All dog owners have, at some point, wondered how to be a good dog owner.
We’ve all experienced that familiar anxiety that comes with wondering if we’re doing a good job — and what we can do to better care for our furry best friends.
Reader, take a deep breath. The fact that you’re here, reading about how to be a good dog owner, shows how much you care about your pup. And when you care that much, you’re probably already doing a pretty good job.
However, there are almost always ways we can improve. If you’re looking for tips, tricks, and steps you can take to help your dog live his or her best life, you’ve come to the right place. What does it even mean to be a good dog owner? How can we all do better at keeping our pups happy and healthy? Read on to find out more.
What Does It Mean to Be a Good Dog Owner?
It’s a pretty big, sort of existential question. And we don’t believe there’s one correct answer. That’s why we asked some real-life dog owners what they think it means to be a good pet parent. Here’s what they had to say.
Katy Flatt, Wisconsin, USA, owner of Bae, a 5-year-old Maltese, and Mitzi, a 16-year-old rat terrier
“A good dog owner takes the time to research and learn about dog ownership, the breed they are looking for or plan on getting, and addresses medical concerns with their vet rather than a Facebook group of similar breed owners.
In addition to providing necessities (food, exercise, water) being a good dog owner is about setting boundaries and expectations, routine and schedule, and balancing that structure with love and praise and kisses and cuddles. The mix of structure and appropriate praise builds the foundation for trust between dog and dog owner.
It also means doing what is best for the dog, and not always what is best for the owner. For example, I have a ton of dog sweaters because my senior dog likes them and she gets very cold, but my Maltese can’t stand them. Even though he looks really cute in some of his sweaters, I’m not going to dress him up when it makes him unhappy.”
Stephanie Trovato, New York, USA, owner of Brady, a 2-year-old yellow lab
“Being a good owner means treating your dog like you would your child. Protect them, provide for them, and have fun with them. They devote their lives to loving you so reciprocate with love.”
Tyler Hakes, Iowa, USA, owner of Stanzi, a 13-year-old St. Bernard mix
“Give your dog a fun and enjoyable life. Treat them like a member of the family.”
Mieke van der Merwe, South Africa, owner of Mila, a 1-year-old mixed breed
“I think my main advice for new dog owners would be ‘a tired dog is a good dog.’ Dogs need a lot of exercise, and when they have energy, they cause trouble. Mila loves to get up to no good, digging up the garden or breaking out and running around the neighborhood, but if she’s had a good long walk, hike, or game of fetch, she’s an angel.”
What You Need to Know About Responsible Dog Ownership
Even though there’s not one right way to be a good dog owner, there are certain things that all good dog owners do. Here are the ways you can treat your dog right and be a responsible owner.
Protecting Your Dog’s Health
Dogs aren’t like humans — they can’t tell you when they’re not feeling well. That’s why it’s your responsibility, as a dog owner, to be as in tune as possible with your dog and his or her health.
In addition to regular vet checkups, you need to know your dog well enough to notice any changes in behavior or appearance that might indicate they have a medical problem. Protecting your dog’s health also means having the financial means for vet bills should your dog ever become sick or get injured.
Grooming Your Dog
Different breeds of dogs have different grooming needs, and it’s up to the responsible dog owner to know them and keep up with them. All dogs need baths and nail trims. Some dogs also need brushing, combing, and haircuts. Depending on their breed, it might take regular trips to a professional groomer to help your dog live their best life.
Feeding Your Dog
Good dog owners will put in the time and effort to learn about their dogs’ dietary needs, which also vary from breed to breed, as well as from individual dog to individual dog.
Your dog needs the appropriate amount of food, and that food needs to be high quality, delivering enough calories with the right mix of essential nutrients to keep your dog healthy — and without a lot of filler ingredients.
A good dog owner will consult with their vet about what kind of food to give their dog, and how much of it to give every day. They’ll also monitor their dog over time to see if adjustments need to be made to their diet to maintain a healthy weight, keep their coat and body healthy, and give them food variety that keeps them excited for mealtimes.
Exercising Your Dog
All dogs, even low energy ones, need exercise. But it’s up to responsible dog owners to get to know their dog’s exercise needs and provide for them accordingly. This might just mean taking daily walks around the neighborhood. It might mean going for strenuous hikes after work. It might mean hitting the dog park twice a day for vigorous play that tires out a very energetic pup.
Training Your Dog
Dogs thrive when they have structure and routine in their lives. That’s why a well-trained dog is often a very happy dog.
But that’s not the only reason training is important for responsible dog owners. A well-trained dog is also a safe dog, because you’ll be able to control them and keep them away from dangerous situations. And well-trained dogs give the entire dog-owning community a better reputation, making dogs more welcome and trusted wherever they go.
Loving Your Dog
It should go without saying, but a good dog owner loves their dog like a member of their family, because that’s what a dog is. It’s also important to note that that love should be unconditional. Your dog won’t always be perfect. They’ll misbehave and act out sometimes. But a good dog owner won’t love them any less, whether things are going perfectly or they’ve hit a rough patch.
