Preventing trouble takes work and knowledge. First, you have to pick the right type of dog. For information about that, see Advice for Parents About Getting Or Keeping a Dog, even if you do not have children.
Then you have to socialize and train your dog. These are two different things. "Socialize" essentially means desensitize the dog to stimulation -- teach it to remain calm around people, guests in the home, strangers who come to the front door, other dogs, children and the like. When you take your puppy to a dog obedience class, his interactions with other people and dogs are one opportunity for socialization, while the things that he learns are the training.
It is important also to care properly for your dog. He needs the right food, place to spend his time, grooming, bathing and veterinary care. There are essential vaccinations that need to be administered early and renewed from time to time. Again, the Internet has plenty of advice about the care, feeding and veterinary care of your dog.
Techniques of socialization, training and care must be mastered not only by you but also by the other members of your household. It is absolutely essential that your entire household learn how to socialize, train and care for your dog. All experts agree that an out-of-control household will produce an out-of-control dog. The mistakes by the many will undo the socialization and training by only one person. To accomplish this, hire a dog trainer or take your dog and your family to training classes. There are many trainers and different training methods to choose from.
There are many resources for dog owners. Pet stores and libraries contain books about specific breeds. Tough problems can be addressed by experts in dog behavior. Kennel clubs throughout the United States share information about dogs. See the Links section of this website for experts and kennel clubs.
Here are guidelines for preventing trouble with your dog:
- Keep your dog confined securely. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
- Keep your dog under the control of a responsible person. Don't allow your child to take the family dog for a walk until he is mentally and physically mature enough and understands leash laws and the dog's behavior.
- Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
- Leash your dog when it is not behind a fence or closed doors.
- A leash should be no more than 6 feet so that you can actually control the dog. A retractable leash is against the law in most places.
- Obey leash laws. In Los Angeles, for example, a leash must be under 6 feet long.
- If your dog is edgy around people or other dogs, consider getting a Caution Dog leash and collar (click on the leash at the right to learn more about Caution Dog products).
- Muzzle your dog if it is large, aggressive, a member of a fighting breed, doesn't like children, gets scared easily, likes to fight other animals, you are having workers at the house, etc. etc. etc. There is every reason to muzzle your dog and just about no reason to not do so. See the leather muzzles by the Pooch Protector.
- Do not chain or tie up your dog. It is considered inhumane, it is known to produce viciousness, and in many cities it is a crime.
- Obey licensing laws. Almost everywhere, a dog must be licensed.
- Obey laws that require warning signs. Generally, warning signs are required for aggressive dogs, sentry dogs and guard dogs. Check your state law, county law and city law.
- Make sure your pets have their vaccinations on the schedule recommended by you veterinarian.
- Make sure your dog is spayed or neutered.
- Get things that promote dog safety.
- Train your dog.Consider dog obedience classes.
- Socialize your dog.
- Identification tags, microchips and vaccination records are vital if your dog bites someone or gets lost.
- If your dog bites or even snaps at someone, call a professional trainer or a behaviorist right away. A snap is only a bite that does not connect.
- Never play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
- Never train your dog to be mean.
- Learn more about your dog. What overexcites him or puts him on guard? Know his personal language, like barks, growls and whimpers. Learn to read his tail, eyes, ears and body posture.
- If your dog is a pit bull or Rottweiler, there may be special laws that apply to both you and your dog. Check with your animal control department or local humane society.
- If you have kids and are thinking about getting a dog, see Advice for Parents About Getting a Dog.
- Make sure that you have insurance that will cover canine inflicted injuries. Every dog owner needs homeowner or renters insurance, because any dog can cause injury. Injuries by dogs are considered personal liabilities, which are covered by the personal liability provisions of these policies. Make sure that your policy does not exclude canine inflicted injuries. In some cities and states, pit bull owners are required to have insurance. If you cannot get a satisfactory policy from the well known insurance companies, there are a couple of agencies that sell insurance just for dog owners. For more information, see Insurance for Dog Owners.