Owning a dog is a wonderful and rewarding experience. Few things can beat the feeling of arriving home to an excited, tail-wagging, furry companion. And while a dog will definitely inundate you with joy and love, owning one does come with several responsibilities (and even a couple of challenges to boot).
For new pet parents like yourself who might still be in the honeymoon phase of dog ownership, you will quickly realise that there’s quite a bit more that goes into keeping your furry companion in good health than you might have figured. That’s because your new four-legged companion will need to be provided with nutrition, care, love and entertainment for the rest of its life.
Although there’s quite a bit of work to be done to keep your mutt healthy and happy, you’ll be glad to discover that the potential drawbacks will be dwarfed by the benefits once you get into it.
If you are planning on getting a dog or have just adopted one, getting your home ready for your new housemate is the first thing you need to do if you haven’t already. You will need to dog-proof your home to ensure your dog does not suffer any harm or cause any damage. You should:
- Cover and secure electrical cables around the home.
- Keep your socks, shoes and anything else that dogs can chew on in closets and cupboards.
- Gather and store any potentially harmful chemicals in cupboards where your pet cannot access them.
- Secure your trash by keeping it in lidded cans to keep your pet from scavenging through it.
- Purchase the necessary dog supplies including food, food and drink bowls, collar, leash, doggy bed, dog crate, safe toys, identification tags and disposable doggy waste bags.
Additionally, if your dog will be living with you and your family, you will need to establish some responsibilities as well as a couple of house rules, like which rooms the dog cannot go into, whether they can climb on furniture, and who is responsible for walking the dog. Brief your family to ensure everybody is on the same page regarding their roles and the house rules.
Now that your home is ready and everyone concerned knows and understands their role with the dog, we can get to the nitty-gritty of keeping your pooch healthy and happy. Here are a few crucial tips to help you keep your dog healthy as you begin your dog ownership journey:
- Monitor your dog’s health from the start. Like humans, dogs also need doctors – or veterinarians in this case. Do some research online or ask for recommendations from friends to find a good vet in your area to help out with your dog’s medical issues. Ideally, you should research and find a good vet even before your new pet arrives home; if you haven’t yet, you need to do it immediately. One of the first things you need to do for your new furry companion is taking them to the vet for their initial visit. This is especially important for puppies who might not have had any veterinary care before. Your vet will check your dog for any disease symptoms – including checking for parasites such as worms – and administer any vaccines required to keep your dog from catching common canine diseases. If you wish, you could also have your dog implanted with an identification chip and desexed for breeding control while at the vet’s office.
- Provide your dog with proper nutrition. Dogs, just like people, need to be kept on a nutritious diet to maintain good health. While dogs will eat just about anything edible (and sometimes inedible!), you should restrict their diet to high-quality commercial dog food as it is developed to suit their systems and provide all the nutrition they require to stay healthy. Consult your veterinarian on the type of food you should feed your dog as well as the number of meals you should provide them with. Usually, it is recommended to feed a mature dog twice a day. The number of meals required will increase up to six for puppies that have smaller digestive systems and require more energy for growth. Get your dog into a feeding routine as this will also help you with house training for your furry friend – dogs usually need to go to the bathroom about half an hour after they eat (this is about 15 minutes for puppies).Ensure your pooch is properly hydrated by giving it adequate water. Ensure your dog has got access to water at all times so that they can drink whenever they feel thirsty.
- Keep the pests away. Because of their fur, dogs can be a magnet for pests; the most common ones being ticks and fleas. These pests, if not prevented, will affect both your pet and your family – so it’s best to keep them at bay. You can keep your dog free of pests by cleaning their coat regularly, preferably with a shampoo that repels pests such as anti-flea shampoo. Most dogs will only require to be bathed at least once every month, but this will depend on your dog’s breed and activities. Inspect your dog’s coat for pests, especially ticks, which you should remove carefully so as not to cause your pet any harm. Additionally, you should keep your dog’s fur trimmed if it’s a hairy breed. All dogs should have their fur brushed regularly to keep it untangled and debris-free.Moreover, ensure you trim your dog’s nails as these could irritate its paws if left unattended. Be careful not to cut the nail’s inner part (called the quick) as it is alive and could bleed.
- Help your dog keep fit through exercise. Your furry friend, just like you, needs to keep fit through exercise for optimum health. The amount of exercise required by your dog will depend on its breed, with some requiring more exercise to burn energy than others. Your dog requires to have at least one long walk each day or two small ones. This is especially important if your home does not have an enclosed yard where you can release the dog and let it run around freely. Games such as fetch can also be used while you are walking your dog to make the exercise routine a bit more intense for your dog.
- Socialise and play with your dog. Dogs are smart creatures which makes maintaining their mental health all the more important. Provide your dog with mental stimulation by playing with it and socialising it with other humans and dogs. Introduce your companion to many different people, dogs, sounds, sights and smells to ensure they are mentally well adjusted. Let your dog be a dog by allowing it to play and express behaviours normally associated with that particular type of breed. If your scent hound loves following scents, let it sniff away once in a while! You could even make a game out of it. You can also keep your dog stimulated and entertained by providing training. Use a reward-based training for about 10-20 minutes twice a day depending on your dog’s concentration span. This not only prevents boredom but also helps you bond with your best friend.
Finally, remember to always treat your new pet companion with love and respect and exercise patience especially in the initial days of your relationship. Sometimes it takes a while for dogs to adjust to a new environment. Otherwise, enjoy your new pet!