September means school is back in session and pumpkin spice lattes are everywhere. This month is also recognized as National Responsible Dog Ownership Month started by the American Kennel Club (AKC), aimed at helping pet parents raise happy and healthy dogs. Among companion animals, dogs are unmatched in their devotion, loyalty and friendship to humankind. Anyone who has ever loved a dog can attest to this. The excitement your dog shows when you come home, the wagging tail at the sound of the leash being taken from its hook, the happiness 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 adopting a dog, 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.
Some of the basics of responsible dog ownership include:
- Having spay or neuter procedures performed to control pet overpopulation
- Regular exams with your veterinarian, addressing issues like dental health, skin allergies and health issues that arise with age
- Keeping your dog up-to-date with vaccinations for diseases like rabies, canine distemper and parvovirus
- Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog by feeding a healthy diet and incorporating exercise into its lifestyle
- Reducing financial stress by putting pet health care in your family’s budget
- Making sure your dog has proper identification – ideally with both a microchip and a tag with your most current contact information
- Ensuring your dog is kept safe from the elements, making sure it is protected during times of extreme heat or cold and always properly hydrated
- Establishing natural disaster preparation plans in the event of emergencies, including creating an evacuation kit
- Lots of love and playtime