Did you just bring a four-legged friend home, and are looking for a guide on how to take care of a dog? Congrats! You are going to make some of the most cherishing moments of your life with your new friend!
Getting a dog home is easy, but taking care of one? Maybe not! Much like humans, dogs have their share of needs for a healthy and long life, and they are like small human babies who are adorable and needy.
Every dog has a different personality, and there is no one-size-fits-all when taking care of them. So, how can you make sure that your new furry friend is taken care of? For starters, please read this article because we have compiled the most important aspects of how to take care of a dog.
A Comfortable Space
Most first-time dog owners feel confused, thinking if they should keep their pooch indoors or outdoors. But, here’s the deal- regardless of where you keep your dog, ensuring a clean, spacious and comfortable space is paramount.
While it is always recommended to keep dogs indoors as part of the family, it depends on your purpose in getting a dog. Did you get a dog to guard the house or as a companion? Also, the breed of the dog matters.
Large dog breeds like the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, or Doberman are great watchdogs, so keeping them outdoors at night will ensure safety. But, small dog breeds like the Chihuahua, Beagle, or Miniatures Poodle won’t fare well outdoors.
Nevertheless, keeping your furry pooch indoors as part of your family, always with humans, is the best decision you can make. The house space you choose for your dog must be big enough, and clean, with a spacious bed or crate.
Some dog owners prefer keeping their dogs in crates and start crate training early. Crate training has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Being in a crate may give a sense of security and comfort to a dog and peace of mind to the owner. But if your dog is unhappy with it, then it may cause mental and physical stress.
Therefore, the place you choose must make the dog feel secure, protected, and happy. Always keep a bowl of fresh water near the house, and make sure your dog is always kept warm with enough blankets.
Proper Mental Stimulation
Providing proper mental stimulation for a dog is an important part of keeping them healthy and happy, and avoid boredom. There are several ways to give your dog mental stimulation, some of which include:
- Training: Teaching your dog new tricks and commands is a great way to give them mental stimulation. Basic obedience training and tricks are a great start, but you can also try more advanced training techniques like agility training or nose work.
- Puzzle toys: Food-dispensing puzzle toys can provide mental stimulation for your dog as they work to figure out how to get the food out. You can try different types of puzzle toys to see what your dog enjoys and is good at.
- Enrichment activities: Creating enrichment activities such as hiding treats, creating obstacle courses, or scent games can provide mental stimulation for your dog.
- Socialization: Socializing your dog with other dogs or people can provide mental stimulation and help them develop appropriate social skills.
- Mental games: you can play mental games with your dog, such as finding hidden treats or teaching them how to “find them” by using different scents.
- Regular Walks and Exercise: Regular walks and outdoor activities, as well as providing plenty of playtimes, can also help to provide mental stimulation for your dog.
It’s important to note that the best way to give mental stimulation to your dog will depend on its individual personality and preferences. Some dogs may enjoy puzzle toys, while others might prefer to work on training or participate in agility training. It’s important to pay attention to your dog’s reactions and preferences to know what works best for them and adjust the activities accordingly.
Also, it’s important to keep in mind that mental stimulation should be balanced with physical activity and rest. It’s important to make sure that your dog is getting enough rest and isn’t getting mentally overstimulated.
Give Time for Training
The first duty of a responsible pet parent is to train their dog. Training is a process of building a strong relationship between the dog and the owner. With proper training, your dog will understand you better and will start speaking your language.
Obedience training is important because it’ll make your dog respond to your calls and commands. This aspect is very important when you take your dog out for walks or anywhere else, and it’ll ensure that your dog is safe and always around you.
Also, dogs are active animals and need mental and physical stimulation for a healthy life. They like pleasing their masters, running around the backyard, chasing animals, and so on. These activities are the little joys in a dog’s life, and if you are part of it, then it’ll make your dog even happier.
A good training process involves positive reinforcement. Praising your dog or giving treats right after she completes a task or responds to your calls will instill a sense of achievement in her. From crate training and potty training to obedience training, you can do them all with the right techniques and tools.
