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How to Be a Good Dog Owner: 11 Vet-Approved Tips


Jun 5, 2023
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Dr. Paola Cuevas Photo

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Anyone who owns a dog or is thinking about owning a dog wants to be a good dog owner. Some people think that being a good dog owner is easy or that dogs are super low maintenance. But neither of those things is exactly true. Being a good dog owner takes a lot of thought, a willingness to invest time in your dog, and a willingness to learn and grow with your dog. So how can you be a good dog owner? There are some basic things that you can do to become a good dog owner and even an exceptional dog owner.


Preparation: Is a Dog Right for You?

Before you run off and get a dog, you should seriously sit down and consider if a dog is right for you and your current living situation. One of the ways that people slip into being bad dog owners is by bringing a dog into a situation that is unsuited for the dog’s needs.

Dogs need a lot of care, attention, time, and exercise. If you cannot bring your dog outside multiple times per day, play with them, afford the food, and are not willing to bring them to the vet and spend the time to train them, then a dog might not be right for you. Not everyone’s life is conducive to dog ownership. People who work all day every day, spend a lot of time out and about without their dog, or are strapped for time or money, in general, might not be able to handle a dog.

Have an honest assessment and think deeply about whether you can afford and handle a dog. Making sure you can take care of a dog is the first step to becoming an excellent dog owner.  If you’ve decided that you are able to take care of a dog, here are some other things you can do to be a good dog owner.

The 11 Tips How to Be a Good Dog Owner

1. Research Your Dog’s Breed

One of the first things you should do when getting a dog is to research the breed you are getting. There are dozens of different dog breeds in all shapes, sizes, and personalities with different needs. Some breeds need more exercise than others. Some breeds have more intensive grooming needs than others. Knowing what kind of breed you are getting and their specific needs will help you get everything you need to properly care for them. For example, if you get a Poodle, you will likely need to get some grooming supplies so that you are ready to keep their coat clean.

young woman working on laptop at home, cute small dog besides.
Image Credit: eva_blanco, Shutterstock

2. Provide Your Dog With Quality Food and Water

Once you know what kind of breed you are getting and do some research, you should have a good idea of what kind of food they will need. One big way you can improve your dog’s quality of life from the get-go is to provide them with quality food and water.

There are plenty of cheap dog foods on the market, but they are rarely the best choice for your dog’s specific needs. If you invest in some quality dog food, you can add some serious health benefits to your dog. You can ask your veterinarian for suggestions about what food would be best for your particular dog.

Also, make sure you are refilling your dog’s water once per day and cleaning their water bowl on a regular basis to ensure that your dog has access to fresh, clean water whenever they need it. If your dog is drinking the water bowl down on a consistent basis, make sure to start refilling it more regularly.

3. Exercise Your Dog Twice Per Day

Dogs typically need some form of exercise twice per day. Most people choose to do two walks, one in the morning and one in the evening. Exercise is a very important part of a dog’s routine. A dog that gets proper exercise is calmer, more focused, and less anxious than a dog that does not receive enough exercise on a regular basis. Some breeds need far more exercise than others, so be sure to give your dog the recommended amount of exercise.

cropped woman running on a trail in the woods with her energetic dog on harness and leash
Image Credit: knelson20, Shutterstock

4. Play With Your Dog Once Per Day

Even if you walk your dog twice a day (or do other forms of exercise), you should still try and play with your dog at least once per day. Playing with your dog has multiple benefits. Playing with your dog helps build a bond between you and the dog. It provides mental stimulation for your dog. It also helps to build trust and affection. Some people think if they walk their dogs, they don’t have to play with them, but you should still try. You don’t have to play with your dog for very long. It just has to be for a few minutes.

5. Periodically Take Your Dog to the Veterinarian

One of the best ways to be a good dog owner is to take your dog to the veterinarian. Dogs need regular examinations, vaccines, and checkups. These exams will help keep your dog happy and healthy. Vaccines will prevent your dog from getting sick. All of this is important for keeping your dog healthy for the long run.

