Owning a dog is a joy, privilege, and responsibility. If you are considering bringing a canine companion into your life, think seriously about the commitment that being a responsible dog owner entails.
The AKC is committed to protecting the health and well-being of all dogs. In honor of AKC’s Responsible Dog Ownership Day, here are 75 tips on how to be a good dog owner.
Prepare to Be a Responsible Dog Owner
1. Recognize the commitment
Before deciding that a dog is right for you, make an honest assessment: are you ready for the financial, emotional, and time commitment owning a dog requires?
2. Evaluate your lifestyle
Think about the type of dog that will best suit your lifestyle. Evaluate all aspects of your family’s life — hobbies, activities, personalities — before choosing a breed.
3. Make a list
Based on your evaluation, what qualities do you want in a dog? Consider size, energy level, grooming needs, trainability, and temperament. If you rent an apartment, are there restrictions on height, weight, or breed? Answer these questions now, because once you bring a dog home, it can be heartbreaking to realize you made the wrong choice.
4. Choose a breed
Once you have made your list of ideal characteristics, do some research to find out which breeds fit that profile. Read up, attend dog shows, and visit AKC’s breed pages.
5. Get referrals to responsible breeders
You have a better chance of success if you get your dog from a responsible, ethical breeder. The AKC has a Breeder Referral contact for each recognized breed. They can put you in touch with breeders or rescue organizations in your area.
6. Contact breeders
Reach out to breeders in your area. Don’t be discouraged if the first breeder you talk to doesn’t have puppies available right away. That person may know of another breeder in the region.
7. Ask questions
When you find a breeder you’re comfortable with, ask to visit the kennel and view the dogs on the breeder’s premises. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the breed and the breeder’s practices.
8. Consider an older dog
Puppies aren’t for everyone. If an older dog better fits your lifestyle, check the AKC Rescue Network. Most rescue dogs have been spayed or neutered and are screened for health and temperament issues.
9. Expect questions
A responsible breeder or rescue organization will ask you extensive questions about the type of home you can offer a dog. They are as committed as you to making the right match.
10. Prepare to wait for the perfect dog
Availability varies. Responsible breeders do not breed often, and many times the puppies of a planned breeding are already spoken for. A good dog is worth waiting for.
11. Skip the holidays
Most breeders don’t recommend giving dogs as a present. A new puppy needs your undivided attention, which is difficult during the holiday season. A better idea is to give dog-related gifts — toys, leashes, grooming tools — and then bring your puppy home when all of the excitement has died down.
Commit to Dog Ownership
12. Choose your dog
Listen to your breeder’s suggestions about which puppy in the litter is right for you. If you are rescuing an older dog, get input from the rescue organization.
13. Get it in writing
Information about the sale or adoption should be in writing. The contract should include details about fees, spay-neuter agreements, health guarantees, terms of co-ownership, restrictions on breeding, and living arrangements. It should also include instructions on what to do if the dog, despite your best efforts, simply doesn’t work out for you or your family. Most responsible breeders will insist that the dog be returned to them.
14. Get your papers
You should receive an AKC registration application from your breeder when you purchase the puppy. Make sure the breeder completes the appropriate sections of the form and signs it. The breeder can also help you fill out your section correctly.
15. Register your dog
Send your completed application to the AKC. Your dog will then become part of the nation’s largest registry of purebred dogs. If you rescue a dog, consider applying for a Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege (PAL/ILP) number. This allows your dog to participate in some performance events.