How to Take Care of Your Dog's Basic Needs
Like any other living thing, a dog has some basic needs that will have to be provided in order for it to be healthy, happy and an overall good canine citizen. As your dog's owner, you have the responsibility to provide for your dog's needs. Don't worry; it isn't too difficult to provide for these needs. But you do need to put in some effort and time. The payoff will be fantastic, as you'll get a loyal friend in return.
Choosing Food for Your Dog
1. Try out dry food on your dog. Dry foods are generally cheaper to feed in the long run, have some benefit on dental health due to the “scraping” of plaque off of teeth by the dry kibble and are easier to store due to their dry form. However, dry food isn't as tasty as wet food so some dogs reject them or don't eat as well. Make sure the dog has access to fresh water, as he won't derive any moisture from the food.
2. See if your dog prefers canned food. Canned food are much tastier for dogs to eat and have the added benefit of adding extra moisture to the diet. However, owners that feed canned food have to be vigilant with their dog's teeth as these types of food tend to lead to an increase in plaque and dental tartar build up.
- Canned food tends to be a bit more expensive than dry foods.
- You will have the added mess of disposing of the can.
3. Try semi-moist foods. Semi-moist foods aren't as prevalent as canned and dry foods. They are a little easier to store and clean up after than canned foods, but liked canned foods they can lead to plaque and tartar build up on the teeth. They can also be more expensive to feed as dry foods.
4. Talk to an animal nutritionist about a raw food diet. Raw diets are fine for dogs as well, although a bit more time consuming to prepare and store correctly. If you want to feed a raw food diet for your dog, it is absolutely vital to contact an animal nutritionist. Make sure your dog is receiving all the nutrients he or she needs. Dogs do have different nutritional requirements than humans.
5. Never feed your dog certain human foods. There are many kinds of foods suitable for humans that should never be fed to your dog, since they are toxic for dogs. These include:
- Grapes and raisins
- Any food containing the sweetener Xylitol
- Coffee and tea
- Fruit pits or apple seeds
- Garlic and onions
- Walnuts and macadamia nuts
- Dough made with yeast
6. Read the ingredients of dog food. The most important factor is that the food is high quality. This means being able to read and understand the label. Most dogs will do just fine on a commercial dog food as long as you remember to read the ingredient list on the can or bag to ensure the food is healthy. These are listed in order of the most prevalent food in the food.
- Meat should be the number one (and preferably the second) ingredient on the list, followed by a grain. By-products are fine but they should be far down the list.
- You can always ask your veterinarian for advice in choosing food for your dog.
Determining Feeding Amounts and Frequency
1. Follow the manufacturer's feeding recommendations. By far the biggest nutritional problem seen in pet dogs is obesity. You should always follow feeding recommendations from the food manufacturer when feeding your dog. This means actually using a measuring cup to measure the correct amount of food on a daily basis. There is usually a recommended feeding allowance on the food can or bag.
- Follow this advice and limit treats to one or two a day and your dog should remain fit.
2. Feed adult dogs one to two times a day. Adult dogs over a year should be fed two times a day. Dogs older than two years can be fed once a day.
- Large breed dogs or dogs with large chests should be fed small meals two to three times a day to prevent bloat, and never exercised immediately after eating. This can be a serious medical issue for some dogs.
3. Feed puppies more frequently. Puppies younger than three months need to be fed their daily allowance split into three or four feedings. Puppies younger than a year need to be fed two to three times a day.
4. Alter the amount of food based on your dog's body condition. By watching your dog's body condition you can gauge if your dog is at its ideal weight or if it needs to lose a few pounds or, more rarely, gain a few pounds. A dog at its ideal weight will have a “tuck” in its abdomen. Looking from the side its abdomen will slope up towards its back legs. Looking from the top it will have a healthy hourglass figure. When you feel the ribs with your hands you will easily feel each rib through a modest fat covering.
- Thin dogs will have an extreme tuck and you will be able to easily feel the ribs--in dogs with short hair you will be able to see the ribs. If a dog is thin try adding 10% of its normal food allowance to its daily diet.