Feed Proper Nutrition
So now, coming to one of the most important parts of your dog’s life-NUTRITIOUS FOOD! When people think of how to take care of a dog, they may feel that giving home food will ensure their best health! But that’s not always true!
Humans and dogs are different, and food that’s healthy for us may not be so for a dog. A homecooked meal is safe and healthy, but it may not be the best option unless you make sure that it contains all the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that your dog needs every day.
Feeding a diet that’s nutritious and balanced is fundamental for a healthy and happy dog, and it must include all the micro and macronutrients your dog needs at every stage of her life. For example, a puppy will need a more nutritious and rich diet than an adult or senior dog.
Luckily, there are many reputed dog food brands in the market these days. They provide some of the most nutritious and well-balanced foods for your dogs, suitable for every stage. However, it would be best if you did thorough research before buying one because not all commercial dog foods are trustworthy.
If you are not sure, then most companies even sell sample packs that you can let your dog try. An indicator here is to check if your dog eats the food deliciously or doesn’t seem to experience any gastrointestinal problems after eating.
If you wish to change your dog’s food at any point in time, then do it gradually. Start by mixing a portion of the new food with the old food and gradually decreasing the portion size of the old food.
Dogs are fussy eaters, so you always need to keep your dog interested and keep changing its foods frequently. Also, let’s not forget how important hydration is. Always keep a bowl of fresh water for your dog in places she mostly rests.
If your dog isn’t drinking enough water, sometimes giving canned foods is a good option. Canned foods come with high moisture content that’ll help your dog remain hydrated always.
Maintain Physical Fitness
Every dog needs some form of physical activity every day, and being physically fit keeps them alert, active, and smart. The level of physical fitness varies greatly among dogs of different breeds. For example, working dogs like German Shepherds need a minimum of 1-2 hours of rigorous running or walking in a day, while a Chihuahua may need just half an hour.
Being a responsible pet parent, you need to make time to play fetch with your dog every day. When dogs do not get the mental and physical stimulation they need every day, they start resorting to destructive behaviors such as chewing toys or furniture, breaking things, or even biting.
Teaching your dog how to fetch or any other game at a certain time every day will make her look forward to that every day. Also, remember that you play along with her because you are what matters to her most in this world.
When you take your dog out for walks or a jog, one thing to remember is to always have her on a leash. Dogs are curious by nature, and their curiosity may get the better of them when they are out in the park or on the streets. They may try to chase anything that intrigues them, such as cats, rodents, or any other small dogs.
Getting a good harness for your dog is essential because they are more comfortable and secure than collars. Collars may harm your dog’s neck when you try to pull them, or the head may slip out of the collar when you pull the leash.
It looks like you’ll be taking your dog out for walks quite often, and do you want to do that peacefully? If yes, then let us tell you that one of the first steps of how to take care of a dog is to introduce early socialization.
We say this because you don’t want a dog that’s aggressive, always barking, or unfriendly towards other dogs and animals. Since every house has a pet these days, there is a 99% chance that your neighbor will have a dog or a cat at home. Now, you don’t want your dog constantly fighting with your neighbor’s dog, isn’t it?
When your dog is exposed to other animals at an early stage, she will find social interaction easier with other animals once she’s older. Seeing other animals on the streets won’t aggressively excite her or make her want to chase.
Introducing your dog to other animals must happen when she’s a puppy. Making them get used to the smell of other animals won’t make them feel threatened in the latter days. Most dogs actually feel threatened when they see other animals and hence display aggressive behavior.
If you are getting your pup from a breeder, then you must ask if the puppy has been introduced to human touch and other animals. Most reputed breeders start the socialization process when the puppy is just 2-3 weeks old. Puppies have a “critical socialization period,” which is between 3-17 weeks of age and is regarded as the best time to socialize.
