As a dog owner you are responsible to keep your dog healthy with routine health care. This involves so much more that just regular feeding and exercise. Much of a dog's care can depend on its age and general health. It can also be driven by your work or social schedule. Regardless, you should keep the following in mind to help
ensure that your dog lives a happy, healthy and long life. So, in no particular order:
- Be watchful – Dog are actually great communicators, if you pay attention. This is true from "puppyhood" through to their elder years. You will come to know their demeanor at various times of the day. Changes in this can be signaling a change in health. Watch for reduced energy, a lackluster coat, excessive weight gain or loss, unusual growths, restlessness / anxiety or even the loss of the usual spark in the eye. If you are a dog owner already, you will know what I mean. In all cases, seek the advice of your dog's healthcare professional.
- Establish a daily routine – Dog's love routine. It is through this routine that they come to understand their role in you family (read Pack). Create a morning, daytime and evening series of events that your dog will respect and look forward to such as:
- Morning walks and light playtime.
- Feeding – Depending on your pet's age and health, daily feeding times and amounts do vary. In all cases, ensure that the feedings are earned with a simple wait command for a brief moment prior to allowing the feeding to begin. Some animal behaviorists argue that your pet should never be feed before you and your family, re-enforcing the Pack process in the wild.
- Potty times. Again this will depend on the age and health of your pet. Generally, our experience is that a puppy will need a break one hour for its monthly age. For example, a two month old puppy will need a break approximately every two hours; a three month old will require a break every three hours, and so on. Adult dogs will usually need approximately 2-3 breaks per day depending on time of year, food and water intake, etc.
- Evening Playtime – Your dog will want to play with you especially if you have been absent through the day. Establish a playtime / routine that will convey to your dog that this is a time to be happily anticipated. Also, to help with the understanding that there is also a downtime required so that you may get on with your other obligations or interests at home.
- Bedtime On Time – Just like humans, bedtime at a regular time in the evening is preferred. Have your pet either kenneled or directed to its "lay down" space at approximately the same time each night. Ensure that they have done their business and have not been overly excited prior to this time.
- Kenneling – This is becoming the much preferred way for your pet to be trained and be housed in doors. It has been our experience that a dog will, if introduced to a kennel properly, heartedly accept it as a secure, comfortable place to occupy. Allow your pet to run the house especially as a pup or younger dog will make house training more difficult. The kennel represents a positive place for your to put your dog between feeding / potty trip early on and also a place for an older dog to rest, sleep or just plain chill. The size of the kennel is very important and dependent on your pet's size. Seek the advice of your sales clerk prior to purchase.
- Choose healthy, age appropriate dog food – This is so important for your dog. The adage that we are what we eat applies to your pet as well. Take some time to read the label of various dog food bags at your place of purchase. You will be shocked at the ingredients found in the offerings. Price is not an indicator of healthy food either. Obviously, natural ingredients are the best. The better the food intake, the better your dog will look, feel and act. This is very important folks!
- Exercise your dog – Exercise yourself – Your pet is going to need exercise. Some breeds admittedly require less exercise but generally all dogs need some level of exercise. Beyond the physical benefits of the routine, don't underestimate the psychological benefits as well. A dog without exercise is going to become frustrated, anxious or even aggressive at times. Also, each time you walk or play with your pet you are increasing the bond between you. This is emotionally beneficial to both of you. Lastly, each step you take during this routine is a step closer to good health for you. Vary the routine if you can. It will be more enjoyable and interesting for your dog.
- Toys should be age appropriate – Toys that are not age appropriate can actually be dangerous for your dog. Certain types of rawhide bones could, after being chewed by a puppy, lodge in its throat and be quite a threat. Dogs at each age plateau have unique needs and abilities with respect to toys. They can help to stimulate, educate, develop structurally and amuse your pet. The use of toys are also important. It has been suggested, for example, that playing tug of war with your pup and letting them tug the toy from you may be sending it the wrong message. It may learn that it can beat your or dominate that particular exercise. Check with your Vet for advice in this area.
- Prevention save money and extends life – Regular checkups with your Vet are absolutely essential to the quality of life for your dog. Beyond the physical assessment that will be taken, this is a good opportunity for the following:
- Update vaccinations and apply boosters if necessary
- Treatments for tick, heartworm and fleas may be applied
- Tests for bloodworm and fecal evaluation may be done
If there is a problem, chances are it will be diagnosed, treated and resolved quick saving you pet unnecessary discomfort, trauma, or a more serious outcome down the road.
- Grooming is more that just looking good – Regular grooming is important on a number of levels. You want your dog to look good and this will do the trick. If you decide to do this yourself, it is yet another chance to increase the bond that you have with it. In addition, the groomer may be able to spot any unusual skin ailments that can be brought to your attention and assessed by your Vet. Grooming for your pet can be as anticipated as a long awaited massage for you. Most dogs will love the attention. This is also a time to trim nails. This is important to your dog's health. Not trimming them properly or very infrequently can hurt your pet or actually affect its ability to run, walk or remain stable on certain types of flooring. Regular trimming alleviates this.
Just a few ideas that will help you to keep your dog healthy with routine health care. It takes some work and attention but the benefits to your dog are immense. This is your companion after all. Do all you can to provide it with a long, healthy and happy life.
by Gryphon B