Ways To Keep Your Dog Safe & Healthy
Those are the basic tenets of responsible dog ownership. But the best dog owners go above and beyond the basics. Looking for some more tips about how to keep your dog safe, happy, healthy, and living their best life? Here are some ideas.
Commit for the Long Haul
A shocking 30 percent of animals in shelters were left there by their owners, according to the Animal Foundation Platform. That means almost one in every three adoptable pets was abandoned by its owner.
Good dog owners realize that this is a long-term commitment. Things like moving to a new home, getting another pet, or behavioral issues are never reasons to give up your dog. You made a commitment to help them through good times and bad, and whatever it takes, you need to do your best to honor that.
Never Hit a Dog
Dogs respond so much better to positive reinforcement. Hitting a dog is more likely to make them afraid of you than correct any bad behavior. No matter how much they misbehave, a good dog owner never hits their pet.
Don’t Leave Your Dog Alone In Public
Most people are aware that you should never leave a dog alone in a car, especially on a warm day. But what about outside the restaurant while you grab a bite to eat? Or outside a cafe while you pop in for a coffee?
Good dog owners never leave their dogs alone in public. Not only could that be a potentially scary situation for your dog — separated from their pack in a strange place — but it leaves them vulnerable to being stolen or getting away and becoming lost. If you’re going to have to go into a business where dogs aren’t allowed, the best place for your pup is back at home.
Spend More Quality Time With Your Dog
Whether it’s going for a longer walk, spending an extra hour at the dog park, scheduling in an extra play session, or committing to more time training and practicing tricks, good dog owners look for ways to spend more quality time with their dogs.
This doesn’t even need to involve an activity — this could just be committing to hanging out with your dog at home, sitting on the floor and cuddling them, or letting them lay with you while you watch TV.
Give Your Dog Their Own Space
As much as dogs love quality time with their people, sometimes they want to be alone. It’s equally important to provide your dog with their own space where they can get away, enjoy some quiet, and feel safe and secure.
This can be a bed that’s tucked away from high-traffic areas of your home. It could be a crate or doghouse. It doesn’t need to be fancy — just make sure it’s quiet, comfortable, and that your dog feels safe and at home there.
Supply Better Dog Food
There’s a very wide range of types and qualities of dog food available on the market. To be a better dog owner, see if your budget can handle upgrading to a higher quality of food for your dog.
Meet All Your Dog’s Medical Needs
Taking care of your dog medically means more than just going to the vet when they get sick or hurt. Dogs need regular checkups just like people do, and it could help catch problems or disease early enough for better treatment.
Meeting your dog’s medical needs means more than just going to the vet, though. Your dog also needs up-to-date vaccines, regular flea and tick medication, nutritional supplements, regular grooming, and their teeth brushed. And don’t forget spaying and neutering — responsible dog owners don’t allow for accidental or backyard breeding.
Find Friends for Your Dog
Dogs are pack animals, and the happiest dogs are the ones that are well socialized with both people and other pups. Good dog owners look for ways for their dogs to learn better social behaviors and make new friends, whether it’s through a training class, doggy day care, or trips to the dog park.
Follow the Law
Your state or local government likely has laws surrounding dog ownership — things like limits on how many dogs people can own, requirements for rabies vaccines, and laws about registering your dogs. Good dog owners will follow their local laws so they don’t risk having their dogs confiscated.
Protect Your Dog from Getting Lost
These days, dog owners have a lot of ways they can protect their dogs from getting lost.
Your dog should wear a collar with an ID tag that includes their name and your contact information.
Good dog owners should make sure their pups have microchips, and that they keep their contact information up-to-date on the microchip registry.
And in addition to both of those, a good dog owner should invest in a dog tracker, so they can track their dog’s location in real time and find them as quickly as possible if they ever go missing. Huan dog trackers have long battery lives and use bluetooth instead of GPS, which can emit potentially harmful radiation. Plus, Huan allows you to join a network of pet loves who will also be on the lookout and ready to help if your dog ever goes missing. A Huan smart dog tag is the best way to keep your dog safe from going missing.
Embrace Your Relationship With Your Dog — For Better or Worse
Dogs are individual beings who are complex and have their own wants and needs. That means that, sometimes, you and your dog might not understand one another. It won’t always be easy to communicate. And the best dog owners don’t just accept that — they embrace it.
Know that your relationship with your dog won’t always be perfect, and it’ll come with challenges. But by embracing them and sticking with your dog through good times and bad, you’ll earn the ultimate reward: Your dog’s love.
Always Champion for Your Dog
Your dog doesn’t have a voice of their own, which is why good dog owners speak up for their pups. It’s up to you to stand up for your dog’s needs in any situation — to protect and advocate for them. It won’t always be easy, but it’s an important part of being the best possible dog owner.
And finally, good dog owners should always be looking toward the future and planning ahead for their dog as well as themselves. If your career might involve moving in the future, have a plan for how to bring your dog with you. If you might start a family, socialize your dog with children so he or she is ready for that life stage. Set money aside for your dog’s needs as he grows older and needs more veterinary care.
Your dog will be a part of your life for many years, so it’s important to keep room for them in your short- and long-term plans.