It is also a good idea to build a relationship with your veterinarian. The more familiar your vet is with you and your dog, the more knowledgeable they will be, and that will help them give you the best possible advice and guidance. This can be especially valuable for new dog owners who are not yet familiar or comfortable with being a dog owner.

vet checking the siberian husky dog in the clinic
Image Credit: Pressmaster, Shutterstock

6. Keep Your Dog Well Groomed

Some dogs need periodic grooming to keep them healthy. Dogs with long coats need to be brushed, trimmed, and washed regularly. If you do not groom your dog regularly, their fur can get matted, their skin can get infected, and they will start to smell or itch. Even dogs with short coats will need regular baths in order to remain at their best. Do not neglect your dog’s grooming needs. If you don’t groom your dog, it can affect their health and well-being.

7. Provide Safe Spaces for Your Dog

Dogs need safe spaces to feel comfortable and confident. Some dogs appreciate a dog bed that they can call their own and hide their toys. Other dogs like a windowsill or an empty room. Some dogs actually like to make their crate into a safe space. Dogs need places they can go and hide, decompress, and remove themselves from situations that they do not want to be in. Providing your dog with a safe space will be a huge boon for them, and it will help them acclimate to your life and lifestyle.

brown poodle puppy on yellow dog bed
Image Credit: Alison Pang, Unsplash

8. Address Your Dog’s Mental and Social Needs

Some dogs have anxiety, stranger danger, signs of aggression, and the need for attention or playtime with other dogs. Paying attention to these needs and addressing them can elevate you from an average dog owner to an exceptional dog owner. Dogs with anxiety can be treated or have lifestyle changes to help them feel calmer.

Things like stranger danger and protective behavior can be socialized away. If your dog needs more attention, playtime, or a safe space, you can also work to provide these things. If you can feel out your dog’s individual personality and tweak your lifestyle to meet their needs, it can make everyone happier.

9. Socialize Your Dog

One of the best things you can do for your dog (and yourself) is to socialize your dog as soon as you get them. A well-socialized dog is very important for well-rounded and calm behavior. Socializing your dog means introducing them to a variety of new situations, places, and people and then rewarding good behavior during these encounters.

Dogs that are socialized from a young age have fewer incidents of anxiety and aggression. Bring your dog to the dog park. Take them on car rides. Show them off and introduce them to friends and family. All of these things can help your dog adapt to their new life, and socialization can pay massive dividends in the future for both you and your dog.

group of friends meet in the park with their dogs
Image Credit: DMegias, Shutterstock

10. Train Your Dog

Another thing that can help your dog thrive is training. Dogs that can recall, stay, sit, and stop will be safer and more confident than dogs without any training. Unruly dogs can bring undue stress to their owners, which can trickle down to the dogs. Dogs that can listen to basic commands are also safer because they can be prevented from getting into trouble, eating things they shouldn’t, or running into traffic. Having an untrained and unsocialized dog will only bring grief to both you and the dog.

11. Build a Schedule or Routine

Dogs respond extremely well to a routine and a schedule. One of the best ways to get a dog to settle in and feel comfortable at home is to put them on a schedule. Take them outside at the same time when possible. Feed them at the same time. Try to come home from work at the same time when you can. All of these beats will help your dog feel secure and in control. Dogs on a schedule are typically less anxious than dogs off a schedule. Scheduling and routine building are some of the most underrated parts of being a good dog owner that should be more heavily considered and practiced.

woman playing with labrador dog in park
Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock



These 11 things are the building blocks to growing into an amazing dog owner. Dog ownership can be daunting at first, especially if you are new to it. These steps and tips can help you grow into the dog owner you know that you can be deep down. This list is not exhaustive, and every dog (and household) is different. If you are worried that you are not a good dog owner, don’t worry. Lackluster owners can easily transform into good owners with time and dedication. Everyone has to start somewhere.

Featured Image Credit: Krichevtseva, Shutterstock

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