14 Tips for being a responsible pet owner 

 February is Responsible Pet Ownership Month.  But how do you define what makes a responsible pet owner?  There are many things that could or should be included, but here are our top 14 tips for making the most of pet ownership. 

1.      Before getting a pet, evaluate your lifestyle.   Look at your activity level and environment, then select a breed that matches your lifestyle.  An active, working breed may not be the best fit in an apartment. 

2.      Make a lifelong commitment.  Pets become a part of your family and you should plan to care for them for their entire life.  Obviously, circumstances can change so make sure you have a plan for them just as you would for your children.   

3.      Guarantee them food and shelter.  Fresh water and nutritious, species-appropriate food are at the top of the list when caring for an animal.  They should also be protected from the dangers of the environment.  Excessive heat and cold can be harmful, as well as predators and hazardous places such as highways.  

4.      Provide emotional support.  Dogs are pack animals and need our companionship.  Cats are more solitary but still want their person’s attention.   Make sure they get walks and play as well as your love and attention.   

5.      Socialize your pet.  Introduce your pet to new people and environments on a regular basis.  Trips to the dog park, a walk around the neighborhood, farmer’s market or local pet store can provide plenty of socialization opportunities. 

6.      Train your dog.   Basic obedience classes are a great place to start.  Teaching your dog to walk nicely on a leash, sit and to come when called make them a much better companion. 

7.      Dog proof your home.  Ensure your home environment is safe for pets by putting breakable items out of reach.  Make sure cleaning supplies and chemicals are safely put away and electrical cords are inaccessible. 

8.      Make them a bed.  This can be an actual bed, crate or even just a blanket on the floor.  Your dog needs a safe place of their own to rest comfortably or wants privacy. 

9.      Ensure their safe return.  Nothing is worse than a lost pet with no identification.  Get your pet microchipped and keep your contact information up to date.  Get an ID tag for their collar as well. 

10.   Practice planned parenthood.  If you are not going to breed your pet, spay or neuter them.   

11.   Select a veterinarian.  Your pet needs a primary care physician just as much as you do.  Select a practitioner that you are comfortable with who will answer your questions and help you provide the best care. 

12.   Advocate for your pet’s health.  Whether you choose traditional veterinary care or an integrative veterinarian, you are in charge of your pet’s medical care.  Whether it is a vaccination protocol or life and death decisions, your voice is important.   Although your vet’s recommendations are important, no one knows your pet as well as you do. 

13.   Have an emergency plan.  If you live in an area where storms or natural disasters can occur, make sure you have a plan for your pets as well as yourself.  If an area is not safe for you to stay, it is not safe for your pet either.  

14.   Plan for end of life.  No one wants to think about it but the time will come when you have to make that heartbreaking decision.  Whether you chose euthanasia or hospice care make sure that it is managed humanely.  Your pet has given you a lifetime of unconditional love and they deserve an end that is as comfortable and pain-free as possible.