Most of us probably consider ourselves responsible when it comes to our dogs, but, as Dr. Arnie Cary, DVM and Board Member of The Animal Haven of North Haven says, “we sometimes fall short. After all, we are human!” For those times when we do fall short, the shelter would like to remind you of some easy ways to make sure your dog is safe, healthy, and well-cared for.
Provide up-to-date vaccinations. The “core” vaccines—distemper, parvo, and rabies—will protect your dog from potentially fatal diseases. Rabies vaccines are mandatory in Connecticut, and will also help protect you and your neighbors. You only need to update the vaccine every three years, in most cases.
Take your dog for routine physical exams. Early detection of problems like weight loss, cancer, dental problems, and others, is key to maintaining your dog’s health. If your dog hates going to the vet, ask whether the office has “fear free” protocols which some vets are now following, to make the visit more pleasant.
Dog-proof your house and yard. Take a look around the house—are there cleaning or other chemical products, holiday candy, or other toxins that your dog could easily ingest? Learn what foods are toxic to dogs, including chocolate, raisins, onions, garlic, and foods with the added sugar substitute xylitol. Keep your pet safe and prevent expensive veterinary bills by storing these and other items out of her reach.
Exercise, exercise, exercise! The importance of this can’t be stressed enough. Providing your dog with plenty of exercise is good for him, and you as well. For alert and active dogs, exercise is crucial to keeping them mentally and physically healthy and out of trouble. If you have a “couch potato” dog, he risks overweight and the health problems that go with it, so make sure to provide him with plenty of opportunities to move.
Provide a well-balanced and healthy diet. This may be easier said than done because there are so many variables—how much to feed, how often, dry or canned food, snacks….Dr. Cary recommends talking to your veterinarian about your dog’s diet, and looking for foods that are endorsed by the Association of American Food Control Officials (AAFCO). This endorsement insures that the food has been tested for nutritional completeness, among other things. Start by feeding the suggested amount on the package, and vary the amount depending on your dog’s weight gain or loss. And, it’s best to stick with dog food, and not feed your pet from the table.
Maintain your dog’s hygiene. Depending on your dog’s coat, bathing and grooming are essential. Regular brushing will help eliminate excessive shedding, stimulate the skin and coat and, for some dogs, may decrease the need for frequent bathing. Learn how to regularly keep your dog’s nails trimmed, or ask a professional to do it for you. And check the dog’s mouth on a regular basis, looking for tartar; red, swollen or bleeding gums; odor; or discomfort.
Train your dog. Dogs are pack animals, and in the wild are trained and socialized by the pack. We are our dog’s pack. We want them to conform to our life style to a degree, and we
want to maintain their safety, our safety, and that of our neighbors. Dogs are happier, less anxious, and more well-adjusted when they have strong (but compassionate!) and consistent
leadership. All members of the family (pack) should be involved and on the same page. General obedience work (sit, stay, come, etc.) can never be over-repeated. It keeps your dog attuned to you and ready to listen at all times. Always pair something you want with something your dog wants, to help keep her sharp as well. For example, always ask her to sit before you give her a reward, dinner, or before taking her out for a walk.
Being responsible when it comes to your pet is the key to having a happy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved dog. We owe it to ourselves, and our dogs will love us for it!