- In overweight or obese dogs the tuck will disappear and the ribs will be difficult to feel (overweight) or nearly impossible to feel (obese). If a dog is overweight or obese take away 10% of its normal food allowance.
- Check your dog's body condition score again in four weeks. If it's still thin or fat, adjust the diet by 10% again.
- Consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.
Exercising Your Dog
1. Take your dog for walks. In addition to a healthy diet, exercise will also keep your dog fit and give him good mental and physical stimulation. At a minimum, your pet pal will appreciate a twice daily walk. Pay attention to the dog during walks, and interact and play with them. Make the walks interesting by going to different locations.
- The length will depend upon the age and breed of your dog: puppies and small breed dogs will need shorter walks (about 15 minutes maximum), while larger breeds or more athletic dogs may require up to one hour of exercise a day.
- Brachycephalic dogs (think of dogs with pushed-in noses like bulldogs) do best with short walks (about 10 minutes) three to four times a day.
- Of course, no dog should do much exercise until it has been conditioned to exercise just like a human athlete.
2. Talk to your vet about exercising a dog with medical issues. If your dog suffers from a medical condition such as arthritis or diabetes, take care with exercising. An arthritic dog's joint pain may make him less inclined to go for a walk. Talk to your vet about light exercise regimens, as well as treatments or pain-relievers for your dog.
- Older dogs with arthritis would do best with short walks (about 10 minutes) three to four times a day.
3. Play a game with your dog. Another fabulous way to exercise a dog and have fun at the same time is to play interactive games. Fetch the ball is a great game to play as long as it is inside an enclosed park or yard to make sure your dog can't run away during the heat of the game.
- Blowing bubbles for your dog to chase is another fun game where you don't have to expend much energy.
4. Check the weather before you go outside. Make sure the weather is not going to adversely affect your dog when you go out to exercise. If it is too hot, your dog may be at risk of heatstroke. If it's too cold, your dog can be susceptible to frostbite.
Taking Your Puppy to the Vet
1. Take your puppy to the vet by eight weeks of age. If you have a puppy, he should have his first veterinarian visit by 8 weeks of age. If your puppy or dog is older than this and hasn't been to the veterinarian yet, now is the time to schedule an appointment for an examination and to start or update vaccinations. This is important for your dog's health.
- Make sure you vaccinate your dog against rabies, as this deadly disease can be caught by humans. It is a legal requirement of many states to vaccinate against rabies.
2. Schedule appointments for the first round of vaccines. For the first vet visit, you actually need to schedule two appointments. The first appointment will be an initial vaccination, followed in three to four weeks (depending on your vet's recommendations) by a booster vaccine. This will ensure that your puppy's immune system is “primed” to fight any invading diseases.
- The veterinarian will discuss vaccines required in your area. The basic vaccines include distemper, rabies, and possibly Lyme vaccine.
- Vaccines are generally boostered at intervals of every year or every other year. Veterinary clinics will usually send you a reminder in the mail or via e-mail a few weeks prior to the due date for routine vaccinations after the first one is given.
3. Give your dog a heartworm preventative. Another important health concern is heartworm disease. This nasty pest is spread by mosquitoes and lives in dog's hearts, causing misery and ill health. Your dog will need a test to make sure it is free from this pest. Heartworm preventative should also be started as soon as possible to prevent this disease if your dog is given the all-clear. This is either a shot that will protect your dog for up to six months, or a monthly heartworm pill that your dog eats.
- If your dog tests positive for heartworm, the veterinarian will discuss treatment options which generally consists of further blood work, heart X-rays, and a (painful) treatment consisting of shots of a harsh medication and oral medication.
4. Discuss de-worming with your vet. Your veterinarian will also recommend routine de-worming for your dog. Puppies generally will be given a deworming treatment at their vaccination appointments to make sure they are free of roundworms and hookworms, two common intestinal pests of puppies.
- Your dog's stool will be examined at follow-up vaccination appointments to make sure your dog is free from intestinal parasites.
5. Consider spaying or neutering for your dog. This operation helps control dog overpopulation and prevents some problems: male dog fighting, reproductive tract cancers, and stops male dog roaming.
