Owning a dog

Owning a dog is a big commitment. A dog’s life span can be 15 years or more so it is important to understand your responsibilities before deciding to become a pet owner. Watch our video ^ to learn what you're in for before you buy/adopt a dog.

Do your research

Never buy a dog on a whim. Choosing an unsuitable dog can be a distressing experience and have serious consequences. Take time to choose a breed that suits your lifestyle. Research breeds by visiting shows and dog clubs and talking to other owners. If you adopt a dog from a shelter, staff or volunteers will have become familiar with the personalities and energy levels of the dogs. Ask plenty of questions.

Before purchasing a puppy, check the breeder is registered in Dogs and Cats Online and visit the facilities to see if you’re comfortable with the environment in which it was bred. For more information about breeders, check out our selecting a breeder page.

Dogs and the law

South Australian dog owners must abide by laws set out in the Dog and Cat Management Act 1995. This includes desexing, microchipping and registering your dog and following a number of other rules to ensure your dog is not a nuisance or danger to the community. See our legal responsibilities for dog owners page to understand these obligations.

Be prepared for the time and costs

Your dog is dependent on you for its daily food, water, shelter and activities to maintain good physical and mental health. Dogs needs daily exercise to prevent the development of destructive and nuisance behaviours; training so you can understand each other; grooming to keep healthy; and your attention to combat boredom. In addition to your dog’s daily food costs, you’ll need to factor in other expenses for maintaining your dog’s health and wellbeing. These include:

  • Veterinary services and vaccinnations (you may also opt to purchase pet insurance)
  • Grooming—some breeds needs special care (eg. clipping) which requires patience/experience
  • Council registration fees (compulsory—fees are set by local councils and vary)
  • Microchipping (compulsory)
  • Desexing (compulsory)
  • Health care products such as flea and worming treatments etc
  • Training
  • Boarding if go away and can’t take your dog with you
  • Toys and accessories

Fitting in with family and lifestyle

You will need to consider how your dog will fit in with your household (children and other animals) and your lifestyle.

Are you physically active and can see yourself getting your dog involved in your activities? Or are you less active, therefore will a dog with less endurance and energy be more suitable for you?

Do you have children and what ages are they? Or are you planning on having children? The birth to four years age bracket has the highest rates for hospital treatment from dog attack injuries. This is closely followed by the four to nine year old age bracket. Training and supervision are the most effective mechanisms to reduce the risk of dog incidents with children.

Socialisation and training

It’s very important for dogs, in particular puppies, to be socialised with other dogs and people. Take your dog to puppy pre-school or dog training. The RSPCA South Australia offers a range of force-free training programs and trainers for one-on-one training on their website.

Some councils will offer a rebate on your registration fee if your dog is trained, so keep your certificate. You need to be consistent and constructive with training by rewarding desired behaviours. Don’t lose your temper. This will confuse your dog and hinder its ability to learn.

Dedicate time each day to exercise your dog, this is critical for its mental and physical wellbeing. Dogs have energy they need to burn and the best way to stop your dog getting into mischief is to keep its mind occupied and give it enough exercise.


You are required to keep your dog contained to your property. To do this you will need a fence that is strong and high enough to keep it in. It should also be fitted with gates that can be secured. Your dog also needs access to clean bedding, fresh water and shelter from the elements (rain, sun, heat and cold).