By Jessa Paschke, Behavior and Training Specialist
Pets are our best friends, exercise buddies, superheroes and stress relievers. When they’re happy and healthy thanks to responsible pet owners, they can have a great life and help us have great lives too.
Giving pets the nutrition, training, socialization, activity and medical care they need keeps them safe, happy and healthy. It also helps protect others, since a well-trained and socialized pet is much less likely to be a threat or bother to others.
In honor of Responsible Pet Owners Month – and of the remarkable role pets play in our lives all year round – here are nine key ways to have a great life with your pet.
1. Choose the right pet.
Different pets thrive in different environments. If you live in a small space, choose a pet that likes it cozy and doesn’t need lots of room for play. If you can’t commit the time for regular dog walks, an indoor cat may be a better option. If your work keeps you away from home for long hours, choose a dog or cat that will be comfortable for longer stretches alone. Better yet, bring your pet to work with you!
2. Make identification a priority.
If your pet gets lost, identification is vital to helping her get home. Responsible pet owners get pets microchipped and have them wear collars and ID tags at all times. Include your name, address and phone number on the tag. We’re huge fans of Whistle trackers, too. They attach to your pet’s collar and you can easily keep track of where your dog or cat roams with the Whistle app.
3. Dedicate time to daily care.
Pets are like people – they need daily grooming, including hair-brushing, teeth-cleaning and nail-trimming. They also need regularly scheduled visits to the vet for immunizations, preventive care and to treat any issues. As a pet owner, make sure you set aside time every day to give your cat or dog the care he needs. February is also Pet Dental Health Month! Be sure you’re making dental health a daily routine for dogs and cats, and consider dental treats like Greenies!
4. Get some exercise together.
Pets love playtime, and it’s great for people too. A study in the U.K. found that dog owners are five times more likely to get to know people in their neighborhoods. That’s thanks in large part to dog walking. But all pets need play, so be sure to give your pet regular exercise and mental stimulation. For dogs, that means walks and a chance to run around off-leash. For cats, it means providing places to climb and playing with them for at least 15 minutes a day.
5. Spoil with love and play, not food.
Did you know that over half of cat and dog owners give their pet food if they beg for it? Or overfeed pets to keep them happy? Unfortunately, today one out of three dogs and cats is overweight, and the numbers are growing. Check out this helpful information from Banfield about the alarming pet weight trends and how responsible pet owners can help their dog or cat.
6. Be social together.
For dogs especially, it’s important to have opportunities to meet new people and be exposed to unfamiliar sights, sounds and scents. This helps dogs feel comfortable in new situations and remain well-behaved. Start with training to make sure your dog know what’s expected of him. Then, gradually increase opportunities for socialization. Here’s more info about socialization from our friends at PEDIGREE Foundation.
7. Train yourself, too.
A lot of what we attribute to “pet behavior” actually depends on the choices pet owners make! Check out this article for 6 tips for good neighbor “petiquette.” Things like using a leash, picking up pet waste and keeping your pet clean take effort on your part, but they pay off big by helping keep your pet – and your community – happy.
8. Keep pets close.
Speaking of the leash, the importance of maintaining control of your pet can’t be repeated enough. A leash gives responsible pet owners a way to manage their dog if she gets over-excited. It also makes your neighbors more comfortable until they get to know your dog. And, it helps protect her from potentially dangerous situations, like stepping into the street. Keep your dog close to keep her safe.
9. Spread the word.
The more pet parents who know how to be responsible pet owners, the better life is for pets and people everywhere. Here are three downloadable and sharable resources to help you keep learning and teaching others. Please help spread the word!
- The Happy Pet Handbook (PDF), a BETTER CITIES FOR PETS™ guide to keeping pets happy, healthy and well-behaved so you can enjoy pet-friendly places together
- The WALTHAM™ Pocket Book of Responsible Pet Ownership (PDF), which explains nutrition, health care, socialization, training and other needs.
- Pet Post: A Kids Activity Booklet (PDF), a fun worksheet to get kids thinking about pets and responsible pet ownership.