Responsible dog ownership starts before you even bring a new puppy into the household. Contrary to popular opinion, vicious dogs are made, not bred – their temperament is shaped by their upbringing as much as their parentage.


  • A lot about the nature of a puppy can be gained from looking at its background. It is always preferable to see a puppy with its mother and littermates’; meeting the mother is essential and the father, desirable. If a puppy is timid or defensive at 6-8 weeks of age, it will require a great deal of work and knowledge about dogs to correct the behaviour.  


  • Choose a breed that is suitable for your circumstances – a large boisterous dog on a small section with no one at home all day is a recipe for trouble. Some breeds require large amounts of exercise, and others are extremely stubborn. Don’t buy a dog with a coat that requires daily grooming if you won’t have time to do it! Other breeds are distinguished by their guarding abilities, which will cause problems if you have strangers coming to your property regularly. Every breed has benefits and drawbacks – find out before you buy!


  • Be prepared before you bring the puppy home - it will require somewhere secure and warm to sleep, and you should have secure kenneling or a fully fenced property. Get feeding and water bowls organised, and find out what the puppy is being feed, so you can have food that it is familiar with for at least the first few days after it’s arrival.


  • SOCIALISE! This is probably the most important part of rearing any puppy. If it is only exposed to a limited environment (e.g. your family and yard) it will always feel insecure outside of its familiar zone. Puppies are able to absorb and become familiar with many different environments and settings before 4 months old. This allows them to develop a relaxed attitude later in life instead of being nervous and becoming aggressive. So, take your puppy to visit friends and have friends with dogs come to visit you. As soon as your puppy has had its vaccinations, make a point of taking it out and about with you. Enroll in a puppy school, both yourselves and your puppy will benefit from the interaction with other puppies, and the information provided there.


  • Being a responsible dog owner means a financial commitment as well. Your puppy will require feeding with a puppy food, worming, vaccinations, flea treatment, microchipping, registering with the local council and neutering. Add to this securing your property, collars and other items and a dog will cost you a significant amount of money through their lifetime. If they have an accident or suffer illness, there will be further costs incurred. Don’t get a dog that you cannot afford to keep.


  • Finally, teach your puppy to behave in a fashion that is appropriate. It might be fun to have them chasing your children about the yard, but if they get loose the same behaviour will be seen in a very different light. Jumping up should not be encouraged, as this can seem very intimidating to people who are not comfortable with dogs. Train your puppy not to nip or bite – fun with a puppy can result in injuries when an adult dog does the same thing, and in today’s world this will result in them being destroyed.


Responsible dog ownership is an expectation in today’s society – and there are many places and organizations that will be happy to advise you about your puppy. The New Zealand Kennel Club can provide information about breeds and breeders, the local library will have books available and your vets will be happy to provide health care and information about bringing your puppy up.


Be a responsible dog owner – think before you get a puppy and be prepared to put time, effort and money into your puppy. The joy of their companionship and the pride you will feel in having a well-behaved dog, will amply reward your efforts.


Written by: Suzanne Craig BVCs - Small Animal Vet, based at Balclutha and used in the local newspaper (The Leader) in the monthly Pet Corner section.