Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dog 101: Doing it right

Imagine letting a two year old child run around your home at night. He’d get into trouble, break things, hurt himself – might even poop or pee somewhere he shouldn’t. The next day you would hit him, rub his nose in his poop, then set him free to get into trouble again.


You would put the little guy into a warm, safe crib with a diaper and try potty training in the morning – maybe even rewarding him with a Smartie if he did his business in the toilet.

Puppies are no different. Put him in a kennel, give him a safe toy, take him out to his pee spot in the morning then give him a biscuit for doing his business.

The sad reality is that many people get a dog, but don’t know what they’re supposed to do. They give the dog free access to the house, expect the dog to read their mind, think that he is doing things to be vengeful, then get frustrated and act out in anger. There are better ways.

Meet Bo. Bo is a four month old Australian Shepherd cross. Darn cute. He’s a very good puppy because his people are doing things right.

Here are some basics for new puppy people:

Picking your dog: This furry little friend will be with you for more than a decade so please think it through rather than acting on impulse. Understand what kind of dog fits your lifestyle – are you active or a couch potato? Do you want to have a wash-and-wear kind of dog, or do you want to spend time and money every six weeks on grooming? Can you afford the food bills for a bigger dog? Research the various breeds and quality breeders, talk with experienced dog people, then make an informed choice that fits your lifestyle.

Healthy Socialization: Get your dog used to everything – old people, young people, men, women, babies, cats, other dogs – you name it. The more exposure they can get, the better. Make sure they’re positive exposures- have your friends hand-feed your pup and give him or her affection. Ask your friends and family to gently handle the dog – doing all-over checks. That way your little pup will be easily handled by vets, groomers and other care providers. Take them to dog places – dog parks, positive-oriented obedience classes, agility, kennels, groomers, vets. The more they get to know other dogs, the better they’ll be at being a dog.

Basic Training: You’ll need to teach it house training, kennel training, leash training and some basic commands to give them manners and keep them safe.

Immediate Identification: Get a license, tattoo and microchip. They're more likely to make it home safely if he or she ever accidentally runs away.

Early Sterilization: Your little guy or gal will be healthier, happier and cleaner and less likely to exhibit aggression if you get her spayed or him neutered when young.

Annual Vaccination: Take your little one to the vet for a check-up and full set of vaccinations. Some people don’t realize that they need a series of shots – typically three vet visits – then an annual revaccination or titer count check thereafter.

Quality Nutrition and supplementation: Feed your dog the right quantity of high-quality foods. If you feed them cheap stuff, you’ll end up scooping most of it up out the back end. Feed them too much and you’ll end up with an unhealthy, obese dog. Giving them more treats doesn’t mean you love them more. Keeping them trim and healthy is a very loving gift. Really.

Regular Dental Care: Keep your dog’s teeth clean. A lot of dogs have really unhealthy mouths that are painful to them and expensive to their owners – teeth cleanings and extractions cost hundreds of dollars. Either give your dog crunchy things to chew on so they wear the plaque off (I give my dogs raw bones – other commercial products are available too), or brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Remember, the alternative is that it could cost you hundreds of dollars…..

Vigorous Exercise: Stimulate your dog’s mind and body. You’ll both enjoy life and each other’s company more that way. Your dog doesn’t want to be a couch potato – they want to run hard and play games with you –a tired dog is a good dog 

Keen Observation: Watch what goes in and out. Do all-over body checks to notice any changes, lumps or bumps. Keep a file to record any changes so you remember to discuss all the little things with your vet at their annual medical check-up.

Words of Caution: Dogs are like gambling addicts. If they get away with something once, they’ll think they can get away with it again. If you don’t want them to mooch food from the table, never feed them at the table. If you don’t want him or her to be on the furniture, never let them on. Letting them do something once lets says it’s fair game. And being inconsistent confuses them. And, particularly for small dog owners – never let your dog do anything that you wouldn’t let a 150 pound dog do. That means no biting, jumping, humping, scratching at your legs, etc. Everyone will be happier in the long-run.

Here are two excellent, more detailed resources to help you do it right:
  • http://www.dogstardaily.com/files/BEFORE%20You%20Get%20Your%20Puppy.pdf
  • http://www.dogstardaily.com/files/AFTER%20You%20Get%20Your%20Puppy.pdf

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