by Nick Norris

As the American Kennel Club and puppy parents everywhere prepare to celebrate the annual Responsible Dog Ownership Day, it’s important to remember what makes an owner a responsible one. Of course, having a canine companion is a lot of fun, but it’s also a lot of work. Properly caring for a dog requires maturity, compassion, and time. If you are considering adopting a furry friend into your home, please read along and make sure you know what you’re getting into beforehand.

1. Responsible dog owners spend money when necessary

Just as raising a baby will put a dent in your wallet, so will caring for a dog. MoneyUnder30.com estimates the first-year cost of owning a dog to be around $1,270. Depending on the type of food purchased and the number of veterinary visits made, this number can be much higher. The website also says to expect to spend roughly $500 each additional year. Again, this number could be greater depending on many factors.

2. Stay on the lookout for illnesses

Though dogs can be quite vocal when expressing themselves, they do not always alert owners when feeling sick. If you notice your dog to be acting uncharacteristically lazy or without appetite, go ahead and take a visit to the vet. It’s best to get ahead of illness early than to wait it out. If your dog is not one to get sick often, still make regular visits for check-ups to stay updated on your best friend’s health.

3. Emotional health is as important as physical health

Keeping a pet well-fed and healthy is a given, but a responsible owner also meets a dog’s emotional needs. For example, how would you like being locked in a dark kennel all day with only 30-minutes of daily exercise? You probably wouldn’t. Neither would your dog. Giving your fur-baby plenty of time to play and exercise in wide-open spaces is central for their mental and physical health. If you do not have a large yard, take your dog on neighborhood walks or to pet-friendly parks to frolic.

When you do have to leave your dog alone, be sure to make its living space emotionally nourishing. Leave plenty of toys for your pup to toss around and hide treats in areas it will later discover. These activities will keep your dog from getting bored and into any trouble while you’re away.

4. Clean up after your pup

Many dogs are going to do their business when and where they please. Responsible owners stay ahead of the game by keeping clean-up bags or kits nearby. No one wants to step in your pet’s mess, so don’t leave it out where that can easily happen. Also, dog fecal matter can spread diseases and parasites, so cleaning up and properly disposing of it can help keep your pooch and others healthy.

5. Be a teacher and a trainer

Just like children, dogs must be taught what is and isn’t socially acceptable. By training your dog with positive reinforcement, it can become more well-behaved and comfortable around others. Enrolling your pal into a training class can also be a great way for it to make friends with other dogs, which will strengthen its physical and emotional well-being, in turn.

As you can see, being a dog-parent can be challenging at times, but the love you will receive from your new best friend will make every moment feel more like a gift than a chore. If you think you’re ready to adopt a dog into your home, check out 1stfoundation.com.

One of the many reasons First Foundation, a non-profit organization that assists and aids military and first responders, exists is to help former service and working dog trainees find loving homes. If you are interested in adopting, an application can be filled out on the website.