‘Man’s Best Friend’ have been by our side since we first domesticated Wolves over 16 thousand years ago! Through centuries of selective breeding and training dogs have evolved into the loveable and helpful creatures we know today.
Dogs are among the most popular pets kept in the uk with an astonishing 9 million dogs kept as pets in 24% of homes in the Uk!
But first-time dog owners need to do their research to establish whether their lifestyles allow for the time and effort needed to look after a pooch of their own. Look below for a basic guide on how to care for your new four-legged friend, but please consider heading over to the Kennel Club and RSPCA’s website for more information before committing to a dog or puppy.
What Breed? From a breeder or from a rescue?
Before you think about anything else you need to establish what sort of dog you are capable of caring for. Some popular breeds such as Huskies are not ideal for first-time owners as a high level of dog experience and breed research is needed to cater for their exercise and training needs.
They are benefits to getting a pedigree dog from a responsible breeder, as you can establish the sort of temperament and requirements your new best pals will have based on their breed traits. That said, adopting from a rescue or shelter means the staff can match you with a dog to suit your lifestyle! Many pooches in rescue are excellent, well-rounded pets who have simply fallen on hard times. Adult dogs also have the additional benefit of being less high-maintenance than a young puppy – and they already come micro-chipped, neutered and with all their vaccinations!
If you really do want to buy a puppy from a breeder, please make sure they are registered and assured by The Kennel Club.
What Should I Feed My Dog or Puppy? How Often?
The kind of food to give your dog can vary a lot depending on the breed, size, activity level and dietary requirements of your canine pal. Dogs can be fed either ‘wet’ food, typically chunks of meat in gravy or jelly with vegetables or dry food in the form of pellets (consisting of protein and specific minerals beneficial to your dog). Additionally, many owners find their dogs thrive on a raw food diet – to find out the best diet for your dog it is worth talking to a vet.
Generally, dogs do best when they are fed twice a day. However for breeds that can suffer from bloat such as Great Danes it may be best to feed them three small meals a day – and to ensure they don’t exercise an hour before or after eating (as bloat can be fatal).
Fresh water should be available to your pup all day and changed frequently, especially during the summer. During the warmer months it’s also advisable to take a bottle of water out on walks to prevent your pooch from becoming overheated and dehydrated.
How Often Do I Need To Play With My Dog?
Canines are intelligent, inquisitive and playful by nature. Some breeds are more playful and require higher or lower levels of physical stimulation and exercise than others and younger dogs will most likely need more play time than older dogs. Dogs benefit from daily walks (one in the morning and one in the evening) and from having toys they can play with such as balls, chew toys and teddies.
Without mental stimulation, dogs become bored – which can make them become destructive and sometimes aggressive. There is an expression ‘A tired dog is a happy dog’ – this is particularly true of working breeds like German Shepherds and Collies. These working dogs have been bred to have a purpose and they love to feel like they are helping their human companions. Dog’s who are left home-alone for a couple of hours should have a range of toys and puzzles to keep them occupied.
The typical behaviour of an under exercised or bored dog includes chewing furniture, restless pacing, becoming overweight and destructive or aggressive tendencies.
How and When Should I Train My Dog?
Dogs naturally want to please their human masters and by spending time and energy on training your dog you are fulfilling the dog’s needs and will be creating a lasting bond between you. With a puppy it’s best to keep training sessions short and regular (about 10 minutes a couple of times a day) – you’ll also find that using food is an extremely effective training tool for most dogs. With an adult rescue dog, you may find training takes slightly longer to set in than with younger canines but keep persisting – it will be worth it!
Remember to incorporate the commands your dog has learnt when fully-trained into your dogs everyday routine. For example, always make your dog ‘sit’ and ‘stay’ before feeding them or giving them a treat.
Although the methods behind establishing yourself as the ‘alpha’ in your pack (i.e. your family) are heavily disputed amongst dog trainers, it is important that you are a firm but fair leader for your dog.
Canines want to please their human owners and are happiest when in a submissive role to their human masters. A dog that thinks he is the boss can become destructive, aggressive and disobedient. Examples of undesired dominant behaviours include begging for food, tugging on the lead during walks and refusing to heel and disobeying commands. When you first bring your dog home it is important to lay down the rules and establish yourself as the pack leader. Great tips on training your dog can be found online or you could contact a vet or animal behaviour specialist if you would like more advice on how to establish dominance over your dog.
How Often Do I Need To Let My Dog Out To Go To The Loo?
Generally, your pooch will need to relieve themselves 4 – 6 times a day (probably more so when still a puppy. This can either be when on a walk or by being let out into the garden.
That said, this can vary between dogs so look out for signs that your pooch needs a wee such as sniffing excessively or scratching the floor (like they are burying something).
Should I Register With My Local Vet?
100% absolutely yes! Your pets health is your responsibility, so keep an eye open for any warning signs of illness such as a change in behaviour in your dog. Young dogs should attend a vet appointment to receive necessary boosters. Your dog should also be treated for worms and fleas regularly (ideally every 3 months) and you should arrange check ups for your canine at least once a year when they are in good health.
How Often Should I Groom and Bathe My Dog?
This varies a lot between breeds. Dogs, unlike cats, do not tend to groom themselves and seem to actively enjoy getting dirty! Depending on your canine’s lifestyle, he or she should be bathed regularly. Working dogs may need more baths and grooming. That said, some breeds of dog need very little bathing, and regular baths can actually strip away the natural oils in their coat.
Long haired breeds will require regular grooming to prevent matting and should be clipped or trimmed in the summer months to keep them cool.