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People often associate September with the start of school, football season, and autumn — but it’s also Responsible Dog Ownership month. So while you’re planning your seasonal fun, consider these seven ways to celebrate your dog and practice your own responsible dog ownership.

1. Exercise

Like people, dogs require exercise. While it’s easy to fall back on the traditional walk around the block, responsible dog ownership requires dog owners to discover the kind of exercise their dog loves. While some dogs live for their daily walks, others may prefer a faster pace, in which case a run or strenuous hike with elevation changes might be more appropriate. For other dogs, play is key. A rigorous game of fetch or tug-of-war might prove the best exercise for a playful dog who craves attention and stimulation, along with physical activity. Some dogs even like to swim or run agility courses.

To celebrate Responsible Dog Ownership this month, expose your dog to lots of different types of physical activity and notice which one seems to result in the most energy, joy, and exhaustion. Once you’ve discovered what kind of exercise or sport appeals most to your dog, you can celebrate responsible dog ownership all year round by committing to doing the activity on a regular basis.

2. Health and Wellness

Another important responsibility is scheduling and attending regular veterinary check-ups for your dog, seeking appropriate dog dental care, and providing proper nutrition. A dog’s medical needs vary with age, so it’s important to discuss with your veterinarian what your dog needs at any particular stage of life. Most dogs require annual vaccinations, but some veterinarians recommend holding off on certain vaccinations after a dog reaches a particular age.

Your veterinarian can also advise you on any necessary dental care for your dog, such as regular cleaning.

Bulldog puppy getting a check-up at the vet.
©mutluproject -

Regarding your dog’s nutrition, you may need to consider several factors, including age, weight, activity level, allergies, and more. Your vet can help you figure out how much food you should give your dog, as well as any special dietary needs your dog may have. Some vets may recommend grain-free diets or special food for dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Celebrate Responsible Dog Ownership Month by setting up an appointment with your vet for a regular exam, as well as a discussion of your dog’s vaccinations, dental health, and diet.

3. Training

There are many fun ways to bond with your dog, from enjoying a morning walk to snuggling on the couch. Training your pet is an excellent way not only to make your dog safer, better behaved, and more social, but also to strengthen the bond you share. From Canine Good Citizen to puppy socialization and dog sports, there is sure to be a class or event that you and your dog will enjoy.

Once you’re aware of all of the opportunities available, identify what your dog needs and work from there. If you’re not sure what training would be best for your dog, the AKC GoodDog! Helpline is a good starting place.

4. Travel

It’s important to make sure there’s a plan in place for your dog if you need to travel without them. As with training, many options exist, including professional dog sitters who make daily visits to your dog, dog walkers who make sure your dog continues to exercise while you’re away, and boarding kennels where your dog can stay while you travel. Celebrate Responsible Dog Ownership Month by making sure you have travel provisions set up to ensure your dog’s safety, well-being, and comfort, as well as for your own peace of mind.

5. Socialization

Socializing your dog is important at any stage of a dog’s life, from puppy to senior, and can prove a fun and fulfilling way to celebrate responsible dog ownership. Younger dogs and puppies can benefit greatly from early exposure to situations and circumstances that they are likely to encounter in their everyday life, while older dogs may need help coping with the arrival of new pets or children in the home.

Poodles being greeted by two young girls outdoors.
©HASPhotos -

Basic socialization can include regular, positive exposure to other dogs of various sizes and ages, exposure to different types of people, visits to dog parks, meet-and-greets on a leash, and more. A socialized dog may enjoy a safer and more fulfilling existence, since their ability to remain well-mannered in a variety of circumstances can reduce the likelihood of undesirable or dangerous behaviors.

6. Safety

The familiar “safety first” instruction is extremely important when discussing dog ownership. A concrete way to engage in responsible dog ownership is to ensure that your dog thrives in the most secure environment possible. Make sure your yard features adequate fencing and, if your dog spends a lot of time outside, provide clean, fresh, accessible drinking water, as well as shelter from the elements, at all times.

Before heading out for a walk, make sure your dog’s collar, harness, and leash are in good condition. Are all straps sturdy and unfrayed? Are all clips in working order? You may also want to make sure your dog’s equipment fits appropriately. Dogs can easily slip out of a collar that is too loose, while a collar that is too tight can be uncomfortable and even restrict a dog’s breathing.

Despite these efforts, dogs may sometimes still find ways to get loose. To increase your dog’s probability of returning home safely in the event of an escape, microchip your dog, enroll in AKC Reunite, and outfit your pet with ID tags displaying their name and your contact information.

7. Emergency Preparedness

From wildfires to hurricane season, having a disaster plan for your dog in case of emergency is an important part of dog ownership. Emergency preparations for your dog can include outfitting windows in your home with stickers notifying emergency personnel that a dog is inside, setting aside food, water, and medications for use in an emergency, and preparing a canine first-aid kit and “go-bag” for your dog. In advance of an evacuation, identify dog-friendly hotels and create an evacuation plan that includes your dog. To get started, fill out the AKC Reunite Emergency Plan.

Related article: 75 Ways to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
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