Dogs are fantastic pets as by and large they are fairly self sufficient and need little more than to be fed or walked every day. Yet they give us so much in return – unconditional love, companionship, a lot of laughter as well as a friendly ear whenever we need to talk to someone. However, there are a number of things that we should do for our dogs that they cannot do for themselves which we list below. Don’t worry, they will still remain pretty good at surviving with minimal input from us as their owners, but there are just a few things that can help keep them in the best health and well being.
1. Brush Their Teeth
It can be a pain at first, especially when your dog is getting used to the feeling of having their teeth brushed, but regularly cleaning your dog’s teeth can save both you and them a lot of pain in the future. This is because dental problems and gum disease are one of the most common ways that dogs become ill – both in old age but also when they are young adults. By looking after their teeth we help them stay healthy therefore by ensuring there is no unnecessary build up of tartar or plaque that can cause issues for your pup.
This is crucial to them keeping all their teeth and not having to undergo painful tooth removal – or worse. It is not unusual for dogs to have to have surgery for a gum infection that has spread, which easily could have been avoided with regular teeth cleans. In doing so, you are also saving yourself expensive vet bills further down the line when paying for procedures and check ups that have transpired as a result of poor dental hygiene.
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You can easily clean your dog’s teeth at home with items purchased from all good quality pet stores. Remember to build up to a fully blown tooth brushing routine – by starting little and often it means your dog will slowly become accustomed to what will inevitably be a strange sensation for them.
2. Give Them A Bath
Regularly bathing and grooming your dog is fundamental to them staying smelling sweet and looking great. It is imperative that owners do this as it is simply something that dogs cannot do of their own accord. They do not have access to the dog shampoos that we do that will keep their coats looking healthy and shiny with the right amount of oils. Dogs need some oils on their coat to keep the fur strong as well as their skin free from dry patches and irritation but too much is what can cause smells.
Dog bath tubs are a great way of reducing the hassle of bathing your dog and they may enjoy it more than a cold hose down in the garden. If regularly bathing your dog is too stressful for both you and your pooch, look to other grooming supplies to provide a stop gap. There are some fantastic dog wipes out there or dry dog shampoos that can eek out the time needed between baths.
Brushing their coats is just as key to washing them to free them of dirt and debris that shouldn’t be there. It will keep a dog’s fur free from matting which can cause nasty skin infections and hot spots that will require veterinary attention if the infection gets out of hand or the hot spot does not heal up with conventional over the counter methods.
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3. Feed Them A Proper Diet
While feeding dogs should not be an onerous task in any way, it is still important to feed them a proper diet. Dogs will not be able to control or balance their nutrition in the way that you can. This boils down to the amount that they eat as well as the quality of what they are eating. For example, labradors are well known for having an insatiable hunger that, if given the chance, means they will eat until they are sick. This is obviously detrimental to any dog’s health and while it is an extreme example, dog owners do need to be aware of how many calories their dog has every day to keep them at the optimum weight. It doesn’t take much for a dog to be overfed their daily kibble and start to put on weight. Weight gain is bad for their health and can encourage the development of other conditions like arthritis or heart issues.
Additionally, any kibble, wet dog food or raw food needs to have the right amount of protein, carbohydrates and vitamins or minerals for your dog to stay healthy. Some dogs will have particular dietary requirements – like those with sensitive stomachs. So look for specialized food from a reputable brand to help. They can be really advantageous if your dog is a specific breed or suffers from issues in joints for example. Plus, if your dog is a little overweight, there are foods on the market that will help them lose weight while still eating a fair sized portion of kibble.
4. Help Them Walk
There are two ways owners should be aware that they can help their dog walk. Firstly, a dog needs to be taught how to walk on a lead. This helps both them and you. For you, as the owner, it’s great as it means that all future walks will be that little bit easier as your dog is well behaved and walks to heel. Without any proper leash training, you are leaving yourself susceptible to having a dog who stops to pee or sniff every five minutes so that you barely get anywhere. It is also unsafe if they do not heel while crossing a road given the dangers that vehicles have to both them and you when driving too fast. Helping them walk well on the leash therefore takes steps to improve their safety.
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Secondly, you may need to help your dog walk if they are aged or infirm. Providing them with the ability to walk will help keep their spirits up through being able to go outside to relieve themselves as well as simply going out for fresh air in the first place. So often dogs, when they get older, find it miserable when they cannot go outside to use the toilet and instead have an accident inside. Helping them walk, perhaps with a dog wheelchair, is a good way to give your dog independence to improve their mood and countenance. Plus, looking into ramps that go in and out of your house if you have steps can also be a big help to them.
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5. Take Them For Exercise
Walking a dog is definitely one of their more time consuming needs, but it is still necessary to do it as often as you can. Without regular exercise, your dog will not only put on weight, he or she is also more likely to exhibit negative behavior patterns that comes from being bored or from a need to direct their unspent energy elsewhere.
The length of walk you need to take your dog on will invariably depend on their size and breed. In general, the larger and more muscular the breed, the more they will need walking. Though there are exceptions. Beagles are not large by any stretch of the imagination but have an almost inexhaustible amount of energy. Greyhounds are tall canines and, while they can run exceptionally fast, they actually need very little exercise in general.
