Whether this is your first dog or one of many the care you provide is going to have a major impact on their health and happiness. While a lot of dog care is common sense some things you might not think about can make a big difference to your dog. Read the tips below to help both you and your pet get the most out of your relationship.
Proper feeding is the single most important factor in keeping your dog happy and healthy. Selecting a premium food helps ensure that your dog's nutritional needs are met. Snacks and treats can also be part of a balanced diet but should be offered sparingly and not make up more than 10% of your dogs daily intake. Feeding more of these can lead to dietary imbalances and obesity.
Some dogs may require a special diet to address a health or weight issue. Puppies also have specialized nutritional needs that are different those of an adult dog. There are a number of commercial foods available that are specifically formulated to address specialized needs and still meet all of your dog's nutritional requirements. Any changes in the your dogs menu or feeding schedule should be made gradually to avoid stress and possible digestive issues.
Dogs that seek out and eat things that are not part of their normal diet may be instinctually trying to satisfy a nutritional need that is not being met. This behavior is fairly common and is called pica.
A common form of pica is grass eating. If this happens occasionally it may just be a sign of boredom but frequent occurrences may indicate an underlying health issue and should be discussed with your vet.
People food is generally ok for your pet but should be fed away from the dining table to avoid training your dog to beg during mealtime.
Dogs tend to over eat if food is constantly available which can lead to obesity, an increasingly common problem according to most vets. Besides making your dog lazy obesity is cited as a major contributor to organ or joint problems and can significantly shorten their life.
Many foods contain rough feeding guidelines on their labels. Feeding should be a ritualistic endeavor feeding the same amount in the same place and at the same time daily. Uneaten food should be removed shortly after the normal time it takes for your dog to eat. Food and water bowls should be cleaned before each feeding to remove any mold or bacteria that may have started to grow on residue left in the bowl. Fresh water should be available at all times.
Weaned puppies three months or younger should be fed appropriate puppy food 4 times a day. At 3 months reduce feeding to 3 times daily. At 6 months reduce to 2 feedings a day until your dog is a year old. Dogs a year or more older should be fed once daily. Additional feedings may be required for active or working dogs as well as pregnant females.
Even though they often share our living space every dog should have a place that it feels it can call it's own. Their space should be quiet, free from drafts or temperature extremes and contain a comfy bed. Even if your dog frequently naps on the furniture or carpet their own space offers a needed retreat if they are feeling stressed or under the weather.
Training or large travel crates are sometimes used as a dog's bed and personal space and have the added benefit of reducing stress if they need to travel. No matter what type of bed they have any bedding material should be cleaned weekly to help control odors, fleas and any shed hair.
Dogs that are kept or spend a lot of time outdoors should have a dog house or covered shelter that provides shade in the summer and protection from the cold and wind in winter.
Besides helping your dog burn off excess energy exercise also goes a long way in warding off unwanted behaviors like chewing, digging, excitability and rough play.
The amount of exercise your dog needs depends on their age, breed and general health. Dogs that can roam in a yard will exercise themselves but housebound dogs will always benefit from walks and outdoor play time. This help to both burn excess energy and to stimulate their minds. Ultimately at least some dog behavior and reactions are unpredictable so your pet should always be closely supervised when in public.
Images of stylish lap dogs with ribbons in their hair or puffy poodles are usually the first thing that comes to mind when one hears the term grooming. Sure fancy cuts are an option but more importantly grooming consist of the more mundane task involved in keeping your dog healthy like brushing, bathing, ear care and oral hygiene.
While grooming needs vary considerably by breed and coat type all dogs need at least some grooming. The most important task is inspecting your dog at least weekly being sure to check the condition of ears, eyes, mouth, skin and nails. Starting when a dog is young and incorporating the inspection into some quality time that includes petting and massaging will make your dog much more accepting of this necessarily intrusive task.
Be sure to listen to your nose while checking your dog as many health conditions spawn offensive odors. Feel for any lumps, scabs or lesions while massaging and look for any unusual discharges from the eyes, ears, nose and rump. Dogs tend to instinctually try to hide health problems but early detection is a strong tool in addressing these issues.
Regular brushing not only helps keep a dogs coat clean and tangle free it also helps to distribute the natural oils they produce to condition the coat and skin. Brushing also brings to light any flea or tick infestations.
Bathing often falls into the three bear-like categories of either too few, too many and least frequently just the right amount. Seasonal baths four times a year is most often recommended, too infrequent bathing can lead to skin and coat conditions resulting from built up oils and contaminants as well as a stinky dog while too frequent baths can result in a dry skin and coat.
Special circumstances like a dog that has found something stinky to roll in or worse yet had an unpleasant encounter with a skunk as well as fleas and certain skin conditions can make additional baths necessary. In these cases it is more important to use a milder shampoo and conditioner to avoid skin and coat issues.
Nail trimming is not necessary in all dogs but regularly checking their condition is. Those dogs that spend some time on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete tend to keep their nails worn down through their activity. House dogs that spend most of their time on carpeting and softer floors tend to need the most attention to their nails. A dogs nails should not touch the ground during normal walking, if left too long nails can snag causing injury or inhibit the natural foot position of the dog when walking.
Softer diets and those containing too much fat or sugar can lead to dental problems resulting from excess plaque and tartar. Brushing a dogs teeth weekly is strongly recommended but in reality this grooming task is often avoided by many pet owners if this is the case then giving your dog treats especially designed to promote good oral hygiene becomes much more important.
Dogs are social animals by nature and like all other social animals they have the capacity to learn the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In the wild these are taught by other pack members domesticated dogs must rely on their owners to take on this responsibility. While shedding, drooling and the occasional accident are natural and have to be expected. Behaviors like disobedience, chewing, digging, bolting and aggression can be destructive and down right dangerous to others. Training is the only way to teach a dog to control these behaviors.
There are a number of schools of thought on the best way to train a dog but most professionals in this field agree on a few basics.
Even the shortest lived breeds can be with you for a decade and others for nearly two so realize that you will be dealing with those behavioral traits that you find destructive or annoying for a long time. Bad behavior is the leading reason that dogs wind up in shelters. If you lack the time or patience to properly train your dog then you should consider either one on one or group type professional training to make your dog the best pet that they can be.
Health problems arise from a few basic causes. There are genetic predispositions influenced by breed, build or bloodline. There are hygiene related problems brought on by poor grooming practices. There are nutrition related problems resulting from dietary imbalances. Most other health issues are environmental in nature resulting from exposure to bacteria, fungus and parasites.
Genetic predispositions are relatively well known for purebred dogs and include things like hip problems in some of the larger breeds and digestive issues like bloat in the broad chested narrow hipped breeds. Being genetic in nature there are screenings that can be done for a number of these conditions. There is actually little that can be done to prevent these conditions but there are usually steps that can be taken to make them more tolerable if they develop. Forewarned is forearmed is true in this situation researching your breed is invaluable in preparing for and dealing with possible healt issues.
Hygiene and nutrition related problems are the easiest to prevent following recommended feeding and grooming guidelines along with regular in-home inspections are the best prevention for problems arising in these areas.
Health issues arising from coming in contact with disease organisms in the environment range from fleas and heartworm to distemper and parvovirus to poisoning from household chemicals.
There are numerous products designed to prevent parasites like fleas and heartworm but these should be discussed with your dog health professional to select the best type and schedule for your pet.
Vaccinations are the only tool to prevent many conditions caused by bacteria and viruses like rabies and parvo that your dog may come in contact with but must be given on schedule and any required follow-up shots must be administered in order to maintain protection. These should also be discussed with your dog health professional in order to plan an effective schedule for any vaccinations that are needed.