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How to Care for Dogs

Are you considering bringing a dog into your home? Dogs are loyal and loving friends and usually give us back way more than we give them; however, they do require a lot of care to stay healthy and happy. If you are planning on bringing a dog into your home, there are many things to consider to ensure a long and healthy friendship.

Preparing Before You Get a Dog

1. Dog-proof your house. While many objects may seem harmless to your dog or you don't expect them to be interested in them, it is best to keep small objects and human toys off of the floor or any reachable areas where your dog will be spending time.

  • There are many products in your house and yard that are dangerous to dogs and should be kept well out of reach by locking them in a storage area or putting them somewhere the dog doesn't have access to. Some of the more common ones include, household cleaners, insecticides, fertilizers, and mouse and rat poisons.
  • Both house plants and plants in your yard or garden can be toxic, including rhododendrons, chrysanthemum, and oleander. Identify the plants in your home and garden and then contact your veterinarian or look online at sites such as the ASPCA and Pet poison helpline for complete lists of pet toxins.
  • Also, medicines both human and animal, can be toxic to your dog, especially if consumed in large amounts. Some of the foods that we eat, including chocolate, onions, raisins and grapes, and even sugarless chewing gums, can be toxic to dogs as well and should be kept well out of reach.

2. Give your dog a designated area. Before you bring your dog home one of the first things to decide on is where your dog will be spending their time. Think about what areas of the house they will be allowed to access and what areas you want to keep off limits. These rules should be enforced from the very beginning to avoid confusion.

  • Your dog will need designated areas to eat and sleep and plenty of space to play and exercise. Initially you may want to limit the areas the dog has access to so that you can watch them closely until you get to know them and their behavior better.
  • The kitchen or another area that is convenient to clean is a good place to set up food and water bowls. Once you decide on a place, you will want to keep them there at all times.
  • Next decide where your dog will sleep. Some people like to have their dog sleep in the bed with them, while others prefer to get a doggie bed or crate for them to sleep separately. Be aware that once a dog is allowed to sleep in your bed it can be much more difficult to get them to sleep in their own.
  • The size and activity level of your dog will determine the space needed for play and exercise. Usually, the larger the dog, the more space they will need.

3. Purchase all the supplies you will need. Your dog may come with some of these things, but you will need a collar and a leash that are appropriate for your dog's size, and a toy or two for starters. You will also need a food and water bowl, as well as food.

  • If you know what food your dog has been eating, it is best to continue feeding them that same food, at least initially. Coming into a new home can be stressful for any dog and changing foods may add to this stress. If you decide to change foods later you can, but be sure to do so gradually over the course of 5 to 7 days. This will help to avoid problems such as diarrhea or tummy upsets that can occur when changing foods too quickly.

Meeting Your Dog's Basic Needs

1. Purchase a brand of food with high quality ingredients. You could also make your own dog food. Don't feed your dog too much sugar, fried food, or other treats for people. These will harm your dog's health over time. NEVER feed a dog chocolate.

  • Generally, large breed dogs should be fed a large breed puppy formula until they are around one year of age. They then should be transitioned to an adult diet until changing to a senior diet at around six years of age. Small and medium breeds should be fed puppy formula until around one year of age when they should be changed to an adult diet.
  • If a young dog becomes overweight it is fine to switch them to adult food (which is less calorific) before they are 12 months old.

2. Feed your dog on a regular schedule. Different dogs have different needs when it comes to food. If your dog is under one year old, he or she may need several meals a day. This can be reduced to twice a day for most dogs when they are around six months old. It is normal for some dogs as they get older and usually less active, to only want to eat once a day.

  • Try to feed your dog at the same times every day. This helps your dog to know when mealtime is and helps you to know how much your dog is eating. This can be important if you are trying to housebreak a dog, if a decrease in appetite occurs, and also in preventing obesity.

3. Monitor your dog's appetite and eating habits. The appropriate amount of food should be measured out to allow you to gauge how much your dog is eating. Allow your dog to eat for about 10 – 15 minutes and then the bowl should be picked up until the next feeding time. If they don't eat all of the food at this time they will be hungrier and more likely to finish it at their next feeding.

