Properly caring for your canine involves more than installing a doggie door and tossing some food into a bowl. Yes, your love and attention go a long way toward making this four-legged family member happy, but once you adopt him, it is up to you to meet all his needs.
Your pooch’s ancestors might have caught their own dinner, but you are the food provider now. Proper nutrition should include a high-quality, balanced dog food. Healthy treats can provide variation and aid in training. With so many on the market, learn to read dog food labels to make sure he's getting what he needs. Be sure at least the first two ingredients are high-quality protein, such as chicken, lamb or beef. Avoid grains, artificial preservatives, colors or chemicals. If you decide to provide homemade dog food, consult with your vet on how to provide a balanced diet that includes protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals, and a small amount of fat.
From the day you first bring him home and throughout his life, your canine pal needs proper health care, just like you do. Vaccinations, parasite control, attention to injuries and illness all require trips to the doggie doc. Even if your dog appears to be in perfect health, an annual physical exam is required. Spay/neuter is also a must, unless you are a breeder. Pet insurance can cover some of the costs, or you can budget for annual care and put aside some for emergencies.
Dogs have lived with humans long enough to require protection from the elements and a soft place to park. Your pet also needs a convenient place to potty, a stimulating environment and regular exercise to keep him fit -- and to prevent destructive behavior. How much exercise he needs depends on several factors, including age, breed and health. A 1-year-old German shorthaired pointer will need to run 30 minutes a day, while a 5-year-old basset hound might just need a daily walk around the block.
Training should start as soon as you bring your puppy home. A properly trained, well-behaved dog is welcome almost anywhere. Puppy kindergarten and basic training also teach you how to train your dog and offer a chance to bond. Dogs are intelligent, and training exercises also provide your pooch with mental stimulation.
Every dog needs grooming to some extent, some more than others. Start regular bathing early and make it fun for Fido. Most dogs need to be brushed two or three times a week, while other breeds, such as Irish setters, need daily brushing. Breeds such as spaniels with large, droopy ears need their ears cleaned regularly, and dogs such as the Pekingese that tend to tear need their eyes cleaned. If you’re considering a particular breed, look into his grooming needs to make sure you can meet them.
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