There are more than 400 different breeds of dogs, each with its own unique characteristics and personality. Understanding the characteristics of breeds is a good place to begin your selection process, but before you start, develop a list of the personality traits you’d like in your dog, and then consider your lifestyle and how much daily responsibility you are willing to take on to make sure you make the right match.
The American Kennel Club divides breeds into seven categories, determined primarily by the purpose for each breed historically. Within each category, you’ll find dogs of different types and sizes, but, overall, they possess definable traits and behaviors.
- Sporting dogs were bred to hunt game birds and are good choices for active families. Recognized breeds in this category include Setters, Spaniels, Retrievers and Pointers of all kinds.
- Hounds are searching dogs, bred either based on scent or sight. Scent hounds can get excited by a found scent and include Beagles and Bassets. Sight hounds tend to be independent and slightly aloof. They can often be described as having long legs, slim bodies, and long noses. Breeds in this category include Dachshunds, Afghans and Greyhounds.
- Working dogs were bred to for hard work and to serve as guard dogs, such as Huskies, Rottweilers, and Dobermans. Some large breeds make particularly hard workers: Mastiffs, Great Danes and Alaskan Malamutes.
- Terriers, also hunting dogs, were originally trained to help find rats, mice and other predators on farms. Today they still have a tendency to be excitable and yappy. They include Airedales and Border, Irish and Scottish Terriers.
- Toy breeds were bred for their size and have historically been the pets of noblemen and royalty. That said, don’t be fooled by their size – some of them can be as tough as larger dogs. Examples of toy breeds are Shih-Tzu, Pomeranian, Maltese, Pekinese, and Chihuahuas. These dogs may require more grooming than other breeds, and they can be more difficult to housetrain.
- Non-sporting dogs were bred to be companions for a variety of jobs around the world. The category is diverse, ranging from three varieties of Poodles and Bichon Frise to Dalmatians, Bulldogs and Chow Chows.
- Herding dogs helped keep cattle and other livestock from straying. They are often active, intelligent and determined. Familiar breeds include Collies, German Shepherds and Corgis.
You’ll need to do in-depth research to find the right fit for your household, but here is some information about dog breeds that match certain lifestyles.
Where to Get Your Dog
You can obtain a puppy or grown dog from a wide variety of sources: pet stores, classified ads, rescue groups, shelters, breeders, or a neighbor. In many cases, people handle the dogs responsibly before you take them home, however, there are puppy mills and brokers that focus purely on the business of making money and do not follow safe practices or treat dogs properly. That’s why it is important to check out your dog carefully and make sure you review and receive detailed documentation.
Wherever you obtain your dog, make sure the place is kept clean. The dog should look clean and healthy. Avoid dogs that appear lethargic. Take time to engage with each dog that you are considering, and see whether it responds to you by listening to your voice, coming to you, and accepting your touch. Lack of response or excessive shyness may mean there is a problem. Carefully examine the dog by looking at its underbelly, feet, eyes and ears to make sure they appear healthy and clean. While you may feel a desire to “save” a dog that has health issues, in most cases, unhealthy dogs don’t survive.
Regarding the documentation, be sure to read the fine print about policies associated with health guarantees, returns and refunds. Make sure the contract includes, or can be supplemented with added pricing for, neutering or spaying. Documentation should include information about the puppy’s birth, parents, age, health and living arrangements. Documents need to identify you clearly as the dog’s owner. You will need this documentation in the future to register pure breeds with kennel clubs and all dogs in accordance with local registration requirements. Documentation may also be needed to travel with your dog internationally.
Preparing Your Home
Whether you plan to train a puppy or bring an adult dog into your life, your house and family need some preparation beforehand. First, buy all the basic equipment and supplies you’ll need: food and treats, collars and leashes, chew toys and balls, grooming tools, a crate, a bed, and bedding. Get rid of any houseplants that may be poisonous to your dog, or move them out of reach, and move any valuable or breakable items to higher ground, too. Cover or protect electrical cords throughout the house to keep them away from inquiring paws and mouths. Use baby fences to block off areas of the house you don’t want to open up to the dog, at least initially. Get into the habit of putting the toilet lid down and keeping shoes behind closed doors in closets or up on shelves.
If you have a yard, create a fenced-in area for your dog to play in safely. Within the fenced-in area, create spaces for your dog to dig, chew, chase, and run. For larger and active dogs, you might want to set up a dog run. Remember that your dog will need to be leashed whenever it is outdoors.
Prepare your family by discussing the new demands of a dog in the household. Set up a schedule for who will take responsibility for feeding, walking, playing and grooming the dog every hour of the day, seven days a week. Make sure that your family, particularly children, understands the adjustments that will be required, especially in the first weeks.
Two other steps are needed prior to bringing your dog home. First, find a veterinarian and set up your initial vet visit for as close as possible to the date you plan to bring your dog home. Second, get identification for your dog. At a minimum, this means having an identification tag created with the dog’s name and your name and telephone number in case the dog is lost or injured. These days, most pet owners prefer to get a microchip implanted in their dog, or have their dog tattooed. Both of these identification methods deliver their benefit whether or not the collar and tag are lost. Additionally, they don’t create a hazard, like tags, which dogs can get caught on crates or other items. Talk to your vet about which identification method is best for you and your dog, and have the identification system in place before your dog comes home.
Bringing Your Dog Home
The day you bring your dog home is a big transition for your dog, and for you. It takes time to get used to having a new member of the family, particularly when you bring home a puppy. Remember that all these new sights, sounds, smells, and people can be overwhelming to the dog, so give it time and space to become familiar. Start immediately with the routine you’ve identified for daily care with regular feeding, walking, playing, and grooming times. Try not to let too many people greet the dog at one time. Let the dog get to know each person in your family individually. Also, give the dog time to explore around the rooms open to it to learn your family’s scents and become familiar with the territory.
Since pets age differently from us, puppies need wellness exams every two weeks. We start these exams at 6 weeks of age with their vaccines up until they are 16 weeks old. Adult dogs need wellness exams twice yearly. One year is like 4-5 years to our canine friends. Our pets may not always show obvious signs of pain, disease, or discomfort, but a veterinarian is trained to pick up early warning signs. Due to the fast aging process, regular wellness exams will help pick up the rapid changing signs.
