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Dog Responsibilities

Registration and permanent identification

Microchipping provides an excellent means to permanently identify a dog, ensuring that is can be returned if lost. Microchipping is 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.

Food and water

Dogs must be provided with appropriate quantities of nutritious food and access to clean drinking water. Owners should ensure that dogs maintain normal body condition by feeding portion sizes that are appropriate for the size, age and fitness level of the dog. Significant health problems can be caused by both over and under-feeding.


This should be appropriate to the dog’s age, breed and health status. In general terms, healthy adult dogs should be exercised at least once daily.

Shelter and housing

The environment in which a dog is kept should be well ventilated, designed and situated so that extremes of hot and cold are avoided. Dogs should have access to a hygienic comfortable place to sleep. The area in which a dog spends most of its time should allow for freedom of movement. This area should also be contained to prevent roaming. Prolonged confinement away from people and the prolonged tethering of dogs on chains are both associated with significant behavioural problems in dogs and should be avoided.

Health care

Owners should follow a preventative health care plan that includes vaccination, parasite control and annual health checks to support their dog’s health. Breeds of dogs with non-shedding coats also require regular grooming to prevent discomfort, coat and skin problems.

Veterinary care must be sought without delay if a dog shows signs of being injured or unwell. These signs include being reluctant/unable to eat or move, lameness, excessive scratching or licking at a part of the body, frequent head shaking, development of a rash, dribbling, hair loss, weight loss, vomiting and changes in toilet habits.

Mental health

Understanding the psychological needs of a dog is as important as the physical well-being of the dog. Dogs are naturally pack animals and most do not enjoy being left alone. They also like to explore, with regular walks often the highlight of their day. Owners should ensure that their dog has regular opportunities to experience activities that it enjoys (e.g. playing, exercising, sniffing along the grass verges, chewing on dog toys and spending time with owners). Owners should seek to eliminate or mitigate experiences that negatively impact dog welfare, such as those that cause anxiety, pain and boredom. This includes being left alone for long periods of time and the use of negative reinforcement methods for training.



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.

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


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.