How to Educate Yourself As a New Dog Owner
Becoming a dog owner is an exciting and rewarding decision, but it is also a great commitment. These loyal companions rely on their owners for their meals, exercise, and their healthcare. Consider how you will provide your dog with exercise and proper healthcare, and be sure to provide your lovable canine with nutritious food and the appropriate supplies. Being an informed and responsible dog-owner will help ensure that your dog lives a long, happy, and healthy life.
Preparing for Your New Dog’s Needs
Purchase appropriate food and water dishes for your dog.It is important to select the right type of food dish for your dog to ensure that it is able to safely and successfully reach its food. Dogs with digestive issues do better with elevated dishes, such as those in a stand.Dogs that eat too quickly can be slowed down using special dishes that have raised ridges or barriers.
- Be sure to wash your dog’s bowl frequently as bacteria can build up inside the dish.
Select a dog collar.It is important to pick the right collar for your dog’s size and that it fits comfortably and securely.The collar should not restrict your dog’s neck, but it shouldn’t be so loose that your dog can slip out of it. Make sure you are able to fit 3 fingers between the collar and your dog’s neck.Collars for small dogs should be between 11 to 15 inches (28 to 38 cm) in length, while a collar for a medium dog should be between 15 to 20 inches (38 to 51 cm). Large dogs will need a collar that is between 19 to 30 inches (48 to 76 cm).
- Be sure to frequently adjust the size of your puppy’s collar. Puppies grow quickly, so it is important to make sure that the collar is comfortable and secure.
- A standard breakaway collar works well for most dogs. This collar is typically made of nylon or leather and is equipped with a breakaway safety buckle to prevent injury or strangulation.
- Martingale collars are better options for dogs with narrow heads, like the greyhound or a whippet, or for a dog who often slips out of its collar. This collar has 2 metal rings at each end. The collar tightens if a dog pulls while on the leash, preventing the dog from slipping out of the collar.
- Back-clip harnesses are recommended for short-nosed or small dogs that are prone to tracheal collapse, such as a Boston terrier or a pug. This harness clips on your dog’s back, alleviating the pressure on your dog’s neck.
Choose the right bedding for your dog.Visit your local pet shop and talk to an expert to select the appropriate bedding for your dog. A dog bed should be large enough so that your dog can lie comfortably in all natural positions. If your dog likes to curl up while sleeping, an oval bed with raised sides may be a great option. A flat, rectangular bed may be perfect for a dog that likes to lie flat while resting.
- Senior dogs or dogs that suffer from joint problems may benefit from an orthopedic or memory-foam bed.
- An elevated cot may be a great option for dogs with long, thick coats that overheat while sleeping.
Be informed about your dog food choices.Feeding your dog a well-balanced and nutritional diet is important for the dog’s health and well-being. Carefully read the dog food label before you buy a product. Food labels are required to list ingredients by weight, so look for dog food that lists animal protein such as beef, chicken, or lamb as its first ingredient. Search for other familiar, wholesome ingredients on the label to ensure that your dog will be receiving a high-quality diet with minimal fillers and preservatives.
- Ask your veterinarian to recommend several brands of food that would be well-suited to your dog. Discuss whether you should feed your dog raw food versus commercially-available dry food with your vet as well. If you feed your dog a raw diet, consult with a dog nutrition expert to ensure your dog is getting a well-balanced diet.
- Ensure that your dog’s food has essential fatty acids such as lard, tallow, and poultry fat. Fats provide your dog with energy and soluble nutrients, make the food more appetizing, and help support a healthy coat.
- An ingredient that is not familiar to you is most likely a filler or a preservative. These rapidly move through your dog’s digestive system and do not provide your dog with adequate nutrients or energy.
Talk to your veterinarian about vaccines.Discuss how often you should bring your dog in for a check-up, and be sure that your dog receives its necessary vaccinations for rabies, hepatitis, parvovirus, and canine distemper. Consult your veterinarian to see what vaccinations are required and recommended, and work together to determine the vaccination schedule.
- For example, your pup should receive a combination distemper/parvo/lepto vaccine around 8 weeks of age. They need a booster shot at 12 weeks of age, then again once per year. A rabies vaccination is typically given at 12 weeks, 16 months, and then again every 3 years. Your vet may also suggest vaccines for Lyme disease and influenza.
- Ask the veterinarian if your particular breed is prone to any health issues. Certain breeds like border collies can develop bone or joint issues such as hip dysplasia.Hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis can be aggravated by poor diet and inadequate exercise. Ask your veterinarian about providing the correct nutrition and exercise to help prevent future health issues.
Creating the Right Environment for Your Dog
Accommodate your dog’s energy level.All dogs have varying energy levels and require exercise, but some breeds require more activity and exertion than others. Be sure to provide adequate exercise and rest for your dog to keep it happy and healthy. A high-energy, athletic dog may need to go on frequent walks and spend a lot of time running in a field or park. A low-energy dog may be content to go on a short walk and spend the rest of the day lounging around your home.
- If you have a high-energy dog, consider taking it on daily runs, long walks twice per day, or schedule time to take it to a dog park several times a week.
- Don’t overexert a senior dog or a low-energy dog. If your dog tries to stop, is panting loudly, or has an uneven gait, this is an indication that it has reached its limits.
Socialize your dog.If you work long hours at the office or juggle other activities and projects outside the home, this may impact the well-being of your new dog. Dogs are social pack animals, and they usually thrive being surrounded by other dogs or people. Some dogs feel more vulnerable when left alone, and while others become bored and destructive.If you are away for long stretches each day, consider hiring a dog walker or look into pet daycare options in your area.
- Visit a local dog park so your dog can interact with other dogs. If you aren’t sure how well your dog will interact with other dogs, enroll it in an obedience class before visiting the dog park. These are often available from pet stores, community groups, and some veterinarian offices.
- Some rescue dogs can have separation anxiety when left alone. This can be an effect of the stress and anxiety they may have experience while in a shelter. If you adopting a dog from a shelter, ask an employee about the experiences your dog has been through and how it fairs with being on its own.
Remove environmental hazards from your home.Your home, both inside and outside, should be a safe environment for your dog. Exam your home and look out for any potential dangers or hazardous materials that can threatened your dog’s health and safety. Be sure that medications, cleaning agents, and poisonous plants are removed and are not easily accessible to your dog. Tie up electrical cords to prevent your dog or puppy from chewing on them.
- If you have plants in your home, be sure that they are not poisonous to your pet. Common indoor plants such as dieffenbachia, azalea, Calla lily, and philodendron can be toxic to your dog. Remove any toxic plants from your home or be sure they are out of reach.
- Put away toxic chemicals such as detergents, insecticides, antifreeze, weed-killer, and other chemically harsh products. Ingesting these chemicals can be harmful and fatal to dogs.
- Store all food and drinks in the fridge, freezer, or dog-proof cupboards, rather than leaving items out on the counter or table. Also, make sure your garbage cans are either out of reach or dog-proof.
- If you have a cat, keep its litter box away from your dog. Dogs may ingest the litter or cat feces, which can cause gastrointestinal obstructions or intestinal worms.
Bringing Your Dog Home
Make sure the dog urinates before coming into the home.Allow the dog time to urinate and/or defecate before you bring it into your home. This can prevent the dog from marking its territory. Watch the dog closely the first week to be sure that it is properly house-trained. If not, your first order of business should be to house train the dog.
Allow your dog to adjust to its surroundings.Moving from a foster home or a shelter to another new environment can be a stressful situation for dogs. Know that your dog will need time to adjust to its new home. A new puppy may miss its mother, and an older dog may be wary or nervous by the change. Show your dog where its water, bed, and toys are, and then allow it to explore the area on its own.
Don’t crowd your pet with several new people.Welcoming your new dog into the family is an exciting time, but be sure to make introductions slowly. Your dog may feel in danger if there are several new people around crowding it, trying to pet it, and vying for its attention. Ask everyone to be calm and take turns getting acquainted with the new addition.
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