Being a responsible dog owner means being the best caregiver that you can be. If you are considering taking a dog into your life, you need to think seriously about the commitment. It is much more than providing food, water and shelter. You should put a great deal of thought into adopting a dog because it is a lifetime commitment.
Make sure that you choose a dog that fits your lifestyle. Do you enjoy outdoor activities or are you the stay-at-home type? All aspects of your family's life - activities, hobbies, personalities, and schedules - should be evaluated before you adopt a dog. Consider the time commitment for training, socializing, exercising, feeding, and play.
Also be aware that there are cost considerations in adding a dog to your family, such as veterinary care, food, toys, treats, accessories and the cost of boarding should you go on vacation.
Upon your evaluation, determine what qualities you want in a dog. Consider the size, energy level, grooming needs, trainability and temperament. Is it important that your dog get along with children? If you rent, are there breed or weight restrictions? Make sure that you do plenty of research to find which dog best fits your profile.
Here are a few things to consider before adopting a dog:
Preparing for your dog's arrival:
- Make sure you have food, a collar, leash, bowls, crate, baby gate, appropriate toys and a dog bed for him to sleep.
- Dog-proof your home. Move hazardous objects (breakable or small objects) out of the dog's reach. Make sure that electrical chords are inaccessible to curious pups. Block off any area of your house that you want off-limits to the dog.
- You should choose a veterinarian for your new dog as soon as possible. Ask friends or the rescue group for referrals.
- Ask your veterinarian or the rescue group for advice on what and how often to feed your dog.
Bringing Your Dog Home
- Spend time getting acquainted and getting your dog acclimated to his new home.
- Make sure that you feed your dog a nutritionally balanced diet. Fresh water should always be made available.
- Providing your dog with a variety of toys will help prevent him from getting into things. Get some toys that you and your dog can play with together, such as balls and plush toys. A Kong is a great toy to keep your dog occupied when stuffed with yummy treats.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
- Keep your dog healthy with regular visits to your veterinarian. Have illnesses checked out promptly. Keep your dog current on his vaccinations, following the schedule recommended by your veterinarian. Vaccinations include those against rabies, distemper/parvo and kennel cough. Have your dog checked yearly for heartworm and keep him on the proper preventive medicine. Keep a copy of your dog's vaccination records handy.
- Make sure that you provide your dog with exercise, play, socialization and stimulation. Give your dog enough exercise to keep him physically fit. Most dog owners find that playing with their canine companion, along with walking him regularly, provides sufficient exercise. This will benefit the dog's health and could prevent behavior problems.
- Groom, brush, comb and trim the hair and nails of your dog as needed for his health and comfort.
- To prevent tooth decay and gum disease, it is a good idea to clean your dog's teeth regularly. Most dogs will accept a toothbrush if introduced to it slowly and gently. You can also give your dog products such as hard biscuits, nylon chews and rawhides to keep his teeth clean.
Keeping Your Dog Safe
- Outfit your dog with a collar and identification tag that includes your name, address and phone number at all times. No matter how careful you are there's a chance that your dog may become lost - an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your dog will be returned home safely.
- Make sure to license your dog. Most cities and counties require an up-to-date license and rabies vaccination for all dogs.
- Check with your town hall for information about local laws.
- Microchips are a method of permanently identifying your dog, and can be invaluable in recovering your dog should he become lost.
- Follow this simple rule - off property, on leash. Even a dog with a valid license and rabies tag should always be walked on a leash.
- Pick up after your dog and always have poop bags handy.
- Don't let your dog roam. Make sure that he is always securely enclosed in your fenced-yard. Underdog ResQ discourages leaving certain dogs unsupervised, even in a fenced yard.
- Establish an emergency contact to take care of your dog in the event of a sudden illness, hospitalization or other emergencies. This person should ideally be someone your dog has spent time with and is comfortable with when without his owner. Leave a list of general care instructions in a safe place.
- Make a will to ensure the safety and care of your pet in the event of your death. Don't assume that a family member will step in to take care of the dog.