Being a responsible pet owner means more than just making sure your pet is kept fed and watered. Your pet needs regular exercise, vaccinations, regular de-worming, flea and tick treatment, a collar and ID tag, and veterinary treatment if they become injured or sick.
IRO strongly advises ALL pet owners to make sure their animal is wearing a collar with an ID tag at all times, even inside the house. Make sure your name and photo number are on the ID tag along with the animal’s name so you can be contacted if your pet is found. IRO also strongly encourages pet owners to have their pet microchipped as a method of permanent identification. Speak to your vet for more information about microchipping.
It is important for all animals to be exercised and this will depend on their age, ability, and species. Your dog should be vaccinated before going outside and/or interacting with other dogs.
Dogs should be walked or exercised at least twice a day. In the summer, exercise should be done in the early morning or evening/night time to avoid your dog over-heating. Remember to carry poop bags with you to clean up after your dog and dispose of them in rubbish bins.
Keep your dog on a lead at all times when walking on the street, roads, and areas of high vehicle movement.
If it is safe to do so, make sure when you let your dog off the lead that you know it will come back when called.
Never leave your dog unattended outdoors as it could be mistaken for a stray or stolen.
Cats often receive the exercise they need in their outdoor environment however you can help them receive their daily exercise with play sessions that allow them to exercise their natural instincts (hunting, pouncing, stalking etc).
If you have an indoor cat it is especially important that their weight is monitored, that they have the chance to display normal behaviors and instincts, and litter trays are kept clean daily.
Your pet should be provided with access to shelter at all times so they can escape the sun or rain. This is especially important in the summer months when animals run the risk of over-heating which can be fatal. Your pet’s bed should be in a quiet area away from draughts or direct sunlight. Keep bedding and blankets clean with regular laundering. It is important that cats have a quiet space that they can retreat to away from humans and other animals if they are stressed.
A happy, well-behaved pet makes for a happy owner. It isn’t enough to just expect your pet to be well behaved, as the owner and the animal’s carer you also need to put in the effort yourself.
Early socialization is important for animals to become used to new sights, sounds, smells, and experiences. An animal that is well socialized will make for a more happy, friendly, and content pet.
For puppies and kittens, this means getting them used to be handled by people and interacting with other animals (including other species) in a safe environment. Socialization should continue throughout the animal’s life to maintain good behaviour. Meeting up with other dog owners for walks and play sessions is a good way to continue this.
Early training is also important not only to encourage good behaviour in your pet but can also strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Any training sessions should be kept short and fun to encourage your pet to work for their reward. Using rewards during training will help your pet associate a link between the desired behaviour and the reward. This is more effective than punishing your pet which will only make them scared of you and associate training as a negative experience.
As much as training sessions can be fun for you and your pet, they should also be given regular opportunities to indulge in natural behaviours and instincts. For dogs this can mean providing toys and treats to chew on, balls to chase and retrieve, or the opportunity to run about in a safe environment. For cats (especially ‘indoor only’ cats), natural hunting, stalking, pouncing, and chasing instincts will allow your pet to be physically and mentally stimulated. Cardboard boxes, paper bags, laser toys, fishing rod toys, and other toys can be used to indulge natural behaviours. It is also important to provide a scratch post for your cat as scratching is not only a natural way of keeping their claws in good condition but to stretch their muscles and mark their territory.
If you are concerned about your pet’s behavior, speak to your vet first to address any potential medical problem and seek the advice of a recommended animal behaviourist.
Going away without your pet
If you are going away and are unable to take your pet with you, take the time to make proper arrangements for your pet for their safety and wellbeing and your own peace of mind.
If you are choosing to board your pet at a vet clinic or boarding kennels, take the time to visit the facilities, meet the staff and find out about costs and treatments required (vaccinations, deworming, flea and tick treatment). Don’t be afraid to ask questions such as how many times a day will my dog be exercised? What food will be fed to my pet? Can I bring my own pet food? What happens if my pet gets sick or injured?
If you are using an ‘in home’ pet sitter, ask for references and take the time to let your pet(s) meet the pet sitter to see how they interact.
If a friend, family member, or colleague will be looking after your pet, make sure it is someone you trust and that you are confident that they will care for your pet while you are away. Let your pet meet the person first so they are familiar with your pet (and your pet with them). Make sure they are familiar with your pet’s feeding and exercise routine and that they have your vet’s contact details in case of an emergency.
Before you leave, make sure your pet is wearing a collar with an ID tag with your current phone number on it and/or that your pet has been microchipped and the microchip has been registered.