Caring For Your New Dog

Congratulations on getting your new dog.

Whether you are new to dog ownership, or an experienced veteran, each pup has his or her own personality, bringing new fun and new challenges.  Your pet’s behavior and temperament now depends completely on your care, appropriate socialization and training. Success or failure is in your hands.

You’re happy and excited, but keep in mind the confusion the dog is feeling right now.

Whatever his past history, coming home with you is a new experience. He is likely to be a little disoriented, wondering where he is and who all these new people are. Keep everything low key and calm. He will come to you when he is ready. You can show him off to your friends another time.

Fit your dog with a collar and ID tag

Include your name, address, and telephone number. No matter how careful you are, there’s a chance your companion may become lost—an ID tag greatly increases the chance that your pet will be returned home safely.  Remember, your pup is growing rapidly, so check the collar regularly to make sure it’s not too tight.

Microchips are another effective means of identifying a lost pet

Collars and tags can come off, but microchips are for life. Your veterinarian can take care of that for you.

GPS Collars

GPS Collars have become much more affordable.  I like the “FI” collar for my dogs.  Before you invest in one, consider the distance the collar uses, one that is only good for 300 yards is probably not going to be very useful.  Another thing to consider is the signal

Schedule a “well dog” check up

Your new dog may have had his shots, but it’s still a good idea to schedule a “well dog” check up. Now is a great time to establish a relationship with a care giver should your pet become ill or injured. The doctor will tell you when your new friend need’s his vaccination boosters and the best time to spay/neuter. He can also advise you of your pet’s grooming needs and show you how to clip nails, clean ears and brush teeth, as well as dispense the heartworm medication he needs year round.

Consider getting a pet health insurance plan

It could save your dog’s life if he becomes sick or injured. There are many different plans, ask your veterinarian to see which ones he accepts. If that is not possible, dedicate one credit card to your pet’s use. A zero balance is perfect, that way funds are available in a crisis.

Regular grooming is important

Some dogs have short, easy to care for fur, but they shed, often a lot. Others have hair that grows long like human’s, they don’t shed so much, but need to be brushed on a daily basis or their coat gets terrible mats.

If your pet is too nervous to allow the grooming

Consult a trainer to help the dog overcome its anxiety. If your dog cannot tolerate touch from those he loves and trusts, he’s at risk for biting a stranger or child who touches him.

Do regular at home check-ups

Look at your dog’s eyes. Are they dry, clear and shiny? Now’s a good time to clean the “sleepers” and tear stains. Next, check the teeth, are any broken? Does she have really bad breath? Are the gums nice and pink? How about the ears, are they clean? Bad odor? Does the dog whine when he scratches them? Move your hands over every inch of the dog. Do it slowly, with long, slow, smooth strokes. This is supposed to be pleasant for the dog–like a massage. Wiggle your fingers down through the hair so you feel the skin. You are searching for bumps, scratches, and parasites. Does the coat have proper texture, or is it dry, thin, or brittle? Look at your fingers. Are they dirty? Do they have an odor? Look under the tail. Have your dog lie down for a “tummy check.” Look at the skin. Is it dry and pink or red and inflamed? Brown saliva stains indicate an irritation. Do you see any fleas? Inspect the organs for abnormal discharge. Next, check the paws. Are the pads torn or rough? Ticks like to hide between the toes. And finally, clip the nails, if needed. Don’t forget the dewclaws!  Observe how your dog moves. Does he limp or lose his balance? Is he reluctant to get up or lie down? Does he bother a particular spot or snap when you touch a certain place? A trip to the veterinarian may be needed.

NEVER, EVER LEAVE YOUR DOG ALONE WITH A CHILD!

Feed a high quality diet

Good nutrition will make your dog healthier, happier, and easier to train. Learn to read labels and make a thoughtful selection. You don’t have to buy the most expensive, but please, don’t buy the cheap stuff. If its really cheap, it’s for a reason.

Protect your dog from the heat

Never leave him in the car with the windows rolled up, even partway, or leave him in the yard without shade. Provide plenty of fresh, clean water. Don’t let him exercise in the heat of the day. Sidewalks and streets can be blistering hot to his feet.

