Dog Care: Tips, Advice and Information To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy

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Whatever your reasons for choosing to own a dog, the responsibilities of caring for it will always be the same — without you, your dog will not be fed, exercised, groomed, or receive necessary care when ill. In other words, the quality of your dog's life will depend totally on you. And you will be committing yourself to your pet's care not just for a week, or a month, or a year, but for years. The average life expectancy of a dog is 10 years, and many live to 16 or 17. So before you decide to own a dog, take a long hard look at yourself, your lifestyle, and your environment. Work out for yourself if the pleasures and companionship to be had from owning a dog are outweighed by the disadvantages. Every individual will reach his or her own conclusion, but it is better to face these questions before committing yourself to the long-term responsibility of living with and caring for a dog. Far too many dogs are abandoned simply because their owners found themselves unable or unwilling to care for them.

Your dog deserves the best health care. That means making sure it receives regular protection against the major canine infectious diseases and parasites. There are other considerations, too — how will you afford the costs of veterinary care if your dog has a serious accident or becomes sick? If you don't have money set aside, you should decide whether to take out insurance to cover your dog's medical bills. Your dog should have the benefit of a good-quality balanced diet rather than being fed on table scraps — are you prepared to pay for that, too?

Can I Afford the Time?

Ask yourself if you have enough time to devote to a mischievous puppy. Remember that it will initially need feeding four times a day, and it will not be housebroken, so you must be prepared for accidents. It will be into everything, and chew your furniture and most treasured possessions. You will need to devote a good deal of your leisure time to its training and, as it grows bigger, give it regular, adequate daily exercise. If you live in a city apartment, is there a park nearby where you can take it for walks? What about vacations and business trips? Is there someone to care for your dog while you're away, or are you prepared to pay kennel fees? All dogs require regular grooming, but for some longhaired breeds this will be a daily necessity.

Your Dog and Your Neighbors

A well-trained dog is a pleasure to keep and is a valued member of the family; a disobedient and destructive one may become a nuisance, even a danger, to your neighbors. Every state or country has its own laws and legal obligations affecting dogs. But there are a number of general rules you should observe as a matter of courtesy and good manners:

  1. Keep your dog under control. When with you in the street or park, your dog should walk quietly on the leash without jumping up at every person it meets (especially children) or attacking other dogs. Off the leash, it should not rush up to strangers or children and should return immediately to you when called. Remember, not everyone you meet will be a dog lover.
  2. Do not allow your pet to wander. Make sure it cannot escape from your yard or garden, and do not allow it to disappear out of sight when off the leash. Take particular care of your female dog when she is in season.
  3. Clean up after your dog. When your dog defecates, make sure you always have a poop scoop-er, plastic bag, or supply of tissues with you to pick up the mess. Dispose of the feces hygienically, preferably in a container specially designated for the purpose.
  4. Don't let your dog bark at strangers or other dogs when outdoors. This is a matter of good basic training. Training will also help you avoid some behavior problems that lead to dogs barking when left on their own at home.