Like humans, dogs also have their carbon (paw)print. Being a dog owner means understanding that everything related to your dog, from what they eat to the waste they produce, has an impact on the environment.
We’re slowly getting used to keeping the environment in mind in whatever we do, and taking care of our pets should be no exception. Here are some sustainable practices for dog owners that you can start at any time.
Support sustainable pet organisations
Whether you’re just starting out as a dog owner, or if you’re looking to add a new dog to your pack, backing pet-friendly organisations demonstrates your commitment to safe, responsible, and sustainable pet practices from the get-go.
Adopt, don’t shop. Not only will you give a deserving dog a fresh start to a previously ruff life, but choosing to adopt a dog also reduces the strain on crowded animal shelters. Adopting also cuts down on the reliance on puppy mills, which keeps dogs in inhumane conditions.
Volunteer or donate to local animal charities and shelters. Chip in your time or resources to show your community some love. It’s also a great way to support those hard working organisations that rescue, care for, and find homes for dogs in need. Plus, when you’re part of this scene, you build connections that might come in handy for future pet-related scenarios.
Choose sustainable feeding practices
Sustainability should also be part of what and how you feed your dog. It’s about making the right choices that are good for your furry companion and for the planet we all share.
Use sustainable dog dishes. Sustainability starts with the dish you use to feed your dog. If you have any bowls lying around the house that you no longer use, go for those. If you prefer buying new ones, choose stainless steel bowls for their durability and cleanliness. Avoid bamboo, plastic, and ceramics, because they can harbour bacteria.
Homemade dog food. Channel your inner Gordon Ramsey—minus all the yelling—by preparing your dog’s food at home. Before you do, make sure to check in with your vet on what ingredients work for your dog. Homemade dog food means less processed food, fewer food packages, plus, you get to call the shots on what’s on the menu for your pet. You can also make homemade treats for training.
Choose eco-friendly dog food. Look out for brands that care about the planet. Whenever you can, support local dog food makers. Go for those that sustainably source their ingredients, and skip ones with crazy additives. Here’s a handy tip: products with less flashy packaging tend to highlight their qualities more.
Consider a hybrid approach. If you’re not ready to go full-on Martha Stewart for your dog, you can always add some store-bought food to their weekly meals. It’s a nice balance between the customizable nature of homemade food and the reliability of commercial chow.
Practise responsible waste management
We get it—taking care of your dog’s waste isn’t the most glamorous part of being a dog owner. Still, it’s important to do it the right way.
Always pick up after your dog. Let’s be honest: dog poop is gross. It’s also a pollutant, especially when your dog is on certain medications that could have negative effects on the environment. Make sure you pick up that doggy doo and dispose of it far from waterways and open bodies of water.
Biodegradable poop bags. Skip the plastics and go for biodegradable poop bags when you’re out with your pup on walks. Plastic bags can create mountains of waste, so opting for ones that can break down in no time can save us that trouble.
Compost your dog poop. Better yet, learn to compost your dog poop. It just can’t go to consumable plants because of the possibility of parasites, but it can still contribute to your ornamentals.
Use eco-friendly pet products
Choose high quality toys and accessories. The better made dog toys and accessories are, the less likely they are to break down and become waste in the near future. Some rubber toys can last for years, like Kongs. Check out plastic-free products like wool, hemp, and organic cotton. Remember to make sure toys can’t cause harm to your dog, like bamboo can if it splinters from chewing.
DIY or upcycle toys. You don’t need to shell out some of your savings to buy your dog some toys—you can just make them at home. Materials like old towels and shirts can become cuddle toys or makeshift rope they can gnaw on or use during a ferocious battle of tug-of-war.
Use natural grooming products. Choose sustainable products to keep your dog fresh and clean. Check for cruelty-free, organic, and/or fair-trade labels. Pass on grooming products with harmful chemicals. If you’re taking your pup to the salon, double-check that they’re using eco-friendly products and grooming tools, too!
Use natural flea and tick remedies
Flea and tick control can be any dog owner’s worst nightmare, considering the health risks they pose. Fortunately, there are plenty of natural remedies available!
A solution of equal parts apple cider vinegar and water may help prevent fleas, since fleas are said to dislike the pungent smell. A spritz or two every now and then will be enough—you don’t want your dog smelling like a salad, do you?
You could also swap out your usual dog shampoo for a bar of natural soap scented with peppermint or rosemary. To us, these herbs smell heavenly, but fleas absolutely hate them. Plus, it’s a great way to pamper your dog!
There are also chewable tablets that treat and control all dog parasites. These chews are effective without the possible side effects of spot treatments, such as allergies and shedding, aside from the harm of spot-on treatments to the environment. Talk to your veterinarian about your options before you administer any of these to your pup.
Promote spaying and neutering as a practice
Puppies are cute, but it’s best that they live in a controlled environment. By spaying or neutering your dog, you’re preventing unwanted litters and helping ease the burden on animal shelters, as there are now less homeless pups to rescue and allocate resources for.
Spaying or neutering also has a number of benefits for dogs. Male dogs neutered early on tend to be less aggressive towards other dogs. They’re also less likely to get distracted by females in heat, saving you the trouble of having to go after your dog who decided he wanted to be Romeo and escape with the female dog down the street.
Spaying female dogs also reduces their risk of developing breast cancer and pyometra, improving their chances and their quality of life. Plus, a spayed female dog will no longer menstruate.
Walk instead of drive
If it’s a beautiful day outside, leave your keys on the rack and pick up your dog’s leash instead. Going for a walk reduces your carbon footprint, even if you have nowhere particular in mind to go to. It also helps keep you and your dog active and healthy, as well as an opportunity for the both of you to bond.
Keep in mind, though, that the weather should be an important factor, too. You don’t want your dog walking around in the heat or in extremely cold temperatures.
In the grand scheme of things, being a sustainable dog owner isn’t just a fad: it’s a pawsome way to make a real difference. It’s a lifestyle to follow, meaning it requires choosing alternatives to things that are easier but less eco-friendly. It’s about making choices, big or small, that help make our planet better and our dogs’ lives happier and healthier.