What’s in the vaccination?
- Distemper: Attacks the nervous system – this virus can develop into pneumonia – most common victims are puppies.
- Hepatitis: Affects the liver.
- Leptospirosis: Bacterial disease that attacks the kidneys as well as other organs.
- Parvo: Affects the intestines – this virus is very contagious to unprotected pets and can live in the area for months – the virus can be transmitted by our shoes and other articles – the main symptoms are depression, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting.
- Bordetella: Canine bronchitis – very contagious to other dogs – cough can last up to 6 weeks.
- Corona: Affects the intestines – close cousin to parvo
- Fecal: Stool sample taken to check for intestinal parasites – we are typically looking for hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, tapeworms, and giardia. Routine deworming is done at your puppy’s first and second visit.
- Heartworm Prevention: Heartworms are caused by mosquitoes, therefore, it is imperative that your pet stay on heartworm prevention for life. We recommend Sentinel Flavor Tabs as a broad spectrum parasiticide that protects your pet from more than just heartworms.
- Birth Control: Your pet can go into heat anywhere from 4 ½ months to 8 months of age. Neutering (castration) is performed on male dogs, and spaying (ovariohysterectomy) is performed on female dogs.
- 6 weeks old Wellness Exam: DHPP, fecal test, start heartworm prevention, deworming
- 8 weeks old Wellness Exam: DHPP, deworming
- 10 weeks old Wellness Exam: DHPP, Corona, Fecal test
- 12 weeks old Wellness Exam: DHPP, Corona
- 14 weeks old Wellness Exam: DHLPPARVO, Fecal test
- 16 weeks old Wellness Exam: Rabies Vaccination, DHLPP, Bordetella Vaccination
Yearly visits include Wellness Exams, Rabies vaccination, DHLPP, Corona, Bordetella vaccination, Fecal testing, and Blood Parasite profile. Your Bi- Annual exam will include a Bordetella booster, Fecal texst, and annual bloodwork.
Like people, dogs’ behaviors and health change through different stages of their lives. By knowing what to expect, you won’t be thrown off balance when your dog suddenly adopts a unexpected behavior or shows signs of “unlearning” behaviors you thought it had mastered.
They are unbelievably cute. You can watch them grow. It is fascinating, and sometimes amusing, to watch your puppy test its environment, practice new abilities, and build a loving rapport with you. They can also be relentless, needy, and tiring, so you need to be patient with your pup – and yourself – while it goes through these early stages in its life.
Puppies begin learning at birth. Research shows that they are most receptive to learning between 8 and 16 weeks of age. This is also an important time to begin their socialization in order to avoid creating fears. In many communities, puppy socialization classes are available for pets as young as 8 to 9 weeks old, but plan on beginning your training with your pup from the first minute you take charge. Use lots of praise to teach your puppy the behaviors you want it to learn.
Young puppies need a lot of attention, especially during the first few weeks you bring them home. You may need to take them outside for elimination as frequently as once an hour plus immediately after feeding. Usually, they can learn to hold it and get down to about five to eight times a day after a few weeks. You’ll also need to start crate training right away so that your puppy will identify its crate as a safe, calm, and secure space. Be sure that you have lots of treats on hand from the start to reward and train new behaviors, but use other rewards as well, like positive comments, petting and cuddling.
Feed your puppy a diet of high-quality dry dog food that has the vitamins and minerals that growing dogs need. Keep human food down to a bare minimum – it can cause imbalances that affect the formation of bones, muscles, and healthy organs and can lead to obesity later on. Puppies need to be fed four meals a day between 8 and 12 weeks of age, and this can be reduced to three meals a day once they reach three to six months of age. Sometime between six months and one year old, they will only need to be fed twice a day, which is normal for adult dogs.
One other characteristic of puppies is a tendency for destructive chewing. For dogs, chewing helps strengthen their teeth, provides a form of mental stimulation, and is one way they learn about the world. Give your puppy chew toys, and try to keep things you don’t want chewed out of their way. If chewing does become a problem, there are training techniques that can help you overcome this problem.
The other important activity to undertake with puppies is to make sure they get the vaccinations they need for a healthy life.
Adolescence is as physically and mentally challenging and confusing for dogs as it is for people! Both male and female dogs go through hormonal changes that can be disturbing. Dogs reach adolescence between 6 and 18 months, during which, your dog will go through rapid growth spurts that may cause some mild pain. When permanent teeth come in, your dog will need chew toys to relieve the pressure on the jaw. Be careful about any extreme activity, because growth plates are fragile and susceptible to injury. During this period, a dog’s baby coat falls off and the adult hair comes in. That means you may encounter more shedding for a while.
Adolescence in dogs marks their sexual maturity, usually between 8 and 12 months, though spaying and neutering between 2 and 6 months of age can alleviate most of the symptoms associated with sexual maturity. For female dogs, this leads up to their first heat. You may notice that your dog becomes more playful and flirtatious around male dogs. Some female dogs become more inclined to roam, so you’ll need to be extra careful not to let your dog get away from you. Female adolescent dogs often need to urinate more frequently. Sometimes they develop some aggressive behaviors, particularly toward other female dogs. Use training techniques to reinforce the behaviors you want and remember that this is just a phase.
Adolescent males will exhibit new behaviors, some of which may seem more aggressive. Their bodies are producing testosterone at levels higher than is found in adult male dogs, which explains their extreme behaviors. At the same time, male dogs begin holding other dogs responsible as adults during adolescence, which can lead to more aggressive behavior or fighting with other dogs. It takes time for a male dog to learn how to manage these new feelings and responsibilities. Other typical problem behaviors adolescent males exhibit include urine marking and roaming. All of these behaviors can be offset by standard training techniques.
If your adolescent dog exhibits destructive behavior, it is likely a sign of boredom or anxiousness. Plan on giving your adolescent dog more exercise to help counter all their physical changes, provide the mental stimulation they need, and tire them out for calmer times at home. Adolescence is also a good time to spend time on training for dogs, because they are learning about their limits with people and other dogs. At this age, they distinguish between people they know and people they don’t know. Try to be patient and playful to overcome your frustration with misbehaviors, and remember that adolescence in dogs is a phase – it does pass.