Interestingly, a new program called “extra early socialization” among puppies has shown great results. According to research studies, puppies who have undergone this program were less likely to have general anxiety, separation-related behaviors, body sensitivity, and be distracted.
Few examples of what the program follows include making a cell phone ring near the puppy, gently stroking the puppy with rubber gloves or towel, and encouraging the puppy to climb over obstacles, among others. Basically, the program makes the puppy ready for the modern world lifestyle.
Always Make Time for Grooming
Keeping your dog well-groomed is one of the biggest responsibilities of a pet owner. From brushing the coat frequently to cleaning the ears, your dog will live a healthy life when she is well-groomed. If you are not acquainted with the grooming process, then a few trips to a professional groomer will give you an idea of how it’s done.
Many parts go into grooming a dog and let us look at each in detail.
- Skin Care
Breed dogs are prone to skin infections, especially during the summers. The few indications of a skin problem are excessive itching, scratching, biting, or hair fall. If you notice any such symptoms, then a trip to the vet is a necessity.
Your dog may also have bald patches on the skin in case of extreme skin infection. Always use a shampoo that is suitable for your dog breed and one that will prevent any skin infection.
- Regular brushing
It goes without saying that a dog’s healthiness is shown in how shiny or healthy her coat looks. If you have long-haired dog breeds like the Lhasa Apso, then brushing/ combing the coat at least thrice a week is necessary.
Regular brushing will remove any dirt or debris stuck on the fur, especially if you keep your dog outdoors. It will also eliminate the matting of hair, which can be very painful for the dog if proper care is not taken.
You can choose to give supplements that contain Omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon for a silkier and shinier coat.
- Eye Care
Always keep checking on your dog’s eyes and look for any inflammation, redness, or cloudiness. Most dogs have an eye goo early in the morning if they are sick. Use a soft cotton ball or cloth to clean the mucus off the eyes gently.
- Ear Care
Cleaning your dog’s ears at least once a month will keep the ears clean from any dirt or wax. Use a soft cloth or cotton ball dipped in mineral oil to clean the outer part of the ears. Do not go very deep into the ears to clean because it may cause irritation.
- Nail Care
Trimming nails is one thing most pet parents forget but is very important. A dog with long nails that touches the ground will have problems with the back and hip in the later stage. Keep checking on your nails and make sure that they are always short.
Trimming a dog’s nails is not an easy job; therefore, it is best if you do it through a professional. There have been many cases of owners cutting their nails too short, which leads to bleeding and eventually an infection.
- Dental Care
If you don’t want your pooch losing a tooth or two once she’s four or five years old, then pay attention to dental. Some dog breeds such as the Poodle are more prone to gum diseases like gingivitis than other dogs.
Without regular tooth brushing, your dog may have plaques forming on its teeth in no time. This can harden into tartar and cause tooth loss or receding gums in the long run. Use a toothbrush and toothpaste specifically designed for dogs as they won’t cause any irritation or other side effects.
- Paw Care
Paws are what support your dog while walking or running by providing extra cushioning. They are prone to everyday wear and tear if your dog is used to playing outdoors every day. Therefore, keep a constant check on the paws for any wounds or cuts or any foreign objects that may get inside.
You should know that most dogs hate taking a bath. So, it’s on you to make the bathing time fun and playful experience for your dog. How do you do that? You can maybe keep toys aside for your dog, which she gets only during bath time. You can even give her treats or praise her right after a bath.
Bathing often is not advisable for dogs because it may lead to loss of skin and fur’s natural moisture. You can give a bath once in 1-2 weeks during summers and even lesser in winters; if your dog is mostly indoors, then a bath once a month is fine too.
A point to remember here is to never use human soap on dogs- NEVER, EVER! Human soaps are harsh and can cause irritation or redness on your dog’s skin and lead to other skin problems.
There are many dog shampoos that are formulated for different skin problems or purposes, so choose one according to the needs of your dog.
Microchip Your Pet
Want to know how to take care of a dog? Begin by microchipping your dog! Yes, microchipping your pet has become non-negotiable these days, given the high number of cases of lost dogs.
