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Dog Owner Responsibilities

Owning a dog is a big responsibility. Do you really want to become a dog owner?

A dog can be a great companion for individuals and families. But, before bringing a new dog or puppy into your life, it's important to decide whether or not you really and truly want a dog.

By this I mean, are you willing and able to take on the responsibilities of owning a dog?

If you've never experienced dog ownership before, then most likely you are not aware of the amount of time, money, and energy that it takes to care for a dog. If you're thinking, I had one when I was a kid so I think I know what it takes. Well, kids usually are not the primary caretaker of family pets. Therefore, you may have an idea but, probably need to learn more about dog owner responsibilities, i.e. what's actually involved in raising a well-behaved, well-cared-for, happy dog.

It's a Long-Term Commitment

Owning a dog requires a commitment of time, energy, and money. This is a long-term commitment because a dog can live for ten or more years and will rely upon his owner for almost all of his needs for his entire life.

Before taking the plunge, learn about how much money and personal time is required to properly care for a dog. Then, take an honest look at yourself to determine if a dog will fit into your current and future lifestyle and if you're ready for dog owner responsibilities.

A Dog Needs Your Time

Do you have time to care for a dog? You'll need to spend a lot of time with your new dog or puppy to enable him to become a well-behaved, well-adjusted, and happy member of your family. You will be responsible for raising the dog and for providing for almost all of his needs. These new dog owner responsibilities may disrupt your life and will require you to change your routine and adjust your lifestyle. Are you ready for this and will you be able to make the required changes?

Although your dog will require your time and energy throughout his entire life, he most likely will require a lot more of it during the first year. Initial dog owner responsibilities include:

Bonding. When your dog first comes home, you'll need to spend time bonding with him. You'll need to help him become acclimated to his new home.

House Training. Nobody wants a dog that pees and poops in the house. It will take time and energy to house train a dog or puppy.

Obedience Training and Socialization. You'll need to be involved in training your dog how to behave.

Research. You'll need to learn about how to care for your new dog. Some of the initial questions that you may have are: How do I train my dog? What should I feed my dog? How do I to correctly solve behavior problems? What are the health problems that are more common to my breed and how can I prevent them? It's impossible to learn everything before getting a dog and along the way you'll have questions and will probably make some mistakes. But, a responsible dog owner will seek advice and do research to get answers to all of these questions and more.

Finding a Good Veterinarian. You may want to do this before bringing your dog home.

Some dog owner responsibilities are ongoing for the dog's entire life including:

Daily exercise and attention. Dogs have energy. Some breeds have more than others. All dogs need exercise to maintain good health. Dogs are social animals. Therefore, they desire and will seek attention from family members.

Medical Care. Including routine care, care due to an unexpected illness or condition, emergency care.

Grooming. Brushing, bathing, nail trimming, care of teeth and gums, ear care, etc. Some breeds require more grooming than others.

Other. Daily nutrition, research to answer new questions that may arise, time to clean up after your dog.

I'm going to state the obvious. All of these tasks will take time. If you're unable to figure out how you'll fit all of these dog owner responsibilities into your life, then you probably do not have time for a dog.

The Costs of Owning a Dog

Do you have the means to care for a dog? It's difficult to estimate the yearly cost of owning a dog. Ownership costs of an individual dog will vary depending upon a number of factors including breed of dog, cost of living in your area, and general dog health. For example, a large dog will require more food than a small dog. Some dogs require more grooming than others. An illness or injury can lead to unexpected medical costs.

Here's a list of many things that you will have to provide if you own a dog:

  • high quality food
  • dog bowls
  • obedience classes
  • crate
  • toys and healthy bones for chewing
  • dog bed
  • Routine medical care - including but not limited to neutering, annual exams, vaccinations, dental care, routine prescriptions for preventative health care such as heartworm pills
  • Medical care expenses due to an unexpected illness or condition including emergencies
  • grooming fees
  • grooming tools and supplies
  • collars and leashes
  • books about dog care and dog health
  • boarding costs when you go on vacation
  • fence, not always necessary
  • dog tags

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive list. But, hopefully you get the picture - a dog needs a lot of stuff that will cost money. Some stuff you'll need to buy only once or once in a while, like a crate. But other things, such as food, will become part of your monthly living expenses. Additionally, you'll need to be prepared for unexpected expenses.

Are you currently in a position where you can afford all of this stuff and do you plan to be in the future? You don't have to be wealthy to own a dog. But, if you can barely afford your current expenses, are living from paycheck to paycheck, and don't have any money saved for an emergency or unexpected expenses, then you probably should wait until your financial situation becomes more stable before taking on dog owner responsibilities.

Some Other Things to Consider

Before taking on dog owner responsibilities consider the following:

  • Does your family want a dog? Who will be the primary person in the family responsible for caring for the dog's needs? Will it be a shared responsibility? Does this person really want a dog and have the time to take care of the dog? If that person goes away for a while, i.e. on a business trip or for any other reason, will other members of the family be willing and able to care for the dog?
  • If you have a roommate or live with others, does your rommate(s) want a dog?
  • Do you have room for a dog?
  • Does your apartment allow dogs?
  • Are you willing to clean up a dog's bowel movements?
  • Will you still want your dog after he grows out of his cute puppy stage possibly into a big dog?
  • A dog can live for ten or more years. Are you willing to care for the dog for its entire life?
  • If you don't have kids, will you still want the dog if you decide to have kids?

One Last Question

If you've determined that you have the time and money to care for a dog and are willing to make a long-term commitment, then it's possible that you're ready for dog owner responsibilities. But, I have one last question that you should consider. Would you enjoy owning a dog?

Think about it. Would you enjoy doing many of the tasks mentioned above that will become your dog owner responsibilities, i.e. bonding, training, walking, grooming, providing attention, play time, etc.? Do you even like dogs? Or will all of this become a huge chore for you? Owning a dog should be fun, not just a chore.

If you decide to move forward, keep this question in mind as you're researching different breeds. It's not worthwhile to get a dog if you don't think that you will enjoy owning him. You won't be happy and neither will your dog.

Final tip: Be ready for dog owner responsibilities before getting a dog.

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