A dog’s senior years truly are golden. Older dogs tend to be happy, as they are settled into a familiar routine, and they become particularly affectionate during this time in their lives. Different breeds reach this phase in life at different times, but it is important for you to know when your dog reaches this advanced stage of life because of the changes needed to its diet, nutrition, exercise and health. Your vet can help you identify when your dog needs to make these adjustments.
Common problems dogs develop in older age are:
- Hip dysplasia, which makes it difficult or uncomfortable for your dog to walk or run. Solutions range from medication to surgery, depending on the severity.
- Orthopedic problems in joints and bones through the regular wear and tear of living. Arthritis occurs for many dogs at this stage.
- Hypothyroidism, which can slow your dog down and lead to obesity and poor heart health. Your vet can check on this with a simple blood test and it is easy to manage with medication.
- Eye problems, like cataracts and other issues, hamper vision and may lead to blindness.
- Cancers of all kinds can show up in dogs at this phase of life.
As dogs reach old age, they may have memory lapses or exhibit signs of confusion. Many dogs need to eliminate more frequently because of declining kidney and bladder functions. If your dog was not spayed or neutered, there is an increased likelihood of infections or cancers of the reproductive organs. By keeping an eye on your dog, you’ll be able to recognize these changes early. Medications can help overcome some of them and there are other resources and techniques available as well, particularly devices to help dogs with orthopedic problems. You can teach your dog new ways to work around any health issue. Most importantly, treat your dog gently and don’t push it beyond its changing level of abilities; some activities, such as jumping to catch a toy, should be avoided to prevent pain, injury and further deterioration.
Over time, your dog may need help with simple activities of daily living. Talk to your vet about the resources that can help at this phase as well. Minor adjustments can help your dog continue functioning relatively normally for as long as possible. Most importantly, spend time giving your dog lots of affection and touch. This is often a dog’s most loving time of life and provides you with an opportunity to build happy memories together.
Next to you and your family, your veterinarian is one of the most important people in your dog’s life. You should identify a veterinarian for your new dog before you bring it home and arrange for a first appointment as soon as possible. The first vet visit gives you and your veterinarian an opportunity to establish your dog’s baseline level of health and identify any potential long-term or chronic health problems. This visit can confirm the health status identified when you purchased your pet. When you meet with the vet, be sure to discuss your daily care routines, home environment, any anticipated problems or concerns you may have, ask questions about any behaviors about which you need more information and your grooming preferences, particularly nail clipping. Your vet will examine your dog to ensure healthy bones, joints and muscles, and good heart, eye, ear, and other organ functions. The vet will also do a blood test to check to make sure your dog has the right levels of nutrients and minerals.
Your dog may experience some stress going to the vet. The best way to alleviate this is with positive reinforcement, attention and happy visits. Stop in at the vet’s office with your dog a couple of times when it doesn’t need to be examined so that your dog associates the clinic with positive experiences. Pet your dog and give it praise when it behaves calmly and well at the vet’s office. Take some treats to help keep your dog happy and to have staff give your pet. Fortunately, vet staff is experienced at handling dogs of all sorts and will likely make your job much easier. After the first visit and your dog’s initial vaccinations, you should plan on getting your dog checked by the vet once a year. You may need to go more frequently if the vet is clipping your dog’s nails.
A basic vaccination series should be a part of your puppy’s schedule during the first four months. A combination vaccine is given once a month from two months through four months and then once annually. It protects your puppy from leading infections and illnesses, including distemper, Hepatitis, Leptospirosis, Parvovirus, and Parainfluenza. If you acquired a dog that is older than four months and has not been vaccinated, the vet will use a different protocol – two vaccinations given two to three weeks apart and then annual vaccinations. Some breeds get vaccinated into their fifth month, including Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, and American Staffordshire Terriers. Your dog will also need a rabies vaccination, however, laws around the country differ about when this vaccination must be given, so check with your vet about scheduling a rabies vaccination for your dog. Your vet can also tell you about other vaccinations that may be appropriate depending on where you live.
Spaying and Neutering
Most pet dogs are spayed (females) or neutered (males) to remove reproductive organs and prevent pregnancy, but health issues provide other compelling reasons for spaying and neutering dogs.
Female dogs have a high incidence of cancers of the reproductive system, and spaying removes the ovaries and the uterus, preventing the production of estrogen, which leads to most of the reproductive cancers. A vast majority of unspayed older females contract a life-threatening infection of the uterus, called pyometra. This infection is caused by problems with progesterone, another female hormone, which is eliminated through spaying. Female dogs should be spayed before their first heat, if possible, which generally occurs between six months and one year of age.
Males that are not neutered often exhibit extremely aggressive behaviors, which can be dangerous to them, other animals, and people. A dog that was well-behaved and calm in its youth can suddenly show a pack mentality and become more aggressive, chase cars, try to get loose to roam freely, or bark and growl a lot – all as a result of high testosterone levels. Many of these habits become hard to break; a male dog neutered between six months and one year of age will retain its youthful calm.
Spaying and neutering are common surgeries; they require some form of anesthesia, and most vets prefer for the dog to remain in the hospital overnight. Your dog may be under the weather for a few more days as a result of the surgery, but will heal within a matter of a week or so.
Common Health Issues
Your dog is likely to have some health issues during its life. The worst can be prevented through vaccinations and spaying and neutering. Others, such as cancers and other diseases, may not be avoidable. That’s why it is important to maintain your dog’s diet, nutrition, and exercise at all times. That said, there are a few common health problems you need to take care of to keep your dog well.
- Fleas and Ticks
Fleas are external parasites that cause a skin allergy, a common skin disease for dogs and cats. Ticks latch on to the skin and burrow in to feed on blood. Both can be itching, annoying and unhealthy for your dog and you. Keeping your dog flea- and tick-free is easier today, thanks to new products that can be applied once a month, however, you need to visually inspect your dog’s skin for signs of fleas during daily grooming, and check for ticks after returning from an area known to have them, like wooded camping sites.