There are many ways of microchipping your dog. You get ID tags that you can fix on their collars or other GPS tracking equipment you can attach to them.
Do you know that one in three pets gets lost during their lifetime? A microchip on your dog will help you easily find your pet on the streets or in crowded places.
Routine Veterinarian Checkups
Dogs are not going to complain if their stomach hurts or if they have a headache or a muscle cramp. But, as a responsible pet parent, it is your duty to take your dog for regular checks to the vet. An early diagnosis of any disease is always good.
If you have a senior dog, then visits to the vet must be more than usual. Don’t miss out on giving vaccinations on time.
Check for Ticks and Fleas
Dealing with ticks and fleas on dogs can be a frustrating task, but there are several strategies you can use to help prevent and control infestations.
- Preventative treatments: using monthly preventative treatments, such as topical medications or oral medications, is one of the most effective ways to prevent tick and flea infestations on your dog.
- Grooming: Regularly grooming your dog can help you identify and remove any ticks or fleas that may be present. Brushing your dog’s coat and checking its skin regularly can help you catch infestations early and take action to control them.
- Flea and tick shampoo: Using a flea and tick shampoo when bathing your dog can help to remove any fleas or ticks that may be present.
- Environment control: Keeping your yard and home clean and free of debris can also help to control flea and tick infestations. Mowing your lawn frequently, and removing any piles of leaves, can reduce the number of places where ticks can hide.
- Professional treatments: If you are unable to control a tick or flea infestation, you should consider seeking professional help from a veterinarian or a pest control expert.
It’s important to note that flea and tick infestations can be difficult to fully eradicate once they have taken hold, and an integrated approach to control is usually the most effective.
Also, it is important to consult with a veterinarian to ensure that the product you are using is appropriate for your dog’s size and health condition. Additionally, it’s important to follow the instructions on any product you use, as well as all safety precautions.
It’s also worth mentioning, that ticks and fleas are not only a nuisance but can also transmit diseases, so, it is important to take them seriously and act quickly.
Spay or Neuter
The decision to spay or neuter a dog, also known as ovariohysterectomy or castration respectively, should be based on individual circumstances and it should be a well-informed one.
Spaying or neutering a dog can have both advantages and disadvantages.
- Population control, as neutered males and spayed females, cannot reproduce.
- Some behavioral issues such as dominance, marking territory, and roaming can be reduced
- Certain health issues such as certain types of cancer can be reduced
- Some studies suggest that neutered and spayed dogs have a higher risk of certain health problems such as obesity, certain types of cancer, and orthopedic issues.
- Neutering and spaying can change a dog’s behavior, for example, a decrease in their protective instincts and an increase in certain types of behaviors that are associated with social isolation.
It’s important to note that neutering and spaying should not be done before the appropriate age. In general, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that the optimal age for spaying and neutering depends on the size, breed, and overall health of the individual dog.
Ultimately, the decision to spay or neuter a dog should be made after careful consideration and consultation with a veterinarian, taking into account the individual dog’s needs, health status, and temperament, as well as the owner’s lifestyle and circumstances. It is also important to consider the long-term consequences of neutering and spaying and weigh them against the immediate benefits.
5 Things You Should Never Do to a Dog
Taking care of your dog not only involves doing things for her but also not doing a few other things. Some of them are listed below.
- Don’t tether a dog
Most pet parents may have the habit of tying their dogs when they are out in the supermarket or in the park. When dogs are exposed to such behaviors in public places, they become anxious and feel threatened too.
They may try to free themselves without the owners by biting on the leash or may even get entangled sometimes. Once they are free, they may try to run away and get lost or, even worse- may get hit by a car.
Also, a dog that’s always tied up even at home tends to become more aggressive towards other humans or animals. They may even bite when let loose. Therefore, try your best not to tether your dog unless you are out of options.
