Structure and Stability
Dogs thrive when there is clear structure and boundaries. Your dog will feel most relaxed and secure when he understands what his boundaries are and that you have things under control.
If you haven’t developed any household rules for your dog – do so. Make sure everyone in your home understands and supports those rules so your dog isn’t getting mixed messages.
Use management and training to teach your dog what the rules are instead of constantly reprimanding him for the same mistakes over and over and over…..that isn’t fun or fair to either of you.
One of the very best ways to ensure your dog doesn’t develop behavior problems is to provide adequate physical and mental exercise. It is very difficult for a dog to calm down and relax if this basic need is not met. Always remember the dog trainer’s maxim “tired dogs are good dogs.” Here are some (mental and physical) exercise ideas:
- Take your dog for walks off your property where there are novel smells, sights and sounds at least once a day, preferably twice, for 30 minutes or more. This is important regardless the size of your dog or yard.
- Get a child’s wading pool and fill it with water and a couple of toys. Get a second pool and make your dog a sand pit for digging, and bury stuff he likes in it.
- Make meal times more fun for your dog by feeding from a Buster Cube, Kong, Roll-A-Treat ball or other enrichment device.
- Satisfy your dog’s need to hunt and forage by letting him play “Find It” games–hide treats around the house or yard.
- Two toy retrieve game: Stand in the middle of your yard and toss a toy to your right–as your dog returns toss the a second toy of the same type to your left.
- Teach your dog a new trick. There’s lots of info on the web that explains how to do this. If you are interested in taking a course – consider taking my Heart-Tickling-Tricks Class.
- Provide your dog with lots of chew toys.
- Give your dog a massage. This is therapeutic for you and your dog.
Health and Safety Needs
Heartworm preventative– HW disease is always fatal if not treated and treatment is both expensive for you and often stressful for the dog–prevention is far better.
ID tags and/or Microchips –Dogs get lost in all kinds of unforeseen ways; those with ID are usually returned to the owner.
Flea & tick treatment— Some dogs are more sensitive/allergic to some products than to others–check with your vet.
Doggy odor--be alert to changes–if your dog smells bad he probably has a skin or ear infection or both. Dogs with thyroid conditions are more apt to develop skin problems, so you may want to get that checked out as well.
Regular coat brushing: Grooming tip: I have a long coated, non-shedding dog (Coton de Tulear) that needs regular brushing. When I brushed her only once a week it took me over an hour to groom each time, now that I groom her daily it usually takes closer to 10 minutes and her coat rarely mats. Daily grooming is much easier on both of us.
Different coats require different tools, be sure to ask a groomer what tools are recommend for your dogs coat. The right tools really do make a huge difference.
Bathing— Most dogs should be bathed at least once a month. I bathe my dog bi-weekly. I’ve tried several shampoos on my dog, most of them made her coat brittle and skin itch. The one I use now is called AvoDerm Skin & Coat Formula – LOVE IT! She’s got a nice shiny coat that rarely mats and she never itches afterward.
Shaving–Think twice before you shave your dog to make him more comfortable in hot weather. His coat protects him from the sun and from insect bites. And, certain dogs will never be able to grow their normal coat again. Usually a good trim is preferable to shaving.
Nail trims — Long nails can cause serious foot problems. Nail cutting needs to be done at least once a month; twice a month is better.
Tooth brushing–Every day is best, but at the least, brush your dog’s teeth once a week and be sure to use a toothpaste made for canines because human toothpaste can make dogs sick.
Food & Water Dishes–Feed and water your dog from a metal or ceramic dishes and wash after each meal. Scratches in plastic food dishes can hold harmful bacteria.
Food— All dog foods are not the same. When choosing a kibble I always read the label and make sure the first two ingredients are real meat. I don’t buy dog food with Corn, Wheat, Soy (known allergens) or Meat By-Products. Feed your dog a quality kibble and supplement it with wet food or whole food if you like. I regularly mix fish, meat, fruits and vegetables in with my dogs kibble. If you decide to feed whole foods just make sure they are healthy, unseasoned and lean. Learn from your vet what foods are toxic for dogs, such as chocolate and grapes. By feeding your dog a high quality dog food today and you are less likely to spend lots of money on health issues later. You’ll also have a lot less doggie doo doo to pick-up as quality foods have less fillers in them, are more digestible and produce smaller, firmer stools. Never give your dog cooked bones as they can splinter and lodge in dangerous places.
Maintain a clean yard–use a scooper and covered pail lined with plastic bag. To make it easier to pick up after your dog on walks, you can now purchase a ready supply of plastic bags stored inside convenient tiny containers (some are shaped like fire hydrants).
Outdoors— Most dogs prefer to be indoors when left alone vs. outdoors; it would seem that dogs consider being left outdoors akin to being ostracized from the den. Typical behavior problems that result from being left outdoors are excessive chewing, digging and barking. Dogs who spend lots of time outside should be provided with lots of water and a doghouse in a nice shaded area where they can relax and get out of the sun and rain. During hot summers consider providing your dog with a kiddy pool to cool off in when he has to be outdoors.
Do not allow your dog to be off leash unless they are in a safe area away from traffic. If you want your dog’s company while you garden or work in the front yard, use a ground stake with a swivel tether so that when necessary you can quickly contain your dog or get your dog back inside the house. Even if you are there to supervise, off leash dogs can get into danger by chasing cats or squirrels into the street or they may approach or be approached by a passing dog and get into a fight.