Heartworm, roundworm, hookworm, and tapeworm are other parasites that can enter your dog’s bloodstream and create serious health problems. Heartworm parasites are passed on to dogs through mosquitoes. Hookworm and roundworm larvae end up on your dog’s feet, and, through licking, enter its abdominal system. The best form of treatment is early and regular prevention. A monthly pill will help your dog avoid these parasites. If your dog does contract a worm, it is important for your vet to test to determine which kind it is suffering from and what level the development the worm has reached. A correct diagnosis is needed, because the treatment for one worm is not the same as for another. Symptoms of a worm parasite are an occasional cough, fatigue, weight loss, and difficulty breathing. Talk to your vet about how often s/he recommends checking for worm parasites, since the symptoms may not present themselves before serious damage occurs.
Many common indoor and outdoor plants can be poisonous to dogs. Before your bring your dog home, get rid of any houseplants that appear on the list below. Don’t let your dog eat plants and leaves when outdoors. If you do suspect poisoning, get your pet to the veterinarian immediately. You should also keep the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control Center hotline number near your phone in case of emergency. You can reach this 24/7 hotline by calling toll free (888) 426-4435.
Following is the ASPCA’s Poison Control Center list of common poisonous plants:
Dogs exhibit a wide array of behaviors – some are natural for them, others are frustrating for you. It is important to understand what is normal activity for dogs and to give them the constructive time and space to act upon them. Other behaviors can be problematic to socialization, cleanliness, and health; these are behaviors you will need to train your dog either not to do or to do differently.
Some dog behaviors can be annoying when done to excess but are part of your dog’s natural makeup. You’ll need to find ways to give your dog a healthy outlet for each of these activities at some time during the day.
Puppies and adolescent dogs need to chew to help them adjust to new teeth and changes in their jaws. For puppies, in particular, chewing is a form of learning about the world. Providing your dog with a variety of chew toys gives it a productive way of handling this behavior. If you still have problems with destructive chewing, there may be another problem such as boredom, anxiety, or a health issue.
It is not unusual for dogs to want to dig, although some breeds are less inclined to this behavior than others. If your dog is a digger, give it someplace to exercise this instinct. Create a digging area in your yard. If available, walk your dog on a beach where it can dig to its hearts delight. You can even add a sandbox to your yard for designated digging. If you don’t have a yard, find somewhere on your walks where your dog can safely search and dig through dirt, earth, or sand. With enough planned digging, your dog won’t need to dig at other times.
A dog vocalizes, like many other animals, to express itself. It may whine when it is unhappy, make soft sounds in its sleep, growl with fear or anger, and bark to express excitement or call for attention. It’s only when barking becomes excessive, inappropriate, or goes on at the wrong hours that it becomes problematic. In these cases, there are training techniques you can pursue to teach your dog when it is – and is not – okay to bark.
Different dog breeds have different inclinations for jumping, depending on the purposes for which they were bred. Small dogs, in particular, may have a tendency toward jumping when they are excited or want attention. You need to establish limits for your dog’s jumping as soon as you bring your dog home. Teach your dog not to jump when meeting new people by holding it down with one hand so that all four feet are on the ground; you can train your dog not to jump on furniture or not to jump around children. The earlier you begin the training, the more likely you’ll be able to avoid jumping problems throughout your dog’s life.
Searching, retrieving, running, and chasing are all natural forms of work and play for dogs. Usually, they can get enough of these during exercise and play time, however, some dogs may have a tendency to want to chase things such as cars or unknown people. This is one reason why you need to keep your dog on a leash whenever you are outdoors. You will need to undertake specific training to teach your dog not to chase inappropriately.
Every dog needs to acquire certain behaviors for safe and comfortable living. Among these, housetraining is first and foremost. There are also a few commands you must teach your dog to be able to keep it out of harm’s way. These include commands for “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.” It also includes the ability to walk on a loose leash without pulling, stay calm in a confined environment, and not bite people. These form the basics of what has been referred to as “obedience” training. Without these basics, your life with your dog will be chaotic and, at times, potentially dangerous.
Training for all dog behaviors takes consistency, repetition, and routine. Positive rewards, in the form of verbal acknowledgment, extra petting, cuddles and sometimes treats, are the way to teach your dog new behaviors. Even if your dog appears to have mastered a behavior, don’t assume it really understands until it consistently exhibits the behavior in the face of excitement or distractions. One of the most important techniques you will need to learn along with your dog is how to capture its attention. You want to be able to draw your dog’s attention to your eyes at a moment’s notice to prevent your dog from acting on aggressive or dangerous behaviors.
There are reams of materials loaded with basic techniques for training your dog for each command, but it is recommended that new dog owners pursue training with their dog and a trainer so that you can learn the correct signals and behaviors to keep your dog in the best control. Without this assistance, you may end up giving your dog mixed signals that prevent it from learning all the behaviors you want.
Problem Behaviors and Training
Breeding, boredom, anxiety, adolescence, fear, and aggression. These are the most frequent causes of problem behaviors in dogs. Usually, concentrated and consistent training focused on positive reinforcement and rewards can overcome these issues. In some cases, your dog may need a more experienced trainer to “unlearn” particularly ingrained problem behaviors. You can find training options that are one-on-one, two-on-one, or for small groups. Ask your vet or a fellow dog owner about effective trainers and training programs in your area.
Commonly exhibited problem behaviors in dogs include:
It is important to get your dog used to meeting new people from the youngest age possible. Some breeds are naturally sociable while others are reticent. You’ll want your dog to be friendly without being too jumpy or yappy. Because dogs can notice differences in people, especially their scents, you need to help them develop an openness to new and unfamiliar individuals. One bad experience, like being frightened by a man with a beard, can lead to a lifetime of resistance to other men with beards.
When you first bring your puppy home, begin to introduce it to lots of people. Be sure to go slowly, and allow your dog time to get familiar with each person. Make variety part of the mix – people of all sizes, shapes, colors, with and without glasses, big hair and no hair, adults and kids, deep voices and soft voices, etc. The more variety that your dog is exposed to, the more accepting it will be of new people. This is also the time to introduce your dog to a wide array of human sounds and movements. Let your dog see and approach people riding bikes, on rollerblades, jogging, or doing other activities. Give your pet a chance to experience some sudden gestures to help reduce any stress in the future. Introduce your pet to people indoors and outdoors, in your home, in other people’s homes, and in other places.
