Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Among companion animals, dogs are unmatched in their devotion, loyalty and friendship to humankind. Anyone who has ever loved a dog can attest to its hundred-fold return. The excitement your dog shows when you come home, the wagging tail at the sound of the leash being taken from its hook, the delight in the tossing of a tennis ball, and the head nestled in your lap-those are only some of the rewards of being a dog owner.

Owning a dog is not just a privilege-it's a responsibility. These animals depend on us for, at minimum, food and shelter, and deserve much more. If you are considering taking a dog into your life, you need to think seriously about the commitment that dog ownership entails. If you already have a dog, you need to consider if you are fulfilling all your obligations as its owner.

  • Recognize the Commitment
    Dog ownership is not something to be entered into lightly. Owning a dog is a long-term emotional and financial commitment. Before deciding that a certain dog is right for you, you must make an honest assessment as to whether your home is right for any dog.
  • Evaluate Your Lifestyle
    If you get a dog, he (or she) will become a part of your life. You need to make sure that he's suited for your lifestyle. For example, if you are athletic, you will probably not be happy with a dog that has a low energy level. If you are extremely neat, you will probably want a dog that doesn't shed much. All aspects of your family's life - hobbies, activities, personalities, schedules - should be evaluated before you get a dog.

    Once you have decide that a dog will fit into your life style and you are committed to caring for him/her for at least 12years.

    Get a Referral
    You have a much better chance of being satisfied if you get your dog from a responsible, ethical breeder whose primary concern is to produce dogs of high quality, good health and stable temperament.  The breeder referral person in Michigan is Gini Shaw of the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Greater Detroit.

    Expect Questions

    A responsible breeder or rescue contact will ask you extensive questions about the type of home you can offer a dog. These people are as committed as you are to making the right match between you and a dog. Give honest answers to their questions. Remember that, due to their experience in the breed, they know what issues are important in placing one of their dogs.

    Prepare to Wait

    Availability varies. Be aware that a puppy or dog of the breed you've decided on may not be easy to find. Responsible breeders do not breed often, and many times the puppies of a planned breeding are already spoken for. Just remember that a good dog is worth waiting for.

    Avoid Pet Shops
    Resist those adorable puppies in the pet shop window. Unfortunately, most puppies sold in stores are the products of large scale commercial breeding operations, where puppies may not have received the time and care necessary to develop into good pets.

    Get It in Writing
    Information about the sale or adoption should be in writing. The contract should include, for example, details regarding any fees, spay-neuter agreements, health guarantees, terms of co-ownership, restrictions on breeding, and living arrangements. It should also include instructions on what to do if the dog, despite your best efforts, simply doesn't work out for you or your family. Most responsible breeders will insist that the dog be returned to them.

    I.D. Your Dog
    Your dog should wear an identification tag with your name, address and phone number at all times. This will increase the chances of your dog being returned to you if he is lost or runs away.

    Consider Microchips or Tattoos
    Microchips and tattoos are methods of permanently identifying your dog, and can be invaluable in recovering your dog should he become lost. You may wish to enroll your dog in AKC's affiliate, the Companion Animal Recovery service, which is the nation's largest database of microchipped pets.

    Teach Basic Commands
    Teach your dog basic commands such as sit, stay, come and down. Training your dog will not only make your life easier, but will also fulfill your dog's desire to learn and please you.

    Go to Class
    Obedience classes can be a great experience for you and your dog. You may even discover that your dog has a great talent for learning, and be able to compete in obedience, agility or tracking events.

    Socialize Your Dog
    Expose your dog to different people and settings regularly. Take him to the park, to the pet store, on a walk through town. Praise him for accepting petting from friendly strangers, and for behaving calmly around other dogs. The more your dog learns of the world, the more comfortable he will be in it.

    Prevent Nuisance Barking

    Don't let your dog's incessant barking annoy your neighbors. Teach your dog not to bark without real provocation. If your dog's barking is causing problems while you're away from home, try a silencing collar.

    Give Your Dog a Job
    Keep your dog active and alert by giving him tasks to do. Teach him to fetch the paper, carry groceries in a pack or empty the dryer. Make him sit before getting a treat or lay down before going outside. Giving your dog a sense of purpose and accomplishment will increase his sense of well-being.

    Don't Let Your Dog Down
    You aren't a dog owner just at Christmas, or on the weekends, or in the afternoon, or when you have spare time. You aren't a dog owner just when the dog is behaving, or when he's a cute fuzzy puppy, or when he's winning awards. When you bring a dog into your family, that dog is yours for life. If you can't keep that commitment, don't make it. And once you've made it, don't break it. Your dog's life depends on you.