September is Responsible Dog Ownership Month, an observance initially started by the American Kennel Club (AKC)in order to promote safe and responsible ownership of dogs across the world. The latter is not only for the sake of dogs but also the wellbeing of the general public. An improperly trained or handled pet can potentially harm others as well as itself, and whether this was intentional or not, you and your dog will have to suffer the frequently upsetting consequences. But what does it mean to be a responsible dog owner, and how can you ensure that avoid any unpleasant mishaps in the course of caring for your dog?
If you’re looking to get a dog for the first time (or even getting one after having own dogs in the past), be sure that you have the time and money to spare in order to look after one. As well as food, accessories and toys, there are also additional expenses such as veterinary bills, insurance and training classes. You also need to walk your dog every day – twice a day in the case of most dogs – and make sure that it’s not left alone for long periods of time (which, understandably, can result in it becoming bored, loud and even destructive).
Be sure that your dog is properly identified
Every dog must be clearly identified, and as such should wear a collar and tag with a contact name, address and, ideally, telephone number. This means that, should your pet escape, appear to be straying or get taken in by a local dog warden, it will be able to be safely returned to you. Making sure your dog is microchipped is also highly recommended. As well as slowing for a dog’s owner to be tracked down if something happens to their collar or tag, it also allows incredibly quick tracing and can even help prevent your pet from being taken by thieves.
Always keep your dog under control
You are bound by law to keep your dog under control at all times so as to prevent it from being a nuisance or menace to others. It is a good idea to keep your dog on a lead in unfamiliar areas, especially if they are near roads. A dog found worrying livestock could be shot without warning by a farmer and its owner prosecuted, so be careful when walking your dog in the countryside and farmland. Additionally, if your dog’s behaviour is deemed threatening or, worse, it actually injures somebody, it could be taken from you and put to sleep. It should be noted that even guard dogs are not allowed to roam freely, and should always be accompanied by a handler in order ensure that the dog is kept under control at all times.
Clean up after you dog
Whenever you take your dog for a walk, you should always carry a poop scoop and/or plastic bag with you in case you should need it. It is offence to let your dog foul in a public place and not clean it up, meaning that you could be responsible for a hefty fine if you are caught.
Look after your dog
This should go without saying, but there are still a shocking number of cases of canine neglect and abuse reported every year. If found guilty of mistreating a dog (or indeed any animal), you could be banned from keeping pets of any kind in future. You should make sure your dog is properly fed, vaccinated, wormed and groomed (including flea prevention and treatment where necessary).
Spay or neuter your dog
Arguably one of the best things you can do for both you and your dog. By neutering your pet, you help prevent further rehoming problems, avoid putting potential strain on your dog’s health and save both yourself and your pet a lot of stress. Raising puppies is also expensive, a fact that many people who allow their pets to breed fail to consider before it’s too late.
For more information, a series of factsheets is available for UK dog owners produced by the Dogs Trust.