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Dog Care

How To Take Care of a Dog

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   A new puppy or adult dog entering your life is a wonderful and profound experience, bringing both joy and change!

Getting a new puppy or dog is very exciting. It is one of the most profound experiences you can have in your life, right up there with getting your first car, starting a family, or buying a house. And just like these, it encompasses equal parts of joy and work.

Becoming familiar with how to take care of a dog and learning about their needs will help insure a great experience for both you and your new pet.

Dogs are the most amazing animals and devoted companions. They accept you for what you are and don't care about your eccentricities or faults. They know when you are sad and will do everything in their power to comfort or cheer you. If you are ill they will stay by your side. Dogs wait patiently for your attention, and remain a loyal friend and protector.

How to take care of a dog starts with getting the necessary equipment and supplies. Before you bring your new puppy or adult dog home it helps to have some basics on hand, like food bowls, a collar and leash, a dog bed, and maybe a crate. After that basic dog health responsibilities will come up, like how to groom a dog, making sure your dog gets exercise and play, and taking your dog to the vet for a check-up at least once a year.

Supplies and taking care of your dog's health are important parts of dog care, but equally important is understanding basic dog behaviors. Dogs are naturally social pack animals, but with an alpha dog in charge. A certain amount of authority from you, the top dog, will be required for dog obedience, training and handling. Watch your new friend, learn their language and how they communicate. In turn they will begin to understand you and what you expect.

Dogs will quickly learn your routine, but will also accept change. They respond quickly and favorably to simple rewards like praise, a pat on the head, play time in the park, or a treat. Taking care of a dog is a responsibility, but equally rewarding is the companionship and love your dog will give back to you. With good care and a happy home, your dog will be your lifetime friend.

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Getting Ready for a New Dog

Getting a new puppy or adult dog is such a wonderful moment for us humans. But there are some basic things you need to do to get ready. Learn the laws affecting dog ownership in your area, know what to do in case of loss, and become aware of common dangers that can harm your dog. Once you've decided what type of dog you are want, then get your house ready and buy the necessary dog supplies and equipment you'll need.

  • Laws in your area
    There are local laws regarding tags, vaccinations, identification and leashes. Find out about the laws in your area by checking with your local Humane Society.
  • Lost dog
    No matter how careful you are a dog can get lost. It can be found off leash by the Human Society and re-claiming your dog often has a fine associated with it. For example, in one area of Florida the fine is $400.00. You might also consider having your dog micro chipped. Losing a pet member of the family can be a heartbreaking experience. Just an ounce of prevention can prevent a big hurt.
  • Common dangers
    Learn about other hazards too, some things that seem innocent can cause problems. For example, they might love chocolate but it is toxic for a dog.
  • Dog proofing your house
    Put some thought into dog proofing you home prior to bringing a new pet home. Pay attention to things around the house that can be dangerous to a dog, and either remove them or put them out of reach. Things such as electrical cords, open windows and balconies, many houseplants and antifreeze are dangerous for your furry partner.

Dog Equipment and Supplies

There is all sorts of stuff available for dogs that can be found at pet stores, mass merchandise stores, grocery stores, and even hardware stores. A lot of items are for fun, like toys or chews, but some things are essential. Selecting the right types of equipment for your particular breed of dog, can also elevate many potential problems.

Dog Supplies:
Dog Food/Water Bowls

Buy dog bowls that the pup is going to use when it's fully grown. There are a variety of stainless steel bowls, ceramic crocks, and plastic crocks available. There are also collapsible dog bowls that are ideal for travel and excursions.
Stainless steel and ceramic bowls are easiest to clean. Stainless steel will last a lifetime but crockery can break. Dogs who have sensitive skin and are prone to allergic reactions and do best with a dog bowl that is stainless steel.
A dog should be fed at a height that he does not have to crouch down and eat. A dog stands is ideal for that.

Dog collar

You need a dog collar that will not rub the fur off and fits tight enough to not catch on something such as the back yard fence and choke him. Be sure you aren't able to remove the collar over your dog's head, but not so tight the dog can't swallow.
An easy rule, put the collar on the dog and if you can move your fingers underneath, but not your hand, it's a good fit. There are flat adjustable collars out today that work extremely well and can grow with your dog.
Dogs prone to tracheal problems are better off with a harness. Dogs with a thick coat do better with a rolled leather collar.

Dog Tags

Include the dogs' rabies tag on the collar. It's also a good idea to have a tag giving your name and telephone number should your dog get lost.

