How Can I Be a Responsible Dog Owner?

September is Responsible Dog Ownership Month. Most people are aware that their dog needs regular veterinary visits for vaccinations and checkups. However, did you know there are several things as a dog owner you can do at home besides basic care that can go a long way?

Many times when people first get a new dog, they pay a lot of attention to establishing their daily routines and habits; over time, it’s easy to become more lax and inconsistent. Dogs are creatures of habit. The more we can keep their schedules and rules the same, the better the dog will behave.

Although putting the work into having a perfectly obedient dog may seem unreasonable, all dogs should know how to sit, stay, come when called, and walk on a leash. This makes taking them on outings or to the vet more manageable. Establishing a solid “recall” (come command) is a matter of safety. If your dog slipped out the front door, would he come back to you when called? You can practice this in the house and off-leash in the back yard. Using your body language to entice the dog to come towards you can be very helpful: crouch down, say their name in a high-pitched or “happy” tone, and walk backwards away from the dog. By making ourselves look like something fun and exciting, the dog is more likely to want to come to us. If you chase after the dog screaming his name, he most likely is going to keep running away either thinking it is a game or because he’s frightened. You can use the sit and stay commands to make sure you are prepared to handle the dog before opening a door. Put their leash on, and ask them to sit and stay a few feet back from the door. Then, you can more easily manage opening the door without them bolting out. Use a release phrase like “free dog” or “let’s go” so they know when they can follow you out the door. You can use this with every door you enter or exit. Again, our goal is to have a dog who is handled responsibly for his safety and the safety of others around.

What are some other things you can do at home as a responsible dog owner? Routine handling can help your dog not to be nervous during vet visits or bath times and make the job of the veterinary staff and groomer safer and easier. Check your dog’s ears by picking up the ear flaps and looking inside them; note any redness or odor, as this can indicate an infection. Touch and pick up your dog’s feet. Even if you’re not comfortable trimming his nails at home, getting him used to people handling his feet can make the experience less traumatic. Many dogs benefit from and even enjoy having their fur brushed. Regular brushing can prevent painful matting and can help your dog remain more comfortable between grooming appointments. How often this should be done depends upon your dog’s coat type (your veterinarian or groomer can help you figure this out). While brushing the dog, you can check for any issues with their skin or any new bumps that may have come up. Oral health is also very important in dogs. While some dogs are resistant to having their teeth brushed, you should be able to at least look in their mouth to examine their teeth and gums. Look for any discoloration, plaque build-up, or red gums. Noticing any issues with his ears, feet, skin, or teeth early on can help your veterinarian treat the problem before it turns into something major.

Being a responsible dog owner doesn’t have to take much more time out of your day. You can build these activities, like training and grooming, into your regular routine. Not only does it help you take better care of your dog, it can also strengthen the bond between the two of you. For more information on training or grooming, give us a call!

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