To prevent your dog from jumping up on people or becoming too overly excited, put your hand on your dog to keep it standing on all four legs. Don’t allow your dog form bad habits like getting up on its hind legs or jumping around new people. Let the dog get used to other people gently petting it. If your dog does behave badly around a new person, increase the distance to that person and make the dog look into your eyes for your attention – this distracts the dog from the source of its discomfort. Be sure to use verbal reward to reinforce good behavior while your dog learns to accept the presence and touch of other people.
With Children and Infants
Preschool-aged children and puppies can serve an important role in each others’ development and socialization, but they can also be hurtful and create lifetime phobias if left alone together. Always be sure that you supervise or another adult supervises every interaction between young children and your dog. Ideally, there will be two adults when the two are introduced – one to manage the dog and one to manage the child. Let the dog and child move close to each other slowly while talking gently to each. Let the dog sniff the child and get familiar, and show the child how to touch the dog gently and pet it. Make sure you keep the dog’s feet firmly on the ground and do not allow it to jump, nip, or bark. At the same time, teach your child not to hit the dog or pull on its tail or coat. As they get to know each other better, they will likely become playmates and exhibit lots of lovable companionship.
Dogs can be wonderful comforts and protectors to infants, too, but will benefit from some preparation and advanced training before you bring a baby home. First, set up some barriers so that both your infant and your dog have spaces where they can be away from each other. Before the baby is born, buy a baby doll and start demonstrating the practices you’ll use when the real baby comes. Carry the baby doll with you around the house and on walks. Show the dog how to gently nuzzle the doll. Build the baby’s presence and needs into your daily dog care routine. And don’t forget to reward your dog for adapting to a new family member.
Shortly before you’re ready to bring the real baby home, have someone take an article of clothing or fabric with the baby’s scent to the dog to acclimate it to the scent. This will help ensure that your dog won’t be distracted by the baby’s smell when you get home and will continue to focus on your orders. Having practiced with the baby doll, your dog should adjust to the real baby smoothly. Be sure to give attention to your dog every day. After all, your dog remains a valued and lovable member of your family.
When your baby reaches the age for crawling, poking or pulling, make sure you establish some limits to protect your dog. Dogs can’t defend themselves against painful behaviors, even if they are unintended. You have to keep your child from hurting your dog or traumatizing it through painful behaviors. Don’t assume the dog can just “take it” or will get used to it. Show your child how to deal gently with the dog, but be prepared to pull the baby away if it hurts your pet.
With Multiple Dogs
If you are introducing a second dog to your household, you have to be careful not to show any preferences that might make your current pet jealous or anxious at the same time you create a bond with your new dog. The first impression between the two is very important, so you will need to prepare. Begin by removing anything your current dog might be unwilling to share – from food and water bowls to chew toys, bones, and bedding. Get all new items for both dogs to prevent any fights over possessions. Also clean up your house to eliminate any clutter, as both dogs will need neutral, designated spaces to be alone in and spaces to be around each other. Having alternative space also gives the dogs distractions so they won’t just focus on each other.
To introduce your dogs, have them meet outside of your home or yard. Get another adult to help you. Make sure both dogs are on leashes, then bring them toward each other. You should crouch down on the ground between them and speak calmly to them both. Try to keep the leashes slack unless one of them shows signs of aggression. Typically, the dogs will begin by sniffing each other, then the puppy will become submissive and lay down or roll over. Your current dog should then check out the dog more closely as if to play, or ignore it altogether. Either response is appropriate. What you don’t want is for either one to become agitated. Sometimes the dogs begin circling each other or even growl a little, but this may be posturing. Give it a minute. Often they acclimate without any further aggression. Just give them time to become familiar and form their own relationship.
If one or both dogs demonstrates signs of aggression, separate the dogs right away. Try not to pull on the leash. One good method is for both adults to wave treats in front of both dogs, and lure their attention away from each other. Continue your efforts to introduce the dogs in brief sessions until you can walk with both of them together. Then, simply walk home and bring them both in the house as if this has been routine for a long time. If you have a yard, do the same thing to get the dogs adjusted to each other outdoors. Keep to the same daily dog care routine you had with one dog as much as possible to make the transition easier for your current dog. Also, be sure to spend time individually with each dog to take care of their unique emotional needs, bonding with the new dog and reinforcing your love for the current dog.
For the first month, you’ll need to keep an eye on your two dogs when they are together, particularly if they are outdoors alone. Sometimes, even when the two dogs appear to be getting along well, something triggers an aggressive action in one or the other. You’ll need to run interference immediately and use the occasion to foster the shared behaviors you want both dogs to adopt. Also, make sure that both dogs use the equipment you designated for each them (their own bowls, toys, beds, and crates) to avoid future problems.
Please note: Do not hold a puppy up to your current dog. This is frightening to the pup and will not make a good first impression. Do not put your two dogs together in a small space, like a car, until you are sure they have gotten used to each other. Most importantly, do not ever let your dogs “fight it out.” If they become aggressive with each other, separate them, and train them to behave properly around each other.
With Cats and Other Pets
Exposing a puppy to other animals makes for an easier transition into a multiple-pet family than introducing an adult dog. That being said, it is possible to train dogs to live with other pets. You will need to determine your dog’s specific capacity to do this, regardless of its breed and general temperament. That’s because, in nature, some of these animals may be predator and prey.
Before introducing your dog to another pet, observe the way it deals with animals in the world around you. Does your dog constantly chase other animals outdoors? Is it excitable when it sees a squirrel or bird? Will it stare and listen obsessively to these animals? Does your dog show possessiveness about its toys or food? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” this may indicate your dog is not suited to living with another pet.
For dogs that do have the temperament, you’ll need to introduce the two pets to each other gradually. As with other dogs, you’ll need to designate neutral areas in the house where each can be away from the other as well as spaces where they can co-exist. Have another adult help you do the introduction so that you have one adult each to manage the pets. Bring them into one space, but keep them at a distance, and let them become increasingly aware of each other. Let your dog sniff out the other animal. Keep practicing the introduction in short amounts of time, no more than ten or fifteen minutes each. Eventually, bring the two animals in closer proximity to each other and see how they react. Talk to both of them. Make sure you are between the two of them so that they both can keep their focus on you. When they remain calm and relaxed around each other, you can let them do some initial touching with adult control. If they show aggression, shift their focus to you, and separate them. After a while, begin the process of introducing them from across the room again.
