How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner

Jaron Pak
A yellow lab and a man sit at a table together, the man petting the dog's nose
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Bringing a dog to live under your roof comes with a surprising number of responsibilities and cares.

New dog owners, in particular, can be racked with questions and concerns as they attempt to help a puppy adjust to life within their home while coping with the cost of owning a dog.

It can be helpful to put those worries to rest by making sure that you’ve gone over everything that a responsible dog owner should be aware of. Doing this can help you enjoy the years of dog ownership ahead — and it may even help you identify what other kinds of pets you might be better suited for in the future.

Understanding the Breed

One of the most fascinating things about dogs is how much they vary from one breed to the next. Some breeds are excellent family pets, such as Labradors and Golden Retrievers. Others are sharp as a tack and easier to train, like German Shepherds or Border Collies. Some expensive breeds are bred specifically to have special traits, such as high intelligence.

Whatever breed you end up going with, it’s worth taking some time beforehand to identify what kind of traits you’re looking for and then research which breeds tend to demonstrate those behaviors naturally.

Here are a few of the most common traits that potential owners should consider when looking for a new dog:

  • How easy are they to train? Training is always helpful, but it’s important to know how difficult it will be to teach your dog all the tricks.
  • How energetic are they? An energetic dog isn’t bad, but they can have you pulling your hair out if you were expecting a tired old pooch that will lay on your lap all day. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a running companion, don’t pick a low-energy breed.
  • How good are they with family? This is a classic question for all families, especially those with younger children.
  • Do you need them to herd, hunt, or work? Whether it’s herding, hunting, or pulling sleds, hard work and intuition come more naturally to some breeds than others.
  • How big of a dog do you want? There are numerous breed sizes, from large to medium to small. There are even toy breeds that are perfect for more of the ever-present, “on-the-lap” kind of relationships.
  • Does your dog need to get along with other pets? Some breeds are more pet-friendly than others.
  • Are allergies a concern? There are some hypoallergenic dog breeds that can be the perfect solution for those with a dog allergy.

Health and Wellness

Along with selecting a good breed, you’re going to want to make sure that you have everything lined up for their health and wellness before you bring your new pup home.


Dogs require grooming on a regular basis. You should bathe them regularly, although the specific frequency will depend on the length of their hair. Short-haired dogs only need to be bathed once every few months. Long-haired dogs require cleaning more often.

You’re also going to want to brush them at least once per week and take the time to regularly clip their nails and brush their teeth.


It’s essential that you keep your dog up to date on their vaccines.

Some of these are universal, such as the rabies and Bordetella Bronchiseptica vaccines. However, you’re also going to want to check to see if there are any specific regional vaccines you may want to consider for issues like Lyme disease.

As an extra note, make sure to check if your city or local municipality requires your dog to have proof of these vaccines on their collar.


Spaying or neutering

your dog is an important part of responsible pet ownership. Unless you plan to breed your pet, it’s important to have them spayed or neutered.

This helps to keep the dog population at reasonable levels. Spaying or neutering can also help your animal avoid the discomfort associated with being in heat and can remove the risk of uterine or testicular cancer.

Dietary Needs

While it’s tempting to think you know what’s best to feed your dog, it’s important that you also ask your veterinarian what is best for your dog’s particular breed and size.

Find a food that is healthy and tailored to your dog’s particular needs. In addition, you’re going to want to make sure to feed them the right quantity of food — consider decreasing the amount slightly in the winter to adjust for less activity — and make sure to regularly monitor their weight and shape.

Proper Training

You’re going to want to begin training as soon as you get your new pup.

At the very least, you’re going to want to work on basic obedience commands like “sit,” “stay,” and “down.” There are beginner, intermediate, and advanced obedience classes for dogs, as well as behavioral classes aimed at addressing specific behavior-based issues such as aggressive behavior or obsessive eating.

Make sure to ask your vet for recommendations regarding local training classes catered to your dog’s particular needs.

While training a dog is fairly safe, it’s also important to make sure that you’re aware of what to do in the event that your dog bites you or someone else while training. If this happens, make sure to do the following:

  • Gently apply pressure to the wound.
  • Wash the bite.
  • Use a cloth to slow the bleeding down.
  • Use antibiotic ointment.
  • Cover the wound with a sterile bandage.
  • Change the bandage several times each day and always check to make sure an infection isn’t forming.

Respect People and Things Around Your Dog

Staying alert and aware of your dog’s surroundings is a key part of responsible ownership.

If you have someone over who isn’t comfortable with dogs or your animal companion is jumping up on a guest, take the time to remove your dog from the situation. Even if you know a visitor is simply allergic to your dog, make sure to proactively remove the animal from the environment to avoid making the guest uncomfortable.

The same goes for public places, too. If your dog is socially awkward or aggressive, it’s important to take steps to address the issue. Train them to obey your commands and walk on a leash without tugging or pulling.

If you find that socialization issues persist, consider seeking further help from an animal behavioral specialist.

Pick up After the Dog at Home and in Public (Droppings, Toy-Pieces, Fur)

Behavior aside, it’s also always good manners to pick up after your dog.

Whether you’re cleaning up droppings on a walk, clearing toys from the walkways in your house, or removing the hair and fur from the floorboards, make sure to pick up after your dog.

Be Your Dog’s Friend

Always make sure to reciprocate that “best friend mentality” with your canine companion.

Remember, you’ve taken on the responsibility of their health and livelihood. It’s important to go beyond basics like feeding and grooming.

Here are a few suggestions to help foster friendship and make sure your dog isn’t just surviving, but thriving as well:

  • Get them toys and treats that they like and then play with them.
  • Take them on frequent walks down the road, to a dog park, and anywhere outside where dogs are allowed.
  • Talk to your dog — they love attention and affection.
  • Give them massages.
  • Praise them whenever you can.

There’s no doubt that being a responsible dog owner is a lot of work. Fortunately, it’s work that is well worth the effort.

If you take the time to care for your dog and try to be patient as they learn and grow, you’ll be rewarded with a happy, well-trained companion that can be the perfect four-legged friend for any household.

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