Be a good neighbor

Don’t let him bark incessantly. Pick up and properly dispose of pet waste, especially in public areas. Prevent him from lunging or jumping up on people and other dogs. Not everybody likes your dog, even if they have a dog. Don’t allow your dog to approach or sniff people or other dogs unless invited. Your dog may be friendly, but the other dog may not be. Obey local laws. Follow this simple rule—off property, on leash. Even a dog with a valid license, rabies tag, and ID tag should not be allowed to roam outside of your home or fenced yard. It is best to keep your pet under control at all times.

A tired dog is a good dog

Leash walks are not enough exercise for young, healthy dogs. A good goal is 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Brain chemicals released during exercise can ameliorate anxiety, stress, depression and frustration.

Keep a routine

Dogs have very little control over their lives, i.e. what they eat, when they eat, or even if they eat, is dependent on their owner. Changes in routine can be stressful for your dog.

Be Predictable

Dogs thrive on predictability. When they can’t make sense of their environment, their anxiety can manifest itself as anything from neurotic behavior to outright aggression. Imagine how it must be for them, never knowing whether the person they love and depend on most will walk thru the door and be gentle and kind, or angry and scarey. If you are having a bad day, that’s not the time to train the dog. If he’s made a mess, just let Fido outside to play or put him in another room. Then clean up and let him back in when you are calm.

Be Consistent

It’s not fair to keep changing the rules. If its ok to lie on the couch on Monday, then its unfair to punish the dog for using the sofa on Tuesday. The family should come together, decide what the rules are, and not change them.

Be your dog’s best friend

A fenced yard is a bonus, however, dogs are social creatures that need the companionship of others and should spend most of their time inside with their family.  Structure, interactive play is essential to a well behaved pet.

Crates are useful for some things, but should not be used as a substitute for training or be the place your dog lives.

Controlled, constructive play builds trust and teaches cooperation

Dogs, on average, spend 15 minutes a day eating. They can’t watch TV, read the newspaper, or phone. So spend time with your buddy. . Even training can be play for your pet. (See, Mom, I’m Bored)

He wants to please, but needs to be taught how

Many dog owners are surprised to learn their new friend bites, barks, chews, digs, and soils the house. It’s no good keeping house rules a secret–-somebody has to tell the puppy. That somebody is you. Your son or daughter may promise to care for the dog, but that is too large a responsibility for children. It’s the parent’s job to insure the pet is cared for.

All training should be instructive–show the dog what you expect from him

Punishment, such as using a rolled up newspaper, doesn’t teach him that he made a mistake, only that his owner is prone to unpredictable violence. Before you get to that point, call a trainer for help.

Next to immunizations, socialization may be the most important thing you can do for your dog

Socialization is not about play. It is not just for puppies. And it’s not trips to the dog park.  By properly exposing your dog to different kinds of people, animals and environments, he will develop confidence and be able to cope and respond, in a healthy and acceptable way to all sorts of things he might encounter in life.

Five things every dog should know:

Come, Sit, Down, Loose Leash Walking, Leave It. Mastery of these 5 simple skills is the foundation for teaching your pet to be a pleasant companion and overcome behavior problems.

Disaster Preparedness

What will you do with best friend in the event of a hurricane? If you have to evacuate where will he go? If your home is not safe for you, its not safe for him, either. Public shelters do not accept pets. Make your plans well in advance, kennels fill up quickly. If you decide to ride out the storm, don’t forget to store his food, water, and medicines. In stressful circumstances he may panic–speak with your veterinarian if you think he might need calming medication. Be sure he is wearing a collar and ID tags. Keep him leashed or crated, even after the storm, for his safety.

The most common disaster for pets is the owner’s illness or death

What will become of your dog if you can no longer care for him? Don’t assume your family will take care of him. Their idea of care may be a quick trip to the shelter. Many states now permit trusts to be set up for pets, but the best thing may be to ask someone you trust if they will take care of your pet. You can stipulate that in your will, and even leave money for the pet’s care. The agreement could be reciprocal, you will take care of their pet and they will take care of yours should the worst happen. Reconfirm the arrangement a least yearly, circumstances are always changing