Over time, you will be able to let them go. They may ignore each other for long periods of time, but keep an eye out for a month or more in case something unexpected triggers an act of aggression between them. For your pets’ safety, be sure to put at least one or both pets in their cages or crates if you are leaving them home alone.
Exercise is important to maintaining healthy muscles, bones, and joints in dogs and for keeping major organs functioning smoothly. Dogs that get adequate exercise daily tend to look good, feel good, and live longer. Exercise helps work off excess energy in dogs so that they can act more quietly at home, and it also is a form of mental stimulation.
Walking your dog for its daily eliminations can also become a time for exercise. Different sizes and breeds of dogs need different levels of exercise, but, generally, you’ll want to keep exercise both routine and balanced. Be careful not to shift too quickly into an active mode — dogs need warm-up periods for active exertions just like people. Also pay attention to make sure your dog doesn’t overheat itself. If you are doing an active sport or intensive activity, offer your dog water periodically to keep it hydrated and cool.
Most dogs need a minimum of two exercise walks a day. The first walk should take place early in the morning and last between 45 and 60 minutes. The second exercise walk can take place later in the day and should last about 30 to 45 minutes. During these walks, play with your dog. Dogs like chasing and retrieving balls and other toys or items. Toss a light tennis ball for your dog to catch, but try to avoid making your dog jump up to catch something. This tends to damage joints and bones later in life. Most dogs don’t have to run; walking is fine. They just need to keep moving throughout the exercise period. Adolescent male dogs, however, often benefit from more exercise to help burn off the excess energy produced by their hormones.
Training is an excellent form of exercise. Use your walks to teach your dog how to behave properly or do special tricks like rolling over. Dogs can also accompany you when you jog, bike, rollerblade, or do other sports at a reasonable pace. Just be sure that your dog is having fun. Don’t forget to reward your dog verbally for good behavior and a good workout each time!
When you’ve finished your walk, allow your dog to spend some time roaming in the house before putting it in a crate or leaving. This gives the dog a little time to re-adjust to indoor living and rewards their good outdoor behavior. It will make it easier for the dog to transition to quiet time in the crate as well.
Dogs benefit from new learning experiences and challenges. It takes repetition for a dog to learn something new, which means that training and practice are great forms of mental stimulation. Because of their powerful ability to smell, a dog’s favorite stimulation is having opportunities to sniff around where there are lots of scents. Even if confined indoors, dogs will benefit from being able to watch the activity outdoors through a window. Make sure your dog is part of the daily flow of life in your home so that it doesn’t become isolated. Leave a couple of toys in its crate to play with when it is alone. Dogs also love to search and find things; you can hide a toy or food item you want them to find in the yard and keep them busy for a long time. Remember, engaging with you and the world around them is the best form of mental stimulation for your dog.
The cleanest and safest way for dogs to do their waste elimination activities is outdoors. This may not be achievable when they are young pups, but housetraining is well worth the effort, even for toy breeds and little dogs. You can avoid a lifetime of doggie pads or a doggie litterbox by starting your housetraining right away. The key is to take your dog out frequently while it is adjusting to your home and routine. You’ll want to designate particular areas in your yard or nearby your door for your dog to do its duty. As the dog becomes familiar with this space and scent, it will get used to going to that spot to do its business every time.
If you have a puppy, you may need to initially take it outdoors every hour and immediately after feeding. Over time, you can add a little more time between each outdoor visit to teach your pup how to hold it. Your puppy should be able to reduce outdoor visits to between five to eight times a day within the first few weeks. Depending on the breed, your puppy may not be physically able to hold it longer than this for up to eight to 12 months. The rule of thumb is to assume a puppy can hold its water for as many hours as is its age in months. For example, when your puppy is three months old, it should be able to go up to about three hours before it needs another chance to go outdoors. Ultimately, dogs reach the point where they manage their needs with no more than three outdoor times a day. Be sure that you housetrain your dog using your daily care routine for feeding, sleeping, and walking, too, so that your dog gets into a normal cycle.
When you first begin training your puppy, you’ll need to go outside with it every time and clean up each time it is needed. Once you come back inside the house, give your dog a little time to roam around as a reward for good performance. You’re not likely to have an accident at this point, either. In time, if you have a yard, you can let your dog out alone and simply go out to clean up once a day. Don’t make your dog wait long, however, or beg to be allowed back in the house. Keep your dog on your radar when it is out of the house alone.
Many municipalities have “pooper scooper” laws. When you are on public grounds or someone else’s private property, you are responsible for cleaning up your dog’s feces. Be prepared – carry plastic bags with you at all times. Some leashes have built-in containers for convenient access to bags.
Even when you’ve trained your dog to go in a familiar spot, it will sniff around to find just the right place before doing its duty. A dog’s sense of smell is powerful and this activity is very important to your dog, so don’t rush it; give your dog time to a find a comfortable place for elimination every time it goes out.
Please note: Never put your dog’s nose in its waste or scold it for having an accident. In most cases, this is caused by physical limitations, a delay that extends the time too long, or some unexpected excitement. Use positive reinforcement to reward the behaviors you want instead of punishing the bad behaviors you are trying to train your dog not to do.
They dig and lick, sniff and chew. They shed hair and get matted coats. They may be exposed to fleas and ticks. All of these are reasons why it is important for you to make grooming part of your daily dog care routine. Not every grooming activity needs to be done daily, but you will want to accustom your dog to some daily grooming efforts. Start grooming practices from the first day you bring your dog home. Begin with short grooming periods, no more than 10 minutes, until your dog becomes familiar with your handling and grooming activities. Increase the time slowly, as your dog becomes more comfortable, until you can take the time you need to complete any grooming activities.
Four basic activities make up your dog’s grooming needs: brushing, bathing, nail clipping, and teeth brushing.
Brushing your dog removes dirt from the coat, helps eliminate tangles, and keeps skin healthy. It also spreads the natural oils evenly for a shiny and healthy coat. Brushing provides you with an opportunity to check your dog for fleas and ticks, too. Short-coated dogs may only need brushing about once a week, while dogs with dense coats or long hair will need more frequent brushing, possibly even daily. When brushing your dog, start at the head and work methodically down toward the tail. You may need two brushes for dense or long-coated dogs – a slicker brush to remove the tangles and a bristle brush to remove dead hair. Don’t forget to brush the tail on long-coated breeds. You may even need to do some trimming on long-haired dogs.
