Dogs are called man’s best friend because they are unswervingly loyal and devoted to their owners, giving unconditional love and never letting you down. They have been working with us for centuries, as hunting dogs, ratters, sheepdogs and guard dogs to name but a few. In more recent times they have become indispensable as search and rescue dogs, drug sniffer dogs and assistance dogs. They are exceptional companions and will always brighten your day with their enthusiastic greetings. They deserve to be cared for and loved in return, and their needs are really very easily met.
Dogs have lots of energy, and if they don’t get to run around enough, they will find other ways to entertain themselves. You might be surprised by how much exercise some dogs need. However, if you consider a border collie has been bred to work an eight-hour day, constantly on the go, it does make sense that a ten-minute walk around the field at the back of your house twice a day is not going to satisfy their needs. Even small dogs can be bundles of energy – terriers are another working breed that can happily charge about the countryside all day, their legs going nineteen to the dozen! Find out as much as you can from breed society websites and the breeder themselves about what is the best exercise for your dog, and if you have a cross-breed ask your vet for their advice.
Pedigree breeds have come under the spotlight in recent years due to the health effects of breeding for specific traits like squashed faces in pugs. Many pedigree breeds are prone to congenital problems like hip dysplasia, so if you have a pedigree dog, check that it has been tested for any specific breed-related health issues and consult with your vet about any problems you may encounter. Cross-breeds are quite robust, and less likely to have congenital problems, but mixing two or more breeds can give rise to some strangely shaped dogs. For example, if you cross a Staffordshire Bull Terrier with a Jack Russell you could get a dog with a chunky body and very short legs. You would then need to watch out for any weight gain, which would put particular strain on the dog’s joints.
Prevention is always better, easier and usually cheaper than cure! If you want to avoid serious illnesses, getting your dog vaccinated is the sensible option. Watching your beloved pet suffering from parvovirus or kennel cough is a big emotional price to pay when you compare it to the cost of a yearly booster. Worming is another regular job that will keep your furry friend healthy on the inside and is much cheaper than dealing with the effects of a lungworm infestation. Fleas can be a persistent nuisance once they are in your home, so using a flea treatment regularly can keep the little monsters out of your hair. If you suspect your dog might have fleas, but you’re not sure, find a useful article on what to look for and how to deal with an outbreak. Many vet practices now offer healthy pet schemes, where they provide regular health checks, flea and worm treatment, dental care, vaccinations and reduced prices on other services for a reasonable monthly fee. This spreads the cost of your essential treatments and means you will not be hit with a big bill at booster time. If you do ever have any concerns about your dog, it’s best to get them checked over by the vet, just to make sure they are ok and to be able to start treatment if they need it.
Dogs love to be with their owners and will stick as close to them as they can for as much of the time as they are able. Showing affection and paying them attention will not only make them happy, but it will also strengthen your bonds and improve your relationship. What you mustn’t do is be indulgent or undisciplined. Training treats are fine for helping when your dog is learning something new, but giving treats for any other reason won’t be good for them. They shouldn’t get leftovers from your meals or snacks here and there, as they will soon get fat with all the extra calories. Stick to the recommended quantity of high-quality breed appropriate dog food plus a dental chew each day, to prevent them getting overweight. You should also maintain discipline at all times. If they have to go to their bed when you are eating your meal, then this should be done every time, and don’t let them sneak over to beg! When they have their chew or a new toy, make them sit properly to get it. Dogs thrive on order and routine, and your relationship will suffer if they are allowed to do as they please. Make sure you spend time with them, playing, training, whatever they enjoy outside of their regular walks. Make sure they have enough toys and bones to keep them happy and give them something to do when you aren’t there. Dogs need to chew and will turn their attention to your possessions if they can’t find anything else to get their teeth into. If you notice any changes in their behavior or unwelcome habits developing, it may well be because they are bored or unhappy, so take a good look at their environment to work out what might be causing it.
If your dog has an accident or becomes ill, the costs can escalate to an eye-watering level very quickly. If they need operations, overnight stays or a visit to an animal hospital, you might need to consider a second mortgage! You would probably feel that if it came to it, you’d sell a kidney to pay for their treatment if you had to, but it would be better all round to spend a modest amount each month and insure them against such eventualities.
Dogs make superb pets, and will quickly become much-loved members of your family. If you want to have years of happiness and fun with them make sure you think about their needs and doing what’s best for them; they definitely deserve it.