Responsibilities of owners

  • Choosing the right dog

    Your dog may be a treasured part of your family for 15 years or more if the dog and your family are well matched. It is therefore worth taking the time to carefully consider some important factors when choosing your dog. You should not purchase a breed of dog simply because it is "in fashion", or if the breed has been featured in a popular film or television show. This could lead to the dog and the family being unhappy and may lead to dogs being surrendered to animal shelters or abandoned. It is an offence to abandon an animal.

    Even though each breed has been selectively bred for different characteristics, such as activity level, each dog is an individual. Crossbreds vary even more in their characteristics. To choose the dog that will best suit your family needs, some things to consider are:

    • The expected activity level of the dog
    • Any known breed problems such as genetic disorders
    • How much time each day can you dedicate to exercise?
    • Do you have children or expect to in the future?
    • Will your dog be a working dog or a house dog?
    • How much time might be required for grooming?
    • What is your budget for dog food and maintenance?
    • What size of dog is most manageable for you?
    • How much time would the dog spend alone?
    • Who is likely to be the main carer of the dog?
    • How big is your yard?
    • Why was the breed developed?

    Please be aware that there are restrictions on keeping some breeds.

    Any dog is capable of biting. Small dogs inflict small wounds; larger dogs inflict large wounds. Parents should not introduce a young child to any dog, regardless of breed, without strict and close supervision.


    Training is essential for all dogs regardless of breed, size or age.

    Training is just teaching the dog good manners and to behave appropriately. This helps keep the dog and others safe. Verbal cues such as "come", "stay", "sit", "settle", "drop" and walking safely on a loose lead are the very least a dog should know. Dogs need clear and consistent messages from the whole family.

    Dogs that leap on visitors can cause serious falls.

    Dogs that fail to respond to verbal and visual cues such as "come" and "stay" could be placing their own life and motorists' lives at risk by running onto the road.

    For advice on training, contact the Canine Association in your state, a qualified dog trainer found in an obedience club, Canine Good Citizen trainer or Delta Society Australia. There are also many excellent books on dog training. The focus of training should always be on using positive reward based methods rather than punishing unacceptable behaviours.

    Socialising the dog

    walking 02

    When out, all dogs should be on a lead unless in a designated off leash area and under your control.

    Socialising your dog throughout its life is very important. Socialising means that your dog learns to accept people, children and other animals as part of its life.

    It helps when selecting a dog that will become a member of a family, to choose a pup that has been well socialised particularly with children and other animals.

    Dogs that are not members of a household with children need to be introduced to children safely and regularly. Please understand however that some dogs may never learn to accept children.

    The dog's environment

    A well managed environment for your dog can eliminate many of the unwanted and destructive behaviours that are usually associated with lack of mental and physical stimulation. Your dog has basic accommodation needs such as comfortable, clean and dry bedding that is raised above ground level and protected from weather. Clean up any faeces the dog deposits both inside and outside the yard. Not picking up dog faeces creates both an unhygienic and unpleasant environment and is subject to fines when in public places.

    A secure yard, which prevents the dog roaming, is required by law by most local councils. This also minimises the risk of injury to the dog and motorists. A view through the fence can help interest the dog, occupy time and make some dogs less likely to react to dogs and people. However, other dogs can be more reactive if they see outside the fence so their line of sight may need to be blocked.

    Provide opportunities for the dog to exercise its mind and body during periods when the dog has to be left alone. Toys such as a Kong™ or raw bones are good starters. Remember to change your dog's toys daily to maintain interest and check them regularly for safety. Discard toys that are broken as they can damage the dog's mouth and teeth. Some dogs may become possessive with bones. Avoid them if this is the case with your dog.


    Dogs need regular walks and training to provide exercise, interest and variety in their day. Most dogs also like to socialise with both people and other dogs. This interactivity should result in a happier, more relaxed dog. Ask your local council about good dog walking areas and off leash areas. 

    Food and Water

    Dogs need a complete and balanced diet that meets their physiological needs. Your veterinarian can assist you with this. They also need an ample supply of cool, clean water at all times, especially in the warmer months. To reduce the risk of young children drowning in large drinking containers, replace them with a few spill proof smaller bowls.

    The law

    All states have laws that outline the responsibilities dog owners have for their dog's behaviour. Offences are punishable under law. These laws vary from state to state and council to council, but generally the following principles apply.

    You are required by law to register your dog with the local council, usually prior to the dog reaching three months of age. Commonly registration needs to be renewed annually. Registration may be cheaper for dogs that have undergone specific obedience training, have a microchip and are desexed. Some councils require the dog to be desexed unless exempt. Failure to register your dog can lead to a fine. Your dog also needs to be clearly identified. A collar and tag with a clearly marked name, phone number, address, local council identification and registration number is important. A microchip provides permanent identification and is mandatory in some jurisdictions.

    It is an offence if your dog:

    • Strays onto another person's property
    • Roams at large
    • Rushes at, attacks, bites, chases or worries any animal or person
    • Creates a nuisance e.g. excessive barking

    You can be held liable for any damage caused by your dog.

    Hot weather

    Dogs should never be left alone in a car.

    In hot weather, the temperature inside the car can increase dramatically within a few minutes. Leaving the window down makes little difference to the temperature inside the vehicle. Dogs left in vehicles on warm days are at risk of rapid dehydration and even death. 


    Make sure your dog enjoys holidays when you do and organise safe and appropriate accommodation. Prepare well in advance as boarding kennels become booked out especially in peak periods. The carer must be aware of his/her responsibilities and to make sure all people and property your dog contacts are safe. Make sure the carer of your dog has instructions on how to care for your dog, what the local laws are and emergency phone numbers for veterinary care, the local council and yourself. Many people take their dogs with them on holidays. Again, prepare well in advance so that you are certain your dog is allowed to be where you intend to travel. Contact the local council you are travelling to and find out the areas your dog is welcome or excluded, such as beaches and national parks.