15 Everyday Habits of Great Dog Owners

Are you a good owner or a GREAT one? Check and see how many of these habits you're already doing.

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No dog sign

You follow the rules even if you think they’re silly

Some public places don’t allow pets and great pet owners will obey the posted signs, even if you’re 100 percent sure your Good Boy would be just fine, Dr. MacPete says. “If a business only allows service animals, be respectful and leave your canine companion at home,” she says.

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Woman hugging her dog

You do a daily “snout-to-tail” check

Great pet owners care deeply about their dog’s wellbeing and spend a few minutes each day giving them a once-over, says Neil Cohen, dog behavior expert, owner and head trainer at Sit Means Sit. “By touching your dog, from snout to tail (and everywhere in between) you not only teach a dog to accept your touch, should they need it in an emergency, but you also familiarize yourself with their body, enabling you to quickly notice anything that wasn’t there yesterday—like a tick, cut, tumor, etc.,” he explains.

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Small dog offering their human a high-five

You train your dog to have good manners

“Responsible dog owners socialize and train their dogs for how to behave in public,” MacPete says. Untrained dogs can cause all kinds of problems, intentionally or not, and a great owner will prepare them for different situations before bringing them in public. Not only does this protect other humans but it makes your doggo and his canine friends more comfortable too since they know what to expect. Reward your pet’s good behavior with one of these 9 homemade dog treats.

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Puppy watching excitedly through a window

You respect that not everyone is a dog person

You love your pup with all your heart but a good pet owner recognizes that not everyone shares their love for animals. Whether others are allergic, have a dog phobia or just don’t enjoy pets, rather than trying to convince them otherwise, you respect their boundaries and train your dog to do so as well, MacPete says. Also, make sure you don’t share these 11 foods with your dog as they could make your pup sick.

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Human teaching their puppy a trick in a field

You are consistent with the rules

Great pet owners know that forbidding their dog to eat off the counter one day and then allowing it the next isn’t being kind, it’s just confusing. Dogs thrive with rules, Cohen says. “Maintain regular boundaries, for example, no counter surfing, no nose on the table no jumping on people,” he says. “Boundaries establish leadership/authority and make your dog more comfortable in your pack.”

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Dog sniffing grass

You let your dog sniff all the bushes

Most of the time people want their dog to conform to their lives but a great pet owner makes time for their dog to just be a dog. “You give your dog the gift of a sniff-filled walk or playtime with other dogs, playing in the way that makes the dog, not necessarily the humans, happy,” Benson says.

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Woman walking her dog

You walk your dog every day

“Great pet owners make time for a walk; a simple daily walk allows dogs to experience their world and be enriched by it,” Benson says. Walks are good exercise mentally and physically for dogs—not to mention their owners too, she adds. More exercise is just one of the many proven health benefits of owning a pet.

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Dog gnawing on a bone

You encourage your dog’s natural instincts in a healthy way

All dogs are born needing to bite, chew and chase but all too often those instincts get them in trouble in the human world. Great dog owners understand this and give the dog safe ways to express their nature, Benson says. “Give your dogs food puzzles or other games and toys that allow them to practice natural canine behaviors like chewing and ‘hunting’ for their food,” she says. By the way, did you know your dog can have these 27 people foods?

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Human hand petting a dog's face

You correct your dog with kindness

When your dog acts up, you need to bring them back in line but great dog owners know the difference between correction and punishment, says Kristi Benson, a certified canine therapy trainer and behavior expert. They use their voice to reassure, comfort and correct their dog—not scare them, she says. “Good owners will not use yelling, swatting, training collars or other physical punishments as they know they are bad for the dog’s welfare,” she explains. “Modern dog training techniques can help you teach your dog to obey without using harsh punishments.” Training collars are one of the pet products vets would never buy.

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Dog laying down on a rug

You make your house dog-friendly

Sure, you could get mad at your dog every time they bark at the neighbor’s kids — or you could install some dog-proof shades and remove the temptation, Benson says. Similarly, if your pup freaks out when strangers come over, set up a room with toys and food for him to go to when you have guests. “Good dog owners look for easy ways to reduce problem behavior instead of punishing it,” she says. Here are some simple steps for pet-proofing your home.

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Tiny white dog being checked on by a vet

You take your dog for regular veterinary check-ups

“A big sign of a great dog owner is seeking veterinary care for their pets as soon as they get sick and scheduling routine health check-ups and vaccines,” says Sara Ochoa, veterinarian and consultant for doglab.com. Not only will this help your dog recover faster from injuries and illnesses, but it will also go a long way in preventing them from getting sick or hurt in the first place, she says.

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Dog sticking his head out of a car window on country road

You rescued your dog or bought it from a reputable breeder

“Great dog owners know not to buy puppies from stores or online, no matter how beautiful the website looks,” Benson says. “Puppy mills are scary and awful for breeding dogs and produce puppies that might have serious health and behavioral problems.” Instead, they will look to rescue an animal from a shelter or if they are looking for a particular dog will only purchase from an accredited and reputable breeder, she adds.

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Golden Retriever eating

You wash out the water bowl

One of the most basic responsibilities of owning a pet is providing a source of clean water but great pet owners will make sure that the water is fresh daily and the bowl is cleaned regularly, Dr. Ochoa says. “Slime can build up in the water bowl and cause your pet to get sick,” she explains.

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Puppy eating food from their bowl

You feed your pup a well-balanced diet and limit treats

Great pet owners understand that while dogs may love it, human food and excessive treats are bad for your pet’s health, Dr. Ochoa says. Instead, you make an effort to buy balanced, quality food and keep it consistent while limiting treats to special occasions—being overweight is just as bad for dogs as it is for humans, she says. You can even feed your dog homemade dog food.

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Pet owner throwing out dog poop in park

You pick up more than just poop

Picking up your dog’s poop is Good Doggie Care 101 but truly great pet owners will be mindful of any mess their animal makes and clean up after them, says Ruth MacPete, veterinarian and author of Lisette the Vet. This means not only cleaning up poop piles from the neighbor’s lawn but wiping up pee, drool or other liquids in public places; picking up the pieces when your dog shreds a toy; and making amends if your pup chews someone’s shoe, pees on a rug or otherwise makes a mess. Your dog will pay you back tenfold with these 28 ways your dog is trying to say “I love you.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest