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How to be a Responsible Pet Owner


Puppies and kittens, or any new pets, are adorable. They also require attention, care, training and some of your financial resources in order to mature into great pets.  Pets are living beings who attach to you too, and when you make the decision to adopt an animal, you should be committing for their entire lifetime. 

It's important to think through this long term decision.  You may move, your family may grow, your pet may have an issue that needs work like barking or accidents, your pet may live to be 12-15 years of age - are you prepared to keep this pet throughout the changes?  Are you prepared to work through difficulties if they arise?  Make certain you are prepared to commit to this pet for his/her entire lifespan.  Please think your decision through carefully with your entire family, and make an informed, committed decision.  If you can’t make that long-term commitment right now, or you aren’t certain but feel you meet the other criteria, perhaps temporarily fostering a homeless animal might be a better choice for you.  If circumstances arise where there is just no other option than to surrender your pet, be sure to take your pet to a “no-kill” shelter, like Homeward Bound or Hastings Animal Ark for a well-deserved second chance.  

Your new pet will require daily food, constant access to fresh water, adequate shelter, vaccinations for disease, protection from fleas, ticks, and parasites, daily contact with others, regular access to ‘potty breaks’ and daily exercise.  Call your local vets for an estimate on what it might cost per year to handle basic medical issues.   You can also check the local pet supply store for an estimate of what it would cost to feed and groom your pet.  Your pet should be spayed or neutered.  Not only does this prevent unwanted pregnancies, but it has health & behavioral benefits for the pets.

There will be messes, there will be accidents, there will be illnesses.  Keep your expectations realistic, and seek help from your vet, a trainer, behaviorist, training classes, books, articles, etc. if you need it.

Do not neglect the pets’ social/emotional well-being either.  You are your pet’s source of health, safety and companionship.  Take this responsibility seriously.  It is never okay to hit or mistreat a pet.  Abuse teaches an animal to be distrustful and fearful of you, and it makes behavioral problems even worse.  Do not leave your pet alone for long periods of time on a regular basis – this can lead to behavioral problems.  Dogs are pack animals who thrive on social contact with their ‘pack’ (You and your family!).  Dogs crave and require companionship, and they should stay inside with the family whenever possible.  Chaining a dog outdoors all day with no people contact is detrimental. 

If you are experiencing behavioral or training problems, you can consult a dog behavior help line, a trainer, a behaviorist, explore the internet or bookstore for tips, articles and books, and/or enroll in an obedience class.  Teach yourself the best way to teach your dog.  Most pets aim to please and will do just that if they are properly trained to understand what it is you want.  Remember too that pets communicate differently than we do, so what you might perceive as ‘guilt’ or ‘revenge’ may in fact be ‘submission’ or communication confusion.  Positive reinforcement (with treats or praise) works wonders with dogs, who will naturally try to please you and be proud when they do.

Being a responsible pet owner also means watching out for your pets’ safety.  No matter how careful you are, there's the chance your companion may become lost. And if that happens, a pet who is not protected by a license, collar and identification tag may never find its way home.  License your dog and put an ID tag on him/her from the day they come home with you.  Keep the tag on your pet at all times, and consider the microchip identification as well.  Keep your dog leashed or fenced at all times outside of the dog park, and never let a cat outdoors who is declawed…he simply can’t protect himself.  While outdoors, be aware of other common dangers like extreme weather, antifreeze, weed and lawn poisons,  Indoor hazards include some houseplants, holiday lights, chicken bones, chocolate and onions.

There is nothing quite like the unconditional love one receives from a pet – we should take a lesson from our dogs and cats!  Show your love through regular exercise, good food and medical care, structure and training, and affection.  Good training, good care, the right amount of patience, and lots of TLC is not only the recipe for a great relationship between you and your pet, it is also how to be a responsible pet owner.  

Fairy Dogparents
 Plymouth, Minnesota