By Leslie Ingraham
Published: 02/11/2022, edited: 04/28/2023
In 2020, during COVID, pet ownership in the United States rose to a staggering 70% of all households as shelters and rescues were emptied in an adoption movement that swept the nation. And it's easy to see why. Pets enrich our lives with love and loyalty, and in some cases make us better people. They can teach us how to be responsible, committed to something outside ourselves, and disciplined. But it takes all of that and more to be a truly good pet parent.
Is there a road map or owners’ manual we can follow to ensure good pet parenting? Not exactly, but there are plenty of resources where we can gather information, and our pet-loving friends and family have a lot of wisdom to share.
What traits do all good pet parents have? Even if you’re a long-time pet owner, you might find a morsel or two to think about in these 4 principles of good pet parenthood.
Getting a pet requires thought and consideration, and should never happen impulsively. The best pet parents know that a pet will change their lives significantly and are looking forward to those changes. They’re in it for the long haul, even when life takes some unexpected turns, and promise to care for their pet throughout their lifetime.
Committed cat and dog owners remember that their pet's greatest desire is to be with their humans, and they make plans that reflect that. They'll include their fur baby as often as they can in whatever they’re doing and provide comfortable and safe care arrangements for those times when they must be away. Their pet isn't just an animal who happens to live with them- they are a part of their family.
Taking full responsibility for a pet can be daunting, but the best pet parents arm themselves with knowledge of what’s needed and provide it. Sometimes it feels like responsible dog ownership hinges on schedules and routines, but good pet parents understand that consistency is important to our pets, and solid routines and expectations make them happy.
Responsibility encompasses knowing what needs to be done to keep a dog or cat safe and healthy, and doing it. The best pet parents build these responsibilities into their everyday lives and carry them out consistently. These include:
Dogs and cats are social animals that thrive on the connections they form with their humans. Pet parents can have the most satisfying experiences with their pets when they have a sense of closeness and loyalty. Bonding is what makes a dog wait by the window and run for the door when their dog mom comes home. It’s also what allows them to become protective of young children in the family, defending them and keeping them safe. The greatest dog and cat owners recognize the value of bonding opportunities and seek them out.
There are many ways to strengthen a bond with a pet, and none of them are especially complicated or costly. Here are some examples:
Knowledge about your pet and its breed characteristics can provide a richer relationship for both of you. Experience is a good teacher as well, and as you become more familiar with your dog or kitty and their moods and preferences, the better you’re able to sync with them.
Every time a parent takes their pup to an obedience or agility class, learning isn’t always limited to the pooch. Parents learn techniques to practice at home, and they learn about their fur buddy’s capabilities so they can help them grow. They may pick up tricks from other pet parents that can’t be found in books or online, or see personality traits they haven’t noticed before. And anytime their pet interacts with new people and animals is a great opportunity to see what needs to be worked on, whether that's gaining confidence or learning how not to jump on everyone!
A trip to the vet can be very educational as you learn how to keep your dog or cat healthy. The vet and staff can also be helpful with the meaning of certain behaviors and behavior modification tips, and they can discuss your pet’s breed and the diseases they might be vulnerable to.
Being a better dog or cat owner can be a simple and rewarding matter if you nurture the traits above, are patient, show your pets you love them, and know what they need and provide it for them. In turn, you'll be rewarded with a loyal furiend who'll be with you to the end, no matter what.
If you have more thoughts on how to be a good pet parent, let us know in the comments section below, and tag #wagwalking or @wag on Instagram for a chance to be featured!
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