Dog Responsibilities

Dog ownership is a privilege, providing numerous benefits for both dog owners and society. Many dogs perform important working roles in society, and are used extensively in the police force, for security work, farming, and perform important biosecurity functions.

Disability assist dogs substantially improve the lives of many, including the blind, deaf, and those with diabetes, epilepsy and autistic spectrum disorders.

Principles of Responsible Companion Cat Ownership & things to consider before you make the decision to become a cat owner.

Lifelong care of the dog

The lifespan of a dog is related to its breed, with averages ranging from 8-14 years. When undertaking responsibility for a dog, it is important to consider the commitment required for the dog’s entire life.

The investment of time and money required

Pet food is the largest expense over the dog’s life (New Zealand Companion Animal Council Inc., 2016). Owners must also consider costs associated with annual council registration, veterinary care (both planned and unplanned), pet health insurance, training courses, equipment (dog beds, collars, leads, bowls etc.), housing alterations that may be needed (e.g. fencing), doggy day-care, and boarding kennels. In addition to financial costs, the care and maintenance of a dog requires significant investments of time.

Lifestyle and living environments

Prior to acquiring a dog, consideration must be given to the size of the home and outdoor space; along with lifestyle and family activities, the ages of family members and health concerns such as allergies. Consider also that landlords may place restrictions on keeping dogs in rental properties.
Because dogs have such a wide variety of size and temperament, selecting the right type of dog, most suited for the specific circumstance, can considerably improve the dog owning experience.

Sourcing the dog

There are many more dogs in New Zealand than there are homes available. Adopting from the Royal New Zealand Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals (RNZSPCA) or another dog welfare organisation improves overall dog welfare, by providing a home and reducing euthanasia rates at shelters. If a pedigree or purebred dog is desired, the NZVA strongly recommends seeking veterinary advice before a dog is bought to ensure dogs are sourced from a responsible breeder.

Particular care is required when purchasing a dog online or from a pet store. The NZVA strongly recommends puppies are not purchased without first visiting the breeding facility and checking the environment in which they have been raised. Further information on ethically sourcing a dog can be obtained from the NZVA website.

Early socialisation and appropriate training

This facilitates a harmonious relationship between the dog, the owner, other animals and people (Kutsumi, Nagasawa, Ohta, & Ohtani, 2013). The NZVA encourages breeders and puppy owners, to appropriately socialise their puppies from 3 weeks of age.

The aim is to expose puppies to a wide range of people, children, other animals and novel experiences during the critical socialisation phase of 3-14 weeks when they are most accepting of novel experiences.

Well socialised puppies are much less likely to develop behavioural problems.

Care must be taken to mitigate the risks of infection as vaccination courses will not have been completed until 16 weeks of age. Careful management of an early socialisation programme (e.g. avoiding areas that are known to be high risk, mixing only with vaccinated dogs, and attending puppy pre-schools) will minimise the risks of contracting an infectious disease.

When dog training commences, the NZVA supports positive reinforcement techniques. There is no place for painful devices to be used in dog training programmes (Hiby, Rooney, & Bradshaw, 2004). The general goal with training a pet dog is to achieve a calm, polite dog that looks to its owner for guidance, and behaves appropriately for the family and wider community in which it lives.

Registration and permanent identification

Microchipping provides an excellent means to permanently identify a dog, ensuring that is can be returned if lost. Microchipping also a requirement under the Dog Control Act 1996, along with registration of the dog with the local territorial authority from 12 weeks of age.

Owners should also consider registering the microchip on the New Zealand Companion Animal Register, so that their details are immediately available to veterinarians. Owners must update their contact details if they change, and consider providing a second contact outside of the usual region, as this is helpful in disaster management situations, when entire communities or cities may be evacuated.

Identification discs attached to collars are also recommended to facilitate repatriation of lost dogs in the first instance.


De-sexing both male and female dogs that are not intended for breeding before they reach puberty is an effective tool to prevent overpopulation and unwanted dogs. The procedure can also improve an individual dog’s welfare by reducing risks associated with straying (e.g. road traffic accidents/dog fights), infections and some cancers (Root Kustritz, 2012). While de-sexing before puberty is ideal for the majority of dogs, some male dogs from large breeds may benefit from delaying the procedure until they are fully grown.

Veterinarians can advise on the best time to de-sex your dog.

Emergency and disaster planning

Emergency and disaster planning for a dog owner should include having:

  • at least seven days of dog food, water and required medications
  • it is recommended that owners can access a crate or carrier, to facilitate moving dogs in the event of an evacuation being required.

Further information on disaster planning and down-loadable disaster information packs for pets are available from the Ministry of Primary Industries and the World Animal Protection websites.

Alternative care arrangements

It is part of responsible ownership, that suitable arrangements are made to ensure the dog’s welfare if an owner is not available for a period of time (such as when on holiday) or unable to continue their care of the dog. These arrangements may also be required at short notice due to unexpected illness or bereavements