There’s more to being great pet owner than simply feeding your pooch and giving her a place to sleep. Here are 10 things you can do to start being a better dog owner – and some of them start before you even choose your pet!
- Never get a dog on an impulse
Getting any pet should be a carefully considered decision, but especially a dog. You need to make sure you choose a pooch that suits your lifestyle. If you’re super active, pick a dog that can keep up with you outdoors. By the same token, don’t get a dog that needs tons of exercise if you’re a homebody. Your lifestyle, work and personal commitments, activity level and finances are all aspects to consider before deciding whether or not to get a dog, and if so, which breed to pick.
Lastly, accept that getting a pet is a lifelong commitment, and that you can’t give up an animal just because you’ve changed your mind, decided to relocate or because it no longer suits you.
- Microchip your pet
A microchip is the size of a grain of rice, but it contains all your contact information and can be invaluable in reuniting you with your pet if they ever get lost. As soon as you acquire your new pet, have her microchipped. Collars can come loose, but a microchip is inserted under your pet's skin. Make sure you always keep your contact details up to date.
- Take him to the vet regularly
Get to know your pet's healthy, normal state of being so that you can detect problems as soon as they arise. Make sure that you get anything unusual checked out right away. Also practice preventative care to give your pet the longest, healthiest life possible - this is your responsibility! Keep him up to date on his vaccinations and parasite protection, exercise him regularly, don't let him become overweight, and brush his teeth.
- Feed them better quality food
For your pooch, supermarket food is the equivalent of fast food for us: yummy, but poor quality, and seriously lacking in nutrition. Imagine eating junk food every day? That’s what it’s like when you feed your dog supermarket food. If you can afford better quality, chat to your vet about your dog's particular nutritional needs, then feed her a healthy, nutritious diet to keep her in the best possible shape. The food you choose to feed your dog can either aid her health or harm it. And remember: treats need to be healthy too!
Read more: Healthy human treats to feed your dog
- Keep them active
Different dogs require different amounts of exercise, but ALL dogs need stimulation, activity, and trips out of the house. Not sure how much exercise to give your doggy? Chat to your vet. And remember: your pet relies on you to provide excitement, as well as physical and mental stimulation. It’s critical to their health, sanity and happiness.
- Never hit your dog
Hitting your dog is just wrong, from both a training and a humane perspective. A dog who gets smacked will only end up being afraid of you. It will not change their inappropriate behaviour, and may even make it worse. Rather, train your dog using compassion and patience.
- Learn to understand what your dog is saying to you
Dogs might not be able to speak using actual words, but their body language can tell you a ton about what they’re thinking and feeling. Learn to read your pooch’s cues so you can make sure he always feels comfortable and secure - never anxious and threatened.
Read more: What is my dog trying to tell me?
- Don’t leave your dog in the car - even for a short amount of time
This is an extremely bad practice that can have so many tragic outcomes. For one, it’s a sad reality that in South Africa, dog theft is real - especially when it comes to pedigreed dogs or those considered ‘fighting’ dogs. But more importantly, dogs can overheat much, much faster than humans, quickly leading to dehydration and death.
- Think of your dog’s future
Although we don’t like to think about it, the unexpected can happen. Make sure you have provisions in place for your pets in the event of anything happening to you. The last thing you want is for your beloved furbaby to end up in a shelter because you were no longer around to care for him.
- Make them part of the family
Dogs are social creatures and they love being part of their humans’ lives. Make your dog a part of your family: include him on outings, let him sleep inside, and take him on holiday with you. To your dog, you are his whole life. Make sure he’s a big part of yours, too, and you’ll be rewarded with his love, loyalty and affection for life.
Good for you for wanting to be the best possible parent to your pooch. Your furbaby is lucky to have you, and we’re always here to answer any questions or concerns you have.
Disclaimer: Always consult your vet for professional advice. The Zuki.co.za blog is provided as an educational tool and should not be used to diagnose illness or treat an animal.