Giving dogs exercise is to replace what they would naturally do in the wild when out hunting or roaming the prairies. It is necessary to try to emulate this practice so they burn calories to keep slim. Keeping their weight down, as previously mentioned, is important as it will help prevent any unnecessary health complications in the future that can arise due to obesity.
6. Keep Them Warm
Even dogs with the thickest of coats need a little help keeping warm sometimes. As owners we need to be aware that our pets, especially the skinnier, shorter-haired variety, need to be given a helping hand staying toasty.
There are a number of ways that owners can employ to do this. Heated dog beds are a fantastic way, especially for dogs that suffer from the cold easily and live in homes with several draughts. If buying or investing in a heated dog bed is out of the question, ensure that their bed is in a sheltered position with lots of blankets for them to bury themselves into to keep warm.
Additionally, look to buying them a coat for walks when the weather takes a cooler turn in the Winter months. It means that your pooch will be able to stay outside walking for longer and will expend their energy in a positive way as opposed to having too much energy pent up indoors – this often results in dogs displaying the negative behavior that so many owners try so hard to discourage.
You may also like our guide on comfy beds for dogs.
7. Check Their Feet
Dogs lick their paws quite a lot in an effort to self groom. However, given the fact that they pick up so much on their paws while out on a walk, it becomes a very good idea for dog owners to check their dog’s paws after every walk outside if possible. In this way, owners can remove any nasties from a dog’s feet that could cause them harm should a dog ingest it by licking their feet in an effort to clean themselves.
Important examples of this would be in the Winter when sidewalks, pavements and roads are scattered with salt and grit to prevent pedestrians slipping. This salt and grit can be toxic to dogs should they eat it. Owners can easily remove this type of debris by using dog wipes on a dog’s paws after a walk or if that is not a solution that works for a particular dog and its owner, dog boots could provide a long term answer. They may take your dog a little while to get used to but they will help protect a dog from picking up any nasties on a dog walk. You may also invest in paw protection wax, and protect your dog’s paws.
8. Get Them Vaccinated
While they will hate visiting the vet to have an injection or eating a tablet that provides them with protection from some diseases, it is imperative that owners do what is best for their dog and have them vaccinated against diseases that can prevented with an inoculation at an early age.
It can be heartbreaking to see a pet stressed out by a situation and anxious owing to the pain that an injection can cause. However, owners must do what is best for their dogs in the long run. Vaccinations can stop dogs suffering from farmmore painful diseases and conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis and Parainfluenza.
9. Check Their Ears
Dogs’ ears are quite a sensitive part of their bodies. It’s a good idea to check their ears for any problems whenever you bathe or groom them. In this way, you are likely to catch any problems before they get to the point that only strong drugs or difficult medical procedures can resolve.
Most of the time your dog’s ears will be just fine, but it’s best to keep an eye out for the following:
- Any nasty smells
- Inflammation or irritated skin
If you spot any of these, get to the vets as soon as you can to ensure that your dog is ok or so some answers can be provided as to the root of your dog’s ear problems. Hopefully they will just need to be cleaned and there is nothing more sinister afoot, but keeping your dog’s ears healthy is something that only an owner can do. Your dog can only alert you to their pain through ear shaking or scratching.
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10. Remove Pests
It’s so easy to forget but checking your dogs for pests after each and every walk is essential to do to ensure they remain free of bugs that can cause them harm or irritation. Obvious examples are ticks that are tiny little insects that bite into a dog’s skin and hold on with their jaws while sucking blood out of them. In this way, they grow much bigger in size so become that little bit easier to find, especially if your dog has a big thick fur coat, but it is important to make every effort to find and remove ticks before they grow. Not only are they easier and less painful to remove, it gives them far less time to cause harm to your pet. They do so by spreading Lyme’s Disease which is a condition that is hard to control if not caught soon enough.
Other pests that you can catch if you regularly check your dog’s coat are fleas. Fleas themselves are actually harmless to dogs in that just one nip from them won’t cause them any danger. However, the nipping from several fleas at a time when your dog has an infestation is what causes your dog to scratch. This is where problems arise. As the fleas remain in a dog’s coat and on their skin until they are removed, your dog will continue to scratch in reaction to the continual biting they are subject to. If they scratch too much they can make their skin become raw which in turn can get infected.
By checking your dog for fleas and other pests, you prevent this type of tissue ever developing.
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Doing Things For Your Dog – The Bottom Line
This list, when seen in isolation, can look intimidating as to the amount we need to do for our dogs. In reality, none of the above tasks are onerous or should be too complicated or stressful for either you or your pooch. Plus, a lot of these chores won’t feel like chores as many of them simply provide you with an excuse to spend more with them and improve your bond. For example, removing pests from your dog’s fur or skin may sound particularly troublesome, but the majority of the time all you really have to do is stroke your dog for a long period of time to ensure that you have covered every part of his or her body to check that they are free of ticks, fleas or otherwise. The same with brushing your dog’s fur or teeth – you can turn these tasks into a game so they grow to love it and you love playing with them.
However, even if some of these tasks do become troublesome, you’ll still be glad that you do them as ultimately it will result in your dog leading a longer, healthier and happier life.
- General Dog Care, The ASPCA
- Joel Kaye, DVM, 10 Things Your Cat or Dog Needs When Joining Your Family, The MSPCA–Angell