Leash

Choose an appropriate leash for your dog. A narrow width leash works fine with toy dogs while wider leashes are for larger dogs.
A longer leash works great, and can always be rolled and shortened. A longer leash is also used for training, but it will give your dog additional length to play in the park.
Initially your dog will think the leash is something to play with, but will quickly adjust and soon be content on a leash and walk next to you.

Dog Beds

Every dog should have his own bed. It is his safe place, his curl up place and it is where he can keep all his toys (after you pick them up). A crate can also be used as a bed.

Dog Crates

Selecting and using a crate can create a positive place for your dog, and spare you and your dog from a variety of problems. The crate should not be considered the dog's home but rather the dog's safe place. Should you decide to invest in a crate, which most trainers strongly suggest, buy one that will house the full grown dog comfortably.

  • Security: Using a crate is the same thing as using a crib or playpen for an infant. It is a secure place, and quickly becomes your dog's safe place. A crate is also a place where a dog is kept from things that might harm him.
  • Sleeping place: A crate is his bed and as the dog matures, the door can be left open and he can go in and out at will.
  • Positive dog behaviors: As you dog is enclosed, a crate helps prevents bad behavior. It helps with housebreaking as a dog will do whatever it can not to potty where he sleeps.

Bringing Your New Dog Home

A person is always so happy to be bringing a new furry friend home. Otherwise why would we do it? Whether it's a warm fuzzy puppy or an adult dog, we are attached. We are anxious and excited to make that acquisition part of our family. We can't wait to get him home. Here's a few dog tips to make the first day great.

  • Learn all you can about your new dog
    Regardless of where you get your new dog, find out as much as possible about what it is being fed and how often. You don't want to switch foods abruptly. Find out when his last shots were and when they were given. Ask for the name of the Veterinarian that was used. Obtain as much information as possible.
  • Give you new dog a name
    Select a name for your new addition to begin the bonding process.
  • On the way home - be ready for an accident
    In all likelihood, the trip home will be uneventful but taking some paper toweling and a garbage bag is a good idea.

Introducing A New Dog

When you first bring your new dog home, you are excited and your pup is scared. Imagine how your new dog feels. Think about how you would feel going into a very huge new room with a bunch of strangers. Not only is the room full of unfamiliar people looking at you, but there's all sorts of strange objects. And then there's all kinds of strange scents, from perfumes to foods.

Make your dog's first introductions as comfortable as possible. Do with your dog what you would do naturally with any good friend.

  • Go slowly - let him sniff
    Introduce your new dog to the home slowly. Show him around and allow him to take his time and sniff and see things. Scent is very important for your new addition so let him sniff.
  • Introduce each person
    Introduce him to all the family members letting each one give him a pet or hug.
  • Introduce other pets
    If you are already a pet owner, introduce your new addition to your existing pets in neutral territory. Provide the older pets with a greater amount of attention. The existing pet can be jealous of a new member, however, the new member doesn't have any expectations.
    New pets can be introduced to existing pets through a sliding door or in the back yard. Gradually they will learn about each other and rules will be established. This does not have to be done immediately upon coming home. It can be done gradually over days. There is no reason to overwhelm the new pup.

How to Take Care of a Dog

Dog health starts with proper feeding, but that is just beginning. How to take care of a dog includes understanding your dogs behaviors, providing a daily routine, and making sure it gets plenty of play and exercise. For optimal dog care start with these basic dog care tips:

  • Daily Dog Care
    Feeding and fresh water are the obvious basics of dog care. Normally, a pup is fed three times a day and gradually weaned down to once a day. Water should be available at all times, except it is okay to remove water from a young pup after his last feeding of the day.
  • Dog Behaviors.
    Dogs do communicate, and getting to know your dogs language is fun. Dog communication is expressed through body language, their facial expressions, their sounds, their actions and obviously their tail.
    It isn't difficult learn dog behaviors. All you have to do is watch and listen. And he is going to do everything he can to learn your language too. Unlike humans dogs are very open with their expressions, here are some dog behaviors and what the mean:
    • When dogs are happy they smile by getting that tail wagging thing going.
    • The "grrrr" you hear as it shakes a toy is playful.
    • The deep growl with tail tucked in usually means the pup feels threatened or is threatening.
    • Sniffing around in circles usually means he has to go to the bathroom.
    • Your dog looking at you with ears forward is confidence.
    • Your dog looking down with his ears back and crouched is him showing fear.
  • Daily Routine
    We have all heard "dogs don't tell time." That may be true but they do know routine. Dogs acclimate best when there is a routine they comprehend. If you play with them each night after supper, that is what they look forward to and it means following the same routine.
    It isn't the time of day but the routine you establish that is important. If you feed him when you eat supper, whether that is 6 or 8 pm, the routine is you feed him when you eat supper. If you take him to the park on Saturday after breakfast, he will learn that the day you don't get dressed for work is the day you take him to the park.
  • Exercise and play
    Exercise is an important and vital part of dog care. They need to be out, run around, and generally get rid of some of that pent up energy. Exercise is not only good for your dog's health, but also helps them behave better living in the home. Playtime is also great bonding time.
    The size of your dog and the dog breed will affect the level of activity your dog needs. A fenced in backyard works wonders for many dogs, but a small dog weighing 10 pounds, probably gets enough exercise just running around the living room; given you provide play time and toys. Learn about your breed of dog, and then give it the amount of playtime it needs every day.

