February is Responsible Pet Owner Month, which is a nice way to remind current and soon-to-be pet owners to think about what that means. From nose to tail, cradle to grave, here is our list of what responsible pet ownership means.
Pick the Right Pet
As a responsible pet owner, your first task is to ensure you select the right pet for your home and lifestyle. We know it’s difficult looking at all the adorable faces of animals looking for a home. Still, you must not make an impulsive decision as a poor fit could prove costly financially and emotionally. You might consider certain breeds and mixes that are well-suited for small spaces, or dog breeds that tend to do well with families.
Provide a Safe Environment
Keeping your pet safe requires you to implement extra precautions inside and outside your home. When was the last time you walked through your house to ensure it is pet-proof? Pet proofing means, making sure there’s nothing inside or outside your home that can harm your dog … or that your dog can harm.
- Lock or snap shut garbage cans.
- Put chemicals, cleaners, and medications out of reach.
- Use child gates on stairs and other pet-free zones.
- Make sure candy and other foods that are toxic to dogs are out of reach.
- Get rid of indoor and outdoor house plants that are toxic to dogs.
Identify Your Pet
To protect your pet away from home, make sure you have up-to-date identification with pet tags or a microchip. The information (if current) can help reunite you with your missing pet. Your veterinarian can provide more information about microchipping, as can most pet rescue organizations near you.
Follow Local Pet Rules and Regulations
Adhere to all local licensing, leash, noise-control ordinances, and pooper-scooper laws. Following these rules and regulations shows you respect your pet and your community.
Arrange for Pet Care When You’re Away
Who is on call if you cannot care for your pet or if you are unexpectedly away from home? Arrange for someone you trust, whether a family member, friend or dog kennel, to care for your pet. Ensuring your pet receives adequate care and attention while you’re away is especially important if your pet suffers from separation anxiety.
If you don’t have a neighbor or close relative nearby to check in on a pet that’s been cooped up too long, ask your vet, groomer or other pet-care providers for recommended pet home care services. There are some online dog-walking and dog-sitting services, if you are comfortable with the idea of strangers coming into your home to take care of your dog (in all fairness, the companies do say that they carefully screen and check the backgrounds of their walkers and sitters)*:
- Barkly Pets connects pet owners with professional pet caregivers through a smartphone app. Caregivers are screened and their backgrounds are checked.
- Fetch! Pet Care is a franchise in 29 states that offers dog walking and in-home pet sitting services.
- Pet Backer is an online matching service that connects pet sitters with pet owners. Users do their own screening and vetting.
- Rover is a website and/or app that connects dog owners with walkers, boarders, sitters and caregivers. They perform background checks and ongoing sitter education.
- Wag! is a website and/or app that connects carefully vetted caregivers with dog owners for walks, boarding, training and other doggy needs.
*The providers in this list are based on an online search and they’re presented alphabetically. Always do your due diligence before turning over the care of your pet and home to someone else!
Spay or Neuter Your Pet
Spaying or neutering your pet can help manage animal overpopulation and prevent health issues. Research shows that neutered male dogs live 13% to 18% longer than non-neutered dogs; likewise, spayed female dogs live about 23% longer (Source: HumaneSociety.org).
Socialize Your Pet Early
Early socialization, especially for pack animals like dogs, can help your pet adapt and develop into a happy, well-adjusted companion. However, socialization doesn’t stop in puppyhood as exposure to new people, places, sounds, and other animals should continue throughout your pet’s lifespan.
Provide Your Pet With Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Your pet’s type, age, and breed will determine the appropriate type and amount of exercise and mental stimulation your pet requires. For example, dogs need some form of mental stimulation, like interactive toys and games, in addition to outdoor activities, like a walk every day. Cats, on the other hand, exercise their bodies and minds by playing with their toys.
Properly Train Your Pet
Training builds your pet’s confidence and trust, along with mutual respect. Dogs enjoy learning new tricks; some breeds thrive on training. Regular training sessions are a good way to take care of two things at a time: providing mental and physical stimulation, while also teaching your dog new tricks!
Provide Preventative and Therapeutic Health Care for Your Pet
Regular visits to your vet can ensure your pet receives essential healthcare like vaccinations, parasite control, and routine exams. Good grooming habits and dental hygiene further aid in your pet’s well-being. Dogs and cats require regular tooth brushing with animal-approved toothpaste.
When was the last time your pets had a regular checkup with the vet?
Feed Your Pet Nutritious Foods
Feeding your pet nutritious foods ensures overall good health. Many factors such as the type of animal you have, its age, weight, food allergies, and how much exercise your pet receives determine what kind and amount of food your pet should consume. Consult with your veterinarian with dietary questions and concerns.
Include Your Pet in Your Family’s Emergency Plans
When was the last time you reviewed your family’s emergency plan? You do have one, don’t you? Make sure your household pets are included in your evacuation plan, should natural or other types of disasters force you to leave your home.
Consult With Your Vet About Quality of Life or End-of-Life Decisions
Unfortunately, time with our pets feels too brief. As your pet ages, you may face tough decisions about its quality-of-life or end-of-life. Discuss your concerns about palliative, hospice, and euthanasia with your vet.
Give Your Pet Plenty of TLC
Pets are family members that love you unconditionally. Love your pet back every day by meeting your pet owner’s responsibilities. Of course, lots and lots of snuggles go a long way as well.