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Twelve Golden Rules of Dog Ownership

dachshund laying on floor wearing collar

Dogs are attentive, loyal, life-affirming, and understanding companions. But owning a dog means taking responsibility for him and making sure your relationship is built on a solid foundation. That's where these rules come into play: They can help you create a tighter bond with your pet by establishing roles, rules, and routines.

Twelve golden rules

  1. Love, admire and respect your dog. Your dog is a wonderful, beautiful and intelligent member of the canine species. Be patient with him. Don't hurt, abandon, or ignore him. Get help before you give up on him.
     
  2. Spay/neuter. Consult your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your dog if you know you will not breed him. These procedures help to control the severe pet population problem, and also have health benefits for both male and female dogs.
     
  3. Routine health care. Provide regular veterinary care for your dog. Annual vaccinations, checkups, and dental exams are essential to good health.
     
  4. Dog license and ID. Rabies vaccination and licensing are required by law in most states. In addition, you should identify your dog with a name tag, tattoo, or computer chip in case he gets lost.
     
  5. Healthy diet. Feed your dog a balanced diet and provide fresh water at all times.
     
  6. Train your dog. After all, good manners don't just happen. So be patient and follow a proper training routine. If you need help training your dog, there are many articles on this site that can help. And if you still need assistance, ask your vet to recommend a good trainer or dog obedience school in your area.
     
  7. Keep your dog clean and groomed. Regular grooming keeps your dog looking his best and helps to detect and control skin parasites that could be passed to people.
     
  8. Play with your dog. Playtime should last at 20–30 minutes a day. Avoid chase games, tug of war, and wrestling.
     
  9. Exercise your dog. Depending on the age and breed of your dog, a good exercise session should last at least 30 minutes daily. And it's not just good for your dog—it's a great way for both of you to keep in shape.
     
  10. Socialize your dog. Provide your dog with a chance to socialize with people and other dogs. Try not to keep him cooped up in the house or yard because it could lead to barking and aggressive behavior.
     
  11. Know and obey local leash laws. When in doubt, keep him leashed when you're both out and about.
     
  12. Scoop that poop. Always clean up after your dog in public places.
  • The Serious Benefits of Play

    dog carrying a frisbee in its mouth

    Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.

    The benefits of play

    Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:

    • Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
    • Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
    • Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
    • Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
    • Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.

    How to play with your dog

    There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.

    When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.

    When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.

    Playtime tips

    • Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
    • Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
    • Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
    • Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
    • You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
    • If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!

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