- However, roaming can be resolved through less invasive means such as a fence, and dog aggression can be eliminated through training and making your dog feel more secure.
- Alternative options are available, too, such as Vasectomy, Neutering, Tubal Ligation and Ovary-Sparing Spay (OSS). While harder to come by, they come with less long term health risks than spaying and neutering. Spaying and neutering comes with many associated health risks such as different types of cancers, orthopedic disorders and cardiac hemangiosarcoma.
Caring for Your Dog's Health at Home
1. Keep your dog's teeth clean. Dogs, just like humans, build up plaque on the teeth and need to have it removed. Get a dog toothbrush from your vet or a pet supply store, along with dog toothpaste. Don't use human toothpaste, which usually contains fluoride and can be harmful to dogs.
- Place a small amount of dog toothpaste on your fingertip. Gently run your finger along the gums of the upper teeth to get the dog used to the toothpaste.
- If your dog accepts this, the next day do the same with a bit of the toothpaste on a dog toothbrush. Get the bristles of the brush along the gum line of the upper back teeth and angle slightly up, so the bristles get under the gum line.
- Work from back to front, making small circles along the gum lines for about 30 seconds.
- Ideally, you should brush your dog's teeth every day. At least, aim for several times a week.
- You can also try special dental food which is formulated to be able to grind off the plaque as the dog chews. Treats like rawhides or dental treats work in the same manner.
2. Trim your dog's nails. Have a veterinarian or technician demonstrate on your dog how close to the quick (the growing portion) you can trim the nail before you try to do so yourself. The quick contains blood vessels and nerves which will painfully bleed if clipped.
- Have someone hold the dog still for you the first few times you clip the nails.
- Start with the back nails. These nails are usually shorter and dogs are more comfortable with having the back paws handled.
- Locate the quick or approximate area before trimming off the end of the nail. Carefully work your way back towards the quick. Trim at least two to three millimeters in front of it.
- Proceed with the rest of the paws, giving plenty of praise as your dog behaves for the process.
3. Frequently give your dog a good brushing. Dogs need a good brushing regardless of their coat length. This is a good way to bond with your dog. It also gives you a chance to monitor the health of your dog's skin.
- For long-haired dogs, purchase a stripper type of comb to help remove hair that is being shed. Comb through your dog's hair at least every other day, if not daily. Otherwise, your dog's fur may form painful mats. These just aren't ugly to look at, as they can also cause the skin underneath it to get infected.
- For short-haired dogs, use a soft-bristled brush to remove loose hair and stimulate the skin.
4. Check your dog's skin while brushing. Brushing time is the time to check your dog's skin for parasites (fleas), lumps or bumps. You can also check for hair loss, inflammation and scratches or other injuries as well.
- If you see fleas, act immediately to treat your dog, its bedding, and your house before they get out of hand. Topical treatments and household insecticides are the best ways to curb an exploding flea population. Veterinarian office staff or pet store staff can give you great advice to kill fleas both on your dog and in your home.
5. Give your dog a bath once a month. If your dog needs a bath, use an all-purpose dog shampoo. Follow the directions on the bottle. Don't go overboard with bathing your dog. Most dogs only need a bath once a month at most. A dog's skin can dry out from more frequent bathing.
- If you have a dog that gets dirty or smelly more frequently, you may need to bathe it more often. Use your discretion, and contact your vet with any questions.
Housetraining Your Dog
1. Choose a spot where you'd like your dog to relieve himself. The most important lesson you can teach your puppy or dog is to relieve himself in a designated spot. This is preferably outside in an out-of-the-way spot.
2. Take your dog outside frequently in the beginning. As you start house training your dog, give your dog lots of opportunities to relieve himself. Take him outside frequently, up to every half-hour. Puppies especially have small bladders and need to go often.
3. Watch for signs that your dog needs to relieve himself. Carefully watch your dog or puppy to see when he needs to relieve himself when he's inside the house. You may observe panting, packing, sniffing around, or barking. Immediately take your dog outside if they make moves like this.
- Make sure to go overboard with the praise when he does relieve himself outside.