Dog Obedience

Dog care and training go hand in hand with dog obedience. Rules for dogs are Yes or No – not sometimes.
Dogs are pack animals. There has to be an Alpha leader. They will look to you to be that leader and you should assume that position.

Decide what is and is not acceptable behavior for your dog and his role in your family and stick to it. A dog does not understand that he can sit on the sofa today but not tomorrow. A 10 pound puppy sitting on the sofa is cute but if it is going to be 100 pound dog, you might want to rethink your rules before teaching. The aspects of dog obedience include the following:

  • Housebreaking
    Take your puppy out when it wakes up, after play, about 20 minutes after eating, last thing at night and right away if you see it sniffing around in circles. Reward the positive behavior when the pup goes potty outside. Most dogs do not have a great deal of control until the ages of 4 months so do not expect miracles. If you adopt or purchase an adult dog, do not assume it is housebroken.
  • Basic Control Commands
    You can easily start with your puppy or adult dog by putting words to the behaviors they are already doing. When the dog sits say "SIT". When the dog comes running to you say "COME". The basic initial commands are COME, SIT, STAY, and HEEL. As your pup matures you can lean on his hindquarters and say "SIT". You can using the attached leash say "COME" and gently pull the dog toward you. Training classes are an excellent option and a good socialization opportunity.
  • Dog Training Classes
    Dog training classes are a good thing because they will teach your dog the basic commands. But training classes will also teach you how to become aware of dog behaviors so you will be better at listening to your dog. Training is also a socialization opportunity for your dog, and provides you dog with exercise.
  • Dog Tips for Excessive Barkers .
    • Keep your dog occupied as much as possible, as barking often occurs when your dog is bored.
    • Block your dog's access to window areas.
    • Avoid leaving your dog home alone for long periods. Be sure to leave plenty of chew toys.
    • Refrain from yelling as it only encourages your dog to bark more .

How to Groom a Dog

Grooming can be fun for you and your dog or it can be a major chore. There are lots of good ideas on how to groom a dog, but make a routine that suits you and your canine friend. It doesn't have to be done fast, and it doesn't have to be done all at one time.

  • Dog Coat
    Many dogs, especially those that shed or have long, need to be brushed regularly. Dogs with long coats will have to have their fur trimmed. Brushing your dogs coat will insure the coat remain free of tangles and in good condition. It is an opportunity to play and offer affection. It is also an opportunity for you to make sure your dog is free of ticks and fleas. The flea/tick preventative should insure this but it is good to check.
  • Dog Bath
    Bath time can be in an enclosed shower, the bath tub or with a garden hose depending on the time of the year. Use shampoo and conditioning rinses for dogs. How often you bathe your dog is based on the dog and living environment.
  • Nail Care
    The nails should be trimmed; however, a city dog normally wears his nails down just walking on the concrete. Again, go slowly. You don't have to trim all 20 nails at the same time.
  • Ear Care
    Ear care for your dog is very important. Dirt and debris in the ear can lead to inflammation and infection. Routine ear care helps to dry the ear canal and assists in preventing chronic inflammation and infection of the external ear canal. Ear cleaning can be easily done by soaking a cotton ball in an ear cleaning solution and just cleaning them out.
  • Caring for Teeth
    Dogs need regular dental care. They should have their teeth brushed at least once a week. Cleaning the teeth can be a whole lot of fun. The first few times, you may not do the best job but both you and your dog will get the process down. Make sure to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that is made especially for dogs. Raw hide chews help clean the teeth as well.

Dog Health

Keeping your dog healthy means getting a check up for your dog once a year, and keeping up with the necessary vaccinations. A veterinarian is also needed should your dog become ill. A good veterinarian will be genuinely interested in helping you keep your dog healthy and willing to answer your questions.

Locate a good veterinarian and keep his name and telephone number handy. A good veterinarian will keep you informed as to required vaccinations, preventative medications for heartworm and fleas, and will be open regarding discussion and advice on dog health.

References

Author: Cheryl Galloway, Clarice Brough CCS