One of the most important responsibilities of dog ownership is making sure you take good care of them, so they can lead a happy, healthy life.
These are the basic dog care needs that you'll need to be aware of.
Taking care of your dog's health and wellbeing
You need to ensure that you are regularly keeping an eye on your dog's health and care:
- Check your dog’s body regularly for lumps, swelling, rashes, cuts etc. Inspect your dog’s mouth to assess teeth and gums, as well as your dog's eyes
- Start these kind of checks from an early age to ensure your dog is comfortable and used to being inspected like this. It will make veterinary visits much more relaxed
- Build these checks into your grooming routine, so that you're regularly looking for any changes in your dog's body that may need veterinary attention
- Routinely check for pea-sized ticks – especially after walks in the country, in long grass or near livestock – as they can carry debilitating Lyme disease. If you find any, ask your vet how to remove them safely
Grooming your dog
Your dog’s coat should be kept clean and matt free through regular grooming. The amount of grooming required depends largely on your breed of dog. Breeds with short coats can be brushed on a regular basis to keep them clean and to remove any dead coat. Medium and long-coated breeds need more regular grooming, as they are more prone to knotting and their coats may also require trimming or clipping. The best way of knowing your dog's grooming requirements is to talk to your breeder or dog groomer, who can give you advice specific to your own dog.
Dogs only need to be bathed every few months unless they have been swimming or have rolled in something smelly. Bathing your dog too often can have a detrimental effect on your dog’s coat as it can strip out any natural oils. Use a dog shampoo and a non-slip mat when bathing your dog at home. Make sure you rinse them well to avoid irritation by shampoo residue, and dry your dog afterwards with a towel.
Brushing your dog's teeth
Make sure you are checking your dog’s teeth on a regular basis and ensure they are clean by brushing (using a brush and paste specifically made for dogs) or by regular chewing.
Eyes, ears and nails
You should make sure that eyes and ears are kept clean, and nails are kept trimmed, paying particular attention to dew claws (as these can grow long and embed themselves in your dog’s skin). Speak to your groomer or vet if you need assistance.
Worms and fleas
You should also regularly treat your dog for worms and fleas – your vet will advise on this.
The four main vaccinations all puppies should receive are:
- Canine distemper – a highly infectious disease that is often fatal
- Hepatitis – a liver disease that can cause sudden death in puppies
- Parvovirus – a viral disease causing vomiting and bloody diarrhoea
- Leptospirosis – two strains; both cause acute illness and attack the liver and/or kidneys
Make sure you keep your vaccination certificates safe, as some boarding kennels and training classes require you to produce these before boarding/signing up.
Before buying a dog, check with your breeder to find out which of these vaccinations have been done.
Find out more about vaccinations.
Young dogs have soft bones and, by and large, can sustain some injuries with nothing more than bruising. However, if your dog develops a limp that lasts more than a day or he is in obvious pain, you may need some investigation by your vet.
As your dog ages he/she will need less exercise, but it is important that they still get as much as they need as this will help keep them fitter for longer.
To keep their minds active teach them new tricks and play games with them. Make sure they are dried thoroughly when returning from a wet walk to avoid chills.
Every breed of dog has their own requirements for their diet. Therefore please speak with your breeder/vet for support. Dogs that are the correct weight for their breed and/or size often live longer, healthier lives than dogs that have consistently been overweight. Over time your dog’s tastes may change and they may need more palatable food.
Bladder control often deteriorates as a dog gets older, so make sure they have more frequent toilet opportunities and that they aren’t left alone for too long.
In general, older dogs need smaller more frequent meals. Senior diets can prove beneficial, as their nutrition is tailored for the ageing dog. They may also need a softer food if they lose any teeth.
Foods not to give your dogs
There are many things found in the home and garden that are poisonous to dogs. Always seek veterinary advice if you suspect your dog has been poisoned. Some common poisons include:
✖ Psoriasis creams
✖ Blood pressure medicines
✖ Heart medicines
Pesticides and fertilisers:
✖ Slug bait
✖ Rat/mice killers
✖ Weed killers
✖ Bone meal
Make sure all medicines, chemicals, pesticides and cleaning products are kept locked away or out of reach of your dogs, even when being used.
Going on holiday
Your dog is part of the family, so when you go on holidays, it only makes sense that they come too.
From farmhouses and gites, to villas and castles, the range of beautiful properties on offer from Kennel Club Cottages means you are sure to find the perfect holiday retreat to suit your needs and budget.
Coping with the loss of a dog
Find out more about how to begin to cope with the loss of your dog.