5 min read

4 Principles of Good Pet Parenthood



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.

Good pet parents are committed

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.

pet parent and vet examining a long-haired gray cat

Good pet parents feel a sense of responsibility

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:

  • Feeding the healthiest foods to their pup, kitty and other pets that they can afford
  • Training for basic commands that will keep them safe, as well as for specific concerns
  • Having their fur baby spayed or neutered to avoid future health problems and unwanted litters
  • Ensuring their dog or cat gets regular exercise and playtimes
  • Creating an enriching, comfortable pet-friendly environment
  • Maintaining good grooming that includes coat, teeth, and nails
  • Securing them in harnesses designed for car travel, or putting them in a crate for the trip

small white dog with brown ears with head out car window on road trip

Good pet parents bond with their pets

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:

  • Go places with your dog – hike a trail, take road trips, visit pet-friendly restaurants and taverns, or check out a drive-in movie.

  • Build or re-arrange spaces where they can relax with you. Build your cat a “catio," an outside screened area, with interesting objects and safe plants, or a perch near the window where you sit.

  • Groom your pooch or kitty regularly. Being bathed and brushed by a pet parent makes the nail trimming and teeth-cleaning worth it

  • Provide positive reinforcement with treats or extra affection when you catch your dog or cat doing something right. For some pets, the tone of your voice may be all the positive reinforcement they need.

  • Train your dog basic manners, and later expand into more complex and challenging skills. Your dog will love the opportunity to do what you ask and get rewarded for it!

  • Be willing to give and accept affection. When your fluffy approaches, a mere pat on the head may disappoint them, and deprive you of some of their well-known unconditional love. It may just be the time to stop typing and give the pup or cat a hug.

group of dogs sitting in a line with owners during training class

Good pet parents never stop learning

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. 

How can you be a better pet owner?

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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