- Don’t hit your dog
You may think that hitting dogs will make them listen to you or learn commands but NO! That’s the worst thing you can do to your dog. When dogs are hit by their masters, they begin to fear the very person who loves them.
Your dog may stop listening to you or even try to stay far away from you. This will not only harm your relationship but can prove to be dangerous to your dog.
- Please don’t leave them alone.
You may have to leave your dog alone at home sometimes, but don’t make it a habit. When dogs are left alone for too long, they indulge in destructive behaviors. They love being around people and may feel sad or even depressed without human presence.
Also, if your dog is having a playdate with other dogs, then never leave them unsupervised. You never know what can go wrong when the dogs are playing, so always be with them.
- Don’t feed them off the table.
Your dog may come with her cute puppy eyes asking you to share what you are eating with her, but NO! Don’t give her scarps off your dinner table because that’s a habit you don’t want them to develop.
Human foods are rich in fat, salt, sugar, and other things that are harmful to dogs. You may think a slice of salami for the cutie is fine, but that salami may harm her in a later stage.
- Don’t poison the “come” word.
Don’t say “come” and hit your dog or do anything unpleasant. The “Come “word is most important because you will use that at least a dozen times a day. If your dog starts relating the word to something she doesn’t like, then it is not a good thing.
The first responsibility of a pet parent is to know how to take care of a dog. Dogs are loyal, playful, loving, and sensitive animals whose longevity highly depends on how their owners take care of them.
A slight mistake or carelessness on your part may harm you unimaginably. Therefore, always be on the lookout and love your dog every day.
- American Veterinary Medical Association. (2022). Pet care. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare
- Gruen, M. E., & Sherman, B. L. (2017). Use of psychoactive medication in dogs with behavior problems. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 251(2), 142-147. https://doi.org/10.2460/javma.251.2.142
- Landsberg, G. M., Hunthausen, W. L., & Ackerman, L. J. (2013). Handbook of behavior problems of the dog and cat. Elsevier Health Sciences.
- LaFollette, M. R. (2015). Safe use of essential oils in dogs. Top Companion Anim Med, 30(1), 35-38. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.tcam.2015.03.005
- National Research Council (US) Committee on Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. (2006). Nutrient requirements of dogs and cats. National Academies Press (US). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK207123/
- Overall, K. L. (2013). Understanding, managing and preventing canine aggression: An interdisciplinary approach. Purdue University Press.
- Rooney, N. J., Gaines, S. A., Bradshaw, J. W., & Penman, S. (2007). Behavioural and glucocorticoid responses of dogs (Canis familiaris) to kennelling: investigating mitigation of stress by prior habituation. Physiology & Behavior, 92(5), 847-854. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2007.05.006
Some of My Favorite Products For Dog Owners
I hope this article has helped you just a bit in everyday life as a dog owner. Being a dog owner for more than 25 years myself, I’ve tried an abundance of different products with varying success, but these products below are some that I can highly recommend to every dog and their owner without hesitation!
These links are affiliate links, so if you do end up using the links, I will earn a commission. But it’s products that I use daily myself, and I have nothing but praise for.
Dog Food: Every dog needs to eat correctly, and finding the best food for your dog can be hard, as the market is absolutely flooded with products. But since 2015 when the company was founded, I’ve been using Ollie Petfood. With their product being tailor-made to suit every dog’s specific needs, and as my dogs absolutely love the product, I’m pretty sure I’ve found a product I will continue to use for many years more. If you use my link you can get 50% off your first order.
Dog Training: If you’ve ever owned a puppy, you know that they require a lot of training to grow into a well-behaved adult. Brain Training for Dogs has helped me immensely with the mental training part of raising a dog, and it’s something I strongly recommend you consider.
Grooming: If you have a dog in your home, you’re going to need a brush, and for this, I recommend a Hertzko Self-Cleaning Slicker Brush. For that price, you simply can’t beat this brush for everyday grooming.
If you’re looking for the most up-to-date recommendations, check out my recommended products section that I’ve created to help every dog owner!