Having a pet is a big responsibility. I begged and begged my parents to get me a puppy when I was a kid, and it took years to finally convince them. They waited until I was older and more mature; ready to help with the day-to-day tasks of caring for a furry friend.

February is National Responsible Pet Owner’s Month, and whether you already have a FBF, are considering getting a puppy from a respectable breeder or a rescue from the local shelter, there are some basic elements to being a responsible fur parent. 

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Consider the breed carefully

Are you an active family? Do you like to be outdoors a lot, hiking or running? Or do you prefer to ride the sofa? Do you have a fenced in yard or are you an apartment dweller? Do you mind dog hair everywhere or is there someone in your home with mild allergies? There are a lot of considerations when choosing a breed of dog that would be suitable for your family.

For example, a large dog might not be suitable for a small apartment but would be fine if you have a large fenced in yard it could play in. A very small dog—like a chihuahua, for example—might not be suitable for families with very young children. And if you want to go running with your dog, you’ll need a breed that can keep up with you and needs that level of exercise—an Australian shepherd dog, for example.

It’s very important to look at your life, your family, and your work: how much time you can be home and how much time you have to spend with the dog is important. Dogs are a 10-20 year commitment, depending on the breed: you want to get it right!

Check your home for hazards

Particularly if you are bringing home a puppy, you need to look at your home from their point of view. As a parent of a toddler would do, see your living space, and the area they will be allowed to walk around in, from their level. Get down on all fours and really take a look around! Suddenly, you’ll notice that there are wires that are easily accessible (read: chewable), that certain heavy knick knacks could be knocked down and broken.

Ideally, a puppy would have a safe space that is blocked off from less friendly areas of the house. In the early days, a puppy pen, set up on flooring that is EASILY washed (puppies have accidents!) makes a lot of sense. When they’ve got more control over their bladders, you can give them more range, but as you do, re-visit the space with them in mind, to make sure it’s safe.

At that point, gates are an ideal way to stop them from going up or down stairs, which can be hazardous to puppies. They could easily take a tumble and a lot of stairs can be hard on their still developing hips and knees, leading to problems down the road. The double benefit is that you can keep parts of the house, say the upstairs that is wall to wall broadloom for example, puppy pee free for longer!

Spay / neuter your pet

Most breeders require that you agree to this prior to purchasing a pet and many shelters will too. It makes sense to spay or neuter your pet and it’s the responsible thing to do. Particularly with females, dealing with the heat cycles can be very difficult and ultimately, you don’t want an ‘oops’ situation!

Microchip them for peace of mind

Collars can fall off and fences can be broken, so microchipping your dog ensures that if they ever got lost, anyone who brings them to a shelter or vet will be able to check the chip and reunite you with your pup.

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TIP: Don’t forget to add changing the address associated with the chip, if you move! Otherwise, if they are lost—and during a move is one of the most common ways dogs get separated from their families—you can still be located.

Crate training for a happy dog

While some people view crates as tiny dog prisons, that’s not how most dogs see it, if properly crate trained. Indeed, a crate is a safe place that they can retreat to for sleep and relaxation, when life around the house gets to be a bit too much.

There is also the reality that most pupplies won't defecate where they sleep, so you can get 'potty training' well in hand, quickly and easily.

Crate training ensures that if you have to be out of the house for a while every day, your puppy or dog is safe and comfortable. Just make sure it’s large enough to allow them to move around and sleep comfortably. It also makes traveling with your dog possible as they can be placed in the crate when you need to leave your pet-friendly resort without them for a little while.

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Feeding the right foods

Yes, those puppy eyes watching you eat every bite of your dinner are hard to resist, but it’s important to do just that! Table scraps and other foods not intended for dogs are bad for their overall health, including their dental health.

A diet of kibble and appropriate treats that are high in protein and natural ingredients may be a little more expensive than the store brand dog food, but it’s worth it. Your dog will be happier, healthier and live a long life on the right diet. Ask your breeder or veterinarian for their opinions on this one!

Socialization is key

If you don’t want your dog to be timid or afraid, it’s important to socialize them. Once they’ve had all their necessary vaccines, puppy school (or training school for a rehomed dog) are great ways to socialize them with other dogs, in a controlled setting.

It’s not just other dogs that your pup needs to meet! They should get used to different people, sounds and smells, depending on where you live and your lifestyle. And if you want to make travelling a dream, get them used to riding in the car. Make sure you use a crate or some sort of harness restraint to ensure that, in the event of an accident, they’re safe too.

Pet insurance could save their life

Diagnosing an illness or repairing an injury can be very expensive, so the solution, particularly with puppies, is pet insurance. It’s health insurance for your pet and, depending on the policy, can provide excellent coverage for those unexpected expenses. A dog can tear a foot pad, eat something it shouldn’t have, or encounter any number of other health related issues, so having the insurance will give you the peace of mind you need to ensure that you can take care of them, no matter what happens!
Having a dog is one of the most rewarding experiences that anyone can have.

It can also be difficult if you are not prepared and don't 'parent' your dog responsibly. They want to be good boys and girls for you, so help them get there and keep them safe.

Are you a dog owner? Here are some helpful tips to make your yard more canine friendly.

This is not a sponsored post. Expert tips provided by, Donna Potter founder of Fusion Gates.

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