For the Record, How to File Your Dog’s Papers

Don’t trust your dog’s important info to your foggy memory.

by Katherine Tolford
March 31, 2021
dog leaning on laptop while man types

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Unless you’re Marie Kondo, you’ve probably turned your house upside down on the hunt for your passport hours before a flight. So you can appreciate the value of a methodized filing system for your important documents. As a new pet parent, you’ll need one for your dog, too. Whether a Google doc or an old-school accordion folder is more your style, the key is to corral everything pertaining to your pup in one place in case of emergency (or just a staycation with a pet sitter). Not sure where to begin? Customizable pet care binders and printable wellness planners can be found on Etsy, Amazon, and Pinterest. Now, the important part: what on earth goes into it…

Emergency contacts 

In addition to spelling out every possible way to get ahold of you, also include the names and numbers of close friends or family members (give them a heads up) who can be trusted to help in a crisis in case you cannot be reached. This list should also include the contact information for your primary veterinarian, the nearest 24/7 emergency clinic, and the ASPCA’s Poison Control hotline; then your trainer, dog walker, and daycare if applicable. If there are any local facilities that you would prefer your dog sitter steer clear of, flag them as well.

Identification documents

This includes your dog’s adoption certificate or pedigree paperwork, microchip number, rabies certificate and/or tag number, and GPS tracker information (ask your dog sitter to download the app). Be sure to also file away a few photos of you and your dog so that if your dog is lost, you can instantly design a flier; if stolen, you have proof of ownership. Other identifying features to catalog include your dog’s age, breed mix, weight, coat color, and any unique characteristics such as a jowly overbite or eyebrows that rival Eugene Levy’s.

Nutrition Calculator

If we could give our pets infinite treats, we would. But this tool will tell you the right amount to feed your friend.

Medical records

Pet owners rarely print out veterinary records these days, but the following information should be readily available: proof of your dog’s vaccination history, spay/neuter status, heartworm and flea/tick preventative due dates, surgical history, health conditions, allergies, pet insurance policy forms, and any medications your dog is taking — including schedule, dosing instructions, and tips for administering it (i.e. peanut butter).

Dietary instructions

One of the first sets of questions a pet sitter will have for you is when, how often, and how much do you feed your dog. Be as specific as possible, noting any special instructions, such as if your ravenous pup requires the use of a slow feeder bowl. And don’t forget a treat allowance!

Grooming needs

If yours is a low-maintenance dog — where grooming is concerned — lucky you. It still couldn’t hurt to take note of the frequency of their baths and location of their shampoo, brush, ear flush, etc. If you’re a new parent to a polished poodle or aristocratic Afghan Hound, you may need your groomer’s information on speed dial, at the very least filed away somewhere.

House rules

It’s no secret that aunts are wont to spoil kids, so if you don’t want friends or family members bending the rules you’ve worked so hard to train your dog to obey, be upfront about what your dog is and isn’t allowed to do under your roof. Everything from the daily routines (potty schedule) to the fine print (the couch is forbidden territory) applies. 

Likes, dislikes, and quirks

Kind of how cilantro tastes like soap to you, your dog has their own oft-questionable preferences. It’s worth keeping a checklist of things they like (squeaky toys, your neighbor’s kids) and dislike (thunderstorms, men with beards), as well as any idiosyncratic quirks or habits such as doing the zoomies at precisely 8pm.

You’ll see, an organized folder for your dog’s history to date is sure to spark joy — and be much appreciated by a dog sitter.

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Katherine Tolford

Katherine Tolford writes about the pet industry and veterinary medicine. Her work, which has appeared on PetMD, Chewy, and Floof, has helped pet parents better understand their pets’ health. She’s also a pet parent to Milo, a loud-mouthed tuxedo cat, who likes to attempt backwards somersaults on the couch.