Getting a dog is a huge responsibility.
Dogs can live for a decade or more, and during their life, they depend entirely on their owner to provide them with everything they need to stay happy and healthy. That’s why, if you’re thinking about adopting a dog, it’s soimportant to do your research and know what it’s going to take to give him or her the best life possible.
So if you want to know everything there is to know about dog care, you’ve come to the right place. This is the ultimate guide that will cover all the basics — do all of these things, and you’ll be a good dog parent. Ready to get started? Read on.
Related: Getting a Dog: The Ultimate Guide
Basic Dog Care and Dog Needs
All dogs have the same basic needs, as living things: Food, water, and shelter. So let’s start with those basics.
Dog Care: Feeding Your Dog
When choosing a dog food, check its ingredient label. Look for a dog food that lists meat as the first ingredient, not a byproduct or a filler. That way, you know the food you’re feeding your dog is high in healthy protein.
If you’re not sure what food to feed your dog, ask your vet. They can recommend some good quality brands, and also advise you on how much to feed your dog, since this varies a lot depending on his or her age, size, breed, and activity level.
Always make sure your dog has constant access to fresh, clean water. Clean and refill their bowl at least twice a day.
Dog Care: Providing Shelter for Your Pup
When it comes to shelter, you should treat your dog like a member of the family, and allow him or her to live inside with you. If you have a secure, fenced yard, the dog can go out to play and potty. Otherwise, he or she will need frequent walks.
How much space you need for your dog will depend on his or her breed, size, and personality. But every dog needs a space to call their own — provide a kennel, crate, or bed that’s in a quiet area where your dog feels safe. Keep it clean and comfortable.
Dog Care Is More Than Providing for Basic Needs
Having those basic needs met will keep a dog alive, but that’s not how you give your dog a long, happy, and healthy life. That requires more care.
Keeping Your Dog Healthy
One of the biggest responsibilities you have as a dog owner is for your pup’s health. He or she will depend on you to get appropriate medical care when needed.
This includes taking your dog to the vet if they ever get sick or hurt. It also means going to the vet at least once a year for checkups, and whenever your pet needs routine or preventative care, like flea and tick medication, heartworm prevention, or vaccines.
You also should spay or neuter your pet as soon as you’re able to.
And finally, your dog will need dental care throughout his or her life, including having teeth cleaned regularly to keep them healthy and strong.
Veterinary care is expensive, and your pet will rely on you for the duration of its life to keep it healthy. Before adopting a pet, make sure you have the means to pay for all the care it might need.
Grooming Your Dog
All dogs need some level of grooming to be as healthy and happy as possible. Certain breeds will require regular trips to the groomer for baths and haircuts, but even dogs with low-maintenance coats will still need things like ear cleaning and nail trims. It’s up to you, their owner, to know your dog’s specific grooming needs and take care of them.
Keeping Your Home Safe
In addition to providing your dog his or her own space in your home, you need to make sure your entire home is safe and secure. This includes:
- Keeping your fence in good shape, watching for holes or damage that could allow your dog to escape;
- Keeping your home clean and tidy;
- Keeping breakable items out of reach of your dog;
- Keeping human food in places your dog can’t get to it;
- Putting away chemicals and cleaning supplies somewhere your dog can’t find them;
- Not having dog-toxic houseplants;
- Continuously checking your home for possible dangers, including kids’ toys your dog might eat, electrical cords he can chew on, or ways he can escape and run away.
Providing Exercise and Mental Stimulation
Humans are healthiest when they exercise regularly, and the same is true of your dog. He or she needs regular exercise, as well as mental stimulation to keep him or her from getting bored.
For most dogs, this can be accomplished with regular walks around the neighborhood, though higher energy dogs might need more strenuous exercise, like jogging, hiking, or playing at a dog park.
If your dog gets bored at home, you can provide him or her with toys meant to provide a challenge or a game. Puzzle toys are great, but even something like a frozen Kong toy with a treat inside can keep your dog occupied.
Bonding With Your Dog
Dogs are pack animals, and once you adopt one, you become your dog’s pack. That’s why it’s important to regularly spend quality time with your pup.
Take them on walks. Cuddle up on the couch together at the end of the day. Schedule daily play time. Sit with your dog and just pet him for a while. Your dog will love you as much as you love him, if you make bonding a priority in your relationship with your new pet.
Training Your Dog
Some dog owners think training is optional, but that is not the case. All dogs need to be trained, because it strengthens their bond with their owner, and can keep them safe in a wide variety of situations.
At the very least, teach your dog basic obedience commands like “come,” “sit,” “stay,” and “heel.” If you don’t know how to train a dog on your own, basic training classes can be found in most communities.
If your dog enjoys training, you can use it as a bonding experience for the two of you, teaching him or her more advanced commands, tricks, or a skill like agility.
Keeping Your Dog Safe Outside of Your Home
You can control a lot more in your home than you can outside of it, which is why there are extra safety precautions you have to take when you take your dog outside of your home.
You’ll need a collar or harness that’s comfortable for your dog and fits properly, so he or she can’t wriggle out of it. You’ll also need a leash.
And to be sure your dog stays safe all the time, you’ll need a Huan Smart Tag. Any dog can get lost, and Huan uses bluetooth technology to send signals to nearby smartphones, updating your lost dog’s location on a map and helping you find them quickly and safely. It has a long-lasting battery and can fit on any dog, no matter how small, making it the best dog tracker on the market.
Dog Care in Winter
If you live somewhere that gets cold winter weather, that will bring with it some new considerations for taking care of your dog.
You’ll need to make sure your dog has access to a warm and sheltered place at all times, whether that’s a cozy dog house outside, or a warm crate or bed inside. You’ll also need to keep an eye on your dog’s water bowl, especially if it’s outside, to make sure it doesn’t freeze.
Some dog breeds will need extra protection from the elements, like coats, sweaters, or booties. Ask your vet if you aren’t sure about your dog’s specific cold-weather needs.
Dog Care in Hot Weather
Similarly, if you live somewhere with hot summers, you may need to take extra steps to keep your dog healthy and happy during the warmer season.
First of all, never leave your dog in an enclosed car alone on a warm day. Many dogs die every year when they’re left in hot cars.
If your dog is outside in hot weather, make sure he or she has a shaded area to get a break from the heat, and plenty of clean, cool water.
Certain dog breeds may need a little more care to stay comfortable in hot weather; for example, a particularly fluffy dog might need a summer haircut to help it cool down. Check with your vet if you aren’t sure what will be best for your dog.
Dog Care: Treating Your Pet With Love and Respect
What dog care really comes down to is treating your new pet as if they’re a member of your family. Welcome them into your home, and always show them the same love and respect you’d show a family member.
Taking care of your new dog will be a lot easier if you’re able to prevent problems before they happen, which is where resources like this guide come in. If you know what to expect as a new pet parent, you’ll be better able to do what needs to be done to keep your dog healthy and happy for his or her entire life.