How frequently you need to bathe your dog depends on its activity level, size, and lifestyle, but the rule of thumb is simple to remember when they are dirty, give them a bath or take them to the Pet Spa for grooming. Whether you are washing your dog indoors or outdoors, the process is the same: First, brush your dog to get rid of any dirt and surface residue. Next, place your dog on a nonskid surface in a tub, and, using lukewarm water, hose your dog down or pour water from a container over your dog until it is thoroughly wet. Next, massage shampoo into the coat everywhere, working gently from the head to the tail. Be careful not to get the shampoo into your dog’s eyes, ears or mouth. If you’re having a problem getting a rambunctious puppy to stay still, place a toy in the water to focus the dog’s attention in one direction while you shampoo. Rinse the shampoo out thoroughly, and dry your dog with a large towel. You can use a blow dryer on your dog, but be sure it doesn’t heat up. With long haired and toy breeds, many owners find it easier to have a groomer bathe their dogs to cut and shape the coat properly. Finally, using a wet cotton ball, clean out your dog’s ears.
- Nail Clipping
Before you clip your dog’s nails, you’ll need to buy a nail clipper (preferably a guillotine type). It is recommended that you have the vet or a groomer show you how to clip your dog’s nails. Dog’s have a vein toward the base of the nail you need to avoid to prevent pain and bleeding. If you are uncomfortable about clipping your dog’s nails, then plan on having the vet or groomer do it for you. Many dogs freak out when they are approached for nail clipping, which usually occurs because owners rarely touch their feet. To help prevent this problem, start touching your dog’s legs, feet, and toes from the beginning of your lives together. If this form of touching is done, then it will be easier to keep your pet calm for nail clipping. Some people also find that it’s easier to approach their dog for nail clipping when the dog is tired or sleeping. To clip the nails, hold one paw in your non-dominant hand and spread the toes out to inspect and clean between them. Then use your clippers to cut off the tip of each nail at a slight angle. You want to trim up to the point where the nail begins its natural curve. Be sure not to go as far as the quick, which is where the vein resides. After you’ve cut the nails off of one paw, use an emery board to smooth over any rough edges.
- Teeth Brushing
Healthy teeth are key to a dog’s overall health, particularly since chewing is a behavior that helps your dog engage with the world. Chewing provides an important form of play and mental stimulation as well as a means for ingesting food. Today, veterinarians advise that brushing your dog’s teeth should be part of your regular grooming practices. You should clean your dog’s teeth at least every other day using an ordinary toothbrush. As with humans, this prevents plaque build-up and keeps the gums and jaw healthy, and it also can help prevent bad breath.
Water serves two primary purposes for dogs. First, it is important to keep dogs hydrated, which supports the healthy operations of its internal systems. Second, water acts as a cooling mechanism for dogs, because they don’t perspire (except on their feet). To cool down and prevent overheating, dogs pant, which requires plenty of moisture in the respiratory system.
Because your dog can’t tell you when it is thirsty, you need to keep a bowl of water available at all times. Change the water about three times a day to keep it fresh and prevent bacterial build-up. If you have more than one dog, put out one bowl for each dog so that there is always enough for each. Do not limit your dog’s water intake, particularly for puppies when you are housetraining. Water is critical for normal kidney function and its absence can affect the gastrointestinal system.
In the heat of summer, you can use water outdoors to help cool off your dog or take it swimming.
Food and Nutrition
Commercial dog food is designed to balance the protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals dogs need to live a long and healthy life. Specific food regimens are available for the changing needs of your dog at different life stages as well. Generally, these are the best solutions for feeding your pet and eliminates any need for supplements. If you do choose to offer your pet human food, be sure to limit it to no more than 10% of its daily intake to make sure it gets a correct balance of nutrients.
For puppies, a premium quality dry dog food is recommended. It is particularly important not to give puppies much, if any, human food to make sure they get the vitamins and minerals for proper development of bones, muscles and organs. Adult dogs can be offered dry dog food mixed with water, broth or canned food. You can also provide your adult dog with cooked eggs, cottage cheese, fruits and vegetables on a limited basis.
From day one, it is important to establish a policy preventing anyone from feeding your dog real food at the table. In addition to throwing off your dog’s diet, this leads to begging behavior that can become a bad habit — one that is difficult to overcome later on.
Different people have different expectations about how freely they want their dogs to roam in their homes day and night. Whether you choose to allow your dog on the furniture, sleep in bed with a family member, or have access to all areas of your home, it is still important that you keep a crate and teach your dog to use it. At different times in your life together, you may need to transport your dog in a crate, such as when it is ill or traveling by plane or car. Weather emergencies may require your dog to be crated for transportation and management. In households with multiple pets, crates offer a safe environment when you’re out of the house. Crates also serve an important role in training dogs by creating a safe environment in which your dog can learn to be calm.
Crates come in a number of materials, including wire, mesh, and plastic. The important thing is to be sure that the crate you choose is big enough to accommodate your dog as an adult, so that, when it stands up, there is room enough to turn around. Also, make sure the access door is easily manageable for entering and exiting. The breed and personality of your dog may suggest choosing one crate material over another. For example, some dogs calm more easily with less visual exposure to the room, while others need things to look at. This may incline you more or less toward a crate with solid walls versus mesh or wire surroundings.
You’ll want to place the crate in your bedroom or a quiet room. From the first day you bring your dog home, start getting your dog familiar with its crate. Let your puppy sniff the crate and wander in and out, and give it words of encouragement. Place a few toys in the crate to attract the dog’s attention. Once your dog is familiar with the crate, begin training it to go in, turn around, lie down, and come out of the crate on cue, using positive reinforcement and repetition over time. This allows you to use your crate as a training device as you teach your new dog all the behaviors it has to learn. A crate also becomes a safe place for your dog when it is home alone before it is fully housebroken. Throughout its life, you can use the crate to help your dog calm down when it gets overexcited or aggressive, but be careful not to establish the crate as a form of punishment, but as a comfortable environment for quiet times.
