Dog ownership is a serious step. Along with all the unconditional love they give us comes a healthy dose of responsibility on our part as dog parents. In honor of National Pet Week (May 7-13 this year), let’s remind ourselves of the essential groundwork for a raising a healthy, happy dog well into his or her senior years. The originators of National Pet Week, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), considers these the vital activities to achieving a “Lifetime of Love.”

Sunday – Choose the Right Pet

Being able to fully commit to your dog, from puppyhood through the senior years, starts by selecting the right pet. Carefully think about your family’s lifestyle – are you travelling a lot or working late hours, are you an active or sedentary family, what are your space considerations, do you have the time to train a puppy? The more you know about your limitations, the better chance you have of selecting a successful match for your home. If you’re not sure, get in touch with a veterinarian or local shelter to get help in finding the right pet; or visit some of the online websites that offer questionnaires to help you narrow down the search by species.

Monday – Develop Their Social Skills

Take the time to introduce your new dog to all the unfamiliar things in his life – your family members, other pets in your house, places in and around the house, riding in the car and meeting other animals outside of your home. Encourage him to explore and reward him with praise when taking new steps. Taking the element of surprise out of these situations will make all involved more comfortable and calm. If your dog is shy, take it slow. Don’t push him or her into situations they aren’t comfortable with … baby steps.

     Related: Working with Scared Dogs

Tuesday – Get Regular Exercise

Humans aren’t alone in the fight against obesity. Over 52% of dogs are considered overweight or obese! So right from the start, get into a regular exercise routine that both you and your dog will look forward to. As pets rely on routine in their lives, try to keep your exercise to the same time each day. The bond you share with your dog will strengthen, along with your body and mind! Before you begin, assess where you and your dog are physically. Start on a modest program and work your way up.

     Related: Lose Pounds with Your Hounds

Wednesday – Visit the Vet Annually


The best way to show your dog you love him is to make sure they stay healthy. That doesn’t mean going to the vet when they look sick or are hurt. It means getting on a regular schedule, generally annually, so your vet can give your dog a thorough examination to check for signs that could lead to a bigger problem. It is much easier, and most times cheaper, to prevent than to treat disease. Your vet will check their vital signs, examine their eyes and mouth, listen to their heart and lungs, and do a physical examination of their joints and internal organs to make sure all things are normal. Regular checkups are key to maintaining good health throughout your dog’s life.

     Related: Do I Really Need to Vaccinate My Dog?

Thursday – Prevent Dog Overpopulation

With thousands of dogs being euthanized needlessly every day, consider finding your dog at the local pet shelter. There are so many loving pets that are looking for a good home. Shelter dogs are usually spayed or neutered before being released. If your new dog isn’t spayed or neutered, you can do your part to help prevent more overpopulation by scheduling that procedure as soon as they are the right age. Recovery is swift, in most cases, and it’s the responsible thing to do. Learn more about spaying and neutering on the AVMA webpage.

     Related: Adopt-A-Dog Month

Friday – Plan for Emergencies

Accidents happen – from small cuts and bee stings to major injuries and home displacement due to natural disasters. Be sure to include your dog in your family’s emergency plan. Post your doors with the count and location of your animals for firefighters, keep your dog’s identification up to date in case you are separated, and stock your car’s first aid kit with supplies for dog emergencies.

     Related: Could You Save Your Dog’s Life?

Saturday – Understand Senior Care


Dogs are living longer than ever, thanks to the higher quality food we are feeding them and with their elevated status to full-fledged family members. As they age, they develop many of the old-age ailments we do such as joint issues. Older dogs can also develop life-threatening problems, so regular visits to the vet are especially important at this stage in their lives. Learn more about what is “normal” in senior dogs and what might be a sign of something more serious at the AVMA webpage.

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