s food and make sure it is of good quality. If you choose to feed a dry food, this link will give you an easy, impartial way to judge the quality of your dog’s food: www.abouttimecanecorso.com/KibbleQuality.html.

2. Train your dog and be aware of the dangers that face him.
We all have them…the dog in the neighborhood that explodes every time they see another dog, or the dog that charges the fence whenever a dog walks nearby. I have to admit, my Rottie “Peace” was extremely dog reactive when he was a younger dog. I worked very hard to train him and I am very happy that he no longer explodes when he sees a dog while on a walk. We (unfortunately) do have a couple of neighbors who let their dog charge the fence when we walk by and they simple don’t understand why it’s a problem…after all, It IS their yard, right? Here’s the issue. I have personally known of at least one dog that was very seriously injured in a fight through a wrought iron fence. The injuries were so severe that the dog had to be euthanized. The four inch gap in the average city fence is plenty wide enough for a dog to get a hold of another dog. Reactive dogs can start fights even if they are restrained. Leashes can break and collars come off. Training to reduce reactivity can help to reduce the risk of fights and injuries.

1. The number one way to be a responsible dog owner is…
Select a dog that is appropriate for your handling ability and lifestyle. Learn about your dog and seek guidance for behavioral problems early. This means to go and get the dog that is right for YOU. Picking a dog based on looks or his “cool factor” is a recipe for disaster. If you want an active companion, then research the breeds, types or mixes that tend to have those traits. If you are rather sedentary, select a dog that will enjoy that lifestyle. If you don’t have a lot of money for training, selecting a very high drive, working breed dog is probably a bad idea. Also, it’s a great idea to develop a relationship with a trainer before you even have a dog. A good trainer can help you go through the local humane society and meet a few dogs. They may see things in a dog’s behavior that you might miss. Some warning signs are subtle and the fee you pay for a trainer’s help may save you a lot of money or heartbreak down the road when you feel you have to return a dog that you have become attached to.
So, there you have it. Five simple steps that can make life better for you, your canine companion and your neighbors. It’s all our “responsibility.”


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