- If your dog has an accident inside, don't scold or hit him. Just quietly clean up the mess and try again.
4. Give your dog lots of immediate praise. When your dog relieves himself outside, lavish him with praise and pet him. Give him a treat. Make sure to do these things right away so that your dog associates them with going potty.
5. Carry baggies to clean up solid waste. Make sure to always keep baggies to clean up any solid dog waste immediately. There is no excuse for not cleaning up after your dog. Besides being disgusting, leaving solid waste around is a way to spread disease.
6. Confine your dog to a small indoor space until he is house trained. Until you can be sure your puppy or dog is house trained, confine her to a small space (bathroom, mud room, laundry room) with an easily cleaned floor.
- This is especially important if you can't keep constant track of your puppy. House training puppies requires constant supervision.
7. Crate train your dog. Crate training uses a dog kennel to keep the dog in when you aren't around. Don't worry: if the dog is trained to use the crate, he will generally view it as a safe haven from any daily hubbub. Place the crate in the living room with the door open and a comfortably blanket inside. Encourage the dog to go into the crate on its own by tossing a treat inside. After a few times of doing this over the course of a couple of days, shut the door behind the dog and leave it closed for 10 minutes. Gradually increase the amount of time the dog goes into the crate like this until he is fine with staying in there (no whining or crying) for up to four hours.
- Make sure the crate is appropriately sized for your dog. He should be able to stand normally without a hunched back inside the crate. The crate should also be roomy enough for him to turn around comfortably inside it.
- Never leave a dog in a crate for longer than four hours. Don't use it as a punishment or he will not willingly go inside the crate.
Socializing Your Dog
1. Use rewards for good behavior. Dogs need to learn to get along with other dogs—and humans—in order to have a good life. As an owner, it's up to you to train your dog to be a good canine citizen. Unfortunately, bad behavior is the top reason that dogs are given up and dumped in shelters. The best way to train a dog is to use the reward system. In this system, a dog is rewarded for complying with its owner's request through use of a small treat and a ton of praise.
- Dogs are loyal and love to get in the good graces of their people. The reward system is an excellent method of training a dog quickly.
- Inappropriate behavior or bad behavior is ignored for the most part, unless it poses a danger to the dog or others.
2. Introduce your dog to normal household activity. Dog socialization means learning to be a part of human and dog society in a healthy manner. Begin socialization early in your puppy's life by introducing them to normal household noises and activity in a non-threatening manner.
- Don't chase your dog with the vacuum cleaner or swat him with a broom.
- Take him for car rides to get him used to riding in vehicles and to introduce him to the sights through the windows.
3. Take your dog to a dog park. Dog parks are another good way to interact with other dogs and humans. Keep your dog on a leash, especially for the first few times you visit the park. DO NOT let your dog off leash unless you are certain that he gets along with other dogs and humans.
4. Try a puppy socialization class. One of the most productive ways to introduce your puppy to other puppies, humans, and normal sights and sounds is to take him to puppy socialization class. These classes are held by community education, 4-H clubs, or pet shops and give the dogs and owners a safe place to learn together. Look through your local newspaper or on-line to find classes near you.
- If you need to work on socialization for your older dog, try enrolling him in an obedience class.
- Before you adopt or purchase a dog, make sure you have the time, money, and resources to properly care for the dog. It isn't fair to the dog or other humans if you can't afford veterinary care or to feed the dog properly. Neither is it fair to the dog if you can't spend time every day taking care of it and playing with it.
- Have fun with your dog! A good attitude on your part will be lapped up by your dog.
- Make sure to buy all of the supplies you need before you adopt a dog. That way, you won't have to leave your dog alone to go shopping for pet products, and your dog will have everything he needs as soon as he arrives at his new home!
- If you've never had or trained a dog before, take training sessions before getting one.
- A dog that “breaks” its training, especially house training, may be suffering from a medical problem.
- Never hit a dog. This will only cause them to fear and resent you, damaging your relationship with the dog.
- Only discipline a dog when you catch him in the act of doing something he shouldn't do. He cannot make the association between doing something he shouldn't after he has performed the bad deed.