|Caring for your Dog|
Remember: A dog is for life! Don’t buy or adopt a dog unless you can commit to caring for it for longterm.
At a glance:
Good quality food is not only good for dogs physiologically, it also allows them to grow to their optimum. Dogs on a quality diet have shiny coats and less of a ‘doggie’ smell. A well-fed dog is less likely to fight with other dogs over food, is far less likely to need to visit the vet and will have less health problems in old age. Your dog’s nutritional needs gradually change throughout its life, though the essential components are protein and fat. As puppies, dogs need double the amount of energy as an adult dog to grow and mature. Puppies also need vitamins to ensure their bones and teeth grow strong. Bones for dogs are good for their teeth, gums and breath; and they prevent your favourite shoes from being chewed! Consult your vet about which diet is best for your dog.
Exercise gives the opportunity for mental stimulation, a chance for socialisation and time for you and your dog to bond. Exercise is needed for your dogs’ normal muscular and skeletal development. Teaching your dog to walk on leash nicely will make the walk more pleasant for you, especially as your dog gets older and stronger. Off-lead exercise in a secure environment is also important as it gives your dog the opportunity to run hard and really get rid of excess energy, thus avoiding destructive or attention-seeking behavior. The ‘come’ command becomes vital when off lead - remember never scold your dog for coming to you, even if you’ve had to call ten times! It’s also a good idea not to reattach his leash every time you call him either; mix it up a bit and throw a ball or reward in some other pleasant way.
Dogs with long coats require regular grooming to prevent matting; but it is also a good idea to regularly groom dogs with short coats too. Grooming teaches your dog to be comfortable when being handled all over which will make visits to the vet easier! Regular grooming also removes dead skin, hair and stimulates blood flow to the skin, which will improve the condition of your dogs’ coat. Matted hair is not only ugly but it can also lead to infections as the matts stick to the skin. When grooming, take the opportunity to check your dogs for ticks, fleas, bumps and lumps!
Bathing your dog too often will strip away the coat’s protective oils resulting in itching and possible infections. Only bath him when he is visibly dirty - or smelly! Instead, groom him everyday (see below). Dogs with skin allergies need to be bathed more often as do dogs with long coats to prevent matting; but once a month is enough. Remember to use a dog shampoo as human shampoo is too harsh for a dog’s skin.
SDR recommends training your dog as this invaluable one-on-one time dramatically speeds up the process of bonding between you and your dog. Most importantly it shows the dog that you are ‘top dog’; dog owners too often ignore establishing a hierarchy. Dogs should be treated with kindness but not as equals or as humans in fur coats; dogs with firm and consistent owners are proven to be the happiest of dogs. Training helps to control and recall your dog when off leash which is paramount as it’s your responsibility to protect and keep your dog out of danger. Training should be FUN! This means short breaks, pleasant rewards and always ending on a happy note! Pleasant rewards for proper behavior entices your dog to repeat his good behavior. If you’ve had a bad session and the days’ training is going nowhere - give up (for the day) before you lose your cool and your dog gets confused! Get your dog to sit or to do something you are confident he will do successfully, reward him and then just wrap it up for the day.
Vaccinations are the best way to prevent common contagious diseases in dogs, such as distemper, parvo-virus, leptospirosis, etc. Check with your vet what vaccinations are needed and at what age they should be administered and boostered. From a medical perspective, isolating puppies until they are fully vaccinated will prevent them from exposure to infectious diseases. However, from a behavioral perspective it is crucial that puppies begin to socialize as early as possible. A possible solution is to take the puppy to play with other dogs that you know are vaccinated.
Heartworm prevention is vital - get advice from your vet as to which Heartworm prevention treatment is best for your pet. Whether giving monthly tablets or an annual shot, do not go over the due date. If your dog has heartworm, any medication you give could kill the heartworm and block the valves to the heart. If you do happen to go significantly over the due date, inform your vet. The medication for killing heartworm is very different to the medication for preventing heartworm.
Regular de-worming (most commonly tablets every 3-6 months). It kills and prevents worms - the benefit of not passing the due date is that your dog won’t embarrass you by bottom scooting!
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