  • A good way to tell if your dog is getting enough or too much food is to monitor their weight and appearance. While for some more active breeds with certain body types, seeing their ribs can be normal, for most dogs that is a sign that they are not getting enough to eat. Also, if you can't feel their ribs then they may be getting too much to eat. Always check with your veterinarian if there is a question about what your dog should weigh or look like.
  • Free feeding, which is having food always available, can be an easy way to feed; however, it is discouraged. The good eater is liable to gain weight, and the fussy eater doesn't get the excitement of mealtimes. Try to stick to feeding your dog on a regular schedule.
  • Puppies that are becoming overweight may need adjustments to their feeding amounts and exercise routines. It is best to consult with your veterinarian before making any changes.
  • Dogs should be switched to a senior diet at around eight years of age. This helps to prevent excessive calorie intake and weight gain that can occur in an older, less active dog. It is essential to always have fresh water available at all times.

4. Provide water at all times. Keeping your dog's water bowl full of fresh water is essential. Dogs need to be able to drink when they're thirsty, and there's no harm in them drinking as much water as they want. You can put a few ice cubes in the water to keep it nice and cold when it's hot outside.

5. Make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise. Dogs need to be able to run around and play to stay healthy and happy. In general, take your dog for at least one, 30 minute, walk a day, although this may not be near enough activity for a high energy dog.

  • Simply taking your dog outside to relieve itself isn't enough exercise. Make sure the dog gets tired out a bit every single day.
  • The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on their age, breed, health, and overall level of energy. Younger, very energetic breeds will require much more exercise than older, less active ones. Keep in mind that some breeds are not suited to as much exercise as others.
  • If you can, find a place where it's legal to remove the leash and let him run around and stretch.
  • To avoid damaging developing bones and joints in puppies, it is generally recommended to not take them running or do other repetitive high impact type of exercises, such as jumping from high places. As always ask your veterinarian for exercise recommendations.
  • Interacting with your dog by playing a variety of games will keep your dog stimulated both physically and mentally while also helping to build a strong bond between the two of you.
  • Also depending on your dog's activity level and your schedule, doggie day care can be a great way to give your dog the exercise they need while allowing them to interact with other dogs and people.
  • Insufficient exercise can lead to boredom, which can cause many behavior issues including destructive ones. It can also lead to obesity, which can cause many related health issues and should be avoided at all costs.
  • As well as exercise, mental stimulation is vital for a healthy dog. Consider playing games daily, training, and using puzzle feeders, as ways of preventing boredom.

Keeping Your Dog Healthy

1. Groom your dog. Different dog breeds require different grooming strategies. As a whole, dogs should be brushed once a week or so to help them shed hair. Long haired breeds may need more frequent brushing to avoid developing tangles and also may require regular trims. Some breeds get hot in the summer and feel better when they're shaved as it starts getting warm outside. Determine what grooming habits are best for your dog's fur and nails.

  • Check for fleas and ticks while you groom, and remove them with a flea and tick comb. A quality flea prevention medication from your Veterinarian may be needed.

2. Bathe your dog every couple of weeks. Dogs don't need baths nearly as often as humans, but when they start to smell or get into mud and other messes, it's necessary to give them baths. Try to use lukewarm water and a natural, gentle shampoo that is made specifically for dogs and that will not irritate their skin.

  • Dogs like to run around after a bath, so you might want to time the bath so that the dog can run around outside afterward.
  • Bathing and grooming is also a good way to make sure you notice if your dog has a cut or bump that needs medical attention.

3. Make sure your dog has routine veterinary care. Regular veterinary check-ups can help prevent or detect problems early. Routine vet visits include a physical exam, fecal check, and a heartworm test. Your vet may also recommend routine blood work to check for underlying issues that haven't surfaced yet and are best treated as early as possible.

  • Common regular medications that your vet may recommend include, heartworm preventative, regular dewormings, and flea and tick preventative depending on the season and what area of the country you live in.
  • Make sure that your dog has had all of their necessary immunizations. This will help to keep them happy and healthy. The standard immunizations for dogs include Rabies, which is administered at 12 weeks of age or older and then every 1 to 3 years depending on your local laws and your vets recommendations. Distemper, Parvovirus, and Hepatitis are usually administered together. Puppies should receive a set of four injections every three weeks starting at six weeks of age and then annually, as adults, again based on your Veterinarian's recommendations.

4. Consider getting your dog spayed or neutered. Spaying and neutering are procedures that prevent unwanted pregnancies and can help to eliminate many health and behavioral issues. Neutering can prevent testicular cancers, prostate problems, urinary marking, and some aggressive behaviors in males. Spayed females have a greatly reduced incidence of mammary tumors and no possibility of uterine infections or uterine cancer.

