Dogs are a man’s best friend, but how can we show the canines in our lives how much we appreciate them?
Every year on Sept. 17, the American Kennel Club celebrates Responsible Dog Ownership Day to teach owners how to raise happy and healthy canines. But what does being a responsible dog owner mean? Dr. Debbye Turner Bell, a veterinarian who has been an expert contributor to Animal Planet and CBS News, sat down with Yahoo News to share her top five tips.
1. Choose the right pet for your family and lifestyle.
Turner Bell advocates making the right decisions before you buy your dog. Do you want a guard dog or one for companionship? Are you looking for a hunting dog or a lapdog? Make an informed decision by researching different breeds.
Additionally, buying a dog will not just affect your life: It will also have an impact on your entire family and household. Turner Bell says that a family with younger children may not want a small dog, while an elderly person may not want a rambunctious canine.
2. Take care of your dog’s health and well-being.
It is important for your dog to see a veterinarian at least once a year for a physical exam and vaccinations. If you live in an area where there are mosquitoes, your dog needs to be checked and treated for heartworms.
Unless you are trying to show or breed your dog, Turner Bell recommends getting your pet spayed or neutered. This step not only keeps your pet healthier, but it can also help prevent some diseases from developing.
3. Feed your dog the appropriate food.
All foods are not created equal. If you have not heard of most of the ingredients in your dog’s food, you may want to look into buying a new brand. Turner Bell says the first few ingredients should be a meat or protein, as well as plant-based foods such as carrots, peas, and other vegetables.
Another incentive? “The higher the quality of the food, the less comes out the other end,” said Turner Bell. “It works for you and the dog.”
4. Keep your dog safe.
It’s important to always properly identify your dog either with a collar and I.D. tag or a microchip. Turner Bell recommends using a microchip because your dog can always be identified if he or she goes missing.
As the seasons change, be mindful of the weather as it cools down or heats up. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high-quality leash and carrier for travel.
5. Play with your dog.
Now it’s playtime!
“Play is important on a couple of levels: It addresses their physical needs as well as their emotional needs,” says Turner Bell. “Dogs are social animals, and they need interaction. It’s not enough to put down food and water and then leave them alone for 16 hours a day. They need to feel your touch, they need your attention, and you can do that out on a nice walk that also helps them physically.”
But aside from the emotional benefits of playing with your dog, canines need exercise, just as humans do. If you are worried that your dog is obese, a condition that can cause heart disease and diabetes, among other ailments, owners can tell if their pet is overweight by feeling for the ribs. If your dog feels more like “a sausage on sticks,” the animal may be at risk.
Ready to adopt your next dog?
Turner Bell brought along two puppies, Star and Fridget, which can be adopted from the Bideawee shelter. If you are not in the New York area, Turner Bell recommends visiting your local animal shelter to find out more.