Adding a new dog to your family comes with a lot of responsibilities and expenses that you need to know about. While a dog can bring joy and love to you and your family, a dog is a living creature that grows and ages, requiring proper care, training and nutrition to ensure it thrives in your home.
One of the first priorities of dog ownership involves veterinary care to keep the dog healthy and free of disease. A dog requires vaccines for parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Starting at 6 weeks of age, a puppy gets its vaccinations every three to four weeks until it reaches 16 weeks old. After these initial vaccinations, you need to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a checkup annually and to get spayed or neutered. Many states and counties require certain vaccinations, such as rabies, be kept current annually or every three years.
A dog requires proper nutrition with food specially designed to meet its dietary needs. Feed the dog a canned or dry food for dogs, twice a day, following the manufacturer's guidelines for your dog's size. You can also free feed your dog dry food, but watch your dog's weight if it starts to show signs of obesity, when you cannot feel its ribs. Depending on your dog's health, it may require a special veterinary diet or an age-appropriate one for puppies or senior dogs. You must also provide your dog with fresh, clean water, available at all times for it to drink and prevent dehydration.
A dog needs training to teach it how to eliminate and behave properly. Training requires time, usually days or weeks, for the dog to learn each behavior, and patience with your dog while it learns. When training a dog, use positive reinforcement techniques, such as verbal praise and food rewards, to encourage your dog to perform basic commands such as sit, stay, leave it and potty. You must take your dog outside to train it to eliminate properly four times each day and more frequently for young puppies, according to the ASPCA. Dogs also require daily exercise during their walks to keep them healthy and prevent behavioral problems.
Care and Grooming
A dog requires brushing to prevent dirt and mats from building up in its coat, usually once a day, especially for long-haired breeds. Once each month, you must also bathe the dog to remove dirt and oils from the coat and wash away any pests. Apply a flea and heartworm preventative to the dog's coat once a month to prevent these pests from causing a health issue. You will also need to play and spend time with your dog in your free time and keep an eye out for any health issues as it ages. Keep in mind that dog ownership lasts for the life of your dog, which may last anywhere from 15 to 20 years.