  • Ideally a puppy should have this done at around six months of age. Discuss this procedure with your veterinarian during your regular puppy visits or at the first visit after adopting an adult dog.

5. Monitor your dog's general health. Knowing your dog's normal eating habits, activity levels, and weight will help you to recognize when things change and are easy ways to track their health. Monitoring regular potty habits will help you to notice any changes that can indicate health issues. Regularly checking your dog's mouth, teeth, eyes, and ears will help to identify problems as soon as possible. You should check for lumps and cuts regularly. You should observe for any changes in the way your dog walks or moves.

  • Consult your Veterinarian when you notice any changes in your dog's normal condition.

Training Your Dog

1. House train your dog. When bringing a new puppy or adult dog into your house, one of the first things to accomplish is teaching them to relieve themselves outside, instead of indoors. Dogs of any age can be trained with the proper guidance.

  • Until trained, there are a few rules to follow that will help with the process. Limit the areas your dog has access to so that they can be watched closely for signs that they are about to go and can be immediately taken out. Establish a schedule for taking them out that includes, first thing in the morning, after meal times, anytime you come home, and just before bedtime.
  • Puppies will need to go out more frequently when younger and as a rule can hold their urine for an hour for every month old that they are.
  • Keeping your dog on a leash, even when indoors, will allow you to monitor them more closely until they are trained. Also, when taking them outside, keep them on a leash so you can teach them to go in a specific location and to be sure that you know when they have gone.
  • You can use a word such as "go" to teach them to go in a specific location. If you catch them starting to go inside, tell them "no", take them outside, and tell them to "go". Always praise them when they go where they should.
  • If they have an accident in the house, be sure to clean the area thoroughly to help prevent them from wanting to go in the same place again.
  • Never spank or scold a dog for going inside. The dog will only learn to fear you.

2. Crate train your dog. This will give your dog a place where they feel safe and content when you are not home and this is another popular option to prevent accidents.

  • With this method, try to make the crate a fun place by giving a treat or toy and limit the amount of time that they spend in the crate to less than 4 hours at any one time, much less for younger puppies. When taking them out of the crate, immediately take them outside to their spot and don't forget to praise them when they go.

3. Teach your dog to play nicely. Dogs are generally good natured and most play well with children. Still, some like to bite and scratch a little too hard while they play, so it's important to train them how to play nicely. Reward your dog for playing gently and ignore it when it starts to bite. Eventually he or she will learn that it's more fun to be gentle.

4. Teach your dog not to bark too much. Barking is a normal activity for dogs and is one form of their communication, but too much barking is a common and annoying action that many dog owners want to correct. There are many different types of barking and some require very specific actions to try to curb the problem. This is usually a slow and gradual process that also requires a lot of patience.

  • There are some general guidelines for teaching your dog not to bark at every little thing. Identifying factors that cause them to bark and then eliminating them, such as closing the blinds or putting them in an area where they can't see what they are barking at is a good first step. When they don't stop barking, place them in a quiet room or their crate, with no stimulation, and allow them to calm down. Reward them as soon as they stop.
  • A natural instinct is to yell at your dog for barking, but that can make them think that you are barking with them.
  • If your dog is a compulsive barker, try increasing exercise and play times.
  • Dogs that bark for attention should be ignored and never rewarded until the barking stops.
  • This can be a difficult issue to correct and may require the help of a trained behaviorist or trainer. Bark collars should only be used after consulting with a trained professional.

5. Teach your dog a few commands and tricks. Basic commands, such as sit, stay, and come are a helpful ways to keep your dog safe by helping to prevent them from straying too far and getting lost when off leash outdoors. These also help to teach your dog their place in your relationship and to help them to bond more firmly with you.

  • Other commands provide a fun way for you and your dog to interact and play. You can teach your dog to sit, teach your dog to come, teach your dog to stay, teach your dog to lie down, and teach your dog to roll over.


  • Spay or neuter your dogs to avoid accidental breeding. Spaying also reduces the risk for uterine and ovarian cancer in female dogs, and neutering reduces the likelihood of testicular cancer in male dogs. Neutered male dogs are also less aggressive.
  • If you want to get a dog, adopt one from a shelter. This will end the suffering they are going through in the shelter.
  • If you get a dog, get them a collar. They should have a name tag attached to it and they also should have a leash. Get them chipped too.