There are many different responsibilities to being a good dog owner. One of the most important things that any potential dog owner can do is to honestly look at these responsibilities, and to make a commitment to their new dog or puppy to be the best possible owner they can be. Being a responsible dog owner not only means taking care of your dog physically, but it also means keeping them safe, ensuring they become good pets to have around others, as well as keeping the dog managed, trained and enclosed within your property boundaries. By examining the responsibilities to owning a dog, it is easy to see if owning a dog is the right pet decision for you and your family.
Neutering and Spaying
One of the biggest responsibilities to your dog is to have them spayed if they are female, or neutered if they are male - at the earliest possible time. Many vets now recommend earlier spaying and neutering, to prevent both health problems as well as prevent hormonally driven aggression behaviors from occurring especially in males. In addition, neutered and spayed dogs are much less likely to roam and wander, and are more content to stay closer to home. Dogs that are content in the yard are not running loose through traffic, posing safety hazards on the roads, as well as running the risk of potential death or serious injury.
Neutering and spaying will not change a dog's personality other than to decrease their overall aggressiveness towards other dogs, as well as prevent unwanted pregnancies and puppies. Spayed and neutered dogs do not become lazy or overweight, provided they are given lots of opportunities to exercise - as well as being monitored with regards to consumption of treats and extras.
There is also a myth that females should be allowed to have at least one litter before they are spayed. This is absolutely false, and females that are spayed before becoming pregnant or giving birth have far less chance of developing several types of cancers that are potentially fatal. Neutered males also have less likelihood of developing cancers of the reproductive system.
All breeds of dogs will benefit from regular training and socialization. Training both allows the dog and owner to clearly understand what is expected, as well as helps the dog and owner bond together. Untrained and unsocialized dogs are usually unwelcome, difficult to handle and very unpleasant to be around. Even older dogs can be taken to an obedience class or to a private trainer if they are becoming non-compliant, or just need a bit of a refresher course. It is highly recommended that all puppies, after their final vaccination schedule, be taken through a puppy obedience class. These classes are very effective for socialization, as well as helping new and experienced owners in establishing their "alpha" position in the family in positive and appropriate ways.
A well trained dog is truly a wonderful companion and friend. They can be taken out of the yard without posing a safety issue to either themselves or other dogs or people. They will be happier, more content and better able to handle new situations and changes in their lives if they are well trained. Socialization or constant positive interactions with new people, places and other animals will also greatly assist in their overall mental health and ability to respond appropriately to a wide variety of situations.
Fencing and Management
In reality, there are few dogs that will naturally remain right beside the house without giving into the temptation of wandering off or chasing a passing squirrel, cat or bird. Most dogs, especially those in urban areas, should be kept within a fenced yard at all times when they are not out with the owner. Dogs that are out of the yard with the owner should be either highly trained in off-leash heeling and response, or should be kept on a leash at all times.
Fences not only keep your dog in your yard, but they also prevent other larger, more aggressive and potentially dangerous dogs from having access to your pet. Most small breeds don't seem to realize the danger of taking on a larger dog, and will ferociously fight to defend their territory, often with very sad results. Always keep protective breeds within a strong, sturdy fence that not only keeps them in but also keeps other dogs out. In addition, dogs that have a strong prey instinct or are hunting dogs used for scent hunting are likely to wander off in search of animals (or even other dogs) without a fence to keep them contained.
It is important to know the habits of your particular dog, to determine exactly what they size and style of the fence needs to be. Barking breeds typically do better with a solid, privacy type fence that minimizes their view of the streets and possible things to bark at. Breeds that dig need fences that are submerged or dug into the soil to prevent them from digging out underneath. Jumping and climbing breeds need taller fences, to discourage this type of behavior.
Finally, the owner and family must be committed to daily exercise and attention, as well as physical maintenance of the dog. This means taking the dog for a walk or having a good play time and training time at least once per day. It also means spending time grooming and working with the dog, in a positive and rewarding environment for the pet. Most dogs will bond quickly and lovingly with a family or owner that plays with them, spends time with them, and makes the dog feel a part of the family. This amazing bond will only grow stronger as the dog or puppy matures and ages. Making a commitment to the dog is a lifelong responsibility, and includes more than just taking care of the physical needs of the animal. Regardless of the work, it is well worth the effort, and is a truly wonderful experience if a dog is the right pet for you and your family.