A dog is a wonderful addition to any household; they provide unconditional love, loyal companionship, and a whole lot of entertainment! But when it comes to dog care, you need to understand your new pup’s needs and your responsibilities as an owner.
You have the legal obligation to look after your dog’s health and wellbeing, and to keep them safe from harm. If you’ve made the exciting decision to bring a dog into your life, then you need to be aware of the following five responsibilities:
- Provide a suitable environment for your dog
- Nurture your dog’s natural behaviours and needs
- Provide companionship for your dog
- Provide a suitable diet for your dog
- Protect your dog from disease, injury, pain and suffering
This handy guide will equip you with all the knowledge you need to fully understand your responsibilities as a dog owner, and will put you on the path to getting dog care right.
1. Providing a Suitable Environment
When planning dog care, it’s helpful to first consider the place your dog will call home. Just like humans, all dogs want somewhere they can feel comfortable and safe; somewhere clean and warm where they can recharge after a long day of play.
You need to decide if you have enough space to accommodate a dog. Even if you have a large garden, your new pup will also need plenty of indoor space to move around freely, play, and do light exercise. If your furry friend is on the larger side, you will need to provide more space than you would if they were small.
No matter the size of your dog, it’s your responsibility to ensure they have somewhere comfy and cosy to rest, out of the cold and without a draught. You also need to provide a space for your dog to withdraw if it doesn’t feel safe ‒ even if they never want or need to.
Hopefully you know not to leave a dog in your car, but have you considered your conservatory? Dog’s are incredibly sensitive to heat, and leaving them in a hot conservatory could make them very ill indeed. You should also take care not to leave dangerous substances or harmful plants where your dog has access to them.
Dog Care Checklist:
- Provide a comfortable place to rest
- Offer a safe place to hide
- Give enough room for your dog to move around freely
- Provide a toilet area
- Make your dog’s home hazard-free
2. Nurturing Natural Behaviours and Needs
You’re probably excited to get to know your new pup; their personality, their likes and dislikes. The wonderful thing about dogs is that each one is so unique.
One thing that all dogs have in common is an innate desire to play and socialise ‒ in other words, have a great time! That’s why one of the key responsibilities of any dog owner is to nurture and encourage their dog’s natural behaviours and needs.
You’ll quickly start to see just how intelligent your dog is, and that’s why you should provide it with lots of mental stimulation. Source a selection of interesting toys that will keep your dog active, developing new skills and learning new things. A bored dog could start to show destructive behaviour, and nobody wants chewed furniture!
Another thing all dogs have in common is needing regular exercise. You should check with a professional to see how much exercise is good for your dog, because some breeds need less than others.
If you know you won’t have enough time to give your pup it’s dose of daily exercise, you might need to reconsider. Most dogs simply love walk time, so you should give them the freedom to sniff around and investigate ‒ and, if you have enough space, let them explore freely.
Be respectful. You should clean up after your dog to avoid a nasty fine, and keep your dog on a lead around livestock.
A great way to help your dog develop its best doggy behaviour is to train them. In fact, rewards-based training can help to build a special bond between you and your dog. Not only is it hugely important for your dog’s welfare, but it also improves communication between you both.
If you’re unsure about training your dog, it’s always best to seek advice from a professional.
Dog Care Checklist:
- Provide toys that are stimulating, fun, and safe
- Make time for exercise and exploration
- Clean up after your dog
- Respect livestock
- Train your dog
3. Offering Companionship
Dogs aren’t known as ‘man’s best friend’ for nothing. They simply thrive on love and companionship. One of the key rules of responsible dog ownership is to spend quality time with your dog and show them the love and affection they deserve.
Unlike our feline friends, dogs don’t do so well on their own and can become very distressed if they are left alone for a long time. According to experts, four hours is enough time to leave your dog on its own ‒ more than this could cause your pup to develop behavioural issues and become withdrawn.
Whilst dogs love socialising with humans, they also like to spend time with their four-legged friends. Training your pet to interact with other dogs in a safe and friendly way should ideally begin from an early age. Playing with other dogs can help your pup feel safe and confident, and will teach it how to play appropriately.
If you’re lucky enough to have more than one dog, you should think carefully about each individual’s wellbeing. Ensure that each dog has enough space of their own, and give them separate food bowls and toys. This will help to prevent competitiveness between your dogs.
Dog Care Checklist:
- Interact with your dog and show them affection
- Avoid leaving your dog on their own
- Train your dog to interact safely with other dogs
- Provide resources and space to allow your dogs to cohabit safely
4. Providing a Suitable Diet
Just like you and your family, your dog needs a healthy, nutritious diet to stay fit and well. Your dog’s breed, age, weight and sex are a few factors that affect what type of diet they need to keep their body in tip-top condition. Do some research and consult a professional to ensure that you’re feeding your dog what it needs to thrive.
Remember that while your human diet works for you, it won’t necessarily provide your dog with the unique nutrition it needs. In fact, there are some foods that you eat that could harm your dog, and in some instances, cause death. Don’t leave unsafe foods such as grapes, chocolate or onions where your dog can find them ‒ your dog doesn’t know that these foods are dangerous.
Don’t forget to provide your dog with a plentiful supply of fresh, clean drinking water. Without it, your dog will become dehydrated and ill. If you’re going for a long walk, make sure you take some water with you so your dog can enjoy a refreshing drink.
Dog Care Checklist:
- Provide a healthy, balanced, and nutritious diet
- Educate yourself about your dog’s individual dietary needs
- Keep hazardous foods away from your dog
- Provide plentiful clean drinking water
5. Preventing Disease, Injury, Pain, and Suffering
When you become a dog owner, you’re taking on a big responsibility to maintain your dog’s health and shield it from disease, injury, pain, and suffering. It’s your job to keep your dog as safe as you can, and help it to live a happy and healthy life.
You have a responsibility, by law, to have your dog microchipped and to keep the information on the database up to date. You should also register your pet with a veterinary practice, where it can receive routine healthcare, including disease-preventing vaccinations.
You should keep a close eye on your dog and watch out for any signs that it may be sick. If your dog starts behaving differently, this could be a clue that they are unwell. In this case, it’s your job to take them to a vet to get checked out. Before you bring a dog into your life, you should seriously consider your ability to pay for expensive vet bills and animal insurance.
Remember to keep your pup clean and well-groomed to prevent any nasty skin diseases. Some breeds need more care and attention than others. Poodles, we’re looking at you!
Dog Care Checklist:
- Microchip your dog and keep your details up to date
- Provide routine healthcare for your dog
- Pay close attention to your dog’s health and behaviour
- Keep your dog clean and well-groomed
With the right information, you are well on your way to becoming a responsible dog owner and giving your special pet a wonderful life.
To find out more on how to get dog care right, it’s a good idea to take some time to read the government’s official guidelines:
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Hollie Kingsland, Official Freelancer for DoggyLottery