A pet parents plays with her dog.

Responsible Dog Ownership Checklist

Dogs make an affectionate addition to any family, but dog ownership isn’t just about companionship. Responsible dog ownership is a full-time job, one that starts even before you’ve welcomed your new pet home.

Are You Ready for Dog Ownership?

Purchasing or adopting a dog isn’t a decision to make hastily. Anyone with a serious interest in pet parenthood should first conduct a thorough and objective self-assessment:

Answering ‘Yes’ to these questions does not necessarily mean you’re ready for any kind of dog. Differences in breed, size, age, and temperament make for varying needs. Take care to select a dog that will suit your capabilities and resources.

Remember that anyone purchasing from a breeder will need to conduct additional research. Some disreputable individuals claim to be breeders while exploiting animals and misleading animal lovers. Working with the wrong breeder (or “breeder”) could mean tacitly supporting the so-called “puppy mill pipeline.”

Is Your Home Dog-Proofed?

This is an especially important question if you’ll be bringing home a puppy. Keep an eye out for common household items that might present a hazard and take precautions to minimize the risk of injury or poisoning. Take precautions to protect your furniture too. After all, hyperactive young puppies will be eager to sink their teeth into just about anything.

Have You Chosen a Reliable Vet?

Dog ownership is a huge responsibility, but you don’t have to go it alone. Your veterinarian will serve as an ally throughout your dog’s life, offering expert guidance and ensuring they always get the best care possible. Make a careful evaluation to ensure your chosen vet is someone you can trust and rely on.

Does Your Dog Have Proper Identification?

Even house pets can get lost. A collar with identification tags and accurate contact information is one of the simplest ways to ensure your pet can always find their way home. Some states even require pet parents to formally register their dogs in a database and keep them tagged at all times.

Is Your Dog Microchipped?

Microchipping provides an extra level of identification and security. The procedure greatly reduces the risk that your pet will get stolen or become lost. Make sure to register your dog’s microchip in the appropriate database and keep your contact information up to date.

Is Your Dog Spayed or Neutered?

Pet overpopulation is a huge problem nationwide. It’s largely to blame for the staggering number of pets that are euthanized every year. If you don’t intend to breed your pet, spaying and neutering can address this issue while keeping your pet safe. Spayed and neutered pets are less likely to escape outdoors, where they may risk injury or become lost.

Is Your Dog Properly Vaccinated?

During the first months of their life, your dog will require a number of vaccinations. Once your dog is over 2 years of age, you should work alongside your veterinarian to determine which vaccines they will need throughout the rest of their lives.

Are You and Your Dog Obeying the Law?

Depending on where you live, local regulations may play a role in pet ownership. Laws may require pet owners to keep vaccinations and registrations up to date, ensure dogs are leashed at all times, and dispose of dog waste appropriately.

There are also the unwritten rules of dog ownership. Even if there are no local ordinances banning excessive noise, for example, keeping barking to a minimum is the respectful, responsible thing to do.

Have You Identified Trustworthy Caretakers?

From vacation to sudden incapacitation, there are a number of reasons you might not be able to provide for your pet. It’s important to plan ahead for these periods by selecting trusted pet caretakers. They might be friends, neighbors, or members of your family. Arm them with everything they’ll need to provide the care your pet requires and the affection they expect.

Are You Prepared to Say Goodbye?

It’s not pleasant to think about, but you’ll probably outlive your dog. End-of-life decisions are among the most difficult and eventful ones a pet owner will make. When treatment is no longer possible or advisable, responsible dog lovers are duty bound to make the humane decision. Your veterinarian will offer expert guidance throughout this uneasy period. While it may be tempting to pride your own emotions over their recommendations, remember that they have your pet’s well-being in mind.

Do You Have Pet Insurance?

Want to protect your pet and plan for the future? Pet insurance can help. Click here to learn more.