Caring for your Dog
Becoming a dog owner is a big responsibility. While dog ownership is a rewarding and fun experience, owning a dog takes a commitment. Your dog gives you a lifetime of unconditional love, loyalty, and friendship. In return, she/he counts on you to provide her/him with food, water, safe shelter, regular veterinary care, exercise, companionship, and more. Take care of these ten essentials.
- Shelter: Give your dog proper shelter. The first decision is where to keep your dog. Will this be an indoor or an outdoor dog? A fenced yard with a doghouse is a bonus, especially for large and active dogs; however, dogs should never be left outside alone or for extended periods of time. Dogs need and crave companionship and should spend most of their time inside with their family. An indoor dog should have a designated spot for a bed. Provide a supply of toys and a play area.
- Dog identification: Give your dog with a collar and ID tag that includes your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your companion may become lost—an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your pet will be returned home safely. Micro chipping aids in recovery if the dog is lost or kidnapped. Follow local laws for licensing your dog and vaccination. Check with your local animal shelter, municipality or vet for information regarding legal requirements.
- Simply being safe: Follow this simple rule—off property, on leash. Even a dog with an ID tag should not be allowed to roam outside of your home or fenced yard. It is best for you, your community, and your dog to keep your pet under control at all times.
- Health: Take your dog to the veterinarian for regular check-ups. Be alert to signs of illness in your pet. Any change in behavior or appearance can signal an illness or injury. Know what is normal in urinary and bowel habits so you can spot irregularities. Check your dog’s teeth and ears on a regular basis. Spay or neuter your dog. Dogs who have this routine surgery tend to live longer, be healthier, and have fewer behavior problems (e.g., biting, running away). By spaying or neutering your dog, you are also doing your part to reduce the problem of abandoned dogs.
- Nutrition: Give your dog a nutritionally balanced diet, including constant access to fresh water. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what and how often to feed your pet. Dogs should not be fed table scraps. Human food is not appropriate for pets. You should especially avoid raw meats and bones that may splinter and get stuck in her throat.
- Training: Enroll your dog in a training class. Positive training will allow you to control your companion’s behavior safely and humanely, and the experience offers a terrific opportunity to enhance the bond you share with your dog. Interaction with family is also very important to your dog. Give your dog enough exercise to keep him physically fit (but not exhausted). Many find that playing with their canine companion, along with walking him twice a day, provides sufficient exercise. If you have questions about the level of exercise appropriate for your dog, consult your veterinarian.
- Grooming: Purchase a dog brush to give your pet a regular brushing. This not only keeps her coat in good condition, but you can also look for fleas, ticks, mites, and skin problems. Use a dog shampoo for bathing. Don’t forget their teeth. Some chew toys will aid in keeping teeth free of tartar and plaque.
Be loyal and patient with your faithful companion. Make sure the expectations you have of your dog are reasonable and remember that the vast majority of behavior problems can be solved. If you are struggling with your pet’s behavior, contact your veterinarian or local animal shelter for advice.
Reasons to Spay or Neuter your dog:
The top reason to spay or neuter is to avoid unwanted pregnancies and litters. While it seems that everyone loves puppies, not everyone is willing to take on the responsibility of an unplanned litter. Our shelters are already overcrowded and by spaying or neutering your dog you reduce the risk of yet another unwanted litter of puppies.
Your female dog will live a longer, healthier life. Dog spaying before her first heat reduces your female dog’s chances of uterine infections and breast cancer. Breast cancer is fatal in about 50% of un-spayed female dogs.
She will never go into heat, avoiding having to clean up blood stains on your furniture and carpeting.
Your male dog will also benefit from neutering. If neutering is completed before 6 months of age, you greatly reduce your dog’s risk of testicular cancer and a variety of prostate problems.
Neutering will lessen a male dog’s urge to roam. While some breeds are known for their wandering nature, neutering will lessen that urge and prevent injury from car accidents or fights with other dogs.
Neutering promotes better behavior in male dogs. An intact male dog still has the urge to mount and mark his territory. Once neutered, these desires are greatly reduced, if not eliminated.
Dog spaying/neutering is cost effective. While spaying or neutering can be costly, it is not nearly as expensive as caring for an expectant female and the puppies that later arrive. Many cities and counties also have reduced licensing fees for dogs that are neutered.
Neutering does not make your dog fat. Many people use the excuse that spaying or neutering their dog will make them fat. Too much food and not enough exercise is what make your dog fat. So long as you monitor your dog’s food intake and ensure proper exercise, they should maintain a healthy body weight.
By spaying your female dog you avoid having the neighborhood stray male dogs hanging out around your home while your female is in heat.
Reasons to adopt a Shelter/Sanctuary dog
- Cost to Obtain: Many purebred dogs can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds. A dog obtained from a local shelter incurs only the cost of adoption fees. If your heart is set on a purebred, you can find one at a shelter.
- Spay and Neuter Savings: Many dogs living in shelters have already been spayed or neutered. Many dogs end up in shelters simply because their owners did not take the time to understand and train their dogs. Attend a training program that teaches basic commands and leash walking.
- Reduce Pet Overpopulation: Between six and eight million dogs enter into shelters each year. Of that number, between three and four million dogs can be euthanized.
- Impact Puppy Mills: Puppy mills, mass breeding facilities that churn out hundreds of thousands of purebred puppies each year, are notoriously inhumane operations. Breeder dogs are kept in small cages (often for life) and repeatedly bred until they die. The puppies that result are often prone to health and behavior problems. Puppy mills make money for their operators. The only way to discourage this practice is to stop buying puppy mill puppies. Adopt a dog instead, and help close these facilities.
- Wide Choice of Animals: The selection of dogs available for adoption is wide. You will find big dogs and small dogs, old and young.
- Avoid The Puppy Stage: Many dogs available in rescue shelters are past the puppy stage which means they are past the teething stage. Many are housebroken. These are two big advantages for your furniture and rugs.
- Hybrid Vigor: While it is possible to find purebred dogs in shelters, most dogs will be mixed breeds. Hybrid vigor (also known as heteroecism) is a theory that mixed breed dogs are genetically stronger and free from many of the in-bred health problems of purebred. This is true in many cases, but it does not mean your new dog will be immune to illness. Proper veterinary care and attention is a requirement of responsible pet ownership whether you pet came from a shelter or a top breeder.
When you adopt a pet, understand the responsibilities. If you do not have the time or money to devote to caring for and training a pet, please do not adopt. Consider volunteering at a shelter, walking and interacting with the animals.