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credit: Mary Bloom ©AKC
You can make a difference to your dog and neighbors!

If you are fortunate enough to have a dog or if you are thinking of getting one be sure you know the basics of how to care for your dog and be a responsible dog owner. It'll be good for your dog, good for you and good for your neighbors!

Following these steps will help you be a great friend to your dog and a good neighbor to people in your community. You'll also find you and your dog will win lots of friends and fans around your neighborhood.

Train and socialize your dog.
Make sure your dog meets and accepts lots of people of all different ages, skin colors, etc. If you have a puppy, start early by taking the dog to lots of different places and introducing it to lots of people. The dog will gain confidence and learn how to respond and adjust to different people and situations.

Train your dog to respond to commands. Obedience training will make your bond stronger and will help control your dog. Training helps keep the dog safe and ensure that other kids and adults will be safe around your dog.

Identify your dog. Be sure to keep your dog's ID tag up-to-date and on its collar at all times.
Have a veterinarian microchip your dog, and enroll him in AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR). Even when you're careful, a gate may blow open or some other accident can happen. Your dog could wind up lost. Enrolling with AKC CAR before an accident happens can help find your dog. When someone finds your dog, one call to a 24-hour recovery service allows a coordinator to immediately alert you to your dog's whereabouts.

Leash your dog.
Always keep your dog on a leash in public. Ask adults about leash and licensing laws in your town or city. Be sure you understand and obey them. Letting your dog roam is unsafe and never a good idea. Make sure the dog's leash and collar fit securely so they are comfortable but snug enough that the dog can't back out of its collar.

Clean up.
Clean up after your dog in public. Before leaving for a walk or other outing, put some plastic grocery bags in your pocket to use for quick and easy pick up and disposal in an outdoor garbage can.

Watch the weather.
Never leave your dog unsupervised in direct sunlight or a closed car or truck. This can cause heat stroke and death. Give your dog shelter in all types of weather.

In case of emergency...
Does your family have an emergency evacuation plan? If not, help your parents come up with one. Be sure your dog and any other pets are part of your plan. Practice your plan with your family.

Consider spay and neuter.
The AKC encourages pet owners to have a veterinarian spay or neuter their dogs as a responsible means to prevent accidental breedings and unwanted puppies. Spaying and neutering are surgical procedures that take away dogs' ability to breed or reproduce.

Stop bothersome barking.
While most dogs bark for good reason, few things will bother your neighbors more quickly than letting your dog bark too much. Train your dog to bark only when appropriate (click here for tips). Spend time playing with your dog everyday, and provide dog chews and toys.

credit: Mary Bloom ©AKC
Keep your dog healthy.

Consistency and attention are key when it comes to feeding your dog. Feed the same high quality dog food at the same time each day. A change in the type or brand of food can upset your dog's stomach. Make any food changes gradually. Provide plenty of fresh water, and keep the dog's bowls clean. Don't overfeed.

Exercise your dog regularly to reduce the risk of heart disease, joint problems, diabetes and overall poor health. Consider your dog's age, health and current activity level when starting a new exercise routine. It's always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian.

Plan on brushing your dog at least once or twice a week, and only bathe the dog when it's dirty. Some dogs with longer coats may need to be brushed or clipped more often.

Veterinary Care
Remind your parents to take your dog to the vet for a check-up once a year. Stay current on its vaccinations, and maintain a flea-and-tick-control program. If you are uncertain how to treat your dog's medical needs or if you have any questions about the dog's health, contact the veterinarian. Rabies vaccinations or "shots" are very important.

Spend time with, love and enjoy your dog! See the fun trick you can try to teach your dog in this issue of Kids' Corner.