Doing The Best For Your Dog- A Guide For New Owners

There are few things more exciting than bringing a new furry friend into the family. If you're an animal lover, and you're preparing to adopt a pooch or collect a puppy, it's crucial to understand what looking after a dog entails. Every owner wants to do the best for their dog. Here's a handy guide to ensure your new best buddy is as happy and healthy as possible.

Health and wellbeing
When you add a dog to the household, you assume responsibility for your new pet. Your dog will be reliant on you to take care of it 24-hours-a-day. There are several steps to take to make sure that your dog is fit and healthy and to reduce the risk of health issues. 

Exercise is incredibly important for dogs. Dogs enjoy running around, chasing balls and carrying sticks, and they need physical activity to maintain a healthy weight and keep the bones and muscles strong and the joints mobile. The amount of exercise your dog needs will depend on the breed. Some breeds, for example, labradors, retrievers, border collies and dalmations, require more activity than others. Smaller breeds, such as chihuahuas and pugs, tend to prefer shorter walks. Aim to walk your dog at least once a day and let them explore in the great outdoors. You can also increase activity levels by letting your dog play at home. Use your garden to provide entertainment using toys or a ball. 

Diet is critical for dogs because they rely on the food they eat for essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Before you buy food for your new puppy or rescue dog, take a moment to compare different products, ask your vet for recommendations and do some research to learn more about the breed. Follow the feeding instructions and try to avoid giving in to puppy dog eyes when it comes to your own mealtimes. Many human foods can be dangerous for dogs. If you are treating your dog, choose specially made dog treats or opt to indulge them with meat, fish or vegetables. Being overweight can elevate the risk of health problems in dogs, so it's important to keep your dog lean. If they start to gain weight, increase activity levels and reduce portion sizes. 

Dogs drink a lot of water, especially when it's hot outside, or they've been tearing around a field or accompanying you on a long walk or bike ride. Your dog should always have access to fresh water. If you're going out for the day, make sure you take a bowl with you. 

Mental wellbeing
We often see videos and clips of happy dogs online, but there is a risk of dogs being unhappy if they're not well looked after or they are left alone for long periods. Dogs enjoy interaction, they crave affection and they love to play. Make time for your pet. Play together, give them plenty of cuddles and strokes and spend time with them. If you work long hours, or you're going to be out for most of the day, consider enlisting the services of a dog walker or ask a friend or neighbor to pop in and let them out and give them a snuggle for you. 

Training and behavior
We've all seen the hilarious videos of dog training fails on the Internet. While you may not want to raise a future dog show champion, it is beneficial to take your dog to classes so that they can learn basic commands and gain an understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Obedience classes are an excellent way to teach your dog how to sit, walk calmly and lie down, and they also provide social opportunities, which can help dogs get used to other people and their pets. If you're looking to enrol in classes, search online, read reviews and ask your vet and friends, colleagues and neighbors who have dogs for recommendations. Some dogs may require more intensive training than others. If you want your dog to work, for example, you live on a farm, there will be specialist programs you can attend. 

As a dog owner, it's useful to encourage good behavior from day one. Give your dog commands, wait until they have completed them to reward them and keep praising them when they behave well. Dogs respond positively to reinforcement and they thrive on strokes, pats and being told they've been good. Be consistent when it comes to setting rules. If you don't want your dog to recline on the couch, for example, don't tell them off one day and then invite them up for a cuddle the next. Once you've decided on a set of house rules, stick to them and encourage other members of your household to do the same. 

If you find yourself battling bad behavior, and you don't know what to do, don't hesitate to seek advice. If your dog is barking loudly all the time or they won't stop chewing everything in sight, contact your vet. Your vet will be able to offer tips and they may also know experts you can get in touch with to try and stop bad behavior. Often, when puppies play up, this can be a sign of boredom. It's always beneficial to make sure puppies have toys to play with and to devote time to playing with them and giving them attention. 

Dogs are usually sociable creatures, and they enjoy meeting other pups, but sometimes, there can be scuffles, which can spiral into fights. When you bring a new dog into the family, it's helpful to get them accustomed to meeting other dogs so that they don't react negatively when they come across another dog on their daily walk or while running around in the park or at the beach. It's normal for dogs to bound up to each other and sniff each other and to play together. You want your dog to be comfortable around other animals. If your dog is shy or timid, or they are a little too eager to get involved in playtime with other dogs, use a lead, and gently guide them towards the area where other dogs are walking or playing. Keep hold of your dog, but let them explore, sniff other dogs and interact if they want to. The more time your dog spends around others, the more confident they will become. 

If you don't already have dogs at home, and you're keen for your dog to socialize, you can take them to puppy classes or even join a local group of dog walkers and enjoy walks together. In some cases, it can be difficult for dogs to learn to be around other pets. This is sometimes a problem for adopted animals. If your dog is reluctant to socialize, give them time and space to build confidence and let them know that you are there if they need support. 

Dogs are hugely popular pets, and it's not hard to see why. Loyal, faithful and fun, dogs can bring endless joy to individuals and families. If you're welcoming a furry friend to the fold, it's important to understand what caring for a dog entails. When you bring your pet pooch home, focus on their health and wellbeing. Make sure they get plenty of exercise, they eat well and they have a supply of clean, fresh water. Look for obedience and training classes in the local area, encourage socialization with other dogs and make time to play with your dog and shower them with love and attention.

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