It is important to pay attention to how long you keep your dog in a crate. Dogs need exercise and shouldn’t be left in a crate for an extended period of time. Puppies between two and four months old shouldn’t be left in the crate longer than two hours. The length of time can be increased as your dog gains the ability to hold its elimination needs longer. Adult dogs can be kept in a crate up to eight hours, but that’s pushing it. It’s better to establish at least short periods of time to let the dog out. Also, remember to take your dog for a walk before putting it in the crate, both for exercise and to do its doggie duty!
- Leashes and Collars
Most localities in the U.S. require dogs to be licensed and leashed when outside of your home. These regulations actually help protect your pet from dangers such as a moving vehicle or getting lost. Leashes also keep your dog in check when people are passing by – after all, not everybody likes dogs or wants to engage with them. You are responsible for your dog’s behavior in public; a leash gives you a means of keeping control over your dog to assure its safety and good behavior. When choosing a leash, select one that is four to six feet long. Retractable leashes can be very convenient, but are not a good option if you will be walking your dog on crowded sidewalks. The line can be overlooked and cause accidents with pedestrians, joggers bikers, and other sports enthusiasts. Choosing a collar is contingent more on your pet’s size and behavior. You will want a collar that gives you the level of control you need over your dog outdoors, but be sure that the collar won’t choke your dog when you pull on the leash. A fixed-circumference collar is both adjustable and size-appropriate. The most common form of these collars is the buckle collar – a good solution for most any dog, however, if you have a large, powerful, or aggressive dog, you may need a correction collar (also known as a choke collar) or harness (at least while you are training your dog) to make sure you can keep it in check. One note of warning: if your dog has kennel cough or has been identified with a tracheal problem, use a harness instead of a collar. Collars come in a variety of materials, from plastics or fabrics to leather. You may want to experiment to find the best solution for your dog. Most dogs adjust quickly to collars and leashes. You will need to train your dog not to pull on the leash and to walk in unison with you, close to your body, when you rein it in. Some dogs are initially frightened of leashes and freeze when it is put on. If this happens, give your dog some time to adjust by standing in front of your dog and not moving until it does. Then, give it praise and encouragement until you can get the dog used to the leash.
- Doggy Beds
Doggy beds come in different sizes and are designed to provide the comfort your dog needs for a restful sleep. You can find them in pet stores and catalogs along with the bedding they need. Many people find that it is useful to place the dog’s bed in their bedroom to encourage the dog to sleep during the same hours its owner does. Even if, in the long run, you plan to allow your dog to sleep with a human, you’ll likely need a doggy bed until your dog is fully housetrained.
- Fencing and Outdoor Equipment
When you bring your new dog home, you can use baby fencing to close off areas of your house which you don’t want your dog to access. If you have a yard, you should set up a fenced-in area for your dog to play in safely. Make sure the space gives your dog room to run, dig, and play with balls and chew toys. Try to incorporate some shade as well so that your dog isn’t constantly exposed to the hot sun in summer. Also, be sure to place a water bowl in the outdoor space so your dog can drink when it is thirsty.
Many dogs enjoy car rides, especially with the window down, the air blowing across their coats, and the movement, sights, and sounds. Some dogs, however, are fearful of car rides or behave in annoying or dangerous ways. You need to take your dog on a few short car rides to understand how it behaves in cars.
Among puppies, it is not unusual for them to become carsick. Like children, their ear canals are not fully developed, and the movement may give them motion sickness. Puppies will outgrow carsickness in time. For little dogs, you may need to place a little doggie bed or restraint on a seat so that they don’t fly around when you brake. Some dogs jump all over inside cars and need to be restrained to prevent causing an accident, some make constant whining noises to express their anxieties, and others bark at everything and everyone that passes by. If your dog doesn’t like car rides, you’ll need to start doing some training. Give your dog some time to get used to the car when it is parked, and take some short trips to acclimate your dog to the motion and feeling of driving. If your dog jumps around, you’ll need to build in some form of constraint or transport your dog in a crate. Just be sure not to plan any long car trips until you are certain your dog can handle it.
One other important matter is to remember how easy it is for dogs to overheat in a hot car in the summer. Leaving the windows down may not be enough to keep your dog from dehydrating. If you must leave your dog outside on hot days, be sure it is in the shade exposed to a breeze and has water to drink.
Depending on the size of your dog and the distance you are flying, different airlines have different policies. Small dogs can often be taken on the plane in a carrying case that fits under the seat. For shorter trips, your dog may be able to be loaded into a storage or carrier compartment in its crate. If you plan to fly internationally, check with the airline well in advance; most airlines require extensive documentation and proof of a vet’s examination no more than 10 days prior to your trip. Additionally, different countries have quarantine policies related to accepting new pets. Be sure you know all the possibilities before planning to take your pet on a trip, and don’t forget to take care of your dog’s needs for water, food, and waste elimination throughout the course of your trip.
- Hot Weather
Dogs can tolerate weather up to about 85° Fahrenheit without any special considerations, however, intense activity in summer heat and sunlight can cause your dog to overheat. Densely coated, dark-haired dogs tend to overheat from constant exposure to sunlight. To cool down, dogs pant, which requires plenty of moisture for their respiratory systems. Be sure to give your dog plenty of water on hot days and when playing outdoors. You can also spray your dog with water from a hose or let it swim with you. Just be sure to train your dog to make sure it will enter and exit the water when you tell it to and to keep it away from slippery surfaces. If your dog swims in chlorinated water, be sure to rinse it thoroughly before it dries off. In cases of extremely hot weather, limit the amount of time you allow your dog outdoors, and keep it comfortable in an air-conditioned space.
- Cold Weather
Most dogs can tolerate the typical winter weather temperatures experienced in the U.S., but when the thermometer drops below freezing and the ground is snowy or icy, your dog may need some added help. Small dogs, in particular, can lose body heat quickly, so you may need to put some outerwear on your dog for an extra protective layer. Some dogs have problems with their feet sticking to cold and icy surfaces, too. In these cases, doggie booties can be placed on your dog’s feet to keep them warm and protected. Many dogs love playing in the snow. They’ll burrow and dig, romp and even eat snow. When you go back inside, make sure that you dry off any moisture on your dog to help it get back to a normal body temperature quickly. In extremely cold weather, limit the amount of time your dog spends outdoors.
Finally, if there is a power outage and you lose heat, don’t forget to keep your dog warm the same way you keep yourself warm. Let your dog cuddle close to you for body warmth.